People of the Year 2004: Billy Joe Armstrong

Bush won the election, but Green Day scored a number one album at his expense

Billie Joe Armstrong
Nigel Crane/Redferns
Billie Joe Armstrong
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Green Day spent 2004 attacking George Bush. American Idiot, their punk-rock-opera masterpiece, was a scorching indictment of America under the Bush presidency that earned the Berkeley trio its first Number One album in its fifteen years together. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong checks in from a tour stop a few weeks before Green Day nab six Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year.

Can you sum up 2004?
The first thing that comes to mind is really hard work. We really got into recording our album, and letting go of the past, and were as ambitious as possible. And the tour is going really well. We feel like we've been able to raise the bar.

Speaking of bars, what was your most drunken night?
The other night we were in Denver – your blood-alcohol level doubles because of the altitude – and we went bowling. It was our touring guitar player Jason White's birthday. It just kept getting later. I was in the bathroom a major part of the morning.

It must have felt nice to be Number One.
Yeah, it was cool. The fact that we've been at it for over fifteen years makes it that much sweeter.

Best Green Day gig of 2004?
At the Reading Festival. We headlined, and 50 Cent played right before us, and everybody threw bottles at him. We were nervous, going, "Oh, God!" because the third day at Reading is a notoriously wild day. So we just got up and rocked. People were waving flags, and it was great.

You were in Canada on Election Day. Did you think about staying?
No. A lot of people that are considered more liberal are saying, "We're going to move to France, because Bush is bad." When the wrong guy wins, there are a lot of people who want to give up. The liberals need to be at home.

This story appeared in the December 30th, 2004 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 964: December 30, 2004