Features Music Interviews
Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – The Offspring
In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: The Offspring
1What was the original spoof title of your 2003 album ‘Splinter’?
Kevin ‘Noodles’ Wasserman: “‘Chinese Democrazy’? “
CORRECT. You announced the title as ‘Chinese Democrazy (You Snooze, You Lose)’ as an April Fools’ gag.
Noddles: “It was a joke about the long-delayed album by Guns N’Roses. We were ready to put out the record and thought we’d beat on Axl Rose a little. Considering it’s taken us almost 10 years to put out a new record, he could get us back by naming their record after the title of ours [‘Let The Bad Times Roll’]. We used to put post-it notes in the studio with proposed album titles to take the piss, like ‘Plate Job’ for the album that became ‘Conspiracy of One’. I’m glad we didn’t go with ‘Chinese Democrazy’ or ‘Plate Job’ – they might have hurt sales!”
Axl Rose issued a cease-and-desist notice. Did he see the funny side in the end?
Noodles: “I don’t know. Our paths never crossed!”
2Which NOFX song namechecks and pokes fun at The Offspring?
Bryan ‘Dexter’ Holland: “Don’t they all kind of do that?! There’s one where they sing: ‘Between AFI and The Offspring, I don’t think we need anyone else to sing anymore whoa’s.’ Is that the one?”
CORRECT. Close enough – it’s called ‘Whoa on the Whoas’ from their 1991 EP ‘Surfer’.
Dexter: “They’re just jealous! Fat Mike [NOFX frontman] told us that our track ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ is one of his favourite songs ever. He likes to poke fun, but Mike’s actually a really nice guy and one of our friends. Our first tour in Europe in 1993 was opening for NOFX, so we had a lot of fun, mental times with them.”
Any other memorable criticisms of The Offspring?
Dexter: “Well, I don’t think we’ve ever been press darlings…”
Noodles: “I don’t know – I got treated a lot like Evan Dando in the early days! (Laughs)”
Dexter: “I’m a licensed pilot and when we were in Maui working on our eighth album, ‘Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace’, I felt like going flying one day. As I was getting ready to rent a Cessna 172 from the flying club, Chris Martin from Coldplay‘s in front of me and the guys in the shop go fucking nuts. After 10 minutes of ‘We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!’, they look at me with a blank stare and go (curtly): ‘Yes?’ That sums up our career!” (Laughs)
3In 1989, who destroyed a copy of The Offspring’s self-titled debut album on his TV show?
Dexter: “That’s Wally George.”
CORRECT. On his TV show, Hot Seat, the conservative pundit ceremoniously smashed it in front of you because it contained a song called ‘’Kill the President’
Noodles: “He was a parody in 1989 of what became real in the 2010s. If you want to know how we ended up with Donald Trump and democracy being in danger, it all begins with Wally George back in the ‘80s.”
Dexter: “He plays this over-the-top ultra-conservative host, but the audience is all punks and whenever he says anything outrageous, they cheer and fake laugh because they know how ridiculous it is, so the show’s vibe was fun. Wally George wasn’t in on the joke – but his audience was.”
Apart from appearing on Hot Seat, you rejected the majority of media offers at the start of your career…
Noodles: “We even turned down playing Saturday Night Live in 1994. We didn’t feel we were ready for prime-time. I regret that. We were up for it again around the ‘Americana’ era in 1998. It was down to us, Brian Setzer and Eagle-Eye Cherry, and I was bummed they went with Eagle-Eye in the end. Neneh Cherry I would have understood – Eagle-Eye not so much!”
4You appear in the 1999 comedy-slasher film Idle Hands. Name the three other musicians in the movie.
Noodles: “I’m so self-centred, I cannot!”
WRONG. Tom DeLonge, La Vida Loca-liver Ricky Martin and Kyle Gass from Tenacious D also pop up.
Dexter: “That was a goof. We shot three nights from 9pm to 5am hanging out with actors Seth Green*, Jessica Alba and Devon Sawa which added to the fun. I was asked: ‘How would you like to play a rock band and get your head cut off in a movie?’ That ticked all the boxes for me! It got a lot of mileage. People still come up to me saying: ‘Dude, I saw you in Idle Hands. That was great when you got killed! (Laughs)”
*Bonus fact! The Offspring originally wanted Seth Green to play the ‘white guy’ in their ‘Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)‘ video, but he was unavailable.
5What is the name of the then-14-year-old fan who won one million dollars after downloading your 2000 single ‘Original Prankster’ and taking part in a televised The Offspring trivia competition?
Dexter: “What was her name, Noodles? She was from Georgia. It totally ruined her life, by the way.”
Noddles: “It starts with an ‘A’, but I’m drawing a blank. Amanda?”
WRONG. She was called Ashley Hitchcock.
