Interview The Offspring: ‘Music Changed Our Lives’

Sarah Jamieson sits down with Offspring guitarist Noodles.

Regardless of age, gender, occupation or musical taste, chances are you know at least one song by The Offspring. In fact, it’s more than likely that you know loads, and you probably don’t even realise it. Whether it’s thanks to that tauntingly catchy chorus of ‘Why Don’t You Get A Job?’, the pseudo-slick ‘Original Prankster’ or the still brilliant comedy value of ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’, there’s no doubt there are many a-track buried somewhere deep in your subconscious. You just have to think back to the influx of Californian punk rock singles which became mainstays in the early noughties’ charts. Wasn’t that brilliant?

So, imagine sitting down to have a conversation with guitarist Noodles – or the much more formally-known Kevin Wasserman – on the eve of their second London headline show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and being reminded that their second album (second, not even their debut) turns twenty this year. Now if that’s not something that gets the cogs of your brain in motion, we’re not sure what will.

“You know, Pete [Parada, the band’s drummer since 2007] wasn’t even around when we were playing most of this stuff!” Noodles laughs; something he does a lot.

As it turns out, to celebrate the anniversary of ‘Ignition’ – which was released October 16th 1992 – the band are playing the record its entirety, which is something that they’ve never done before. “It is a bit strange, but it’s been fun. [The album]’s part of who we are and how we got here.These are songs that nobody’s heard us play, not all of them. They came back really quickly when we started to learn them again; it’s probably a little more challenging for [Pete], because he had to learn them from scratch but he’s great.”

The Offspring may have been a band that have been together for almost thirty years, but regardless of whether their albums are no longer in their teens, there’s no slowing down for them. Just one month ago, their ninth studio album ‘Days Go By’ was released (four years after their last effort, ‘Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace’) but it’s easy to wonder, how on earth do you begin to approach recording a new album so far into your career?

“I think we’re a little harder on ourselves now. We’ve learned too much, so we’re a little harder on ourselves, and I think that’s part of the reason that it takes so long. We want to get everything right and we want to do something that sounds like us, but also sounds fresh. There’s a lot of great bands out there and in a way, you’re kind of competing with them too. You want to put something out which you believe is as good as anything else out there.”

“So, yeah, you know, usually when we do it, we just start out with one song, or a couple of ideas. Sometimes it can be just a melody, sometimes it can be a drumbeat to a guitar riff or a bass riff and just build around it.”

“I don’t think the creative process can be rushed. You can work on your focus and keep it working, but you can’t rush whether or not you’re gonna get something good. That’s got to come. You never know, but you know when you get there. Or at least you know when you’re getting close.”

So, in terms of writing, do the band approach it any differently to back in the day? “When we do it, Dexter pretty much writes all the songs. He used to write a lot of them driving to and from school, in that hour and a half commute every day. So, he’d bring us this idea and we’d sit down with guitars and work it out. Now, we do a lot of the writing in the studio, with drum machines and guitars and stuff. A lot of the writing happens in front of the microphone.”

Understandably so, a band will change and adapt as they grow, so it’s only reasonable for their approaches to morph. However, especially in genre such as punk, there’s always the worry that the message gets diluted; that with age comes a detachment from the youthful rebellion that so helped to define that early music. After all, what happens if, after twenty or so years, you just run out of things to say?

“I don’t think you necessarily have to… Your message doesn’t really have to change. You can say the same things, you maybe just say them a little differently. I think each song has a different theme or idea. There’s a lot of different ways to say, ‘Fuck you’. There’s a lot of different ways to say, ‘Oh man, that sucks’. There’s a lot of different ways to say, ‘It’ll get better’.

“We work together as a group and we all started this band because we fell in love with a certain kind of music. That certain kind of music changed our lives. It told us how we wanted to be, who we wanted to be, to not just accept what people wanted us to be. So, we always come back to that, at least musically.”

Surely then, it must be incredible to think that such a career has been built upon such a passion for that kind of music.

“We consider ourselves blessed every time we get to go out on tour, every time we get to walk out on stage. We still get nervous every time we go out on stage! Whether it’s a 2,000 seater hall, or 85,000 people in Germany. Even when we’re in the studio, we joke around saying, ‘Look at what we get to do!’ Even when it gets hard and it’s frustrating and the song’s just not there, you still kinda go and sit back and think, ‘Fuck, this is awesome. We get to do this.’ But the flip side of that is once you get a piece of a music, or even just a song that you know is kicking ass, you get excited. It just feels really special.”

‘Days Gone By’ is available now through Sony Records.

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