The Offspring On ’90s Punk, Anti-Vaxxers & Letting The Bad Times Roll
It’s been nearly a decade since Southern Californian punk rock icons The Offspring released their ninth studio album, Days Go By. Now, after nine years spent splitting their time between touring, writing and, in the case of vocalist Dexter Holland, completing a PhD in molecular biology, The Offspring are set to unleash album number ten, Let The Bad Times Roll.
A dynamic, energetic and dare we say it, shockingly relevant, record, Let The Bad Times Roll sees The Offspring wind back the clock, finding inspiration in the socio-political motivations and SoCal punk soundscapes of their past, repurposing and repositioning them with a laser focus on the shitshow of the present day.
Written and recorded over the space of the last few years, with production coming from the legendary, Bob Rock, Let The Bad Times Roll, is The Offspring rediscovering what has made them one of the highest-selling punk rock bands of all time. Arriving during a time period in which their home country and indeed the world, is being tested like never before, Let The Bad Times Roll plays like a voice of reason amidst all the chaos.
In the lead up to the album’s release, Dexter and guitarist Noodles, were kind enough to jump online for a chat about the record, the enduring legacy of their earlier works, the bizarre state of the world, molecular biology, arguing with anti-vaxxers, the punk explosion of the ’90s and letting the bad times roll.
Music Feeds: G’day Dexter and Noodles, how’s it going?
Dexter/Noodles: Hey Brenton, we’re going good, how’s it going?
MF: Good, good, I’m actually talking to you from Bells Beach of all places would you believe?
Noodles: Oh, right on! It’s coming up on Easter, so Bells is coming up!
Dexter: What’s that?
Noodles: Surfing, they always have the big contest down there around Easter.
MF: Yeah, that’s it, things like contests and concerts are back on down here, so we’re very privileged and fortunate over here at the moment!
Noodles: Good, good for you, that’s awesome!
Dexter: Are you guys going to let any Americans in?
MF: Hopefully soon, if things keep going like this because we’d love to finally get you guys over for that postponed tour!
Noodles: Well we’d love to come, we’re talking about it already, hopefully, we can get something in the works and make it happen!
MF: Fingers crossed. Now we have a bit of your time today to talk about your new record, Let The Bad Times Roll which is set to drop in April. It’s your first record in about a decade, what took you so damn long?
Noodles: It’s only been nine years!
Dexter: Yeah, it’s been nine years.
MF: Come on, now, we all know nine is basically ten!
Noodles: Fair enough question though. We’ve been doing a lot though, Dexter went back to school and we’ve been touring four or five months of every year around that. But really the reason is that the record wasn’t done until it was done. We’ve been working on it, off and on for pretty much the whole nine years and we finally got to a point where we thought we’ve got a good record, it’s time to let the fans have it.
MF: That’s awesome. Obviously being a band that’s been around for as long as you have, you have the luxury of being able to wait until you feel it is perfect?
Noodles: That’s true and with Days Go By we’d finished our contract with Sony, so we didn’t have a record label telling us that we had to get this done, there was no deadline, other than any we chose to set ourselves.
Dexter: We were left to our own devices and that might have been part of the problem!
MF: It sounds like that approach has paid dividends though. I have to say, this is the most dynamic and honestly, good, Offspring record in a long while!
Noodles: HE CALLED IT GOOD! YES! Haha!
Dexter: Yes, thank you, we’ll take it! High five! Nah, thank you very much, there was a conscious decision to go back to an earlier sound. It just felt like the right thing to do, because we’d been away for a while.
MF: Well you definitely hit the nail on the head there. There are tracks on this album that would’ve worked on Ignition or Smash, as well as ones that would have worked on Ixnay and stuff like the single that would’ve been at home on Americana or Conspiracy, so it’s a really good vibe overall.
Dexter: Thank you! it wasn’t really deliberate like that but I do know what you mean, there are songs that definitely sound like they belong to different eras of our band.
MF: Exactly. I think the heavy political and societal focus of the lyrics, and the concentration on themes like mental health, helps with that too. It really reconnects the spirit of The Offspring, more than some of your other more recent releases. Do you feel that too?
Dexter: Let The Bad Times Roll….we’re writing about the world that we are living in and what we’re seeing around us. So that includes things like opioid addiction and what you would call mental health issues, I think ten years ago we would have called that depression, but it’s now being seen in a bit of a different light.
Noodles: A more varied light. We know a lot more about it.
Dexter: One of the things that we’ve always loved about punk rock and that drew us into the bands that we liked, was that they weren’t afraid to put out those types of messages. If it was dark and needed to be said, it was said. I like writing about issues that I feel are important and that need to be talked about.
MF: Dexter, you’ve said elsewhere that writing this record was particularly cathartic for you. What was it about the process that made you feel that way?
