Angels & Airwaves

Angels and Airwaves

Guitarist David Kennedy discusses the origins of the band’s free album and upcoming film Love, how the group has grown more sure of itself since its inception, and the effects criticism have had on it.

How’s the free album working out so far?

I don’t know. As far as how is everything going to work out, I don’t know if we ever knew what the answer was going to be or how we were going to determine how it’s working out. I know that it’s exciting. It’s fun, and people seem to be responding to it very positively.

We’ve introduced ourselves to I can’t imagine how many more people than we would have ever introduced ourselves just putting out a record in the normal sort of platform, so in that way it’s very exciting. How is it doing for us? I don’t fucking know, but it’s fun anyway.

Do you know how many times it’s been downloaded?

I don’t know the exact number, but it’s somewhere over 400,000. I don’t know where we’re at, but it seems to be growing. These interviews will help. Thank you.

You just barely finished it before it was up for download, right?

Yeah, less than 24 hours it was back in our hands. It might have been 13 hours we had gotten a hold of it before we were going to put it up online for people to download, which has never happened with the release of a record.

I’m sure you’re at least familiar with this. You always are done a minimum of six weeks beforehand because you have to produce all the CDs and get the orders. You’re doing all the purchasing and everything before. Nobody got the record. No friends, no family. Nobody even knew what it sounded like until you could download it. It was available to everybody, no matter who they were, at the same exact time.

What did the label say when you were telling them what you wanted to do?

We don’t have a label, so we just did everything we do. It was probably more than I totally want to get involved in, but it was just an idea of, like, “Hey, this is not a good partnership. You can’t offer us anything, and everything that we’re going to do, you’re going to benefit and we’re not.”

The way we’re at, being very self-motivated and hardworking, it had gotten to the point with the label, and I’m not really downing on them, it’s just the climate of the industry. It’s really bleak. It’s grim. They have no real ability to help. The way the partnership used to work was labels used to invest money into the band and the band would grow.

Now labels are not investing any money into bands and bands aren’t growing, or they’re just doing what they’re doing and then they’re left at the wayside. They’re meant to fill some sort of a void and that’s all they’re necessary to be. For us, it was a terrible business partnership.

In many ways, they understood. There’s great people there. There’s people that we’re friends with who have worked there for years. Unfortunately, a lot of them lost their jobs when I-Empire came out two years ago. That same day, 90 people at the label got fired. People that we worked with and people that are supposed to help put our album out are gone, so what does that do for our record? How do we keep working with a label or a partner like that?

There will be a physical release of Love coming out later this year too, right?

That’s our goal. We’re trying to figure out where’s that deal and figure out a real easy distribution situation that we can create. Part of the goal of doing the free record, obviously, was for us to get it to as many people as possible, and introduce ourselves and say hello.

Then hopefully a percentage of those new people, and a bigger number of people overall, will then come back for other things, like if we do a really cool box set with cool packaging and really get more involved in creating something of more value. That’s something we’d like to do with a hard release later.

You chose to title both the new album and the movie Love. I know the word love has become so casually tossed around by our culture today that it’s lost some of its meaning. So what would you define Love as, and then how does it relate to Angels & Airwaves?

It’s more of a social experiment, calling the record and movie Love. We wanted to directly brand the record with the movie and the band with both things. The calling it Love was based on… All Tom does is obsess online, right? It’s absurd. He finds the goofiest shit, like this guy who’s talking about this intergalactic battle 52 million years in the future, but they’re battling with 40 million years in the future and they’re connected by this kaleidoscope wormhole. It’s the goofiest shit.

90 percent of the stuff he finds online is completely absurd, but then all of a sudden he comes across something else, some other piece of knowledge. He came across this Japanese scientist who was trying to prove that people, and ultimately symbols and words, project an energy. They project an energy on you, and you project an energy on them, and how that affects things around them. What he did was he took little glasses of water and would write down with pencil words, positive and negative words, from love to hate, to Hitler to beautiful.

Then what he did was he froze the water with these words taped onto them, and then under a microscope you could see how just that word itself being taped on the glass affected the way the water froze. So under the microscope you’d see that the word love froze as a perfect snowflake crystal, completely symmetrical and the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. When there was a word like hate taped to the glass, it was all contorted and weird, almost discolored. It was pretty bizarre.

