It's not every day Motherboard interviews a rock star, but it's also not every day a rock star releases a 700-page opus about aliens, UFOs, and a deep government conspiracy going back to the 1940s.
Tom DeLonge, the former guitarist and co-lead singer of Blink 182, has a new act. It's called Sekret Machines, and it's a massive project that includes books, films, and music about the UFO phenomenon.
The first installment, a novel called Chasing Shadows co-written with author A.J. Hartley, came out on April 5. It's a rollicking page-turner about a skeptical journalist who runs a UFO debunking website, a Holocaust survivor, an heiress whose father mysteriously dies, and a Marine pilot who gets recruited into a secret government technology project at Area 51. Somehow, their stories all intersect.
The rockstar has a circle of 10 advisors helping him on this stuff, he says, and one of them is a high-level member of the Pentagon
But the book isn't pure fiction, DeLonge says. It's based on real events, and sourced from DeLonge's own research. "For as long as I can remember, I have sought answers," he wrote in the foreword.
The rockstar has a circle of 10 advisors helping him on this stuff, he says, and one of them is a high-level member of the Pentagon.
This Department of Defense advisor gave DeLonge the go-ahead to take the story—the real story—to the masses, on the condition that he introduce it bit-by-bit, through fiction and nonfiction.
DeLonge has long been dipping in and out of the UFO conspiracy theory community. In 2011 he launched a website called Strange Times, which fizzled, and has appeared multiple times on the cult hit paranormal talk show Coast to Coast.
We talked to DeLonge about his beliefs, his project, and how Chasing Shadows came into existence. We also dive into the weird and wonderful world of conspiracy theorists in the longest Radio Motherboard episode to date.
Featuring Tom DeLonge, Motherboard Editor in Chief Derek Mead, Senior Supervising Producer Chris O'Coin, managing editor Adrianne Jeffries, reporter Jason Koebler, and paranormal investigator Dark Journalist.
:40 Is DeLonge Jason's celebrity lookalike?
1:15 The first email from Tom's people. Subject: "The Punk Rocker and the Department of Defense."
1:45 Screencaps from the video:
4:05 That's George Knapp from Coast to Coast.
11:42 Hello Tom DeLonge!
22:04 The first three to six months of DeLonge's relationship with his cowriter A.J. Hartley, who is a Shakespeare professor, consisted of DeLonge educating his new friend about the UFO phenomenon.
28:27 Wernher von Braun is one of DeLonge's favorite historical examples. He invented the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany and went on to work for the US government.
29:37 Here is the Fish and Wildlife page for the Ash Meadows Speckled Dace.
37:03 The moment when this became the most important thing in DeLonge's life was after a conversation with one of his sources "that is of the highest level and rank in a very specific division of the Department of Defense" in the back of a restaurant or bar. "The very first thing he does is look me in the eyes and say, 'It was the Cold War, and every single day, we thought nuclear war could happen… but somewhere in that timeframce' and then he looked away and he looked me back in the eye, and he goes, 'We found a life form.'"
45:50 Why is DeLonge so interested in Area 51? Don't we know what's happening there now?
50:50 Adrianne asks about a certain scene in the book that implies the use of anal probes.
56:30 Jason wants to know how much of the picture, like what percentage, DeLonge thinks he knows at this point. "It used to be a joke between me and my friends. I'd call them up and say holy shit! I now know 95 percent of the truth! And then I'd call them two days later and go dude, it's down to 85."
"And then he looked away and he looked me back in the eye, and he goes, 'We found a life form.'"
59:00 Adrianne asks DeLonge the hardball question. He refers to a news piece that will be coming out soon where a journalist actually met his advisor. He also mentions this Rolling Stone piece.
1:04:30 Adrianne and Jason debrief.
1:20:35 We grab Editor in Chief Derek Mead and Supervising Senior Producer Chris O'Coin, who know a lot about UFO history.
1:25:30 The book Chris is talking about is Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobssn. The essential argument about the Roswell crash was that the US and Russia were developing saucer technology to scare each other, and that the Roswell crash was a craft sent by the Russians that had a child on it that they had done surgery to in order to make it look like an alien. And, allegedly, the US did the same thing to Russia.
1:31:45 We all agree the messaging of mixing truth and fiction is confusing for DeLonge's project.
1:39:40 Chris predicts DeLonge's project is not pointed or direct enough to succeed as a UFO book. His pro-government bent is also a turnoff for most UFO believers.
1:48:53 Everyone agrees we want Sekret Machines T-shirts, and that if Tom DeLonge one day goes missing, Radio Motherboard will dedicate itself to investigating his disappearance. The podcast devolves very quickly into an argument over the new Star Wars, somehow.
1:50:30 That's our show! Thanks for listening. Email email@example.com and tell us what you think of the UFO question.