Dexter: I think like everyone else, the last couple of years seems to have brought on a growing sense of frustration, and you can feel what I want to call a sense of social anxiety if you know what I mean? Whether it’s things going on politically or socially or what have you. And now of course with the pandemic, it has just escalated it to another degree. So being able to get those ideas out and talk about them and vent, there’s something I think that is definitely cathartic about punk rock music because it’s so angry and so energetic that you feel like you get it out of you.
MF: Absolutely and that cuts through on the record really clearly. Now it would be remiss of me not to mention that you earned your doctorate recently, Dexter. Congratulations and does that make you Dr Dexter now?
Dexter: I am! I insist that my band members call me Dr Dexter!
Noodles: It’s a huge pain in the ass. I mean, first of all, lead singer disease and then you go and give him a PHD, come on!
Dexter: It’s true, whenever I don’t agree with them on something I just ask “who has the doctorate here, oh, right it’s just me…”
Noodles: Truthfully though, we were all very supportive and very proud that he went back and got his PhD. What’s funny about that though is that we just posted a thing saying that you should get vaccinated and people came at us, trying to school Dexter on vaccinations and whether they work or not. He has a PhD in molecular biology and he specialises in viruses and you’re trying to school him on vaccination! It’s hilarious to me.
MF: To an extent that’s having a conversation in the world now. Every interaction with human beings feels like a YouTube comment section. Everyone just yells their point as loudly and continuously as possible until it is the only voice they hear!
Dexter: Exactly, so much divisiveness. So much misinformation.
Noodles: WELL LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT I LEARNED ON MY LITTLE CORNER OF THE INTERNET, ALRIGHT! That’s the thing though, everyone can find their own little weird corner of the internet, and they should, but maybe check on the information you’re getting before you start trying to school someone else.
Dexter: It is part of letting the bad times roll…
MF: That’s an excellent segue, Dexter, I’m impressed. Now Noodles, you play some cool stuff on here, there’s some elements of surf punk, skate punk, even a bit of rockabilly, the playing sounds really inspired. Did you also feel like you had more to offer this time around?
Noodles: I’m just glad that I have a place to go and make music. I’m stoked with how this record came out. But thank you very much, that’s very kind of you to say, I appreciate that. As for the different elements, you’re hearing that probably has to go back to the bands that inspired us. Be it the Toy Dolls and X for the rockabilly bits or even Ron Emory from T.S.O.L through some of that style in there.
Dexter: Come on man, you shred, you can say it, it’s okay!
MF: Those are some great and iconic bands to be influenced by. I can definitely hear that and I think it is really refreshing to hear that this far into your career, you’re still finding ways to channel your influences into your music when there are so many acts out there channelling bits of what The Offspring do into their music. Which leads me to ask, how does that feel for you, to be an influence on so many young bands?
Noodles: I actually have a hard time seeing that.
Dexter: Yeah, I don’t know if I see that either.
Noodles: We do have bands come up to us and tell us that if it wasn’t for hearing our music they probably wouldn’t ever have started a band, and that’s flattering to hear, but I hear a lot more bands that sound like NOFX than us out there, but maybe it is because it is too close to us and we just can’t identify it.
Dexter: It’s very flattering to hear.
Noodles: We certainly don’t take it on, in the sense that while we know what it is like to want to pay homage to the acts that inspired us, we can’t and don’t want to put ourselves in their shoes.
MF: That makes sense, you just have to keep letting people come up to you and tell you that you’re an influence, and be flattered. Just like what is about to happen right now, because I’m going to break one of the unofficial rules of my profession here and just tell you that I’ve been a big fan of your band since I was an eight-year-old kid, running around my house singing “You stupid, dumbshit, goddamn, motherfucker” at the top of my voice, and well the end result is that I ended up becoming a punk rock singer myself, so Dexter, Noodles, you poisoned my mind early!
Noodles: YEAH! That’s awesome!
Dexter: Corrupting the youth, it’s what we’re here to do. I’m glad we could help with that.
MF: Now as a band that is deep into your career, do you ever find yourselves wondering if it would be possible for you to achieve the level of success you did if you were a new band starting out now?
Dexter: I think we’ve been fortunate for sure. Whatever factors coincided at the moment. It was a very different time, particularly with MTV and radio, you were able to have a huge profile.
Noodles: True, even though we were doing it on an independent label.
Dexter: It seems much more splintered now, the way that people access things, so it is harder to get a lot of people to watch and listen to one thing. So we are lucky that that happened for us when it did for sure.
MF: Well that time period, around 1994 particularly, was such a hotbed for this type of music being able to reach outside of its niche environment. I remember distinctly that all of a sudden this music that I’d been hearing for years growing up in my house courtesy of my older brother, started blowing up worldwide. It was everywhere, pretty much unavoidable.
The impact that had on the music industry as a whole was massive. As the band behind the biggest selling independent rock album of all time, Smash, do you feel a sense of pride in the change you were able to bring to the industry?
Noodles: For sure, we’re really proud of that.
Dexter: What I’m most proud of about that is that we didn’t have a major label push. So it had to succeed on its own, and it did. It was completely organic.