With that being said, we were like, “What if we named the record Love? What if we made it like a geometric shape, and it’s just lines? It’s just love. It’s not supposed to project. How would that affect everybody around you? If people are made up of 80 percent water, and there’s all these other theories of interconnectivity between people, Earth, plants and everything, what would it be if you started seeing this word Love projected everywhere? How would that affect people?” It just seemed like a really cool thing.

Love is your third album now. Do you think at this point you’ve been able to carve out your own sound?

I would say most definitely. I think on the first record you could always hear the influences. We’ve been saying bands like U2, Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, but we also grew up playing in punk rock bands. All of those influences are there, but now I think it’s pretty definitive what our songs sound like.

I don’t believe it sounds like anything else out there, or anything that’s ever been done. There’s elements and ingredients, of course, that people introduced to us that we’ve incorporated into the way the songs are made, and the tools that we use to get those sounds, but it definitely is its own thing.

One song I want to talk about is “Young London,” and I know a lot of fans were impressed by that opening riff. How did you come up with that one?

I don’t know if you’ve paid much attention to Blink, but Tom has always been fucking doing that. That’s like his thing. I’ve known Tom since I was 15 or 16 years old, and he has been doing that finger tapping shit since then. I can remember being in the backyard of my parent’s house and Tom talking about, like, “Oh, can you do this scale and that scale? My mom won’t let me play in a band, but I rip on the guitar.” He’s always kind of done it, and I don’t want to say it, but it was funny.

We have a big group of friends and we all skateboard, that’s how we all knew each other, but everybody had their own musical influences and was very creative and musical. There were three of four different bands in our own little group of friends. It’s just one of the bands ended up being Blink-182, but Tom was always doing that. Some of the other musicians in our group were like, “It’s a cheater move. You get to rip these sounds.” He’s just hammering on, pulling off, hammering on, pulling off. He’s been doing that for forever but it sounds so bitching, especially on that song. It just fucking rips. It sounds so cool.

On the first record I remember the band saying it was inspired by a bunch of WWII images and stuff like that. Was there anything that helped you along in the writing process on this record?

We’re always going to be sci-fi fanatics. That particular one was coupled with sci-fi, and WWII and different sorts of imagery. I think with that record we were also trying to find out who the band was, who we were and what we were trying to do. We needed a lot of outside inspiration and motivation, as far as finding passion and feelings and purpose.

With this record, just from everything we’ve all been through writing these records, trying to keep doing it with the state of the industry and dealing with the corporate side of things, we’ve found a lot of torment and angst and issues with trying to be progressive and trying to push things forward. I think that was just kind of there. I think it’s there on its own now. I mean, there’d be movies on in the background, but it wasn’t the same thing. It wasn’t like we were searching for those feelings.

I remember I was at your first show a couple years ago at the Glass House.

Oh yeah! I was so fucking nervous, dude. I was nervous for that show. You have no fucking clue.

I think at that point everyone had only heard one song, so everything was completely new.

One of my friends was standing in the back, and he quoted some kid saying, “Please, please play a Blink song.” I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. That was the thing I was so nervous about. People are here to watch these shows, but nobody had a fucking clue what they were going to see.

From that point up till now, what has that ride been like? How would you say you’ve grown as a band?

It’s like being a kid, being a little bit awkward and unsure, but knowing that you want to try to do something. I think now we all definitely know who the band is. We definitely know how we work together and who we are, what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to project. There’s a real comfort in that, and that wasn’t there then. There’s a real confidence. We’re much more confident now.

I feel like people want something out of Angels & Airwaves now. They expect something, and that’s cool because we’ve done everything we could from then till now to do what we wanted to do first. If I’m doing something that I like, and the guys are doing something they like, then other people that have paid attention have grown those expectations and wants out of Angels & Airwaves, and they’re going to like it too. We’ve never bent and tried to change any one person. We just hope that people bend around to what we like.

