the billie joe and mike of green day guitar center interview

Few musicians can claim a successful career that spans thirty years—let alone such a career that involves just one band. But that’s exactly the type of career Green Day’s singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt have meticulously crafted . They’ve spent all thirty of those years not only playing music alongside each other, but they’ve transformed their small Berkeley-based punk band into full-blown rock royalty, with 11 studio albums under their belt and 65 million records sold worldwide.


     “I first wanted to play guitar when I was really young, but my hands were too small. I was like 5,” says Armstrong, spending the afternoon with Dirnt at Guitar Center Pico & Westwood in West Los Angeles. “But then I started taking guitar lessons from a guy named George Cole when I was 8.” Dirnt chimes in with his introduction to the world of music, “My mom’s roommate played guitar, and he used to let me play it—as long as I took my belt buckle off,” he laughs. “That was kind of it. When you’re a little kid, I can’t think of anything cooler than a guitar.”

Even with their long and rich history, Armstrong and Dirnt can recall their earliest collaborations. “When Mike and I first started playing together. we were in this band where everyone was playing guitar—there was about four or five guitars players—and we were all trying to play ‘Purple Haze,'” Armstrong says. “So Mike and I kind of split away from that around 7th grade, and we learned three songs together. We had a big variety of tastes—everything from heavy metal to punk rock when it first started coming up, to very basic stuff that was on MTV or the radio.”

Though Green Day sells out entire stadiums today, the band started like any other up-and-comer, playing small clubs, backyards and even basements to gain fans. “The hardest part was just trying to get a qiq,” says Armstrong. “One of the first times we jumped on the bill was at a party in San Francisco.” Dirnt takes over. “Yeah, we played on the top floor of somebody’s place, between this tiny living room and the bathroom. I mean you’re talking about 22 people standing in a room that only holds 11—but it was such a good time. you know? Just add beer.” he laughs.

Green Day would go on to sign with Reprise Records in 1994, and has been with them ever since. The two reflect on their decision to join a major label. “When we started out, we didn’t know the kind of music we were playing could become popular,” says Armstrong. “And then Nirvana came along, and it seemed like there was this small window where we thought it seemed like a good time to do it. I mean, we just wanted to be able to play forever,” he laughs. Dirnt adds, “We were at a place where we were selling more tickets to shows than the clubs could handle, so we really had to make a choice,”—Armstrong interrupts. “We were selling more tickets than we were selling records. There were a few naysayers that felt like maybe we were gonna get burned or something by a major label, but it’s been nothing but good—I can’t think of a bad record or even a bad situation that we’ve ever truly been in.”

Immediately upon signing, Green Day headed into the studio to record their breakthrough album Dookie. “We were just so excited to hear our stuff recorded really well—and not have to knock it out really quick in the same room without any isolation of any instruments,” Dirnt says of the recording process. Armstrong adds, “Our first record cost $600. our second $1,200. This time, we actually had a good budget, and we were like. ‘This record rules, and it’s better than anything on the radio.’ But we didn’t know if everyone else was gonna agree with us,” he laughs.

Key to the success of Dookie, and an undeniable part of the band’s sound since, is producer Rob Cavallo, who also worked with them on Insomniac, Nimrod, American Idiot and their upcoming triple release, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré!. Says Armstrong. “When we first presented him with the idea of doing three albums, I think he thought we were crazy. But then when he came into the studio, heard us rehearsing, and saw the set list for the three different sequences we were working on, I think he was like, ‘This is awesome. This is gonna happen, and it’s something that’s never been done before.'” Dirnt adds, “Rob’s great at helping us with recording techniques, getting good guitar sounds—he’s a great translator, able to go from what we’re going for to the technical aspects of laying it down.”

At this stage in their career, Green Day can afford countless studio hours writing and perfecting new material, but the band still prefers to have everything well thought out and prepared beforehand.” Says Armstrong, “You can’t create a whole chapter of your life inside a studio within a two-month period. I think it’s important to keep documenting things within those couple of years leading up to making the record.” Dirnt continues, “If you want, you can be 90% ready and then leave 10% up to spontaneity and fun—that’s great. But otherwise, it’s just mailing it in—and being haphazard about it.”

And, when it comes to writing and preparing material, they’re quick to clarify it’s a collaborative effort. Says Dirnt, “Billie writes the majority of the stuff, but at the end of the day, we all know how to structure songs, write songs, write melodies and put everything together.” Armstrong adds, “I usually come in with a skeleton of a song, but the more we rehearse, the more the song evolves, and everyone starts adding.” He continues, “For example, with ‘Kill the DJ,’ Mike said, ‘Why don’t we try something more four-on-the-floor, a cross between Blondie and Gang of Four?’ So, I came in with a riff and a melody, and Mike and Tré jumped all over it.”

