Sunday, April 19, 2009

GREEN DAY - October 2004

Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Album: American Idiot (Warner)

Random thoughts: Talking to Mike from Green Day was a blast. Totally down to earth dude, furthering my theory that the biggest rock stars are always so, um, normal, or something. I really enjoyed writing this one. Oh, and my predictions about this album were right, one of the biggest selling albums of all time.


On the making of a masterpiece

By Jason Schreurs

Months before its release, when an advance copy of Green Day’s American Idiot landed on my desk, I began ranting and raving about it. This is a landmark album, I told anyone who would listen. It’s a true masterpiece that will go down in history alongside the musical greats, I screamed from the rooftops. As their new record continues to consume me, the first thing I wanted to do when I got bassist Mike Dirnt on the horn at their studio was thank him for some life-affirming music.
“Whoo, let me take all of that in,” he says modestly with a chuckle, as the hustle-bustle of Green Day tour preparation swirls around him in the background. “It’s really a genuine honor that people are identifying with this record. I feel like it’s a sign of the times also. It’s nice to… I don’t want to say climb out from the shadow of Dookie, but it’s always nice to be recognized for your work.”
Obviously, Dookie was a record that helped a lot of us through some angsty times, but with American Idiot the band has created something far more poignant in an exceedingly uncertain political climate.
“Dookie was a huge thing and we could never hope to hit that homerun again, and we’ve always been proud of every record we’ve done, but with this one we truly left no stone unturned and we scraped every fucking idea we could get off of every wall,” says Dirnt.
“We just created such an awesome environment to make this record that we obviously know deep down that we could never repeat it. I wouldn’t want to.”
When it came time to begin recording what would become their masterpiece, Dirnt and his two partners in Green Day (singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and kit-man Tre Cool) realized they had a lot of internal struggles that had been building for years and needed sorting out. In a nutshell, bad habits were bringing the band down.
“We got to a point where we said, ‘What are we doing? Let’s work on each other as individuals. Without a fucking counselor, this isn’t some fucking AA meeting,’” says Dirnt. “We decided just to tell each other, ‘You know what? I don’t like it when you say that. And you know what? You! You fucking drink too much.’ Let’s fucking call ourselves out on our bullshit.”
Luckily, for the sake of a career-defining batch of songs, the band was able to move forward, and the option of packing it in after almost 20 years of punk rock never came to the forefront. But it came close.
“Billy at one point asked me, ‘Are you even having fun with this anymore?’ I said, ‘Well lately it’s been a lot of stress, let’s get back to having fun.’ And we got back to it serendipitously, really. We finally said, ‘Alright, you guys are the most important people in my life, let’s get to work.’ And we just started recording,” enthuses Dirnt.
And record they did, compiling dozens upon dozens of song ideas and skeletons for what was supposed be the new album. One day when the band came into the studio, they went to pull ideas from their batch of unfinished songs and their computer files were gone. In what seemed like a meant-to-be moment, Armstrong had just finished writing a song called ‘American Idiot,’ so they decided to plow forward in that direction.
“Billy wrote ‘American Idiot’ and it raised the bar so high lyrically over the rest of the stuff that we had been doing, and it was just so much more meaningful for where we’re at right now. So we thought, ‘Fuck, this is where we should be going.’”
But what about the songs that went missing? Were they any good? And without their mysterious disappearance, would we still have something as formidable as American Idiot on our hands?
“Those songs were good, but they were what you would expect Green Day to come out with next,” assures Dirnt. “And where we ended up going was exciting and had this energy, maybe the same energy that Nimrod or Dookie had, that you couldn’t put a finger on it. It made you want to play air drums and air guitar.”
As Dirnt says himself, the band will have trouble matching American Idiot, but something tells me Green Day have a lot of gas left in the tank, especially now that they are riding on such a high.
“The bands I love have great careers. And the ones I truly look up to had these monumental albums and moments in their careers that we really want to emulate.”
“When I was a kid, I felt like with Dookie we created a monster. I feel like now we are the monsters, that’s the difference. And I think people won’t say. ‘This album’s a monster,’ they’re gonna say, ‘You know what? Green Day’s a fucking monster, because they did it again.’”
Hey, see this smile on my face? It’s there because American Idiot will definitely not be Green Day’s swan song.

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