That’s where a lot of the confidence comes from because back then it was like, “I love it. I don’t know what the fuck other people expect from it, or want out of it, but I think it’s incredible. It’s everything I want music to be, or I want to be a part of anyways.” Now I feel that from other people, where they’re like, “I want to feel a certain way when I listen to Angels & Airwaves.” And that’s why they do it.

Obviously, people didn’t know what to expect, as you were saying, but I also know you’ve gotten a lot of criticism as a band since the beginning that’s followed you throughout. Do you pay attention to that stuff and how much of it do you take into account?

Yes, we do pay attention to that [laughs]. It’s impossible not to. Fuck, I mean, I would love to be the guy that’s in the room that’s like, “I don’t give a fuck what people say because I’m just being me.” But that’s not true. I care. But a lot of it, we’ve done to ourselves.

With Tom, there’s a lot of expectations. Like we just talked about, there’s things that people need from him, right? There’s people that were basing their lives around Blink-182. Then he’s grown up and been introduced to so many different things creatively that he wants to project different things. Angels & Airwaves was a moment in time for him to try to do that. I think he really wanted to project to people that this was something totally different.

That was a pretty intense learning experience of when you’re overstepping your bounds. He’s the guy people expected to run around naked or just tell fucking dick jokes, and then all of a sudden he’s going around saying, “I’m doing this record that’s so amazing, it’s better than everything else.” He was trying to figure out how to project that this was different than what you expected of him before, but he was saying things that were just way out of line.

Unfortunately, and this is something we’ve talked about openly and it’s not any proud moment, but from doing Box Car Racer he developed back problems and was fucking popping pills and doing stupid shit. So on some things there wasn’t a real filter when translated. I think he was just trying to project how excited he was about stuff, but it was a learning experience. You can’t do that.

It was a big transition. We were affected by it, of course. I think we still are. I think people still potentially hate Angels & Airwaves because of things that have been said, or because of what they want out of Tom because of his past. We hope that the more we talk and the more that we do, it gets to the people that want to be affected by it, and then we can move on from it. That’s how we deal with it. We don’t try to make excuses, really. We try to learn from it.

Another thing is we don’t want people to get the wrong idea. It’s not like we’re trying to change who we are or what we say. We want the opportunity because there’s a lot of good things about this band and the people that are involved in the band. Not just the band, but the people that work with the band and the people around it. We’re so fortunate.

The whole band was built on the idea of only working with our friends and our family first. It wasn’t about working with the best people. It was about working with people that were passionate, and giving people chances. Making it more of a collective, instead of it being, “Oh, we’re the band, and fuck everyone else.” This is more about a group, so I don’t want people to miss that part of it because we said stupid shit.

Tom gets the majority of the spotlight and attention, so how do you and the other two guys like being more in the background of things?

This band is built for Angels & Airwaves, right? It’s not about egos or personal things. It’s about putting Angels & Airwaves on a platform. However it gets there, I don’t care. If someone wants to talk to Tom because he’s in Blink or whatever, then Tom’s going to get the opportunity to talk about Angels & Airwaves and I’m pumped.

I don’t continually play music for attention. I like when people acknowledge the band. Even if they come up to you and go, “Oh my God. You’re the dude from Angels & Airwaves.” I just like the idea that they know about Angels & Airwaves. I think it’s fucking cool because it means we’re doing something right, and the message is potentially getting out there.

As far as Tom getting the attention, I have to admit he should be. He’s supposed to be. He’s the lead singer. It takes a certain person to do that and it takes a certain responsibility to be that guy. That guy has to entertain, and be the spokesperson and be sort of a captain of something like this. I am happy. I’m like a soldier. I do my job and I have my place. That’s what I like to do, and I like to do it really well.

Switching to talk about the film for a little bit, do you have any idea when that will be coming out?

We’ll have it out by the end of the year.

I’m just curious, but what was the budget like on that?

The budget just seems to keep getting bigger [laughs]. When we started the film, we had some money because we’ve been able to invest the money that has come in through Modlife into the movie. As we’ve accomplished more, we’ve been able to start saying, “Oh my gosh. If I just do a little bit more, it could be this other thing.” That’s why it’s also taken us three years because it just keeps getting more and more real. It’s such a massive undertaking and opportunity that it’d be such a shame to shortchange it just because you weren’t willing to invest more into yourself. We believe in it.

