Interview with The Offspring: Dexter and Noodles talk punk again

The Offspring: Todd Morse, Dexter Holland, Pete Parada and Kevin Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman by Daveed Benito ©

The Offspring by Daveed Benito ©

The Offspring are back: after almost nine years, one of the most acclaimed American punk-rock bands of all time has come up with a new record and an upcoming worldwide tour.
Released in April 2021 and immediately debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Album chart, at number 2 on Billboard Top Rock Albums and at number 3 in the UK official album chart, Let The Bad Times Roll is The Offspring’s tenth studio album and their the first full-length work in nearly a decade.

The Offspring's Opioid Diaries video

The Offspring’s Opioid Diaries video

One of the most significant songs of the new record is The Opioid Diaries, a single that addresses and brings awareness to the opioid epidemic, dependence and addiction and whose video clip features alarming statistics about the phenomenon, mentioning that over 93,000 people in the United States died from an overdose of highly-addictive drugs including fentanyl, oxycodone and heroin in 2020. That’s one person every 6 minutes and the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in the country. And it’s invaluable that somebody in the music industry has finally stood up and brought this catastrophe to light.

Let the Bad Times Roll by The Offspring

Let the Bad Times Roll by The Offspring

The band that made the history of 1990s punk-rock alongside Green Day and blink-182, that performed over one thousands live shows and sold more than 40 million records in a career spanning nearly 40 years will be in the UK for a 6-dates mini-tour at the end of November 2021.
The Offspring have also announced 21 gigs in Canada for 2022, 12 shows and festivals in Europe next summer and are currently planning a worldwide tour.
I met band founders Dexter Holland and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman to discuss the album, the music, the tour and what it’s like to be recognised as punk icons by millions of worldwide fans belonging to at least four different generations.

The Offspring's Dexter Holland and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman by The Shortlisted ©

The Offspring’s Dexter Holland and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman by The Shortlisted ©

The Offspring music brings back so many high school memories and it’s so cool to meet you. So, congratulations on the new record. How was Let The Bad Times Roll born and what does it mean to you?

Noodles:
Well, thank you very much. Yeah, gosh, this record is probably one we’ve been working on longer than any other, although a lot of it really kind of came together just in the last couple of years that we were working on it. I mean the last couple of years before the release. What does it mean to us, Dex?

Dexter:
What does it mean? Yeah, well, it’s very near and dear to our hearts and it’s been time spent working on something and especially, it’s been challenging times just for everybody in terms of life, and the idea that we’re still able to put out some of the best songs we’ve ever done and to get it out… it just feels really good to be able to continue and be able to still put our music out despite everything that’s going on in the world and we just can’t wait to get back out there and finally have real shows again, we’ve had some shows but it’s kind of like we’re halfway there. We’re not really on full-on playing mode yet. Yeah.

What achievement are you most proud of, at this stage in your career?

Noodles:
Oh, man. I guess the fact that we’re still able to do it makes me happy. You know, the fact that we’re still able to make records, to put out what I think are really good songs and then travel the world and play them for people. I mean, what an honour. What an honour it is to do that.

Dexter:
I was gonna say the same thing. The fact that we’ve been able to do this for so long, it’s something that I’m proud of because it means that it wasn’t just a one-time thing of a flash in the pan, like a one-hit-wonder, that kind of thing. It feels like we really have a body of work. We have a career. It’s something that we’re very proud of. So, I guess yeah, in that sense, the length of time has been something that we’re most proud of, I guess.

Which one of your songs are you most attached to?

Noodles:
Oh, guy! Yeah, that’s the toughest question of all because we’re talking about kids: these songs really are like our children, and you know, you’re not supposed to have favourites; you do have favourites, but you are not supposed to! So there are so many songs that really do have a lot of deep meaning for us. You know, Come Out And Play was the first song that really got radio plays and really kind of changed everything for us and we get to go out and play that every night. A song like The Kids Aren’t Alright really has a lot of meaning, because I know the people that Dexter was thinking about when he wrote that song. You know, throughout our career, there are so many songs that really do have me, and it’s so fun to play Self Esteem every night after all these years.

Dexter:
It’s like there are certain songs that are kind of highlights, so when you say what song was most attached to you, I kind of want to say the last one, because the fact that you can keep on going makes you feel like “I can still do songs that are as good as we did before” – and this is kind of satisfying when I feel like we’ve done it, we’ve made it and also because it’s kind of the freshest in your mind. It’s new. It’s exciting. So in that ways, in some ways, I guess, the latest material is the stuff that you’re most into.

