Ernie Ball String Theory is a web series that explores the sonic origins of some of music’s most innovative guitar players. In this episode, Tom DeLonge of blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves discusses the guitar learning process, the emotions he hopes his music evokes, and why he values his relationship with Ernie Ball. Find out the top six things we learned below…
1. He uses the guitar as a tool to express himself. (1:11)
TD: I used to come home from school and I would get on my bed and play as fast as I could. Then I would player slower and slower until I would eventually fall asleep with the guitar on my chest. That would happen every day. It was a way for me to get out my anxiety and how I feel and I think that’s why I gravitated to it so strongly.
2. When in doubt, add echos. (3:06)
TD: When I created Angels & Airwaves, I didn’t change the style of guitar I was playing. I literally played the same way, but I was adding effects to it that made those riffs sound different. All I wanted was something that sounded like it was echoing over a large place, so I put echos on everything. And if the whole song was good, put an echo on the entire song so people can hear it twice.
3. Making music is a two step process. (4:57)
TD: I kind of put being a musician into two categories: you create the art and then you communicate the art. They’re both difficult to do because creating the art is a year-long process in the studio building it and the big win at the end is when you get to play it. The second part is going and communicating it, you have to go onstage and play it and show people how you mean it. I think it’s a big deal to go out there and give it everything you got and make a show that’s visually and sonically immersive and grabs you by the throat and shakes you a little bit.
4. He’s looking for a personal mic holder, A.S.A.P. (7:19)
TD: I think the best thing for me would be if someone followed me around on stage holding a microphone. He’s like on a leash. I’m playing but there’s a leash on my belt and it’s attached to him and I just dragged this person with me on stage and he’s always holding the mic in front of my lips. What do you think?
5. He relies on Skinny Top Heavy Bottoms for his signature sound. (9:39)
TD: I’ve always used the Skinny Top Heavy Bottoms, they’ve always been super supportive. Ernie Ball probably treats their artists better than anybody in the music industry. For a band like ours that was touring for years in a van and couldn’t afford anything, we were honored to have anybody help up with that kind of stuff. Help us do our art, help us sound better, and help us play better.
6. His music is a form of immersive storytelling. (14:06)
TD: My goal here is to have a vehicle that can handle big storytelling, big immersive musical experiences and transmedia experiences, that each time it happens it’s big enough and loud enough that it moves people to think a little differently at times.
Tom DeLonge relies on Custom Gauge Nickel Wound 52’s and Paradigm Skinny Top Heavy Bottom electric guitar strings. On acoustic, he goes for Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Medium Light strings.
Check out similar String Theory films from Ernie Ball featuring artists such as Mac Demarco, Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails, Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World, Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, Daron Malakian of System of a Down, and Kurt Vile.