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A Backstage Conversation With Green Day

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  • Mar 27
    A Backstage Conversation With Green Day

    The punk-rock trio on entering middle age, crafting the perfect set list and the rigors of life on a tour bus

    In about three hours, the floor of Washington D.C.'s Verizon Center will be packed with a screaming mass of Green Day fans gleefully ignoring the signs posted every few feet that explicitly ban crowd-surfing. But right now it's soundcheck and the band is facing an audience of two that manages to make those showgoers seem tame by comparison: Ryan Dirnt and Brixton Dirnt. They're bassist Mike Dirnt's youngest children (age six and eight) and they are running wild up and down the empty aisles, leaping over crowd barriers and racing past bemused security guards as the group runs through their 1997 deep cut "King for a Day." Eventually Billie Joe Armstrong decides to join in the fun, grabbing a wireless mic and chasing a squealing Brixton across the the confines of the entire arena while somehow managing to nail every line of the song.

    It's an impressive feat of stamina for the 45-year-old Armstrong, especially since the group played a show the previous night. But this is Armstrong's first tour since he kicked his prescription drug habit in 2013 and he's determined to enjoy every minute of it. "Sometimes I have to get a B12 shot just to keep up," he says. "But I actually have more energy now than ever. I have a sense of gratitude every night and I feel like I'm making an impact beyond just playing my guitar. It's giving people an experience whether it's political or musical."

    Most shows this tour have focused more on the music than the politics, with the very notable exception of a "Fuck you, Donald Trump!" scream every night during the title track to American Idiot. But tonight they're playing just one mile away from the White House, hours after the Congressional Budget Office announced that Trump's health-care proposal would cost 24 million Americans their coverage. Five songs into the set, Armstrong pauses to let off some steam. "I can't stand any more of these goddamn conspiracy theories!" he screams." I'm sick of the blatant lies and the half-truths and the untruths! I want the truth!" He pauses when he notices a fan up front filming him on his cell phone. "If you're looking at me through a screen, you aren't looking at me," he says. "You stare at that cell phone for 24 hours a day. Not tonight!"

    We spoke with Armstrong in his dressing room shortly after soundcheck, and then had a separate chat with Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool.

    Billie Joe Armstrong

    How did the club tour go that you guys did a few months back?
    It was great. We got to play old deep cuts. People were pretty stoked. When you play big places it's a little harder to go deep, but we manage to get in a couple. In smaller places we have freedom to do whatever we want.

    Does tonight feel different than other nights on the tour since you're in D.C., so close to the White House?
    Hmm. For us, we want to try and keep the energy in the room positive and create a form of unity. First and foremost, I want people to have a really great experience away from the negative press and negative stuff that you see on the news and Facebook. I don't even like seeing people's cell phones. Let's have a human experience and rub up against each other, you know.

    You do mention Trump onstage though.
    Outside of "fuck you," not a real lot, honestly. People know how I feel. I feel like going negative is just throwing fuel on the fire. I feel like the government is trying to create a culture war between us in a lot of ways. They're trying to get between your average citizens based on red and blue. I think we're in a crisis mode right now. For me, it's important to get back to fundamentally what it feels like to be an American. We all come from different backgrounds, but we come together and create this world. It's like a microcosm for the rest of the world. I want people to feel unity when they come to a show. At the same time, I'm not going to puss out on saying what I feel about him and his administration.

    You guys just played a bunch of shows in Texas. Any negative feedback there when you yelled out "fuck you, Donald Trump"?
    I don't know. There are a lot of people in the quote, unquote red states that get a big sense of relief when I say something like "Fuck you, Trump." That's because they're in the minority where they live and at our shows they get this sort of release.

    I just walked past a long line of kids waiting to get into the show. A lot of them were teenagers. They must have been babies when American Idiot came out.
    Our audience is pretty unique. I like seeing the 16-year-olds, but I also like seeing the 60-year-olds. There are a lot of white-haired people out there that love the band. They're here to rock & roll.

    You're doing seven songs off American Idiot. Do they feel especially timely now because of what's happening politically?
    Yeah. If you look at our career, there's almost like before American Idiot and after American Idiot. Yeah, we play new stuff. We play stuff off American Idiot. It's hard to explain from my perspective because sometimes I'll just start saying to myself, "Look how unique this is. You're able to play in front of 14,000 people and everyone is singing along. Everyone's hands are in the air." We play a song like "Holiday" and its like a flock of birds or something.

