Were Bad, Were Worldwide

The Offsprings weird, weird realm

Weird is having to call a New York City publicist to arrange an interview with a punk rock band's lead singer who lives in Huntington Beach, a scant 10 minutes from where you do.

Weird is driving to this interview, which will take place at the singer's recording studio/office, and smirking at the heaps of juicy irony found in the locale, from the maze of street names surrounding the studio—Product Lane, System Drive, Machine Drive, Commerce Lane, Commercial Drive, Industry Lane—to the Calvary Chapel building that's just a stage dive's distance from the studio's front door.

Weird is walking through that studio front door and being met by one of the punk band's reps, plus the singer's personal assistant—reps? PAs? —who are busily stocking the kitchen with food.

Weird is presuming—wrongly—that your interview is one of the first the band is doing to promo their new album, Conspiracy of One, until you find out they've just returned from two weeks in Europe, where they did nothing but interviews with the foreign press. Weird is also finding out that in a couple of days, the band will be heading back to Europe, solely to perform one-or-two-song sets on TV shows. Eventually, you hope, they'll get to go back for an actual tour.

Then things get weirder. A five-person Japanese TV crew has arrived, looking a bit beaten down after enduring a God-knows-how-many-hours-long flight. They're all American-pop-cultured out, too: one girl has hot-pink Gwen hair, and one of the guys in the posse sports a Cheech & Chong T-shirt with the words "Let's Make a Dope Deal" pressed onto the front. The band's people are gracious hosts and offer us refreshments (though the Japanese crew's interpreter can't have the last cold bottle of water—the band's lead singer might want it). The Japanese are also fascinated by Twizzlers, which they apparently don't have back home.

Eventually, the band's guitarist pulls up in his Jaguar, as does the singer in his big, black, menacing SUV. Hugs and smiles are exchanged with the Japan crew—they know one another from past interviews. Then the guitarist heads to the back for a phone chat with a Brazilian magazine. My allotted half-hour is next, and then it's Japan's turn. All this attention, and the band's new album won't even be out for another month.

It must be weird, sometimes, being Bryan "Dexter" Holland or Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman. It must be weird, sometimes, being in the Offspring.

Weird only in the sense of where Orange County's biggest-selling band has come from—begging to get small-time gigs in front of local college students. Now they headline huge sports arenas, even in other countries with impossible-to-pronounce names. They had trouble rounding up 25 people to come to the release party of their second album, Ignition, at the old Goodies club in Fullerton; now they can sell 25 concert tickets in less time than it takes to flip somebody the bird. Once, the only press people even remotely interested in interviewing them were stuttering, pimple-faced teenage zine publishers (who would, naturally, spell their names wrong—Dixtur Hullend! Nudels!); they now juggle offers from Rolling Stone, Spin and Melody Maker.

When punk rock finally broke big in '91, practically nobody thought the Band Most Likely to Take Punk (or at least a poppier version of punk) to the Next Platinum-Bling-Bling Level would be four OC guys—especially when one of them had long, very unpunk Bo Derek cornrows; had earned the very, very unpunk role of valedictorian of his high school graduating class; and was just a dissertation away from a molecular biology Ph.D. at very, very, very unpunk USC.

By being honest about their relatively comfy suburban upbringing and running against the greasier, grimier, dope/tats/jail-time/parental-abuse visions of what your average Maximum Rock 'N Roll reader thought punk was supposed to be, Dexter, Noodles, Ron Welty and Greg Kriesel reminded the 6 million people who bought their 1994 album Smash that being a true punk means doing whatever the hell you want. And if you happen to make a cool million in the process, all the better.

But musically, the Offspring never really were a pure 100 percent punk band. Each of their six albums has been evenly split between swift early '80s thrash tunes and catchier, more radio- and MTV-friendly rock & roll—guess which ones get released as singles? (For a real hoot, check out the Rolling Stone review of Conspiracy of One, which brands the Offspring a "hardcore" band —oh, you mean they sound just like Minor Threat?) Still, they've never been above pissing off people, punk-style —from purists who think that if a song is on KROQ, it cannot possibly be punk to parents ("Timmy, did I just hear that nasty man on your boom box say 'stupid dumbshit goddamn motherfucker'?") to, lately, their own record label. And pissing off Columbia, part of a huge multinational corporation, is very punk rock.

After Brazil gets off the phone but before Japan has its way with Dexter and Noodles, we get to talk about that—and about the new album, which came out on Nov. 14. You probably know about all this already, but we'll go over it again: originally, the band had planned to upload Conspiracy of One onto their website, making it available for free to fans a full month before its scheduled release to such retail stores as Tower and Best Buy. People downloading Conspiracy would only have to fill out a brief form, which would register them for a contest, with the grand prize being $1 million of the Offspring's money.

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