Billie Joe Armstrong Tells All
By Noah Michelson
ON PERFORMING AT THE GRAMMYS:
That was such a great night. There’s a whole thing where you’re worried about the awards part of it, and it can make you kind of irritable, kind of stressed out. But the great thing is that we had a chance to play with the cast, which has never really been done before.
ON THE MOST EMOTIONAL PARTS OF THE SHOW:
When Rebecca [Naomi Jones] sings “Letterbomb,” that really blows me away. The scene where Tunny’s on the gurneys and they’re singing “Before the Lobotomy.” And “Last Night on Earth” is an amazing scene with the couple doing this heroin dance. Tony [Vincent] is singing the song -- the first verse while they’re slamming smack -- and then the next verse is Mary coming out with a baby that she’s had with a guy who turns out to be a loser father. I get chills thinking about it right now. The juxtaposition between the two scenes is like -- wow.
ON WRITING AN ORIGINAL MUSICAL:
I’d definitely be interested in it. I think we’re in a really rare situation where this is gaining momentum. I don’t want to screw it up by working on something else. I’d love to do something with Michael [Mayer]. I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to score a film -- but this, this is even more special, I think.
ON KNOWING TOO MUCH:
When you start getting into politics, what I’ve realized is that if it seems to be black and white, it’s shooting off into so many different directions. You can’t really keep up with what’s happening in the House of Representatives. Things like Hurricane Katrina, Haiti, troops in Afghanistan, financial crisis -- even Tiger Woods. It seems to be one thing after the next.
ON HIS QUEER INFLUENCES:
My uncle. There were different punk singers, from a guy named Cretin Chaos in Social Unrest to guys like Morrissey. And also guys that would genderbend a little, like Bowie, or Mike Ness from Social Distortion wearing makeup. I’ve always liked music that was non-gender specific, like the Replacements song called “Androgynous.” It was just always those little things or people that were willing to make you think, whoa, that’s not what I’m hearing on the radio these days.
ON MEETING LADY GAGA AT THE MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS:
She had this outfit on -- she had so much shit on her when she walked by! She couldn’t move her arm because she was going on to do her performance, and it was like shaking hands with someone in a cast. She had this handler that was like, “Don’t touch the costume! Don’t touch the costume!” She said something about how she loved Dookie so much she used to lick the pages. I thought it was really cool. She’s influencing a lot of young people, and she’s doing it in a way that’s provocative. And a lot of people don’t realize that she’s an artist, and she’s been one for a really long time. She’s taking something that Bowie or Madonna did and taking it a step further.
ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “PUNK ROCK”:
That’s like a 10 part answer. I think of it as something that you need to have of your own. For me it’s about community. I think it’s kind of spiritual in its own way, because people fight over it so much and the meaning of it. It’s a sense of self-discovery. But also a new set of ideas and a new poetry, a new music that you discover that you notice that no one else is really into, or goes against what other people are normally into. It’s like you’re free to be an individual and taking on new ideas and challenging old ideas. I think it has a lot to do with burning down the establishment to create something new. But at the same time, you find relationships within that too. It’s something that’s supposed to empower you. It’s about starting something new. Part of the problem with a lot of punk rock is that people believe that it’s supposed to be one thing. Everything for me starts off with punk rock when I’m writing songs -- it’s almost like I’m stripped down to the bare bones of music again. It’s kind of in my DNA in this point.
ON HIS WIFE, ADRIENNE:
She’s great. She’s beautiful. Without her, I don’t know what I’d do. She empowers me to challenge myself in a lot of ways. She inspired the song “American Idiot” by playing me this Midnight Oil song that she really loved. She runs a store called Atomic Garden, all about sustainable living. She’s really active in NRDC, politically. Sometimes I think she’s a hell of a lot more interesting and a cooler person than I am.
ON HIS “MISERABLE” HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCE:
Academically you have to completely re-figure out how to prioritize your life. And suddenly you feel like the whole fucking world is against you because they’re prioritizing for you. And it’s forced on you. And if you don’t get it at that age, if you don’t catch it -- that’s what happened to me, I didn’t prioritize anything. I just got to a breaking point where it was like, by my later high school years, “You’re all full of shit anyway. Everyone’s full of shit. I know what I’m doing, and fuck school, and fuck schoolwork, and I’m not going to go to fucking college anyway, and I’m gonna play in a rock band, and you’re all gonna be sorry.” You get vengeful -- it’s a natural instinct, all those hormones going and shit.
ON BEING HAPPIER AT AGE 38:
I kind of feel like things are getting better. It goes in stages. I loved my early twenties. I hated my late twenties. I was a drunk. I was trying to figure out how to be a father, a husband, but I still wanted to live my life like a crazy punk rock rock star. You start noticing things about yourself. You have to change your health habits. But you don’t want to change. In your twenties, change is hitting you over the head whether you like it or not. Right when I got to about 30 I was like, thank God that’s over. But it gets complicated again.
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Previously > Gearing (and Queering) Up for SXSW