The Weekly interview: The Offspring’s guitarist, Noodles

Noodles and the rest of The Offspring play the joint this weekend.
Photo: Erik Kabik
Chris Bitonti

Describe life in The Offspring before and after 1994 album Smash, which you’re playing in its entirety on this tour. (Laughs) Well, before we were all working and going to school, and we didn’t think of the band as a lifelong pursuit. Really, it was just a hobby. We didn’t know how long we’d be able to do it or how long we’d last—it was just fun at the time. We loved getting together, making music, going out and playing shows. We never expected it to become a career, really. The only bands that we knew that were doing that, punk bands anyways, were Bad Religion and NOFX. So we didn’t think it was possible. We thought we’d just continue on with school and work and eventually the band would probably have to take a back seat.

And after? It’s funny, I don’t think we let it change us too much. We had been a band for 10 years when we made Smash. We didn’t really try to do anything different. We tried to make a better record than we did before, but we still kind of went in and did all the recording, [singer] Dexter [Holland] did most of the writing on the road, then we got together and learned all the basic tracks, and we kind of traded off licks and things before we went in and did the basic tracks, then did all the vocals and then put it out. We were hoping it would do better than Ignition. Ignition was at about 40,000 copies when we recorded Smash, and we wanted to do maybe 70,000, which would be pretty good for a punk band. [It has sold more than 6 million copies.]

How did this tour with Bad Religion, Pennywise and others come together for the summer? I don’t know who came up with the idea. Pennywise are friends of ours, so that was a no-brainer. Same with The Vandals. Bad Religion, I think, was a wish-list item—to get Bad Religion on the tour—and it all came together. The lineup is super strong. All the bands are different enough to keep the fans’ interest. Sometimes when you go to Warped Tour or Ozzfest or whatever it’s a lot of the same thing, and it’s kind of overload. That’s not the case with this. I’m still going down and watching The Vandals play everyday, so it’s a great way to start your work day.

How have crowds reacting been to hearing all of Smash? Better than I ever even hoped, because there’s a lot of songs on there that weren’t big hits at all. Songs like “Not the One” and “Something to Believe In” we never really even played back in the day. So we’re playing them for the first time this year, and they’re going over great. So, it’s very fun, and I’m glad the fans are into it.

It’s been 20 years since Smash and you’ve continued to make music. What aspects creatively or sonically haven’t changed for The Offspring in those two decades? What hasn’t changed is the kind of music we fell in love with as teenagers and young adults. The kind of music and the energy of that music that helped us find our way in the world. Helped us cope with all the sh*t you have to deal with and helped us kind of decide to make different decisions. That was punk rock. I think when we came up a lot of rock ’n’ roll had lost its rebellion—it was either disco or big arena rock—and punk rock kind of came in and gave an alternative to all the mainstream crap.

I was 9 when Smash came out, and that was my introduction to punk rock with the wave of California punk bands. Do you still hear that influence in music today?If somebody is playing punk-rock music I usually can hear it go back further than us to Dead Kennedys, TSOL, stuff like that. I don’t hear us as an influence, per se. What Nirvana did for bands like us and Pennywise and Green Day, NOFX, Bad Religion, we maybe helped do for other bands that are pretty heavy and have some punk-rock influence to them.

Any punk band like you or Green Day that really broke into the mainstream and had commercial success had to deal with the insult of being called a sellout. Was that your experience and what do you say to that? Right, right. Yeah but only from young people that were new to the scene, really. I have a friend, longtime punk Ron [Martinez] from Final Conflict; he was working in a record shop, and he would see these kids come in and they would buy Smash and Dookie and then a couple years later they’d come in and get the Descendents and the Ramones and then they were getting Crass and GBH and Minor Threat. And he’d say, “I remember when you guys came in and bought The Offspring record.” “Oh f*ck The Offspring, The Offspring are sellouts.” (laughs) It really was like that.

And why is it that only people who really get to have fun in their jobs are called sellouts? (laughs) Nobody working at the f*cking bagel shop is ever called a sellout. No one selling coffee at Starbucks is ever called a sellout. Only people who have jobs that are actually really f*cking fun and you would do for far less money.

The Offspring with Bad Religion, Pennywise, Stiff Little Fingers. August 27, 7 p.m., $50. The Joint, 702-693-5222.

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