Noodles:
Yeah, like This Is Not Utopia from the new album Let The Bad Times Roll. I love that. And it really suits the world that we’ve seen in the last couple of years.

Your music has influenced several generations – including mine. How do you feel about that?

Noodles:
God, I’m horrible at answering that question. We’ve had younger bands come up to us in a very, very polite way and say, “Oh, man, you know, you got me playing the guitar” and things like that. It’s always flattering to hear that but you know, we don’t think about that. I mean, once we’ll be really old in our wheelchairs at the nursing home, then we’ll take time to reflect and say things like “Those kids would have been nothing without us!” But now, we’re still into it. We’re still having too much fun going out and doing it ourselves to think about that.

Dexter:
Noodles is a very humble guy…

Noodles:
Oh, shut up Dex!

Dexter:
I think what he is saying is fine, because yeah, we don’t see ourselves as icons. It’s very flattering when people say you’ve left this mark on whatever other younger generations of people in bands and stuff – and it’s very flattering, and I don’t know if we quite take it to heart that way. It’s nice to hear, but I think what we want to do is just to create music that has a message of thinking for yourself and having personal freedom and energy and rebelliousness, and what I would call freedom, freedom about it.

What do you think of the current state of music?

Noodles:
I think kids listen to so much different stuff now. My son listens to hip-hop, death metal, old punk rock stuff like Bauhaus and Christian Death. And lately, he’s been listening to Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra! And so we just went up on a fishing trip, my son and I up to the mountains for a couple of days, and we were listening to all this old 1950s stuff, that was fun! That is the natural progression… I remember my Bing Crosby phase as well, and then you had a Doors phase!

Dexter:
Ah, yeah! Everybody has a Doors phase. Nothing but The Doors for six months when you’re about 15 years old!

What do you think when you hear that “punk is dead”? 

Noodles:
I read a tweet that said something like “pop-punk must be killed” or something like that. I think this is an evergreen tweet, because you always get to kill it and make something new.

What’s the difference between American punk and British punk? Let’s call in The Sex Pistols to make an example.

Noodles:
The accent!

Dexter:
Haha!

Noodles:
You know, although a lot of American punk bands adopted some British accent… but well, there’s a difference between The Sex Pistols and The Damned and The Toy Dolls – those are all very different bands, all from the UK, just as The Ramones and The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag are all American but are all different too. And I loved all that stuff.

Dexter:
Yeah. British are really good about the sense of irony in all of it.

Noodles:
Well, I think The Sex Pistols marketed it and they marketed the outrage, and they were really good at marketing the outrage and playing off that backlash that was getting sarcastic and snarky about it.

Dexter:
Yeah, while American bands tend to be hit over the head with it a little bit more.

Noodles:
I think that’s true. Yeah, there’s the British wit. Yes: they like to take the piss. And you don’t get that in American punk rock.

What do you think of talent shows like The X Factor?

Noodles:
I don’t know, I don’t watch any of that.

Dexter:
Yeah, I don’t follow that stuff. It is very American, is it?

Well, not just American. It’s a worldwide phenomenon.

Noodles:
Yeah, I think there’s The X Factor and American Idol and then there’s Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent, and I remember a Japanese kid won America’s Got Talent [Kenichi Ebina won the show in 2013].

Do you think there is a social responsibility for musicians today to address political issues?

Noodles:
I think if you’re trying to write a song that is going to start a movement, then you’re putting the cart before the horse. You first have to write a song that you feel and you know, is the truth, and you have to go with that because you’re not going to change anybody’s mind. You can, I think, inspire the people to take up a cause they might already be kind of leaning towards and they already have a feeling for, to get out and actually vote for a change or something, or just take signatures and protest and stuff. You’re not gonna change people’s minds, but you might inspire them to act on their beliefs.

Has the relationship between music and politics changed today, compared to what it was like when you first started out?

Dexter:
I mean, music and politics have gone hand in hand all the way back to the 1960s – and I suppose probably further than that. In terms of a real public cultural consciousness and stuff, I don’t consider ourselves a political band. I might be the wrong guy to ask about that. I mean, we definitely address what’s going on in the world and maybe social ills and that sort of thing, more of those kinds of social and personal issues rather than political ones.

Noodles:
But a lot of the time those things are intermeshed you know, social and political. You know, there’s social upheaval and it reflects the political system as well, so yes, a lot of that stuff really does go hand in hand.

