Billie Joe Armstrong Talks ‘Surreal’ Hall of Fame Night, New Green Day LP
Green Day were midway through a year of downtime when they learned they’d been selected to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group could have easily showed up, played a few hits and called it a day, but it was determined to find a way to make the event truly special for longtime fans. So Billie Joe Armstrong and Co. decided to book Cleveland’s House of Blues two days before the big night for a once-in-a-lifetime show. They took the stage as Sweet Children, their original name, and played a set of their earliest songs with founding drummer John Kiffmeyer, who left the group in 1990. Then they blasted through 23 songs as Green Day, taking that energy into Cleveland’s Public Hall two nights later when they were formally inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Armstrong called up Rolling Stone a few days after the big night to chat about his time in Cleveland and give an update on Green Day’s in-progress new album.
Are you still coming down off the high of that night?
Yeah. It’s sort of like a natural LSD. The whole thing was just surreal, but instead of LSD it was reality. We had a great time. It was just a wild weekend. There was so much going on.
Let’s start with the House of Blues show. Who had the idea of calling up John and inviting him?
Well, John and I have been in contact here and there through the years. One day we just went out to breakfast and I threw out the idea about doing a show. He was immediately into it, which was surprising because he said to me, “You realize I haven’t picked up a pair of drum sticks since 1997, right?” And I said, “You know, it doesn’t even matter. Let’s just go up and have a good time. I think it would just make a lot of fans super happy.”
I’m sure it felt surreal to look to the back of the stage and see him behind the kit.
Yeah, it’s funny because of all the antics and things that he did onstage [when we originally played together], that was exactly what it was like. I mean, it’s just natural for him to be that way. He’s one of the original Gilman Street clowns. For me, having him there was really important. A lot of that past disappeared, especially after Dookie.
I was just expecting to just go up there and play some songs and have fun, but there was this spirit in the room. A lot of the people at the show that were a bit younger were probably like, “Who the fuck is this guy?” when he walked out.
But for the hardcore fans it was a dream come true. Nobody ever imagined you guys would play together again.
Yeah, absolutely. And not only did we play a Sweet Children set with John there, there were certain songs that we haven’t touched in a long time that we added to our set, like “Private Ale” and “Stuart and the Ave.” They’re songs that are sort of more deep cuts into Kerplunk and Insomniac.