    Full interview at Rolling Stone: HERE

Brian's picture
on March 27, 2017 - 1:01pm

The punk-rock trio on entering middle age, crafting the perfect set list and the rigors of life on a tour bus

In about three hours, the floor of Washington D.C.'s Verizon Center will be packed with a screaming mass of Green Day fans gleefully ignoring the signs posted every few feet that explicitly ban crowd-surfing. But right now it's soundcheck and the band is facing an audience of two that manages to make those showgoers seem tame by comparison: Ryan Dirnt and Brixton Dirnt. They're bassist Mike Dirnt's youngest children (age six and eight) and they are running wild up and down the empty aisles, leaping over crowd barriers and racing past bemused security guards as the group runs through their 1997 deep cut "King for a Day." Eventually Billie Joe Armstrong decides to join in the fun, grabbing a wireless mic and chasing a squealing Brixton across the the confines of the entire arena while somehow managing to nail every line of the song.

It's an impressive feat of stamina for the 45-year-old Armstrong, especially since the group played a show the previous night. But this is Armstrong's first tour since he kicked his prescription drug habit in 2013 and he's determined to enjoy every minute of it. "Sometimes I have to get a B12 shot just to keep up," he says. "But I actually have more energy now than ever. I have a sense of gratitude every night and I feel like I'm making an impact beyond just playing my guitar. It's giving people an experience whether it's political or musical."

Most shows this tour have focused more on the music than the politics, with the very notable exception of a "Fuck you, Donald Trump!" scream every night during the title track to American Idiot. But tonight they're playing just one mile away from the White House, hours after the Congressional Budget Office announced that Trump's health-care proposal would cost 24 million Americans their coverage. Five songs into the set, Armstrong pauses to let off some steam. "I can't stand any more of these goddamn conspiracy theories!" he screams." I'm sick of the blatant lies and the half-truths and the untruths! I want the truth!" He pauses when he notices a fan up front filming him on his cell phone. "If you're looking at me through a screen, you aren't looking at me," he says. "You stare at that cell phone for 24 hours a day. Not tonight!"

We spoke with Armstrong in his dressing room shortly after soundcheck, and then had a separate chat with Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool.

Billie Joe Armstrong

How did the club tour go that you guys did a few months back?
It was great. We got to play old deep cuts. People were pretty stoked. When you play big places it's a little harder to go deep, but we manage to get in a couple. In smaller places we have freedom to do whatever we want.

Does tonight feel different than other nights on the tour since you're in D.C., so close to the White House?
Hmm. For us, we want to try and keep the energy in the room positive and create a form of unity. First and foremost, I want people to have a really great experience away from the negative press and negative stuff that you see on the news and Facebook. I don't even like seeing people's cell phones. Let's have a human experience and rub up against each other, you know.

You do mention Trump onstage though.
Outside of "fuck you," not a real lot, honestly. People know how I feel. I feel like going negative is just throwing fuel on the fire. I feel like the government is trying to create a culture war between us in a lot of ways. They're trying to get between your average citizens based on red and blue. I think we're in a crisis mode right now. For me, it's important to get back to fundamentally what it feels like to be an American. We all come from different backgrounds, but we come together and create this world. It's like a microcosm for the rest of the world. I want people to feel unity when they come to a show. At the same time, I'm not going to puss out on saying what I feel about him and his administration.

You guys just played a bunch of shows in Texas. Any negative feedback there when you yelled out "fuck you, Donald Trump"?
I don't know. There are a lot of people in the quote, unquote red states that get a big sense of relief when I say something like "Fuck you, Trump." That's because they're in the minority where they live and at our shows they get this sort of release.

I just walked past a long line of kids waiting to get into the show. A lot of them were teenagers. They must have been babies when American Idiot came out.
Our audience is pretty unique. I like seeing the 16-year-olds, but I also like seeing the 60-year-olds. There are a lot of white-haired people out there that love the band. They're here to rock & roll.

You're doing seven songs off American Idiot. Do they feel especially timely now because of what's happening politically?
Yeah. If you look at our career, there's almost like before American Idiot and after American Idiot. Yeah, we play new stuff. We play stuff off American Idiot. It's hard to explain from my perspective because sometimes I'll just start saying to myself, "Look how unique this is. You're able to play in front of 14,000 people and everyone is singing along. Everyone's hands are in the air." We play a song like "Holiday" and its like a flock of birds or something.

Full interview at Rolling Stone: HERE

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