Leaving the success of Blink-182 to explore new projects and establish To The Stars was a big gamble for Tom DeLonge, but one he was compelled to take, he tells investigative reporter George Knapp in this ground-breaking in-depth interview, never aired in its entirety. April 22, 2016. First of 8 parts.

George Knapp: The decision to sort of roll the dice … personal, professional, it’s risky. I mean, you could be “rock star” forever, I mean Blink, Angels, you could do that forever, right?

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Tom DeLonge: 2016 interview

Tom DeLonge: I could. You know, building a band is just like building a business where over time, you hope that it it’s something that’s kind of solidified and has the endurance to last as long as you want it to last, you know, it’s just like building a company in every single way. I mean, it is a company. And most people, that’s like a life goal to do that. And it was my life goal. And I still love music as much as I’ve ever loved it. And I’m doing more music now — which is ironic — than I’ve ever done in my life. But um, but it’s not totally who I am … only who I am, you know. Like I would go, even when you go on tour for one and a half hours of the day you play, what do you do for the other 23 hours? Well, I’m writing books, and I’m researching things, or I’m getting excited about producing and directing, or I’m entertaining myself with somebody else’s creative vision. And it’s really inspiring. I mean, when you look at a film, it is like you’re talking sometimes a big movie is a $100 million piece of art that has soundtracks, and has live action, acting and sound design, and really interesting experimental editing and visual effects in, you know, motion graphics and title sequence. I mean, you need like hundreds of people to do something like that. And very ambitious to me, and it was different and challenging. So I just like a lot more than music.

Knapp: I guess what I’m getting at is, I mean, you were successful. You had not only one band, but two. You could have stayed with Blink. You could do two or three concerts a year and live comfortably the rest of your life.

DeLonge: Yeah …

Knapp: … and sell records and a lot of people, musicians, they would die for it.

DeLonge: Yeah, I don’t … I’m not … I’m not, what’s the word, I wouldn’t say that I take it for granted at all. I don’t … I’m not unthankful. In many ways, it’s still a major part of my life, but I’m just, I’m not happy unless I’m challenging myself to do something that I probably shouldn’t ever try. Most, you know, the best works of art, are when an artist really takes a risk to do something. And the biggest risk for me is to jump in and try to get people to really give me a shot at, you know, give me their time. Because, you know, I look at the fans or look at people out there that would interact with the artwork that I create. And I think the big challenge there is like, can I put my name on a novel, or a film, something that they never thought I was capable of? And they can grab it and go, “Wow, that ain’t half bad,” you know. And that’s a big challenge for me.

Knapp: What I wanted to convey is you were successful. You had a lot going, you could have continued on that road. You had other businesses in addition to making music that were successful, but you’ve really rolled the dice. I mean, this is a big gamble for you.

DeLonge: Yeah, To The Stars. This entire operation is a big gamble. It’s kind of like we’ve never published books before we never made films before. We’re guessing on a lot of it with our first year and it’s a difficult industry. It’s just as difficult as music. People buy books very, in a very similar way to how people buy music where it’s always kind of a roll of the dice and you don’t know if they’re going to buy a digital version or a physical version. You’re not totally sure what group is going to buy it. You’re not totally sure what group will come back the second time. Music’s the same way. You don’t know if people, you know, CDs are now out but people are buying digital. But are they buying singles instead of the whole album or is your audience going to grow up with you, and it’s very similar.

Next story: Telling the UFO story became Tom DeLonge’s quest — Part 2