KRISSI WEISS sits in with the man known as Noodles… the bespectacled guitar hero of Californian punk/rock icons The Offspring. As it turns out, life on the road is as grand as ever.
The Offspring have never pretended to be anything more or less than what they are – and they’ve had fun along the way.
For those of you just joining us, here’s a quick recap: they’re rocking nine studio albums and one seemingly pre-emptive ‘greatest hits’ album. They’ve had modest success with some awesome tracks (Self Esteem, Come Out And Play) and massive chart success with some shaky tracks (need we mention Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)?). They’re a party-starting punk rock band dripping with ’90s shout outs and they do it well – without perfect hair.
Whispers of the band returning to the studio have been around for months and months, but The Offspring are still busy taking their latest album, Days Go By, around the world.
With a massive back catalogue that is heavily weighted with singles, riff-man Noodles (Kevin John Wasserman) admits the setlist is becoming a mammoth task. “We’ve been playing stuff as far back as Smash and moving forward to Days Gone By,” Wasserman says of the recent tours. “It’s not so much audience expectation, but we know there are certain deep cuts, you know – ones that never got played on the radio, that certain fans in certain countries have come to expect to hear. It’s more frustrating in what we don’t get to play. I’ve been putting our entire playlist on shuffle and certain songs come on and I think, ‘Why don’t we ever play that song?’”
Nonetheless, Noodles says there’ll be a few surprises on the band’s upcoming tour. “We still will bust out a song, they’ll go off and we’ll be surprised at an audience’s reaction. We just played South America – that’s where you get some of the craziest audiences in the world, they’re passionate and loud and moving. How we feel about the song, though, that doesn’t change; how we feel about it now is how we felt about it when we wrote it. I probably feel differently about some songs than what Dexter [Holland] does or what Greg [Kriesel] does, though, you know? But when we give it to the world, we don’t have any control over how the audience relates to it and we don’t try to. Well, unless they greatly misinterpret the lyrics.”
The most notorious example for The Offspring would have to be their breakthrough single. “Yeah, like with Come Out And Play people thought the ‘You gotta keep ’em separated’ line was about separating races and we were like, ‘Whoah no, no no. That is wrong!’”
While it may seem laughable that The Offspring’s lyrics were misinterpreted as some white power bullshit now, racial tensions were at an all-time high in their backyard of southern California around the time Smash was released. The fires of the Rodney King riots were still smouldering and SoCal was on edge. Around that time The Offspring were pushing forward with their music, trying to fit into to the hardcore scene but existing on the fringe with the like of Sublime and Bad Religion. Noodles is transported back to that time and place when I suggest the release of Pretty Fly… was a tenacious, hilarious but potentially disastrous move.
“Ha, yeah,” he begins with a laugh. “I think having played for years as a band in a hardcore punk rock scene where we really didn’t fit, trying to do songs that were melodic when that just wasn’t the scene we figured we never fitted [into] in the first place – why ever bother, you know?”
Fast forward to 2013 and they’re still here, still making music and still trying to get just a little bit better at what they do. “When we’re working on songs we’ll notice if we’re repeating patterns. I might say to Dexter, ‘Hey, that’s like a song we did on Ignition’, but if we love it we keep going. We do try new styles, we try to take what’s good about The Offspring and mix it with other styles of music that we really enjoy, and use that to occasionally try and break those habits. But we just love playing music, we really do; we travel the world and play music for crazy fans for a living.
“I think when we start to over-intellectualise it then that’s when you have to step away and listen to it with fresh ears. Sometimes you write something and in two days it’s done, but with other things you labour over things and change it and change it and something can get lost when things all start to sound the same.”
With drummer Pete Parada having joined the band many years ago, Days Go By is the first full studio album he’s played on. Nothing much changed for the band in the studio – prolific producer Bob Rock returned a second time as well – but the energy and happiness of the band has increased. They’re doing what they have done and will always do.
“Pete’s awesome,” he says. “He lives just outside of Nashville so it’s hard to get him out sometimes but he’s super easy to work with and he’s a great guy. He’s helped us move our game up in a lot of different ways … We’re not prolific writers, we’re really not, we don’t labour over this stuff for a long time, we just kinda get in there and do it.”