Thomas Matthew "Tom" DeLonge, Jr. (born December 13, 1975) is an American musician, songwriter, and entrepreneur. He is best known as the guitarist and co-lead vocalist of the American rock band Blink-182, in addition to his work with Angels & Airwaves. DeLonge grew up in the suburbs of Poway, California, where he embraced skateboarding at an early age. DeLonge received his first guitar shortly thereafter and began writing original punk rock songs. He formed Blink-182 with bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Scott Raynor during his high school years. The band created a following in the mid-1990s through independent releases and relentless touring, particularly in their home country and in Australia. They signed to MCA Records in 1996 and their second album, Dude Ranch (1997), featured the hit single "Dammit".
The group encountered bigger success with Enema of the State (1999), which featured three hit singles and went quadruple-platinum in the US, eventually selling upwards of 15 million copies worldwide. Blink-182 scored a number one album with 2001's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. DeLonge experimented with post-hardcore music on Box Car Racer, which formed into a full-fledged band in 2002, but dissolved the following year. Blink's eponymous fifth studio album (2003) reflected a change in tone within the group, which broke up in 2005 following internal tension, spearheaded by DeLonge. In the aftermath, he formed Angels & Airwaves, which has since released four studio albums and has evolved into an "art project," encompassing various forms of media. Blink-182 reunited in 2009 and have since toured worldwide.
In addition to his musical career, DeLonge also approached various business ventures, including the clothing companies Atticus and Macbeth, as well as the technology and design firm, Modlife. He helped score and produce the 2011 science fiction film Love, and has multiple film projects in development. He has also expanded into writing, releasing a children's book, The Lonely Astronaut On Christmas Eve, in 2013.
1975–91: Origins and early life
Thomas DeLonge was born in Poway, California on December 13, 1975. His father, Thomas DeLonge Sr., was an oil company executive, and his mother, Connie, a mortgage broker.
His first musical instrument was a trumpet, which he received as a Christmas gift at age eleven. Despite his early interest in music, becoming a musician was not his first calling. DeLonge originally planned to become a firefighter, and participated in the San Diego Cadet Program. He first picked up the guitar from a friend at church camp, and became preoccupied by the instrument. DeLonge received his first guitar as a Christmas present from two friends in the sixth grade — "a beat-up, shitty acoustic guitar that was worth about $30." He gathered his brother, Shon, and sister, Kari, as an audience for his original songs. In the seventh grade, DeLonge visited a friend in Oregon who introduced him to the music of Stiff Little Fingers, Dinosaur Jr. and the Descendents. He dyed his hair purple, and consequently began practicing the guitar loudly in his room. DeLonge attempted to form a band named Big Oily Men, which was essentially a one-man band: the band's lineup consisted of whoever he could persuade to join him for short periods.
DeLonge first began skateboarding in the third grade, which would consume much his activity outside of school. "I lived, ate, and breathed skateboarding. All I did all day long was skateboard. It was all I cared about," he later remarked. He and friends would begin at one side of San Diego and attempt to skateboard to the other half, intermittently pulling pranks on people in the process. As such, he was an average student: "I knew exactly how hard I had to work in school. As long as I got that C, I wouldn't try one minute extra to get a B. I just cared about skateboarding and music." His parents were constantly fighting in his formative years, culminating in a divorce when DeLonge was 18. Shortly thereafter, his mother lost her job. DeLonge promptly moved out, feeling as though he needed to start his life. His brother was also away at this point in the US Army, and his departure affected his family. "My mom and sister were left asking, 'What happened to our family?'".
Following high school, DeLonge would work in construction, driving around a diesel truck and handling concrete and piping. "I hated, hated, hated my job. You know those people who hate their job? That was me," he later said. He promptly quit when Blink-182 signed to MCA Records in 1996.
