Interview with The Offspring’s Dexter and Noodles

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

The Offspring by Daveed Benito ©

The Offspring are one of the bands that made the history of American punk-rock in the 1990s alongside Green Day and blink-182, performed over one thousand live shows and sold more than 40 million records in a career spanning some 40 years.

The chance for an interview with band founder Dexter Holland and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman was offered by the release of their tenth studio album and first full-length work since 2012 Let The Bad Times Roll.

Released in 2021 and immediately debuted at number 1 on the Billboard’s Alternative Album chart, at number 2 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums and at number 3 on the UK Official Album Chart, the record addresses and brings awareness to the opioid epidemic, dependence and addiction in the United States.

The Offspring's Opioid Diaries video

The Offspring’s Opioid Diaries video

The official video clip of The Offspring’s song The Opioid Diaries features alarming statistics about the phenomenon, mentioning that over 93,000 people in America died from an overdose of highly addictive drugs including fentanyl, oxycodone and heroin in 2020.

As Dexter Holland and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman will point out, that’s one person every 6 minutes and the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in the country.

And it’s such a precious thing that somebody in the music business has finally stood up to bring this catastrophe to light.

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

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

Dexter, Kevin, The Offspring’s music brings back so many high school memories, it’s so cool to meet you.

Noodles:

Well, thank you very much!

Your music has influenced several generations. 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 – 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 achievements are you most proud of?

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 the 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 would 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.

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, and old punk rock, 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.

Is there any difference between American punk and traditional British punk bands like The Sex Pistols?

Noodles:
The accent!

Dexter:
Haha!

Noodles:
You know, although a lot of American punk bands adopted some British accent, well, there’s a difference between The Sex Pistols and The Toy Dolls – those are all very different bands, all from the UK, just as The Ramones are American but are different from other bands, 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, they like to take the piss. 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?

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 musicians have a social responsibility 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?

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 – 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 expressed 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.

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

How was your album Let The Bad Times Roll born and what does it mean to you?

Noodles:

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, 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 couldn’t wait to get back out there and finally have real shows again and be in full-on playing mode again.

Your song The Opioid Diaries addresses the opioid epidemic which seems to be a huge issue in the US but less so 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 take 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 to 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 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 because there have been rumours about it and your fans want an answer from you; is it true that you fired your drummer Pete Parada because he refused a Covid vaccine?

Noodles:
We never fired Pete. He was either unwilling or unable to be vaccinated. And we looked into what it would take to travel around the world at the time 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 was all changing, but there were just too many roadblocks we kept running into so we’ve had to hire other drummers for the worldwide tour, for the time being.

Dexter:
Yes, for the time being.

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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