The smash success of Rancid’s “Time Bomb,” a track off the band’s ’95 album… And Out Come the Wolves, can be pegged as the catalyst that ignitedmainstream interest in both ska and punk — not to mention the hybrid of thetwo, which now swarms the airwaves. But from their seeds in seminal ska-coreband Operation Ivy to their current status as critical/commercial darlings,Rancid have stayed true to their rudeboy roots, staving off major-label sharkattacks as they crank out their unflinching punk gems.
Now, after a few years off from the studio, Rancid (singer/guitarist TimArmstrong, bassist Matt Freeman, drummer Brett Reed and former U.K. Subsguitarist Lars Frederiksen) are back, headlining the Warped Tour in support ofLife Won’t Wait, which was recorded over the course of a year in SanFrancisco, Jamaica, New Orleans, New York and Tim’s “Bloodclot” home studio inSilver Lake, California.
We spoke to Frederiksen from Warped in Chicago about how Rancid are faring inthe face of mass popularity.
Is doing the Warped tour taking a toll on you?
Actually, I threw out my knee yesterday, and it swelled up to the size of asoftball, so I’ve been ice packing it and rubbing it down, keeping it looseand it still hurts like s—. You can’t really jump around like us for sixyears straight and not feel something at the end of the day.
Life Won’t Wait — does that refer to getting older in thescene?
It’s about how they keep us fighting each other. Blacks and whites, who’sreally in power, who’s really in control. It always amazes me how America getsa new enemy every five years or whenever it seems the population is turning tolook at the government itself — the real enemy. We had the Cold War for fiftyyears, we had Castro somewhere in the Sixties, then we had Saddam Hussein,Muammar Qaddafi, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein again, Noriega. They shiftyour views somewhere else so you’re not actually looking at the real threat.Because the biggest threat to the American government is the populationitself. When you think that there’s 35,000 people to one cop, that’sthreatening.
There seem to be a lot of political digs on this record.
I think this is our most political record by far. I think we just got abroader spectrum. We’ve been to a lot of places and see different sides ofthings, and I think it just couldn’t help but go there.
You talk about America’s broken promises in “Lady Liberty.”
I don’t think it’s any big secret that the country we live in sucks in a lotof ways. It’s also a great country in a lot of respects, but it seems like thepromises you’re made as a citizen — like Freedom of Speech — they’reviolated every f—ing day. I don’t think that’s really hard to see. I think alot of people know where we stand politically. Anarchistic, socialistic,communistic, whatever it is. I think people know, it’s not hard to figureout.
Is there any place with a social environment you prefer?
Jamaica probably, because people they were really non-judgmental. Sure, we’dstop traffic when we walked down the street, but they were really curious, notjust shouting some obscenity because they thought we were freaks. They justwanted to check us out and see what we were about. Get to know you. I thinkthe world can learn a lesson from that.
What do you think about being credited with rehashing ska in the mainstreamwith “Time Bomb?”
A lot of people, a lot of bands have come up to us and said if it wasn’t forTime Bomb they probably would have ignored ska, but we just do what wedo. We just try to stay humble, keep the humility glass really full at alltimes.
Your compatriots Green Day seem to be making headlines all the time for onefight or another. You guys seem pretty low profile in that respect.
I don’t understand that. I know that there are a lot of bands out there wheresome band members don’t even like other band members. It’s like, what the f—are you doing it for? Why don’t you just quit and let the kid that’s probablyin the garage right now banging it out get a shot. I just hate those crybabies — I’m too famous, I’m too that. It’s like shut the f— up. Just gowith it.
The song “1998” talks about hanging out with Sid again. Is that a referenceto the nouveau scene?
It’s about Howie Pyro from D-Generation. He used to hang out with Sid Vicious.And it’s sort of like, the punk scene is just as relevant now as it was then.Those old f—ing guys who go, “I remember when this was punk and it wasdangerous, this and that,” — jaded old fools — are now listening to JohnnyCash, Patsy Cline and all that s—. I mean, that’s great music too, but notgiving any respect to the new bands. Who’s to say what happened twenty yearsago — the bands or whoever, Black Flag, the Ramones — couldn’t mean the samething as maybe Pennywise, or NOFX or Rancid mean to somebody now?
So you must be sick of all those Clash comparisons by now.
Being compared to the Clash is like, if you’re a ballplayer, being compared toWillie Mays. So that’s nothing but flattering. Just being used in the samesentence is really nice.
Any thoughts about working with any of them?
Sure, if it can happen.