1992–2004: Music career beginnings
1992–98: Early years
DeLonge formed his first successful band, Blink-182, in 1992. He was removed from Poway High School in the second half of his junior year for going to a basketball game while inebriated. He was forced to attend a different school for one semester, nearby Rancho Bernardo High School, where he became friends with Kerry Key, and his girlfriend Anne Hoppus. Rancho Bernardo organized Battle of the Bands competitions, and DeLonge signed up, performing an original song titled "Who's Gonna Shave Your Back Tonight?" to a packed auditorium. Drummer Scott Raynor was at the competition with his own group, which soon dissolved, after which he was introduced by friend Paul Scott to DeLonge at a party. The two began to organize jam sessions at Raynor's home, shifting through various bassists. The following summer, DeLonge's desire to be in a legitimate band increased significantly — Hoppus characterized his passion as "incessant whining and complaining." Her brother, bassist Mark Hoppus, was new to San Diego and she introduced the two one night that August. The two would jam for hours in DeLonge's garage, exchanging lyrics and writing new songs.
The trio began to practice together in Raynor's bedroom, spending hours together writing music, attending punk shows and movies and playing practical jokes. Hoppus and DeLonge would alternate singing vocal parts. The trio first operated under a variety of names, including Duck Tape and Figure 8, until DeLonge rechristened the band "Blink". Their first demo, Flyswatter—a combination of original songs and punk covers—was recorded in Raynor's bedroom in May 1993. DeLonge called clubs constantly in San Diego asking for a spot to play, as well as calling up local high schools convincing them that Blink was a "motivational band with a strong anti-drug message" in hopes to play at an assembly or lunch. With help from local record store manger Pat Secor, the group recorded Buddha (1994), a demo cassette that increased the band's stature within San Diego. Cargo Records sign the band on a "trial basis"; Hoppus was the only member to sign the contract, as DeLonge was at work at the time and Raynor was still a minor. The band recorded their debut album in three days at Westbeach Recorders in Los Angeles, fueled by both new songs and re-recordings of songs from previous demos. Although Cheshire Cat, released in February 1995, made very little impact commercially, it is cited by fans and musicians as an iconic release.
The band toured constantly between 1995–96, performing nationwide, as well as in Canada and in Australia. By March 1996, the trio began to accumulate a genuine buzz among major labels, resulting in a bidding war between Interscope, MCA and Epitaph. MCA promised the group complete artistic freedom and eventually signed the band, but Raynor held a great affinity for Epitaph and began to feel half-invested in the band when they passed over the label. Their second effort, Dude Ranch, hit stores the following summer and the band headed out on their first Warped Tour. When lead single "Dammit" began rotation at Los Angeles-based KROQ, other stations took notice and the single was added to rock radio playlists across the country. Dude Ranch shipped gold by 1998, but the exhaustive touring schedule brought tensions among the trio. Raynor had been drinking heavily to offset personal issues, and he was fired by DeLonge and Hoppus in mid-1998 despite agreeing to attend rehab and quit drinking. Travis Barker, drummer for tourmate The Aquabats, filled in for Raynor, learning the 20-song setlist in 45 minutes before the first show. Barker joined the band full-time in summer 1998 and the band entered the studio with producer Jerry Finn later that year to begin work on their third album.
1999–2004: Mainstream success with Blink-182
With the release of Enema of the State in June 1999, Blink-182 was catapulted to stardom. Three singles were released from the record—"What's My Age Again?", "All the Small Things", and "Adam's Song"—that became hit singles and MTV staples. "All the Small Things" became a number-one hit on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, but also became a crossover hit and peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Although the band were criticized as synthesized, manufactured pop only remotely resembling punk and pigeonholed as a joke act due to the puerile slant of its singles and associating music videos, Enema of the State was an enormous commercial success. The album has sold over 15 million copies worldwide and had a considerable effect on pop punk music, inspiring a "second wave" of the genre and numerous acolytes. After multi-platinum success, arena tours and cameo appearances (American Pie), the band recorded Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), which debuted at number 1 in the United States, Canada, and Germany. Hit singles "The Rock Show","Stay Together for the Kids" and "First Date" continued the band's mainstream success worldwide, with MTV cementing their image as video stars.
