Exclusive Interview: Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge on beating cancer, DJ AM and dancing with himself

September 9, 2011 by Scott Heisel

Exclusive Interview: Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge on beating cancer, DJ AM and dancing with himself

We had so much extra content that we couldn't squeeze into AP 279's BLINK-182 cover story that we thought we'd be remiss to not share some of it with you. Here, vocalist/guitarist TOM DELONGE talks with Scott Heisel about everything from his recent skin cancer diagnosis to the passing of DJ AM.

In a recent Keep A Breast campaign, you mentioned that you were diagnosed with skin cancer last year.
TOM DeLONGE: Yeah, that’s always a fun conversation to have with a doctor.

What happened?
Just the same thing that happens with anybody else where you have something you need to get checked out, they check it out, look you in the eye and say, “Well this isn’t necessarily a very good thing.” But yeah, it looks like I’m all clear and good, but it was real. So [the skin cancer] being on my chest and Keep A Breast being a sponsor [on] the tour and in my building with my other companies and studio, it just made sense to team up with them and do something. That’s what we are doing. We’re trying to offer some cool stuff and create a situation where young people can get educated on those types of things and that’s what they’re really good at.

So you said that you’re cancer-free now, or you’re almost there?
That’s the goal. The way it works is they get as much as they can. It looks like I’m 99.999 percent clear—[of course,] there’s always that .1 percent.

Most people think of skin cancer as from something you get from being out in the sun too long. Is that what happened with you?
No, the way it works is the pigment in any part of your skin can just decide to go haywire and it doesn’t have to be from the sun or not. But it can. And the scary thing is, one little cell from it can lodge on your brain and then you have brain cancer. That’s how it works. So that’s why it’s so scary. It’s not just something hurting your skin; if it goes anywhere in your body, it can be bone marrow, or it could be liver. That’s how it works, so it’s real and I think that it’s crazy, right? It’s crazy.

The obvious question is how did something like that affect writing for Blink songs? Did you incorporate that experience into anything you wrote at all?
No, I didn’t. You know I tend not to... It seems odd to do that because I feel very fortunate about how I was able to deal with that in my life versus other people that aren’t so fortunate. It’s like, I look at it as a good thing because now, for the rest of my life, I go four times a year and get checked versus other people who wait until they're 60 and it’s too late. So I’m actually in good shape because I’m constantly being monitored for the bad “c” word. So I look at my experience as—other than a massive scar on my chest, but who cares about that—anyway, I don’t look at it as something worthy or needing to write about. I have other things that really influence me, other things that I want to express is the best way to put it.

Would you say that Neighborhoods is a bigger gamble than the untitled one was in 2003?
No. The untitled one was pretty big gamble, because coming out with a song like “I Miss You” after what we’ve traditionally been known for, which is “Dumpweed” and “The Party Song”... [Laughs.] But Mark [Hoppus] was really good at that point just saying, “We do what we want, it doesn’t matter, you’ll never be able to please everybody.” He was very strong about that. On this record, people should be smart enough to know what they’re going to get. Listen to what I do on my own, listen to what Travis [Barker] does on his own, and listen to what Mark does on his own and put it all together and shake it around in a can and pour it out—that’s what this is.

Were you pleased with the reception you got from the reunion tour in 2009?
I was completely blown away and dumbfounded by how big that reunion tour was. Literally selling out sheds—those places we play are made to never be sold out because the grass area above the seats where it’s, like, no man’s land: "We can sit as many people as we want, you’ll never fill them up." That’s why they make them that way. But we were selling them out. We actually hit the capacity on these things. Even like Albuquerque, 18,000 people in Albuquerque! We were blown away. It’s like everyone that liked us came and they all brought their younger brothers and sisters, too. We were very fortunate, very blessed. 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.”

DJ AM passed away during that tour, though. How did that affect what was going on behind the scenes with you guys?
That was horrible. I thought the tour was done; no one knew if we were going to continue; no one knew if Travis [Barker] was going to be able to get onstage and [play]. No one knew anything. There seems to be one of those [tragedies] on every tour. A few of those on every tour... We’ll see when the next one is, I don’t know. There’s always something, and that was a horrible thing that went down for a lot of different reasons—obviously, losing a friend—but you want answers I don’t have for you. It’s just this band sometimes... We have a great Behind The Music story by this point, I think.

Okay, it's Sept. 27. The record drops, you’re playing the Gexa Energy Pavillion in Dallas, Texas. How do you plan on celebrating that day with the record coming out?
That’s a good question. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We all have our own dressing rooms, so I’m the only one that blasts music. I’ll probably be dancing to, like, some Devo or something like that and drinking by myself.

That doesn’t sound depressing at all.
[Laughs.] I know! Well, Travis likes to be on his own, Mark doesn’t like the loud music so it’s kind of like a party in my own world. alt

Pick up AP 279, featuring cover artist Blink-182, available now!

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