The Offspring's Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman on the State of Punk Rock
The Offspring are coming to BruFest.
When The Offspring' Dexter Holland sang “why don’t you get a job” back in 1998, he probably didn't realize that a 9-to-5 wouldn't be part of his future.
But 20 years later, it's clear that the American punk rock band helped revive mainstream interest in punk rock alongside bands like Rancid, Green Day, and NOFX. The Offspring went on to sell more than 40 million albums, ultimately becoming one of the best-selling punk rock bands of all time. Much beloved for their 1994 album Smash, which set a record for most albums sold on an indie label, the band finally attracted major-label interest that same year — as did Green Day's Dookie. The Offspring went on to reach multiplatinum and gold success from 1997 to 2003 with their next four studio albums. Now, a 10th studio album is in the works, due for release later this year.
The Offspring consists of lead vocalist/guitarist Holland, bassist Greg K., lead guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman, and drummer Pete Parada. (The first two are the only remaining founding members.) Together, they've inspired a number of musicians, from heavy metal act Trivium to British synthpop group Cuban Boys. And while their music has resonated with listeners for decades on a comedic, cultural, and nostalgic level, the band isn’t about to stop creating.
This week, they'll play their 1992 album Ignition in full at a benefit show in Berkeley, California, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of 924 Gilman, a nonprofit music and art community space. And on Saturday, April 15, they play BruFest in Phoenix.
Formerly known as UFest, BruFest will feature live music from The Offspring, Pennywise, Atreyu, All That Remains, Hell or Highwater, and Through Fire, as well as lucha libre-style wrestling, complimentary craft beer tastings from more than 40 breweries, and tacos. Yes, in case you're wondering, the hot sauce Holland created 10 years ago called Gringo Bandito will be available as a condiment at the festival.
New Times talked with Offspring guitarist Wasserman about why he loves Twitter, going to shows with his, ahem, offspring, the new punk bands he’s loving, and the song he wish he wrote.
New Times: So you guys have an album coming out in 2017, right?
Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman: We’re hoping to get it out this year, yeah! We’ve been working on it. It’s going real slow. [laughs] We’ve been in and out of the studio for a few years now. We want to get some songs out before we did the whole record. Like, “Coming for You,” whenever that was released.
Do you have a title yet?
No, not until we have a bunch of songs that are kind of cohesive. We’re not really far enough along to figure out a vibe or concept. We have about four songs that are done. Not even at the halfway point yet.
It seems like you guys were ahead of the digital age in music, even in the early 2000s when, until the record label stopped it, you were going to release your album online for free under the notion that it would be pirated anyway. How are you feeling about the digital age now – do you feel it’s better or worse for artists?
Yeah, we’ve been really lucky. We’ve had a bunch of success and do what we love to do. We don’t have to get day jobs. [laughs] So we’ve been really lucky … I hate when I see one of my fave bands, like someone that’s super-influential and consistently making good music, and they have to get day jobs and can’t just do their music. And that’s unfortunate. So when bands that are heroes of mine … to see them struggle and deal with the internet and piracy, it’s a problem. We personally benefit from the internet being relatively a free exchange of ideas. It’s mixed feelings; gotta take good with the bad. I love I can get on Twitter and get feedback from fans immediately and share ideas. It’s more positive for us.
How do you feel your own punk rock has evolved, now as parents, bridging the generational gap of parenthood and a musical career that was originally targeted at a youthful audience?
It doesn’t feel like a struggle. I still love punk rock. What’s funny is as a parent my kid is a teenager — my youngest son, my daughter was never into punk — but my son is really into it. He likes bands that were too punk for me; like the Subhumans and MDC. I like those bands and appreciate them, but didn’t listen to them. I like more bands with songs like Ramones, more musicality. So my son goes to hardcore shows, and then shows I love, like the Buzzcocks, but then I end up seeing Battalion of Saints and local hardcore bands. It’s pretty rad.
Do people recognize you as Noodles at the shows?
Yeah, kids from the other bands come up and shake my hand. They’ll pass me CDs to check out. It’s flattering, but I’m there as a fan and the father of a fan. [laughs] As an old fart, my son gets me out so that’s rad. I’m not at home watching Simpsons.
As Smash being one of your most commercially successful albums, did that change your writing process, afterward or even later on?
The writing process has changed. I think it’s something that we started to take a little more seriously actually over the last few years. But really, the main change was when started working with Bob Rock, the producer. We started writing in front of microphones and throwing ideas down. And we have our own studio in Huntington Beach. Dexter does all songwriting. We used to have Dexter demo and then all get together and work on them. Sometimes they were just ideas. Nowadays, it's different and a lot of it happens in the studio — actually almost all of it. You’re now recording at the computer, not tape! Then you change it and mix it up. And the way you edit things is different. Digital editing is crazy now.
You would think it would make the process faster — per this album you’re currently working on — but then it goes the other way.
It absolutely slows things down, because you’re trying so much more. After a while, you have to walk away and let songs sit.
As a band considered one of the best-selling punk bands of all time, what are some bands now that you think are progressing the American punk rock genre?
Yeah! There’s a bunch of bands around I think are great. One of my fave punk bands that’s still doing it — well there’s a lot of great old bands coming out with stuff. The Distenders … NOFX. Their new records were great. They’ve also been around for forever and do decent for themselves. There’s a relatively new band, The Bronx, which is phenomenal. Then up and coming bands — together PANGEA, Plague Vendor — there’s a lot of stuff bubbling.
Do you feel like those bands are progressing American punk, or just keeping it alive?
I think those bands add something different; I think they have to keep it new and fresh and get new bands. You have to have something unique without turning into a prog rock experimental band. The best bands still take the same three chords and make them sound new.
You’ve played a range of guitar brands, from Fender to Ibanez to Les Paul. What is your go-to nowadays?
We actually experiment in the studio with whatever we have, and I’ve collected a few over the years — but not as much anymore. For the live stuff, I still use Ibanez with my signature model. And Dexter also plays Ibanez, among other things. But in the studio, one of our main guitars is a vintage Les Paul Junior, I think. But it’s really like an SG with a single P90 pickup in it. It has a great sound. We use a lot of guitars across the spectrum: Strat, a Malcolm Young. We have a lot of vintage. We use tube screamer and stomp box, but with the effects nowadays it’s almost crazy… Do you play guitar? You sound into it.
No — I play piano, but not guitar. But I think guitar is one of the more fascinating instruments for fans to connect to; I think they appreciate hearing about the technical side.
There’s something about guitar; everyone can relate to it.
What’s one song you wish you wrote?
Me personally? I wish I wrote “Holiday in Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys. It’s such a great song and super aggressive! And weird and creepy and powerful.
The Offspring play BruFest 2017 at the Fear Farm Festival Grounds on Saturday, April 15.
Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that BruFest takes place April 14. It's on April 15.
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