With time off from touring, DeLonge felt an "itch to do something where he didn't feel locked in to what Blink was," and channeled his chronic back pain (a herniated disc) and resulting frustration into Box Car Racer (2002), a post-hardcore disc that further explores his Fugazi and Refused inspiration. Refraining from paying for a studio drummer, he invited Barker to record drums on the project and Hoppus felt betrayed. The event caused great division within the trio for some time and an unresolved tension at the forefront of the band's later hiatus. Blink-182 regrouped in 2003 to record their fifth studio album, infusing experimentalist elements into their usual pop punk sound, inspired by lifestyle changes (the band members all became fathers before the album was released) and side projects. Blink's eponymous fifth studio album was released in the fall of 2003 through Geffen Records, which absorbed sister label MCA earlier that year. Critics generally complimented the new, more "mature" direction taken for the release and lead singles "Feeling This" and "I Miss You" charted high, with the latter becoming the group's second number one hit on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. Fans were split by the new direction, and tensions within the band—stemming from the grueling schedule and DeLonge's desire to spend more time with his family—started to become evident.
DeLonge became uncomfortable with the hefty touring schedule, during which he was unable to see his growing family. He eventually expressed his desire to take a half-year respite from touring in order to spend more time with family. Hoppus and Barker protested his decision, which they felt was an overly long break. DeLonge did not blame his bandmates for being disappointed with his requests, but was dismayed that they could not seemingly understand. In addition, DeLonge protested the idea of Barker's reality television series, Meet the Barkers, which was being produced for a 2005 premiere. DeLonge disliked television cameras everywhere, feeling his personal privacy was invaded. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, DeLonge agreed to perform at Music for Relief's Concert for South Asia, a benefit show to aid victims. Further arguments ensued during rehearsals, rooted in the band member's increasing paranoia and bitterness toward one another. He considered his bandmates priorities "mad, mad different", and the breakdown in communication led to heated exchanges, resulting in his exit from the group.
2005–present: Business ventures and further music career
2005–08: Angels & Airwaves, Modlife, and entrepreneurship
In the wake of Blink-182's break-up, DeLonge underwent a complete reassessment of his prime concerns—a move "bearing the hallmarks of a nervous breakdown"—and went on a three-week "spiritual journey" in complete isolation away from his family, contemplating his life, career, and future in music. DeLonge felt psychologically hurt by the band's dissolution, likening it to a divorce and calling it a "traumatic experience" and a "disaster." He had been known for his role in the Blink-182 as "the low-brow prankster" and wanted to restart his career without worrying whether fans would find him funny. DeLonge's endorsement of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election led to him travelling the political circuit with the Democratic Party candidate; DeLonge was inspired by Kerry's need for widespread reform and likened his presidential campaign to a drug, remarking later that it "really changed [me]." He rediscovered the epiphany developed during his tour with Kerry and applied it to the philosophy of his new group, Angels & Airwaves, while he redefined himself as he learned to play piano and self-produce and formed his own home studio.
In September 2005, after spending months avoiding publicity, DeLonge announced his new Angels & Airwaves project and promised "the greatest rock and roll revolution for this generation." His statements—containing predictions that the album would usher in an "entire new culture of the youth" and lead to the band's dominance—were regarded as highly grandiose in the press and mocked. Thoroughly utilized by the band, DeLonge often discussed minor details and plans for accompanying films and other promotional matter, and his managers approached him having an "intervention" in which they disquietingly questioned his frame of mind. His ambitious beliefs were intensified by his addiction to Vicodin, a drug which he used due to his back problem and did not try out again when he was unable to obtain it for a week, hallucinating and deep in withdrawal. We Don't Need to Whisper, the band's debut studio album, was released in 2006, and their second, I-Empire, followed in 2007.
