Green Day on Their New Album, Trump and Moving Ahead
Green Day are releasing their 13th studio album, Father of All Motherfuckers, this Friday. Despite some folks pining for another version of American Idiot — something bassist Mike Dirnt admits that some expected from the band considering given the current political climate — Father of All…is not that album.
Dirnt says that the album is closer musically to early Green Day albums like Insomniac and Dookie. Father of All… is 10 in-your-face songs that clock in at 26 minutes. It’s more The Ramones than American Idiot.
That doesn’t discredit it’s lyrical prowess, however. Poignant moments are sprinkled throughout the album, including several that surprised singer Billie Joe Armstrong, in particular on “Junkies On A High” where he sings, “Rock and roll tragedy/I think the next one could be me.”
“I think that line kind of scared me. I think the track record of rock musicians living short lives, sometimes it feels like hell hounds on your trail a little bit, so I think that once scared me and it scared a couple of other people that are close to me without mentioning any names,” Armstrong says of the song.
Even 30 years after their formation in the Bay Area, Green Day still has a lot to say. This time, the subject matter is layered in some very fun, very catchy hooks ready that are stadium ready.
SPIN spoke with Dirnt, Armstrong and drummer Tre Cool in three separate interviews over two days to get the story of Father of All…, why they surprised themselves while making the record and how it sets up nicely for this year’s Hella Mega Tour, where they’ll hit the road with Weezer and Fall Out Boy for 29 shows together.
SPIN: I love the brevity of this record, 10 songs in 26 minutes.
Mike Dirnt: That’s just how the songs were coming out. They felt dynamic enough without having to embellish anything or really sort of squeeze an arrangement out of anything. The other thing is I’m sure everybody expected us to write some sort of fucking magnum opus about fucking Trump, but it’s just not where we are right now. American Idiot still says everything that needs to be said today. So we’re at a place where we wanted to play with our influences.
Mike was saying most people thought you were going to make some epic anti-Trump record. Was that something that crossed your mind or did you always know the direction of this record?
Billie Joe Armstrong: It’s funny. You know that Instagram account called “The Hard Times?” The day after Trump got elected they put something up and said, “And now Green Day are going to put out their next rock opera about Trump.” Something like that and I thought it was really funny. The thing with Trump, all of it, for us, seemed too obvious. There’s so much toxic shit in the ether right now. I didn’t want to write songs that would contribute to that. So, for us, it was like, “Okay, instead of doing some opus or something like that, let’s find a new direction we haven’t gone into.” So we were just talking about the influences and things that we’d grown up listening to that maybe people don’t know so much about. So that’s what started the idea of doing the history of rock and roll music, whether it’s Little Richard or Motown Martha and the Vandellas to glam like T. Rex and Mott the Hoople and stuff like that.
Do you feel like it was a statement in a way to make a record that is so short, to the point and becomes an escape in these toxic times?
Armstrong: Yeah, I think this whole record the point was to make Green Day more danceable. So songs like “Meet Me on the Roof” or “Father of All,” those are the two songs I think of where you can…the first video we made for this we were showing all of these different images of people dancing, whether it was kids break dancing or kids doing a “Wall of death (mosh)” and just sort of that common natural instinct with beats that make people want to move.
What songs from this record are you most excited to do live?
Tre Cool: Well, “Father Of All Mother F**kers.” Playing that one live for me feels really good. I feel like I’m accomplishing something every time I pull it off live. It’s me going apeshit on drums for pretty much the whole song. When I’m able to lock with Mike and Billie and we get that groove going, it’s kind of quirky jerky, but it’s ripping. I really love playing that one live. “Meet Me on the Roof” is one of my favorite songs on the record. I think it’s got a really sweet sentiment, but it’s also got sort of a cool toughness about it and the vibe is really positive and it sounds classic in a way. It sounds like a hit to me, it sounds like a really big song. That’s one of my favorites. “Teenage Teenager,” same kind of thing. It’s got a kind of vibe like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” or something for me. It sounds lush and big and textural. “Stab Me in the Heart” is really fun to play live. It’s a barn-burning, rock and roll extravaganza with murderous undertones.
Dirnt: Yeah, I think there are some epic crowd chorus chant moments on this record like “Teenage Teenager,” “Oh Yeah,” of course, that’s obvious, and then of course, “Father” is really fun to play. But it’s one of those things, you just get up there and see. We’ve played “She” on stage and looked out down at the front and went, “These fucking kids don’t know the song” (laughs). It’s off of Dookie, go figure. But I guess that’s the challenge and the excitement, is getting people into the next phase of Green Day. My son’s friend didn’t really know Green Day. And the first song he got into with us was “Father of All” and I’m like, “Wow, that’s your fucking intro to Green Day?”
Is there anyone you admire for the way they’ve handled fame and success and seemed to enjoy it?
Armstrong: You know who’s got it figured out is Bill Murray. All of a sudden he’s gonna show up at someone’s party and do the dishes or just show up at a bar and bartend and everybody’s like, “Holy fuck, there’s Bill Murray.” To me, he’s kind of like a living Instagram page where he’s actually doing the cool shit that everybody pretends to be doing. Patti Smith is another person. For some reason, the older that they get, the younger they are. And it’s just like keeping things fresh and doing things that make you feel good and make you feel like you’re contributing instead of just taking.
Was it important to have a fun record like this in advance of the stadium tour?
Cool: When we started recording this record, we were fired up about music and charged up and listening to music and playing music. It was a good time to go in the creative process. The final result is a good feeling and we’re successful with it, we made the record we want to make. It’s like, “Let’s carry that onto our live show. Let’s have that same kind of positive vibe going into a tour. Let’s be ambitious. Let’s play stadiums. Let’s play 20 baseball stadiums in America. Let’s bring out Weezer and Fall Out Boy and the Interrupters and make a whole day of fun and everyone’s gonna have a good time. And everyone’s gonna get laid.”
Are you guaranteeing that?
Cool: Yes, I’m not gonna do it for you. You’re gonna have to do it. It’s gonna be cool. It’s gonna be an experience. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.
What is the one rock anthem you’d do in an all-star jam with Weezer and Fall Out Boy?
Armstrong: Oh jeez (laughs). The first thing honestly that comes to mind is probably “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones.
Tre: “All The Young Dudes.”