Noodles: “How did I forget Hitchcock?! We kept in touch with her for a while and she came to a couple of shows.”
Dexter: “Didn’t she lose all the money and lost her friends?!”
Noodles: “I think there might have been some rough patches and squabbles centred around the money, unfortunately.”
Thank goodness there’s no cool $1m being offered for this quiz then! Talking of downloads, you were big fans of Napster back in the day and even sold merchandise branded with its logo. Given the debate over unfair streaming payments to artists now, how do you look back on your support?
Noodles: “We had it all wrong! What were we thinking?! Even back then, we felt bad about our heroes like T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty), who couldn’t get a record contract and couldn’t take the financial hit.”
Dexter: “At the time, streaming was a great platform for getting your stuff heard because people were sharing while still buying gazillions of CDs. It was cool exposure and we were all for it. Then of course it took over the world and the music industry collapsed. We don’t have to get every last nickel, but artists should be properly compensated for their work if people are enjoying your music.”
6The cover of your 1997 ‘Club Me’ EP features the band name in Scrabble tiles. How many points is ‘Offspring’ worth in the board game?
Dexter: “(Laughs) That’s a tough one! I wish it was something cool like ‘666’…”
Noodles: “I’m going to say lucky number 13.”
WRONG. It would score you 18 points.
Noodles: “We needed to add another word so it could have been 31. Or if the tile numbers had gone ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6’ that would have worked out!”
Dexter: “A missed opportunity!”
(Most of the above numbers are references to lyrics from The Offspring’s ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’)
7When your 1994 breakthrough album, ‘Smash’ started selling millions of records, the label Epitaph Records took out a double-page advert in Billboard featuring their staff showing which of their body parts?
Noodles: “Their middle-fingers held triumphantly aloft to the camera.”
Noodles: “That was a big one! We felt like David taking on the Goliaths of the music industry. It started with us sending ‘Come Out And Play’ to a LA radio station and we’d call them up saying ‘Play more of that’, pretending to be fans. A couple of weeks in, we didn’t need to call in – it had fully built. It took off in an organic way because Epitaph, although they were good at reaching the underground scene, didn’t have the money to push it, so when they suddenly had this big record they took out that ‘Fuck you!’ advert.”
8Which two bands did The Offspring play between at 2004’s Reading & Leeds Festival?
Dexter: “We’re lucky that we’ve played Reading and Leeds a bunch of times, so Rage Against the Machine were after us once, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers was one time. We’re a great support act!”
Noodles: “Hear that, Rolling Stones? Hit us up!”
WRONG. You were sandwiched between headliners The Darkness and Ash.
Noodles: “Of course! The Darkness were my favourite band that year. I love Justin Hawkins – that guy’s insane. David Quackenbush from The Vandals and me are practically presidents of their fan club.”
Dexter: “Reading and Leeds have the most insane crowds who all bounce up and down in unison. It’s incredible to watch.”
9Name the three band T-shirts Dexter wears in the ‘Self Esteem’ video.
Dexter: “(Laughs) Wow! There’s the Sex Pistols, the Germs, and as for the third one…Social Distortion? No? I’m sure Noodles memorised what I wore that day!”
Noodles: “Is it Guttermouth?”
WRONG. Dexter’s clad in T-shirts from the Sex Pistols, the Germs and The Vandals.
Dexter: “We’ve met Jonesy [Pistols guitarist Steve Jones], who was lovely, but the Sex Pistols are so on a pedestal for me, I want them to be mean to us!” (Laughs)
Noodles: “If we ever get to talk to Johnny Rotten, I’m sure he’ll happily oblige! I took part in documentary Iggy Pop did called Punk in 2019 and at the Q&A, Johnny showed up drunk and was just belligerent and obnoxious and so abusive and it was glorious. I was cringing from ear to ear.”
10The Offspring co-headlined the Big Day Out Tour in 1995 with which four acts?
Dexter: “Ministry, The Cult…”
Noodles: “Hole and… Primal Scream?”
Dexter: “Evan Dando was hanging out also and I can say I once rode in an elevator with Evan Dando and Courtney Love at the same time. Courtney was out of control but in the best possible way.”
Noodles: “We had some fun moments with her. We once climbed up to her balcony and tapped on the window, and ended up playing a Hungry Hungry Hippos drinking game with her.”
Tell us about your upcoming album ‘Let The Bad Times Roll’…
Dexter: “This is a special record. When you’ve done a bunch of records, you’re trying to figure out how not to repeat yourself, and on our last couple of records – ‘Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace’ and ‘Days Go By’ – we felt it was time to expand our horizons. For this one, it felt like it was time to get back to more of a punk record. In terms of lyrics, we generally try not to get too much into politics, but these last few years have been extraordinary, it’s almost like, ‘how can we not comment on it?’ So some of the themes of what’s going on in America are definitely part of this record.”