DeLonge would reunite with Blink-182 near the end of 2008. Barker had been involved in a fatal private plane crash, which laid grounds for the band's reformation. DeLonge found out via the TV news at an airport while waiting to board a flight; within minutes, he was crying in his seat. "I thought he was going to die," says DeLonge, who quickly reached out to his former bandmate, mailing him a letter and photograph. "Instantly after the plane crash, I was like, 'Hey, I want to play music with him again.'" DeLonge was the first to approach the subject of reuniting, and Blink-182 announced their reunion, a new album, and a reunion tour the following February at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Blink-182 embarked on a reunion tour of North America from July to October 2009, supported by Weezer and Fall Out Boy. The tour was wildly successful, selling out amphitheaters nationwide: "I was completely blown away and dumbfounded by how big that reunion tour was. [...] We were very fortunate, very blessed," DeLonge later said. "And truthfully, that’s why we continued, because we were so blown away. We were like, "Wow, we got to suck this up and start acting like adults because this is beautiful.'"
2009–present: Recent work
The recording process for Neighborhoods, the band's sixth studio album, was stalled by their studio autonomy, tours, managers, and personal projects. The band members produced the record themselves following the death of Jerry Finn, their former producer that also served as an invaluable member of the band. DeLonge recorded at his studio in San Diego while Hoppus and Barker recorded in Los Angeles. Completion was delayed several times, which Hoppus attributed to the band learning to work by themselves without Finn, and both DeLonge and Hoppus expressed frustration during the sessions at the band's cabal of publicists, managers and attorneys (which DeLonge described as "the absolute diarrhea of bureaucracy"). DeLonge later expressed dissatisfaction at the method of recording for Neighborhoods, conceding that it led to a "loss of unity" within the band. The album was released in September 2011 and peaked at number two on the Billboard 200, but undersold expectations.
Blink-182 left Interscope Records in October 2012, becoming an independent act. The band subsequently released Dogs Eating Dogs, an EP, in December 2012. The band planned to enter the studio near the beginning of 2014 to record material for their seventh studio album. "We're hoping to head into the studio next year [and to have the] album out in late spring/early summer," Hoppus told Kerrang!. The band have discussed hiring a producer for their next effort and have had discussions with major record labels. Barker and Hoppus have since appeared to acknowledge the delay in producing a new Blink-182 album falls on DeLonge, who is working on Angels & Airwaves-related projects. An August 2014 profile in Kerrang! sets 2015 as the album's release date, with DeLonge remarking, "The first thing we're gonna do is get together and write — we're gonna probably do a week at a time every few weeks, or whatever anyone can do, and just hole up somewhere, and start writing."
DeLonge grew to prominence playing pop punk music. Southern California had a large punk population in the early 1990s, aided by an avid surfing, skating and snowboarding scene. In contrast to East Coast punk music, the West Coast wave of groups, Blink included, typically introduced more melodic aspects to their music. "New York is gloomy, dark and cold. It makes different music. The Californian middle-class suburbs have nothing to be that bummed about," said DeLonge. In a 2011 article, he outlined six musical acts that impacted his growth as a musician, among them Stiff Little Fingers, U2, Depeche Mode, New Order, Fugazi, and the Descendents. The latter was his main influence when he began playing guitar; early recordings such as Buddha were an attempt to emulate their sound. Following the Descendents, DeLonge once cited Screeching Weasel as the second biggest influence on his songwriting in his early career.
DeLonge has shifted from punk rock in recent years, moving toward an effects-laden progressive-inspired sound.
DeLonge has stated the first album he "ever fell in love with" was The Joshua Tree by U2, after which he delved into punk rock. He would later return to the album in his adult life, calling it his favorite album, describing it as "still relevant and soulful."