Most bassists can attest the spotlight is typically reserved for lead singers and guitarists . Dirnt has this to offer about his role as Green Day’s bassist, “It’s the same role as everybody else in the band,” he says. “If everyone’s doing their part right, the song will sound appropriate. Sometimes you have to step out and be on Broadway and carry the song—other times you have to sit back, It’s about finding what the song is calling for.”

With decades spent on the road and in and out of studio , Dirnt has had a lot of time to perfect and hone his signature bass tone—an iconic part of Green Day’s sound. “It just kind of happened,” he says, “Number one, I play with a pick, and I play with a lot of power, so I think that punches it up a little bit. Beyond that, I think over the years I’ve had to cut through some pretty big guitars, and that helps formulate me finding my spot. And then, it’s just a matter of me playing peak-a-boo with certain parts of the song,” he laughs. Armstrong adds, “I think with the new material, the bass comes across a lot more. [¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré!] has a cleaner kind of guitar sound—we’re using more vintage amps like early ’70s Marshalls, Vox, stuff like that—and Mlke’s bass lines are able to cut in and really compliment the melody of the song.” Dirnt chimes in, “There’s some songs on the new record where I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a rhythm guitar being played—because it sounds so full with just one bass.”

As far as recording a triple release, the duo say it was a natural progression of events. “We originally went into the rehearsal studio with a handful of power pop songs,” says Dirnt. “But we kept our noses down and kept writing, and when we got to around 30 songs, we realized there were three different elements going on. ¡Uno! is more like classic Green Day. ¡Dos! is more garage rock—a little dirtier, like you’re in the middle of the party, and ¡Tré! has this more self-reflecting, epic nature to the songs. Once we saw that each of the three records would have their own personalities, it just kind of made sense.”

With ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! being Green Day’s 9th, 10th and 11th albums, Armstrong and Dirnt definitely have seen how advances in technology influence the way albums are recorded and bands are made. “The quality of recording at home is so much faster and so much more usable today—so much cheaper, too. And for me, I think when you hear a good band, everything truly goes back to what the kids are doing in the garage, or in their bedrooms—just trying to get that gig. That’s the way 1look at it.” Dirnt adds, “It’s never been cheaper—guitars are so cheap now. I remember when I bought my first Squier Strat. It was like 350 bucks. For $350 now you can get a Fender especially on a good sale.” Dirnt laughs. Armstrong has also once again teamed up with Gibson for his new double cutaway signature Les Paul Junior. “We wanted to do something a little different, so this one’s based on a 1960 model—the neck is thinner and it’s finished in TV yellow. No tricks or anything like that—just plug it in, turn it up, and start rocking out.”

As seasoned musicians with three decades of experience. Armstrong and Dirnt still know the struggle of picking out the perfect guitar. Their advice is simple, “Plug into everything there,” says Dirnt. “People say, ‘I don’t know what I want.’ Well, go plug into everything—and for that matter, actually turn the knobs and see what they do,” he laughs. Armstrong adds, “Don’t be afraid of the instrument—control the instrument. Don’t let it control you. Strum hard. Turn the volume up as loud as you can. Do your Pete Townshend windmills. Don’t walk on eggshells around the instrument—break the thing in—that’s what a guitar or bass wants.”

Source | At: Guitar Center, September 2012

the 5-4-3-2-1’s

I haven’t updated you guys with what’s been going on with me for a while, so here’s that post.

I’ve been working at my new job for a couple months now, and I like it. It’s a job. It keeps the bills paid and keeps me from starving. Some days are difficult to wake up to at four in the morning especially if I went to bed late. My circadian rhythm takes a couple days to adjust, but it’s not too bad.

My weekly schedule has become relatively routine. I’ll get into detail about it right now, because I have your attention and it’s fun to re-read these in the future to see what I was doing back then. Ready or not…

The 40-hour work week seems to go by almost as quickly as the weekend, since I have a routine that I follow as much as possible if nothing else interrupts it or a scheduling conflict occurs. I must warn you that this isn’t very exciting but makes for a good indulgent ramble.

I work from 5am to 1pm Monday thru Friday. I work out to the gym for an hour after work on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. I go to the library after work on Tuesdays to borrow more materials to expand my data collection and to return materials I’ve checked out from the previous week that I’m done using. On Wednesdays, I meet Mare down at campus have lunch somewhere nearby. After we finish lunch, I’ll pass by the comic shop to pick up my week’s pull.

