“THIS record represents the time we are in right now,” explains singer Billie Joe Armstrong. “It’s got the shortest attention span and comes in 26 minutes and the songs are short, personal and there’s a lot of chaos.”
Father Of All Motherf***ers is Green Day’s 13th studio album and an energised, rock ’n’ roll album. It’s a new sound for the Oakland trio.
“I think there was a conscious effort to write songs that were more danceable for us,” says Armstrong.
“For Green Day to maintain the energy, we all brought in these new influences — Motown, soul, and Prince. Just trying to get it right. I feel really great about this record.”
Armstrong and his two bandmates are in good spirits as they sit in Bar 1200, which is part of West Hollywood’s famous rock ’n’ roll hotel Sunset Marquis.
Dressed in black jeans and shirts, they’re in Los Angeles for an awards show the following night and have closed down the hotel bar just for our chat. And juggling fatherhood with work duties, drummer Tré Cool, 47, has just returned from a pram stroll with his one-year-old son Mickey before the band head back to their studio for rehearsals.
Ordering a beer from the waiter, bassist Mike Dirnt, 47, says: “Green Day are in a good place. We are excited about music and what we’ve been playing. I think Billie has been digging really deep on this record. He’d be writing and sending us these songs (from his home in Newport Beach, California). And as there are a lot of inspiring moments on this record, that carries us forward. That is our fuel.”
A LOT OF PARANOIA
Cool adds: “There’s an excitement to this new music that makes you want to shake your butt. We keep putting it back into the music. Every single day, Billie doesn’t stop. He’s always writing music and making stuff.
“I try and learn, and practise drums as much as I can. The same with Mike taking piano lessons we are just pushing what we can do musically and we want to always get better.
“Music excites us and when we get together to play our music, it’s a nice level of buzz. In fact, it’s like the best sex and drugs you’ve taken in months.”
Smokey Robinson, Martha And The Vandellas and The Supremes are the Motown legends that Armstrong lists as influences on the new record.
The singer also says the album is like a Foxboro Hot Tubs record, referring to the side project the band formed in 2007.
“Foxboro’s album (2008’s Stop Drop And Roll!!!) was the first proper album that came out after American Idiot (2004).
“We discovered something new about ourselves with that record, because we were playing with garage and soul music, which is far out of our comfort zone.
“In a way, it is like a Foxboro Hot Tubs record, but it works as Green Day.”
Green Day: Father Of All Motherf***ers
- Father Of All . . .
- Fire, Ready, Aim
- Oh Yeah!
- Meet Me On The Roof
- I Was A Teenage Teenager
- Stab You In The Heart
- Sugar Youth
- Junkies On A High
- Take The Money And Crawl
Opening track Father Of All . . . , on which Armstrong sings a Prince-like falsetto, sets the pace and feel of the record.
He says: “There was a lot of trial and error. When you are trying to do something different, that is the hardest part about making music. When you strike out, it’s a big strike out.
“Then, going from one song to another, I felt like a f***ing champion then all of a sudden, I sound like a loser. So, Father Of All . . . is where the confidence came. Once I’d finished that then I knew we were onto something.”
A rock ’n’ roll record is what Father Of All Motherf***ers is, but a political record is what it isn’t. While American Idiot took direct aim at President George W. Bush, it was important to Armstrong not to take down President Trump in a direct way.
He says: “It’s too obvious to make a record that’s hating on Trump or hating on what is going on in the world. It’s all about taking in the garbage and regurgitating it with what comes out emotionally.
“We have the politics, but it came from the heart. There is just too much hate right now, and no soul about what is going on in the world right now. And Trump gets a lot of airtime.
“The Republican Party are being the most dangerous political organisation in the world right now. It’s definitely part of the paranoia and nihilism that goes through the record. But I think it has veered to the rejection of it.
“You can hear me trying to steer as far away from it as possible — that is what you can hear on the record.” Graffitia is a song which tackles social and race issues backed by a 1960s drum beat.
Armstrong says: “It’s the first time we really captured something that sounds like The Shondells. It talks about how cities and towns in America are losing their identity because coal mining is a dying industry. And also how young black men are being murdered in the streets.”
Other stand-outs on the album include I Was A Teenage Teenager and Meet Me On The Roof which Dirnt says shows off Green Day’s “undeniable energy”.
