Tom DeLonge gives a tour of his To The Stars company, where his creative projects are turned into business ventures. New titles in development and the comfort of his Blink-182 past share space in Encinitas, California. Investigative reporter George Knapp has the story. Interview from April 2016 has not been aired in its entirety before. First of 2 parts.
George Knapp: So basically, we’ll start this way. I mean, this doesn’t feel like an office.
Tom DeLonge: No, it doesn’t feel like an office at all. Who are these guys? (Points into the camera.) Are we … are you guys watching us in our spot here? Yeah, no, this is kind of like my ultimate fantasy where I can create anything. So at one, you know, people used to look at the other companies I was growing and it was kind of like, “Okay, so you’re doing apparel, and you’re doing technology, and you’re doing some entertainment stuff. And, you know, you’re all over the place you got to focus.” Okay, so I’m going to focus on one company that does 10 times as much stuff as the one company. So this is kind of a candy … candy store, you know, I can come in one day and go, let’s do a children’s book, or, hey, let’s start an animation about dreams. Or let’s write a novel about the secret space program. You know, let’s, let’s create a limited edition set of vinyl and I’ll write some music for it. It’ll be acoustic and … just anything. And we do it all.
Knapp: So it’s a whole laundry list. I mean, it’s movies, books. Give me the list.
DeLonge: Yeah, well, the term that no one likes to use in Hollywood, and God knows why, I mean, I’m new to the Hollywood industry I guess. I’ve been in music industry, obviously for a long time. But they don’t like the word transmedia. I think it’s kind of one of those cliche words you use a lot of the time and kind of go, “I’m doing transmedia,” and they just go, oh … they roll their eyes. But all that means is, is you take one story, and you tell it across many platforms. So you got to think about like your Star Wars type movies, Batman or Marvel, where there’s an animation on television for kids, there’s a family movie, there might be some comics, there might even be a novel. But there’s different, there’s different formats for the same story for different demographics. And so we call that an intellectual property. Batman’s an intellectual property, but they’re doing transmedia storytelling. So the wave of the future, the way I see it, is the same kid that used to write a record or whatever is going to use a laptop to make music, write a book, make a comic, film a movie. That same laptop can do all those things. So in the future, I believe that as these barriers to entry kind of start crumbling, a teen-ager is going to come out with a work of art, and they’re going to call it Star Wars, you know. And it’s going to be a book and a movie and all these fun things that he did on his own. And it’s not going to be just like … it’s gonna be an art project versus like, just a band, you know. Because if you’re a band, you write an album, and that’s all we got. We’re a band with an album. I think in the future, it’s going to be an art project that’s transmedia, you know. And that’s what he’s calling himself, you know, whatever that is. And this is a little bit of that.
Knapp: So show us around.
DeLonge: Alright, so we came in the back door here. So as you notice, the big deal with this place was that there was courtyards, and lots of light and lots of air. You know, we do events back here in the courtyard, we have offices down here, I’ll walk you down this way, you can kind of see my office. It’s very important that there’s old music gear on the floor. And there’s a spaceman. I think that’s John Glenn, I’m not totally sure. But I just thought it looked cool. Anybody with a helmet looks really cool, in my opinion. So this is my office. I think, you know, if you were to say it to somebody, it would be like, you know, how could you be a musician and be in an office? And I go, “Well, I do have to sit down and think about things when you’re running a company from time to time.” But I usually put my feet up on the desk right here, and I look at all the cool stuff that I got from people. One of the things that I think is worth noting, are all these coins that I get from fans, or people that are in the military. So a lot of times I’ll put … anytime someone sends me a what they called challenge coins … so when you have these, you put them in your hand, and you shake someone’s hand. And each platoon, each division, each group, they all get their own coins. Like this is my brother’s coin, Special Boat Team 12. He’s a Special Forces operative with these fast boat units that work with the Seal teams. But this is a “Sekret Machines” coin that is only given to the advisors on that project, which we’ll talk about later. So but I get I’m really proud of getting these from, from all my fans and people out there that have served. It makes me feel like I’m supporting them and all that stuff. But if you look up here, we you know, it ends up becoming …
Knapp: I just saw that episode of “The Simpsons.”
DeLonge: Did you?
Knapp: I just saw, it was on, like, two weeks ago.
DeLonge: Yeah. The band was on the 200th episode of “The Simpsons.” I think the only line was, “We have names, you know.” That was like the only dialogue I got. I got wine from Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. You know, I have my old recording light that was on my old studio, but we’re moving studios. I have the first baseball team that we sponsored, our To The Stars Little League team. I thought that was really cool, you know. But I have books and pictures from some of my favorite bands. And I got a lot of books that people bring me. I mean, one of the things, you know, fans gave me a birthday book. From all over the world, they put in pictures of their tattoos, and just really cool stories of why I … what I’m doing inspires them. And this kind of stuff is just priceless to me. It’s so so cool they did that. I have scripts here, because I’ve been … I write screenplays now, if you can believe that stuff. We got “Super 8” and “Star Trek.” This is mine for “Strange Times,” if you can believe it or not, I did this kind of odd that I would be able to actually understand …
Knapp: Do people believe you actually write this stuff that your name is on.
