Tom DeLonge really doesn't want you to storm Area 51
Watching the skies with the former Blink-182 guitarist
Tom DeLonge has had a hell of a career second act. Some musicians make world music albums when they get older. Some make a hamfisted attmpt at acting. Others launch a boutique whiskey brand. But not DeLonge. The Angels & Airwaves and Blink-182 singer-guitarist is now taking on the US government as part of an elite team of UFO investigators.
Since splitting from Blink-182 in 2015, Tom DeLonge’s main endeavour has been researching mysterious objects in the sky, and the US government’s covering up of them. He launched To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, an organisation dedicated to his field of study, and most incredibly, began making contact with people in the US government. A Wikileaks release in 2016 revealed that he’d be in communication with former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, who himself had openly discussed aliens.
Then, in 2017, a New York Times story revealed the existence of a Pentagon UFO investigation unit, and saw the release of several videos by the US Department of Defense, showing military jets encountering unknown flying objects. Tom DeLonge, a man previously best known for playing songs about falling in love with girls at rock shows and being an excellent GIF for expressing confusion, soon found himself part a group of former military and government insiders, including top aviation engineers, CIA scientists and a former United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Intelligence.
Heading up the group is Luis Elizondo, the former head of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a secret US effort to investigate UFOs. He resigned from the Department of Defense in 2017 and now has a role of in DeLonge’s To The Stars Academy.
Elizondo’s team is the focus of the new History series Unidentified, as they investigate the US government’s UFO initiatives. Shot like a Tom Clancy thriller, it is genuinely jarring to see these old military dudes discussing national security, alongside the same Tom DeLonge that ran naked through the ‘What’s My Age Again?’ video.
Tom DeLonge and Luis Elizondo spoke to me on the phone, to talk about the show. It’s easy to mock DeLonge for his new obsession, but he speaks passionately and articulately about it – even if what he’s talking about might seem a tad unlikely.
You make an unlikely duo - can you explain to me how the two of you met, and started working together?
Tom DeLonge: So I spent a good part of my career building companies on the side, and I wanted to create a company that could put out trans-media – I didn’t just want to do a band, I wanted to do movies, and books, and TV series, and so on. One story I wanted to pitch was about unidentified aerial phenomenon, which is something I’ve studied for many decades, and I was into telling a very specific type of story which would help the public understand the enormity of the issue, and some of the real facts.
I figured the best way to do this was to make some friends within the United States government. Those conversations graduated in myself being brought into a team of individuals that were part of various programs dealing with this subject, and those people introduced me to Luis. I just happened to be at the right time at the right place talking to the right people.
Luis, what did you think of Tom when you first met him?
Luis Elizondo: Sometimes there’s a need to have a bull in the china shop, if you want to change things for the better. I describe Tom as not so much a bull in a china shop, but more a hand grenade in a crystal punchbowl. He is not afraid to voice his position or opinions. He’s spent his entire life as a maverick and breaking rules. And I hate to say, but by breaking rules sometimes you can make better laws.
Tom was our ability to take something super-secret, in the dark hallways of the Pentagon, and put light to it – let everybody know that your taxpayer dollars are going towards finding these things, and by the way, we found results.
What made you realise Tom was for real about this?
Elizondo: It was actually the group of people that Tom had assembled, individuals that I’d known in the intelligence community, CIA, DOD, some of the finest scientists that we have, aerospace engineers. It was that team that really impressed me.
Everybody thinks that Tom’s a musician that happens to be this amateur scientist. Actually, Tom is very much a scientist who happens to also be a musician. This is a guy who spends most of his time reading. When most musicians are tired after playing a gig, you go and you have a beer and unwind – not Tom, Tom’s reading about this stuff. He’s reading about the science and physics, and the eyewitness accounts. He is very much an academic in this field. That’s what impressed be so much.
What originally sparked your interest in UFOs?
DeLonge: It goes back to junior high. For some reason this thing awoke in me that I wanted to look at UFOs. I was bored, y’know? I was getting into a lot of trouble in a small little suburban town with nothing to do. I remember coming from a broken family, thinking “There’s got to be more than this, more to life than a difficult family situation and working a 9 to 5.” So I started looking into paranormal. But something about this subject really captivated me.