Dirnt says: “Meet Me On The Roof started off as something completely different. It was a great song, but it didn’t turn into Green Day until we really dug into it. Then there is a turning point where you are like, ‘Oh wow, there it is.’ That’s why this album is so satisfying.”
Armstrong, 47, agrees: “There is a feel that comes across on this album that you can also find on (1991 album) Kerplunk. Whether it comes from a drumroll, a bassline or a vocal thing, there is just that undeniable energy.”
Junkies On A High is a song that Armstrong says “has a lot of paranoia going on in it”. He adds: “There’s a line which goes, ‘Rock ‘n’ roll tragedy, I think the next one could be me.’ There’s a lot of dead people on the walls of this hotel. A lot of these people are no longer with us. Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington was one of the younger guys. I also remember playing shows with The Prodigy in 1997, and I saw Soundgarden when I was like 15 years old.
“Keith Flint and Chris Cornell from those bands have gone too. They are not with us anymore. It just gets scary. These are people that are not only artists they mean something in a spiritual way. These are people that are very heavy. When they are gone, you feel it.”
Anxiety? It means you care about what you’re doing
Billie Joe Armstrong
Dirnt adds: “Working in music is tough because it’s a lifestyle you sign up and want to do what you love and then you end up in a position that is a little greater from where you come from.
“Any position of fame or success or whatever can be tough but you can’t stop loving the purity of the thing that you do because it’s probably the only thing you know how to do.”
In 2012, Armstrong checked himself into rehab for drug and alcohol addiction after he had a meltdown on stage, smashing his guitar during a foul-mouthed rant at a festival in Las Vegas.
Armstrong says: “I look back on it differently now than I did when it happened. I was on prescription drugs that were playing a role with my addiction.
I’VE ACCEPTED ANXIETY
“Now I’ve gotten passed it and there is life. With anxiety I’ve just accepted what it is. Before, they used to give people lobotomies. Now, I just accept that this is part of our brains. You are not a freak, you are not a weirdo. Everyone has got their junk.
“I wouldn’t want to live in a world where everyone is completely normal. I think, especially in music, there’s nerves.
“Even something as basic as stage fright or the anxiety of putting out a record, it just means that really, you care about what you are doing. And did I say something really bad?
“Did I hurt someone? I look back and I go ‘well I bummed some people out and I had to cancel f***ing tour dates’ which I hate doing as I ended up in rehab but it’s all good today and looking back at the video of that day I can laugh.
“It was a pure rock ’n’ roll moment, for sure.”
Today Armstrong meditates and goes on long runs to help with his anxiety. He says: “I also like to jump in the cold ocean. And I try not to take s**t so seriously.”
Dirnt adds: “It’s important to check out for a minute too. If I need to take a week to do my own thing and then come back in, then I will.”
The three say it’s the strength of their friendship that has led to the band’s longevity. “That and I am the godfather to his kids,” adds Cool. “He taught one of my sons how to play the drums,” adds Armstrong. “I think it’s the depth of our conversations that keep us together. We are very sentimental people and want to create new memories together. We have that connection that goes beyond the band.”
Next month Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy join forces for the Hella Mega Tour which sees the bands playing stadiums across the world including Glasgow Green, the London Stadium and John Smith’s Stadium in June.
Armstrong says: “We’ve known Weezer since our (1994) Dookie days and we met Fall Out Boy at an MTV event in 2004. They also inducted us into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame — we get on well with them.
“It’s like the biggest travelling circus of all time. It’s exciting for fans.”
Dirnt adds: “We are head- liners, there is no bones about that. People are going to have a lot of hits and play a lot of music. We share the same management so it’s a tip of the hat to Crush Music for organising it.
“That being said, we respect one another and that is always good. It’s going to be a rolling party.”
Cool adds: “What’s important is that it’s all music that we like. The icing on the cake is that we get to play in Europe. We sold out stadiums in 12 seconds which is amazing.
“We are really excited to go back and play Glasgow as last time we were there, the show (at Bellahouston Park in 2017) was cancelled because the stage was sinking.
“The park fell apart and the promoters fell apart so it was a debacle. Mike ended up drinking whisky with a couple of hundred of the locals.”
Armstrong says: “We’ve grown up together with our fans and that why our shows are such a celebration.
“More so than ever now as we’ve been around so long and been through so much. It’s a huge event for us and our fans.
“So this tour we are going to be knocking some f***ing doors down. We are going into towns and bringing the fun.”
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