Noodles: It wasn’t just us though, it was other bands on Epitaph as well, and you do have to give some credit to Green Day, while they were on a major, they definitely helped break down some barriers as well. Before that, though there was Nirvana and they dramatically changed the music scene. If it wasn’t for Nirvana and Nevermind and the whole movement that inspired, there never would have been that punk explosion in ’94.
MF: I concur with that completely and you won’t get any argument from anyone on that point, and if by chance you do, they’re just fuckwits!
Noodles: Good point.
Dexter: Excellent point.
MF: If you get pissy because what you like gets popular, then you were never really in it for the music in the first place, you were in it so you could be considered niche and cool. You shouldn’t begrudge people success in their field, that’s just elitism.
Noodles: Well how did your older brother feel about it then? If he’d been into punk before it exploded, how did he feel about all of these bands he loved, kind of going mainstream? Did it piss him off or did he say “finally this music that I love is getting some credit?”
MF: A bit of both, I have to be honest. I remember some bands signing with a major and he sort of broke his brain a bit, but then others it didn’t seem to bother him so much. I can’t explain it. I never understood the rules.
Now for you, looking to the future, I know it is a scary place in the US right now, but are you feeling positive about being able to continue to operate as a band, moving forward? Secondly, what do you want to see change over there?
Noodles: We don’t see anything that’s happening in the world, let alone our own country, keeping us from doing what we love. The pandemic has stopped us from gathering, but we know that that is finite. We will get the virus under control, we’ll stop the spread and we’ll be able to play concerts again in the future. In terms of how we want to see the world change, we just want to go out and play shows again and do what we do.
Dexter: On Let The Bad Times Roll we’ve written about and have been speaking about a lot of things that we feel are important and while that’s not going to change the world, it can hopefully inspire some conversation. There’s also a message of hope. We want people to have a sense that the world can change for the better still.
MF: Well that’s getting quite close to a Michael Jackson lyric there, Dexter, “make the world a better place, for you and for me” but it’s a good message nonetheless!
Dexter: That’s right.
Noodles: They’re onto us! Finally. Damn!
MF: Now there’s a song on Ignition that has lyrics to the effect of “I try to have an open mind, but your brain and your mouth must not be connected” and I’m thinking that that could be so relevant to this record now. Has that thought crossed your mind?
Dexter: That’s ‘Forever and A Day’. I haven’t previously made that connection but now that I think about it, you make a really interesting point. I remember when we released Ignition I looked at that song and I felt like it might have been a bit hard-headed. Maybe I didn’t quite get the lyrics right.
Noodles: Yeah, it sounds like something that I would say, not you, you’re not that blunt.
Dexter: Well my idea has always been to accept other people and be tolerant of their differences. But what you’re saying is that now it reads like a commentary on what is going on in the world, in this moment, which is interesting and absolutely correct.
MF: It must be frustrating for you, as a band that’s been around for as long as you have, to see that despite all of the progress we’ve made as a society, so many of these issues just stay the fucking same?
Noodles: Well people are people. At heart, people aren’t going to change much. Evolution is happening, but it takes tens of thousands of years.
Dexter: I want to say that I think issues are magnified now because of information and the internet and the way that we can communicate and talk around each other.
MF: Hopefully this new Offspring record can inspire some people to have some more nuanced conversations that lead to progress. Who knows maybe we’ll get another 90’s style breakout of politically motivated bands, that can inspire some change?
Dexter: Our next album will be called ‘Can’t we all just get along?’
Noodles: It’s all better now, problem solved!
MF: Exactly, the vaccine saved the world and rescued humanity from itself.
Noodles: I don’t think any of us expect that, but hopefully we can all put the virus aside for a minute and start to focus on the other shit that is beleaguering humanity.
MF: Now I know I’ve got to let you go, but before I do, let’s talk about something a bit more positive. You’re going to come to Australia as soon as you’re allowed to. With venues down here starting to operate at around 75% and no active cases in the state I live in, it seems like that might be sooner than we all think!
Dexter: That’s fantastic news. We love coming to Australia, it’s the best time, the shows are great and the crowds are great. As soon as it is possible, we’ll be there.
MF: One final thing, if you had to choose one Offspring song to play anytime you entered a room, pro-wrestling style, what song would each of you choose?
Noodles: I think this is actually pretty easy for me, I’m going to go with ‘Come Out Swinging’.
Dexter: Ahh that’s good, see that’s clever. I hadn’t thought of that. I’d probably go with one of the new songs, I’d go with ‘Army of One’, that song’s definitely about being independent and fending for yourself.
Noodles: That’s pretty good. That’d work well.
MF: Both fine choices I must say. Thanks for taking the time to talk to an old-school superfan for Music Feeds, I hope I didn’t punish you too much.
Dexter: It was great talking to you.
Noodles: Enjoy Bells, hopefully you get some good surf down there for the contest.
MF: Thanks, it looks good today, so I’m going to go get amongst it.
‘Let The Bad Times Roll’ is due for release Friday, 16th April. Pre-order and pre-save here.