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Billie Joe Armstrong on Green Day’s Provocative New LP

Frontman discusses group’s politically charged ‘Revolution Radio,’ upcoming tour and why their 2012 album trio didn’t quite work

Andy Greene Aug 12, 2016
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Two years ago, Billie Joe Armstrong was driving into Manhattan when he came across a throng of protesters. Outraged by a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer for the killing of Michael Brown, they filled the streets and backed up traffic for miles. Armstrong was inspired. “I got out of my car and marched with the people,” he says. “It was a trip to see people rebel against the old order.”

The album is coming out weeks before the election. Is it partially meant to reflect all the chaos of this moment in history?
I can only go from my own personal life, but this is the most chaos I’ve ever seen in an election. It’s just so freaky. I don’t want to add more of the outrage or anger. I’d just try try to reflect it. This is the first time that this election has preyed on fear and anger. And I think with both of those, we’re sort of in this fight-or-flight mode. Everybody’s freaked out. Neither side, nobody can rationalize with each other because everybody is stuck in fear and in anger, and there’s nothing in between. In a nutshell, that is what the record reflects. But I’m trying to also look at myself as part of the problem.

 

“I can only go from my own personal life, but this is the most chaos I’ve ever seen in an election.”

 

Are you looking forward to playing these songs live?
Yeah. We’re probably going to be announcing dates pretty soon. We’ve been in the garage hammering them out, and it sounds great. Jason White, Jason Freese and Jeff Matika are back with us, and we’ve got the gang back together.

Do you miss being on the road? This has been one of the longest breaks of your career.
I absolutely miss it. I can’t wait. It’s hard to come home and to do nothing, because honestly, you start to feel like you’re unemployed. You sort of try to figure out where your purpose is in life. That’s the hardest thing about being in between records. When you take a break, you’re taking a break from something that you absolutely love. It’s not like going on a vacation because you don’t like your job and it’s like, “God, I need a break.” It’s hard! Because at first it feels great, and it’s like, “Yes, I can do anything that I want.” And then, suddenly, a couple weeks into it, you’re like, “OK, now what am I gonna do?” So it’s great. Everybody’s really psyched.

Whenever I see you in concert, I’m also shocked to see so many really, really young people.
That’s a very rare thing we have. I don’t think anybody can create new fans the way we do. Honestly, I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, at all, but it is something that I’ve observed through the years. You always have a batch of like 15-to-20-year-old people, and suddenly, 10 years later, you’ll get guys, people that will come up to you that are 25, 26 years old and go, “Fuckin Dookie was my first record,” or “Idiot was my first record” or “Nimrod was my first record.” I’m pretty sure that’s gonna happen again. Every time we put out a new album, it always happens, and it’s freaking awesome.

Cynics always say “rock is dead.” It sure doesn’t feel that way at your shows.
That’s such a broad-stroke, absurd thing to say about any genre of music. It’s like saying, “Air is dead” or “Water is dead.” It makes no sense to me why people say things like that.

I know the band has had some really tough times these past four years. How do you feel now that the album is all done and you’re gearing up for the tour?
Honestly, I feel better than I ever have in my life. I’m just so grateful to have this band that’s been around for over 25 years. I’ve been in a relationship for 22 years. My friends are doing great, and they’re good people and I love hanging out with them. They always say that they love hanging out with me [laughs]. Everything is cool. It’s a great time to be able to go on tour, for a record to feel like this.

Are you optimistic about the future of the country or are you worried we’re headed for a dark place?
I feel optimistic, honestly. A lot of what people cover on sort of the corporate news outlets is the shit show. And it’s the reality TV show of like, “Look at what this election has turned into.” But look at the other things and movements that are happening. I think Bernie Sanders broke new ground, not just as a protest candidate, but he broke into the inside of Washington. I think that getting these young people to start voting and down-balloting, and running for office in their own towns … I think that the next 10 years is going to be a big game-changer.

Finally, what do you hope the fans get out of Revolution Radio?
Shit, man, I don’t know! I just hope they love it. I hope that they sing along while we’re singing with them.

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