DeLonge: I wouldn’t believe it. If I was, if anybody knows who I am by what I’ve done, I would not believe that I’m doing this stuff. Now, you know, these patches down here were given to me by the Skunk Works. Lockheed Skunk Works is the most elite, secretive engineering group on Earth. They’re famous for like the stealth fighter. They built Area 51 for their U2 spy plane. But they gave me these patches that were flown in space. And I thought that was pretty, pretty cool. So I sit in here and I do a lot of, I mean, check this out. I mean, you can see that I have NASA stuff. This is the original NASA branding manual of how they came up with the branding for the entire, well, it’s not a company, what would you call NASA, the entire organization back in the ’60s to modernize it. So it tells you like how to put it on jets, you know, how to put it on cars and all that kind of stuff. So I keep this out because it inspires me. I think they have a really cool, they have a really cool icon, you know. But follow me this way. I’ll show you more.
Knapp: So you get to work with family.
DeLonge: Yeah. There’s there’s a little bit of my sister keeping me grounded, making sure that I don’t fly off the rails too much. She runs the company for me. She does … for years, she’s handled everything from putting out albums, now to books, now albums and books and short films, animation. She’s like, you call it a product manager, where they kind of strategize how to put out, you know, physical and digital forms of media with physical goods at different price points internationally, handling the marketing, handling the financial component. A lot of big words for a difficult position.
Knapp: And that’s the seat where you sit and get scolded.
DeLonge: That’s the seat where I come in, and I, and I, and I go, I have an idea. And then she goes, “Get out of my office.” That’s the original painting for “Poet Anderson.” So the cover of our first novel was painted like that. And so you can see the book to your right on those shelves. And it made its way to the cover. I found this guy online that paints skulls, but the skulls have elements in it. I thought it was the coolest thing. And so since our intellectual property “Poet Anderson” is a fantasy series about dreams, we wanted the cover of the book to contain, you know, kind of the scope of this epic tale. And so this guy, I reached out to him is like, I want you to paint a skull for me with these elements. And that’s what he did. And if you look right over there on the shelf, you can see the cover of the book of what it turned into. This is where we do … this is the editing bay. So we got all of our cameras here. So we have everything in here. We need to film …
Knapp: It’s a major investment.
DeLonge: It’s a major investment, like this kind of stuff’s not cheap. And not even, I mean, that hard drive alone is so expensive and we’ve already filled it up. I mean, you know how that works, obviously, especially you guys …
Knapp: I know he knows how it works. That’s all I know.
DeLonge: So we’re on the we’re in the middle of doing the “Sekret Machines” docu-series. So I mean, as you look up here, Peter Levenda does on the right, he wrote the nonfiction books for secret machines. We’ll talk more about that later. You have Story Musgrave, one of the most famous NASA astronauts of all time after the original Apollo guys, you know, so that is going to be a big part of what we’re doing on one of the properties.
Knapp: No, I don’t think we should maybe shoot that.
DeLonge: Yeah, I wouldn’t shoot that. Thank you, though. Thanks for bringing that up. I wouldn’t have known.
Knapp: I was thinking I don’t even know. Well, we’ll talk about after. Anyway.
DeLonge: So as you walk this way, we have the meat and potatoes of how the company runs. These are the people that do the marketing, the art directing, you know, getting the product sorted. The product is separated to the major releases throughout the year, which would be a book with an album with some type of media, like a documentary or an animated short film. And that happens like four times a year, maybe five, but an everyday type of … an everyday system of putting out product on the mind. So when you go to ToTheStars.media, we have hundreds of products, T-shirts, and books and all these different things that we’re just doing to support those big releases. So if we release “Sekret Machines,” the book, there’s a whole bunch of Sekret Machines, T-shirts and hats and patches and art and whatever. So that stuff is handled largely over here. And it’s a big business. It’s hard, you know, because when we do those release, we sell stuff every day, but then the releases come and you might have to ship out a few thousand products over one week. So it’s a lot of work. Oh, this is we’re showing here. So we we found ourselves doing lots of photo shoots … hold on one second … We found ourselves doing lots of photo shoots and interviews and trying to do updates online and we never really, we didn’t really have a spot to do it. So I went out and just bought some weird sci fi blaster guns. And had some pictures laying around and we just we made a little spot here to do that kind of stuff. And this became the wall known here to take photos at and all that kind of … we just needed we needed a place to sit down basically. That’s the coolest wallpaper in the world by the way. It’s just comic books. You just tear out pages one by one of comic books and you glue them up with a roller.
Knapp: I’m sensing a theme here.
DeLonge: There is at theme. A lot of flying saucers in this place. But the cool thing about that is that they’re not all alien, right? This is where I pay really hardcore fans to act like their work here now. No, I’m just joking.