This band’s totally fucking broke because we’ve invested everything into ourselves, but it’s really cool. It’s exciting because we have control over everything. Nobody put money into the movie. Nobody put money into our record. Everything we’re doing on our own. We could have nothing tomorrow, but it gives us the opportunity to have everything, maybe, because we’re in control.

I always feel like great things only happen with great risk. You can’t get a really great reward without risking everything and putting it all out there, and that’s where we’re at. This is the end of something, and the beginning of something. It’s fucking scary, and exciting. So the budget right now is more than I like to talk about [laughs], but it’s within reason. In comparison to a big movie, it’s a fraction of what they’re spending.

Did you see the film Moon from last year?

No, but within our little camp that’s on our radar. I should just check it out to compare it. I know this is still very different.

Yeah, I think it sounds like the only similarity is it’s about one guy out in space.

When it came out, I was like, “It’s taken us so long. I wish…” Actually, I don’t wish for anything different because it’s the perfect record to go with the perfect thing. But yeah, when that movie came out, people started to murmur and talk about it.

It’s like anything. I know it’s going to be completely different. Hopefully, there’ll be enough differences between the two, and at the end of the day this is so different than that. Ultimately, it’s not just about the visuals, but what’s really driving a lot of the movie is the music.

What was that like, composing for film?

It’s something that I’ve wanted to be a part of for a while now but it’s kind of a hard industry to get involved in, like scoring and doing that sort of stuff. It’s fun to create moods. It’s fun to create energy, and to see how much something with music changes something. It completely changes the whole tempo of a movie. From that creative process, it’s very involved and exciting to see that stuff change and develop.

One of the first block edits of the movie from last summer, they still had a bunch of temp music in it. Then right away we started putting some of the songs we had recorded to it, and also scoring other original compositions to go with it, and all of a sudden the movie started to come to life. The feeling and the message that we wanted to get across started happening with the music, not even with words. It’s fucking cool, and I know personally I’d like to do more of.

Did you have any composer influences?

I don’t even know. Philip Glass is one of the only guys I can name off the top of my head. I’m really terrible about that right now. Philip Glass is someone I can actually say, but it’s not like I terribly know everything that he’s done. Obviously, Hans Zimmer. True Romance was one of the first soundtracks that make me feel like, “Oh my God. That’s the song I’m going to have at my wedding.” If you ask me about musicians and guitarists, I’d be like, “I don’t fucking know.”

So what does the future for Angels & Airwaves look like? What do you have planned coming up?

Well, the future is we have this very large North American tour coming up that we’re getting ready for right now, starting with Bamboozle on the 27th, or Bamboozle West or whatever the catch phrase is. Then it goes up through the Northwest, and then all the way back around to here ending in June. Then hopefully we’ll do Europe later this year, I think it’s September-October, and then Southeast Asia at the end of the year in November-December.

Another thing is hopefully we’ll put out this movie. There’s also talk in the summertime of doing remix songs and some other type of music to keep things going. We’re at full throttle right now, and we’re tying to take the opportunity while we have it. Hopefully, with the attention that we’re getting with this free record, we’ll get a lot more of people’s ears and try to capitalize on that. When they come searching for things, they can find them.

On the last record there was talk of doing a big tour partnership with NASA and a bunch of other people. Is that still on the radar?

No. I think what it is is we’re always trying to figure out a way to create environments, especially live. We want to create shows and environments. We’re always trying to figure out the angle to get the most people to pay attention and get the most progressive room that we can, whether that’s partnering with some sort of tech company so we can have something cool visually that would add to the show. You never know.

Right now, we don’t know. But we’re kind of hoping, based on the release of Love the movie, we can do an actual Love tour in the spring of 2011. By then we would have a movie to partner with, visually and everything, so that might be more of the focus and thing to partner with more so than somebody else, but you never know. We’re always trying to explore. We throw a lot of ideas out there and see if anything comes back from them. I think that’s where a lot of that comes from.

Originally appeared on Decoy Music