And in the early days of Blink-182, when we were in a band before smartphones, you’d have to have a book to read in the van. And I was reading well documented cases, of highly credible events, from fighter pilots and astronauts and so on. It just blew my mind.
For the longest time, people would always joke that UFOs were only seen by people in the middle of nowhere, in a trailer home – its such a lie, it’s so not true. You have astronauts and guys who are trained observers in the military – there are no more credible witnesses than these guys. I think what’s important is that the public starts to see some of these facts.
What there a single moment that made you want to make this your main focus in life, over the music?
DeLonge: Yeah, I mean I got invited into the biggest game in town. This is the biggest story of the millennium, on Earth. It’s the biggest story on Earth. It’s the most world changing opportunity we have as mankind, and somehow I was invited into the conversation. So it was a very simple decision. I was already starting a company, I was already planning on producing and directing films that dealt with subjects like this, so it wasn’t really changing where my goals were.
It’s super fun, and think it’s fun for those guys too. I think they see in me someone who’s eager to learn, and really provide a service where I’m a civilian that’s tagging along. So I can translate for people like yourself, and all my friends, the enormity of the situation and all the things they found out, without all those big words – because frankly, I don’t know those big words either. It’s really cool.
The footage released by the DoD definitely shows some incredibly advanced aircraft, but is it not possible that it could be advanced secret tech the US government has kept hidden, or that of another nation’s military?
Elizondo: It could be a foreign government, sure. It’s not American, because we don’t fly these things and endanger our own aircraft. And if you want to keep something secret, you don’t fly over a populated city, that’s not the modus operandi that we do. I can you tell you definitively, 99.99999 per cent that this is not our capability.
Now could it be Russian or Chinese or something adversarial? Absolutely. It’s doubtful that they could keep it under wraps this long, and its doubtful that if they had this capability 20 or 30 years ago that they’d still be making MiG 25s and MiG 29s. And is there another possibility that it is neither adversarial or US? Yeah, absolutely.
DeLonge: And it’s equally as dangerous to sit on our hands if it is another country which created this.
Elizondo: No matter how you look at this, it is a national security issue. What it is, is still up for debate.
Just this week Bernie Sanders told Joe Rogan that he’d declassify aliens – do you think that’s a sign these ideas are becoming more mainstream?
Elizondo: I think that the conversation is already changing. You have members of congress in both the senate and the house, that are coming out officially, admitting that they’ve been briefed at the classified levels, and they are now concerned enough that they are energising the elements in executive branch to do something. And you have the president coming out for the first time potentially in American history saying yes, he’s been briefed on it. So is the conversation changing? Absolutely.
Along the same lines, storming Area 51 has become a bit of a meme at the moment – what is your take on it?
DeLonge: I’ve had a bit of exposure on how our government works, more than the average civilian. What’s really interesting is that a few years ago, I would have said “Yeah, we’ve got to do whatever it takes.” But now, knowing how this all works, we need to spend a lot more time changing the way our government works with classified material and secrets, because that’s really the only thing that’s going to get people what they want. Storming a US military base is only asking for trouble. It doesn’t do anything.
People’s right to protest is super important as long as its peaceful, and I’m up for exactly what all those people are after, but it would do infinitely more good to hold Bernie Sanders to account. It will do infinitely more good that when the senators who say they don’t know anything about the subject, but they actually have been briefed, to hold them accountable. We have to work with the system we’ve got, and people running into a secure location, where people can get hurt, isn’t going to change anything. The meme is funny, I get it, but what I’m really excited about is that this meme is showing that the public is starting to really think about it, they just don’t really know what to do.
Elizondo: For the record, I strongly recommend to anybody not to storm any kind of federal institution. It’s counterproductive. Trespassing on federal property is a crime, and it’s a felony. Anyone who advocates violence in this particular arena is flatly wrong. We have accomplished a lot in the last couple of years because we’re not using the strong arm tactics. We’re going to instead have a conversation. And the conversation starts with us having a conversation with the American people and our elected officials.
Finally, as we’re a British publication, are you aware of any UFO activity in the UK?
Elizondo: I have to be careful how I answer that. Yes, I am aware of certain events and capabilities in the UK. Unfortunately, I am not, right at this moment, at liberty to have that discussion openly. That is all I can say about that.
Unidentified airs on History Mondays, 9pm, from 26th, Sky 130, Virgin 270, BT 327 and TalkTalk 32.