June 28th, 2012, 8:17 am · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
When Huntington Beach punk rock outfit the Offspring released 2008′s Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, the band more or less proclaimed, in one of its most pointed and unprintable titles ever, “(Stuff) is (Messed) Up.”
That entire album was littered with frontman Dexter Holland’s observations on how out-of-control the world had become. Little did he know that by the time he and the group would drop another album, in the next presidential election year, he’d feel compelled to take the title a step further.
“(Stuff) is definitely (messed) up now,” he says during a recent phone interview.
With the release this week of Days Go By, the band’s ninth studio effort and sixth for Columbia Records, the vocalist and guitarist acknowledges these tough times, especially in the title track.
“It’s been a rough few years for everyone,” he says. “The idea is that things will get better but no one is really going to help you, and you have to kind of figure out how to pick yourself back up and move on. I really wanted that message of hope to be in this record and in this song.
“On the other side of it, it’s like something has got to give. I wrote a song called ‘Secrets from the Underground’ and it’s kinda like: If something doesn’t give soon, then something’s really gonna give, whether it be Occupy Wall Street or what-have-you. You can just tell that it’s gone beyond (stuff) is (messed) up, to where people are just really pissed off out there.”
Fans were initially treated to two singles in early spring, including the title track and the spoofy-poppy “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in My Truck),” very much in the vein of 1998′s “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).” Holland admits he had written a bunch of serious songs for the new assortment, so he decided to include a fun cut about driving down Pacific Coast Highway in his hometown on a crazy day.
“People have asked me: ‘Are you trying to write a pop song or are you trying to make fun of pop songs?’ I think people aren’t quite sure yet, and I kinda like that. I like riding that line a little bit like, ‘Well, what do you think?’ If you go back to ‘Pretty Fly,’ it was a very popish song but there was a satirical side to it, and I think that’s cool. I like the idea that it’s making people think just a little bit.”
The band – including longtime guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman and bassist Greg Kriesel and current drummer Pete Prada – has an insane tour schedule ahead. The Offspring has already been to Europe this year and made a pair of appearances locally, but the quartet has a full U.S. tour on the books. Their next Southern California stop is slated for Aug. 18 at the Sunset Strip Music Festival, where they will help celebrate event honoree the Doors alongside Marilyn Manson, Bad Religion, Black Label Society, Steve Aoki and more.
That will cap a season of shows that began closer to home. The band was one of the top-featured acts at KROQ’s 20th annual Weenie Roast y Fiesta on Cinco de Mayo, and two days before that they gave a free show at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach to commemorate the same anniversary of sophomore album Ignition. Thousands of fans tried to get tickets via a lottery system on the band’s website, but there was only room in that tiny space for about 200 die-hards.
“It was just so much fun to have fans from really around the world,” Noodles says. “There were fans from Brazil and Japan, and a bunch of our old friends from the local area – the 40-somethings from way back in the day. Being able to play Ignition from the first song all the way to the end was so cool because I don’t think we’ve done ever done that. A song like ‘Hypodermic’ I think we might have played only like a handful of times live.”
They did rehearse those dusted-off songs, but Noodles and Holland both agree that in most case returning to them was a bit like riding a bike again.
“It’s really weird playing some of those songs because some become almost ingrained in you – like, I could play ‘Come Out and Play’ in my sleep probably,” Holland says. “Some of them, though, it was like, ‘Wow, these have definitely never been ingrained in me.’ It was like learning them again for the first time.”
When the album was released in 1992 on Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz’s Epitaph label, two years before the Offspring’s third album, Smash, would break them big into the mainstream, the band hosted a release party at long-gone Goodies, near Cal State Fullerton (now a Latin nightclub). Less than 50 people showed up, Holland recalls.
“I don’t know where these people were 20 years ago,” he jokes about the amount of fans who vied for tickets to hear the same album at Alex’s Bar. “It’s a good feeling now because we were always very proud of that record, but it just didn’t quite get that level of attention. It was nice to go back and kind of have fun with that piece of music and that period of time, I guess.”