DeLonge's early guitar tone was described as "clean to crisply overdriven." During those years, he tended to use Fender Custom Shop Stratocasters, and his own Fender Tom DeLonge Statocaster, with Seymour Duncan Invader pickups, Ernie Ball strings, Dunlop tortex picks, and a Whirlwind Selector A/B/Y box. The Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier was key to DeLonge's early sound; he employed them to create a distorted sound. "A Mesa/Boogie is like a nuke: you plug it in and it fills up every piece of the sonic spectrum," he said. As his sound gradually grew cleaner, he grew away from the Mesa/Boogies. DeLonge employed the Marshall JCM900 amps for his work on Dude Ranch, in which he improved his guitar tone. In a September 1999 Guitar Player article, DeLonge outlined his intentions: "I'm the kind of guitarist that wants the biggest, fattest, loudest, sound he can get." As such, he refrained from toying with his guitar equipment for several years. "I was just into punk-rock. I thought we were cooler than every other band. I thought punk was way cooler and we knew something other people didn’t know. Now I look and think, 'Fuck, there was a lot I didn't know!'" he later remarked.
Beginning with his work on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), he began to approach different chorus pedals, flangers and delays. Musically, he experimented with heavier guitar riffs on Box Car Racer (2002), while making greater use of pedals and loops. Blink-182 broke up in 2005 and DeLonge altered his equipment setup for his work from Angels & Airwaves' We Don't Need to Whisper to the present. He began pairing Voxes [AC30H2] and Fender '65 Twin Reverbs. DeLonge now uses the Vox AC30 with very little distortion.
Early on his career, DeLonge is known to use Fender Stratocasters with a DiMarzio X2Ns in the bridge position which was covered in stickers with the Descendents logo on the headstock which he worked for at 3 jobs along with various Gibson Les Paul models. Fender Guitars worked with DeLonge in late 1999 to create the Tom DeLonge Stratocaster (signature guitar) which consisted of a solid alder body fitted with a single Seymour Duncan Invader Bridge pickup. It was controlled by a lone volume knob adding to its simple design. At first, the Stratocasters were fitted with an American 2-Point tremolo system and was later replaced by a hardtail bridge. Its neck was made of solid maple with a rosewood fretboard, although there have been some custom Stratocasters that were fitted with maple fretboards. The necks included a large 1970s "CBS" headstock. The Fender signatures are still being used by DeLonge for recording songs by either of his bands.
In 2002, while touring with Box Car Racer, Tom began collaborating with Gibson to create a new Signature Model. He started off by using a standard Gibson ES-335, with all but the bridge volume knob removed, and the bridge pick-up replaced with a Seymour Duncan Invader bridge pick-up. This guitar was eventually covered with many different stickers including band stickers and clothing line stickers from Atticus Clothing, Macbeth Footwear and Famous Stars and Straps. This guitar can be seen in Box Car Racer live photos and in the studio videos for blink-182. In one of the videos, a prototype for his signature is seen that included an orange stripe instead of cream with a matching orange headstock, a metal volume knob, and a wrap-around bridge, instead of the Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge. In 2003, Gibson released his signature model, the Tom DeLonge Signature ES-333, which has only been available since its release in Brown and Cream, with a Natural neck and headstock. Along with his Gibson signature, Tom also used a baritone Fender Jazzmaster with a Seymour Duncan Invader live, as seen in AOL live sessions with the song "Obvious". The Tom DeLonge Signature starts with Gibson's classic semi-hollow body design and then extends it into punk rock with an overwound 'Dirty Fingers' humbucking pickup. Its thick, distorted tone is the Delonge's signature guitar tone and widely recognized as the quintessential Blink sound. On Angels & Airwaves albums, We Don't Need to Whisper and I-Empire Tom has used his signature Gibson ES-333 for all of his live shows. However, he has a number of touring guitars, which he has had made in a few different color combinations, including matte black with a black racing stripe, natural with a black racing stripe and white with a black racing stripe. Since the Blink-182 reunion, he has been seen using his original brown and cream guitar (which now has a Blink-182 'smiley logo' spray-painted onto the body), his natural and black guitar (which has now been abused with burns, scrapes, and stickers), and a new black and white guitar (made by Baratto), which is a custom Baritone version of his standard signature guitar, made for playing the song "Obvious" and other down-stepped songs. Epiphone has since come out with a lower cost version of the Tom DeLonge signature guitar, manufactured in China, but fitted with the same Dirty Fingers humbucker.