I enjoy FOX and NBC television programming Monday thru Friday with my favorite shows. If I am home anywhere between 2pm-4pm, then I am usually watching Rachael Ray at 2, The Doctors at 3, and/or Jeopardy! at 4. I don’t watch much of the news from 5-6:30, but I always try to catch Wheel of Fortune at 6:30. Between 5-6:30, I’ll either do something on the computer or spend the time doing chores or reading something. After Wheel, the evening programming goes underway which will usually take me to my bedtime.

On Mondays, Heroes comes on at 8. We’ve been watching more Chuck mainly because it’s right after Wheel and before Heroes and we usually eat dinner around that time. I didn’t like Chuck much in the beginning, but I’ve seen so many episodes I just watch it.

On Tuesday, American Idol is currently going on followed by the results show the next day. I don’t watch Fringe, so I stop watching TV after 8 on Tuesdays. Wednesday has Lie to Me before the Idol results show, and I’m enjoying that show. Thursday programming is a conflict between FOX and NBC right now, but I go with FOX for Bones and Hell’s Kitchen and catch up on NBC comedy over the weekend via Mininova.

I try to do something other than watch TV after Wheel of Fortune, because Howie Do It just isn’t good. I try to go out to the Hideout every other week on Friday and have been keeping up with it since I started. The Hideout is a great pub nearby which has an excellent jukebox selection. On weeks that I just want to stay in, I’ll chill out at the apartment watching ISO TV, a DVD, playing PS3,

I keep Saturdays and Sundays open for whatever. I try to visit my parents every couple weeks at least. I take care of something that I am unable to do during the week or do something that was either happening on the weekend or is best saved for the weekend. For example, yesterday was Record Store Day. I had to get me a copy of Dookie on vinyl. When Mare and I arrived at Waterloo Records only about ten minutes after they opened, all of the copies were gone. Fortunately, a guy put down the last copy and Mare scooped it right up. Score!

On most Sundays, I like to do next to nothing or whatever wasn’t done on Saturday. After the weekend is up, the process is repeated. Peace out.

the first single off green day’s 21st century breakdown (know your enemy)

Today, Green Day released Know Your Enemy, the first single off their upcoming album 21st Century Breakdown. Their eighth studio album which was produced by Butch Vig will be released on May 15th.

At 8:40 during Morning X on 101X, Know Your Enemy was played on the radio for the first time in Austin.

<[ Push the French onion green play button! ]>

Green Day
Know Your Enemy

Recorded today at 8:40 from Morning X on 101X with a Mambo Clamp.

(^^,)
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For those of you who lack Flash support on your browser (or just want your own copy) can click the MP3 icon to download it to your computer.

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Notes about the recording hosted here:
The audio was recorded in mono from a local radio station broadcast. The quality is inferior to the actual single and is supplied here for reference purposes only. The introduction to the song is spoken by Jason Dick of Morning X on 101X. Please pardon the small bits of static in the audio. The concrete walls of the fortress where I work my day job causes interference.
(^^,)

the 21st century breakdown title track

Around 10am this morning on 101X after the Morning X concluded, the station played a new song from Green Day. The song is the title track of the upcoming album, 21st Century Breakdown, which will be released this upcoming May. The album was produced by Butch Vig, and the first single titled Know Your Enemy will flood the airwaves on April 20th.

Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown (Demo) MP3 is currently being distributed via BitTorrent. You can also get a copy by clicking this icon.

the jesus of surburbia

Watch the videos all the way through. They’ll be worth every second.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=KQQPwCr2a3E

First, watch the video of Jesus of Suburbia by Green Day. Familiarize yourself with all of the parts of the medley, and also notice how long the song is. This video only runs for 6:30, but the album version clocks in at 9:08.

Then watch a 7-year-old boy from Japan sing and play the entire song on guitar.

Then watch another 7-year-old guitar virtuoso play Santana.

This world amazes me more and more every day.

the stop drop and roll

Last year on December 8th, Foxboro Hot Tubs released a record titled Stop Drop and Roll that features six songs:

  • Stop Drop and Roll
  • Mother Mary
  • Ruby Room
  • Red Tide
  • Highway 1
  • She’s a Saint, Not a Celebrity

This garage rock album was released free on the internet.

Download Stop Drop and Roll by Foxboro Hot TubsWhat happens when you click on this image of the album cover?

What is a ZIP file?