Still Rocking Out … with Rock
Once again this new collection finds the Offspring emerging from studio time with producer Bob Rock, famous for his work with bands like Metallica, Aerosmith and Bush – and who also produced Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. Between the band’s own studio in Huntington Beach and Rock’s place in Maui, it took about two years to write and record. Noodles says much of the writing this time took place in front of the microphones, yet they spent a great deal of time in post-production evaluating each track and make changes as necessary.
Working with Rock again, he says, was a great experience: “We really hit it off the last time. A lot of people were worried that he was going to, like, turn is into Metallica or Mötley Crüe. Even we were a little worried because that’s what we knew him mostly for. Once we sat down and talked with him … I mean, he’s worked with D.O.A. up in Canada and he worked with the Avengers, so he’s worked with a lot of punk bands as well.
“We just clicked with him and he’s a super nice guy, very patient with us. But at the same time, if we’re not on point, he’ll call us out on it. He’s just so into it – when we get something happening and we know something is happening with the recordings, he was just as excited as the rest of us.”
In May, the band filmed music videos for “Days Go By,” unveiled June 1 on its website, and then “Cruising California,” which debuted a week later.
“‘Days Go By’ is a little more shrouded in mystery,” Noodles explains. “We’re doing a performance and in the background they’re flashing different scenes from the desert and driving around and showing time going by. With ‘Cruising California,’ it’s a lot of party stuff – we’re driving around on a bus, picking up people on PCH. It’s done by Mickey Finnegan, the director who did LMFAO’s ‘Sexy and I Know It.’
“You have to do a video like that with a song like that. It’s just a silly, don’t-think-too-much, have-some-fun kinda thing. You know, we love the Dead Kennedys and T.S.O.L. but we also loved the Vandals and the Dickies growing up, stuff that made us laugh. You can’t take yourself too seriously in this, and I think my favorite bands really didn’t.”
From the Janitor’s Closet to the Stage
Holland thinks back to the early days of the Offspring: “I’m sure you know the story … I was in high school, Noodles was a janitor, Greg worked at a blueprint shop …the idea that we’re all here is just incredible, but to still be here now is just amazing. We keep on doing music because it’s what we love. On one hand, we did work hard and try to make great music, but on the other hand, we still consider ourselves very lucky.”
He remembers, back in the early ’80s, reassuring himself that becoming a heavy rock band would not be a good idea. “I said: ‘It looks huge right now, but look out.’” Metal just wasn’t for the Offspring. At the time the guys wanted to be like their local heroes: Social Distortion, T.S.O.L., Adolescents. They aspired to one day, hopefully, be as big as D.I.
They’ve since surpassed the commercial success of all those forebears combined, yet back then Noodles was so unsure about a full-time career in music that when he finally left his day job sweeping floors at Warren Elementary School in Garden Grove, he didn’t fully quit – just took a leave of absence.
“I was still a janitor when the video for ‘Come Out and Play’ was in heavy rotation on MTV,” he recalls. “Here I am sweeping up in the morning and kids are walking through the school to get to the high school from the bus stop, and they’re like, ‘Aren’t you that guy?’
“The day that O.J. (Simpson) was doing that car chase was one of my last days at school and the teachers took me out for drinks. I remember like three years after that, I was like OK, if I have to go back and be a janitor, I’d have to start at the bottom of the janitorial rung.”
Their only goal then was short-term: land the next gig.
“Punk rock wasn’t a career choice,” he says. “It was a hobby that we did for fun. We never thought we’d get as big as our idols in T.S.O.L. or certainly not the Ramones.
“We went out and played across the country, and the year before ‘Smash’ came out we got to go to Europe for six weeks to open for NOFX. I came home from that tour and my mom was like, ‘All right now, the band got you to Europe, but that’s probably going to be the end of it. So don’t you think you should quit and go back to school and get a part-time job?’ I thought about it. I had to give it some consideration.”
The street-scene conclusion of the 2012 Sunset Strip Music Festival – featuring Marilyn Manson, the Offspring, Bad Religion, Black Label Society, Steve Aoki, Far East Movement, De La Soul and more – takes place Aug. 18 at 1:30 p.m. on Sunset Boulevard between San Vincente Boulevard and Doheny Drive, in West Hollywood. Tickets are $75 for general admission, $135 for VIP passes.
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