Dexter:
But yes, it’s a great tool, I guess, right? I mean, it expresses the essence of the 1960s so well at that time, right? And punk rock is kind of a natural step off from that I guess right in terms of being advanced. The Dead Kennedys did it so well as a political punk rock band.

Noodles:
Rage Against the Machine is great a this, and System of a Down, I think to a lesser extent.

You wrote The Opioid Diaries to address the opioid epidemic, which seems to be a huge problem in the US but not so much in other parts of the world.

Noodles:
I think this is a little bit out there in other countries, but it’s a huge problem here in the United States. I think it is primarily an American phenomenon. In the US, opioids have been used for everyday injuries since twenty years ago. And you know, you have kids that would see everyday Americans take the pills prescribed to them, and then a year later they outscore heroin because they’re addicted to opiates, and then the pills have become too expensive so they’re going out and buying street drugs. It’s not somebody that decided to seek out this, you know, they just were prescribed a pill and they become addicted. And people are dying in record numbers. It’s horrible. Just horrible.

Do you think the way the opioid epidemic started and developed can somewhat be related or compared to Covid?

Noodles:
I don’t. That sounds like a little conspiracy theory. A tinfoil hat.

Dexter:
Yes, that does sound like that.

Noodles:
Certainly, with the opiate problem, you can track that and see how that happened. And this cost American lives and has gone through the courts. But with the vaccines, I think what has been done is actually pretty remarkable. There are three vaccines available in America. I think it’s pretty remarkable what can be done when there is a need to for the greater good, I’m not saying it’s completely out of generosity, of course, but I think there is more money to be made out of opiates rather than vaccines.

I need to ask you this question unfortunately because there were lots of rumours about it and many of your fans want an answer from you; is it true that you fired your drummer because he refused a Covid vaccine?

Noodles:
We never fired Pete [Parada]. He was either unwilling or unable to be vaccinated. And we looked into what it would take to travel around the world with an unvaccinated member of the band and crew and we just kept running into roadblocks. And it would put the whole crew at risk, it would put the whole tour at risk and it would put the unvaccinated person at risk, so we just couldn’t. It just wasn’t a possibility. I mean, there were ways we would get shut down, just travel restrictions with either unvaccinated people needing to be quarantined or just not being allowed to enter countries. That’s all changing, but there were just too many roadblocks we kept running into so we had to hire other drummers for the upcoming worldwide tour, for the time being.

Dexter:
Yes, for the time being.

Are you going to embark on a worldwide tour anytime soon?

Noodles:
We’re hoping so! You know, we just got a new record out and we want to play these new songs out! We’re looking at what we can do next year and where we can go and hopefully, as the pandemic eases and it becomes safer to gather in large groups and we can do more and more of that. You know, I’d love to keep this rolling. We’re ready to go.

Dexter:
We’ve got lots and lots of shows pencilled in and I hope that they happen. Well, we hope, we’ll see, as sometimes it’s a little bit out of our control, but yeah, we are very busy here.

What are the plans for the future? What are you working on, right now?

Noodles:
Right now we’re resting on our laurels with the newest record! Yeah, you know, we’re always talking about new stuff. This is our studio, we own our studio and when we have some ideas we just hop in, but right now I think we’re focused on travelling and the live shows, and doing some tours.

Thank you for answering all my questions. Would you have anything else to say?

Noodles:
Yeah. How hard is it going to be for us to travel to the UK now that Brexit is actually in place?

Ah! You tell me. Don’t ask an Italian about that.

Noodles:
Yeah, cuz we’re going back and forth as we go to Ireland and then we go back to the UK. I wonder how hard that’s gonna be.

Dexter:
And we’ve got France before we go there…

But you’re not European. So you should be fine. Don’t worry.

Noodles:
Is it harder for Europeans than it is for Americans to get into the UK right now?

Of course it is.

Noodles:
Why?

Because Brexit is not against you. It’s against us

★ If you love punk rock, you may also enjoy our interviews with the author of Trainspotting Irvine Welsh,  The Sex Pistols, The Jam, Moby, Jah Wobble and Skunk Anansie

The Offspring: Todd Morse, Dexter Holland, Pete Parada and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman by Daveed Benito ©

The Offspring: Todd Morse, Dexter Holland, Pete Parada and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman by Daveed Benito ©

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Founder of The Shortlisted Magazine

The one behind the wheel.