From very early on in Blink's career, Tom had used a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier amp head and a Marshall JCM 900 amp head along with Mesa Boogie and Marshall cabs for live shows. As his career progressed, Tom began using an intricate rack system along with three matching 4x12 and three 2x12 Mesa Boogie cabs. The rack system still made use of the Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier amp head, but it also included a Mesa Boogie 2:90 power amp and Triaxis preamp, Marshall EL34 power amp and JMP-1 preamp and a Voodoo Labs GCX Audio Switcher, all controlled via a Custom Audio Electronics midi footswitch (The rack discontinued the use of the Marshall JCM 900 amp head). The rack system also included a Furman power conditioner and Shure wireless unit.
For Angels and Airwaves, Tom made use of the same rack system minus the Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier but also included a TC Electronic G-Force effects unit as well as two Palmer PGA-04 amp simulators (one for the Triaxis preamp and one for the JMP-1 preamp).
Tom has started using a synth and oscillator rig for live shows, during the Angels and Airwaves LOVE Tour. His synth rig, along with his guitar effects rig, is now built into a custom tower rack system, which stands by him on stage. Tom also now uses this same system for Blink-182, and plays/samples most of the synths and effects for their songs live.
Past and present equipment
Brendon Urie has cited DeLonge as an influence on his singing, remarking in a 2005 Kerrang! article that "He has a voice that no-one else has [...] He's one of my bigger influences. He always writes amazing melodies and songs."
DeLonge was unsure if the band's status in the music industry would grow or last, and he expanded into business beginning in 1998. He started a holding group, Really Likable People (RLP), with a $20,000 investment. Following this, he co-founded Loserkids.com, a website specializing in youth-branded apparel. In 2002, he founded Macbeth Footwear, a rock and roll-inspired shoe company. DeLonge runs a technology and design firm, Modlife, which handles the official websites and fan clubs for artists ranging from the White Stripes, Pearl Jam, and Kanye West. Each company falls under the RLP monkier, save for Atticus Clothing, which was sold in 2005.
In 2011, DeLonge launched Strange Times, a website devoted to extraterrestrial life, paranormal activity, cryptozoology, and conspiracy theories.
DeLonge first approached filmmaking when he directed the music video for the song "This Photograph is Proof (I Know You Know)" by Taking Back Sunday in 2004. He was fascinated by the medium, calling the process "so artistically satisfying," and he has since worked in film on Angels & Airwaves-related projects.
He currently has upwards of three films in the works, including Poet Anderson, characterized as an "epic about dreams," and a film based on Strange Times.
In December 2013, DeLonge released a children's book, The Lonely Astronaut on Christmas Eve.
Tom DeLonge married Jennifer Jenkins on May 26, 2001 at Coronado Island in the San Diego Bay. The band Jimmy Eat World performed at the reception, and DeLonge gave each of the groomsmen, including Mark Hoppus, silver yo-yos from Tiffany & Co. The couple have been friends since high school and began dating in 1996.
He currently lives with his wife Jennifer, daughter Ava Elizabeth (born 2002) and son Jonas Rocket (born 2006), German Shepherd Grey, Labrador Retriever Chloe, and he recently got a new puppy as posted on the Angels And Airwaves Facebook page. He currently resides in Del Mar, California. In January 2006, his wife launched a line of high-end children's furniture, whose pieces are available at stores such as Barneys New York, Bellini and F.A.O. Schwarz.