Interview with Mike from Green Day (4/4/94)
interviewed by Kelly Enriquez and Jen Gore (M=Mike, A=Alter/Native)
A: I hear that you get to do most of the interviews?
M: True story. Well, the other guys don't like to do them as much. I would rather do them and see them done. Put things in the right words.
A: This isn't going to be in Rolling Stone or Spin or anything like
that. M: Oh I don't care if it's in a zine...that's cool. What's it going to be in?
A: Our program guide and a local Corvallis zine.
M: Corvallis. We had a big party there. It was fun.
A: We heard about that one. So...some basic questions...How old were you when you started? Were you in high school?
M: Yeah, about 10th grade or 9th grade.
A: We usually do a synopsis on the albums in rotation and on the first album (39/Smooth) it said "I do believe these guys are still in high school."
M: We were still in high school all but for the second album. For the second album we were out for a year. We're pretty young I think. How old are you guys?
A: I'm 19. I'm 25.
M: I'm 21.
A: I'm the M.D. and she's the ex-M.D.
M: The ex-M.D.?
A: Music Director.
M: Well...I used to be a doctor.
A: Oops...I'm sorry. I'm so into record company lingo now.
M: That's a really cool name. The ex-M.D. that it?
A: Yeah. I just thought I'd show you this, what they wrote about you on the promotional says how you guys dress in drag. Is that for real? Have you guys done many shows in drag?
M: Drag's really getting kind of trendy, so we stopped. Basically, now we'll only do it in places that we know are really homophobic.
A: That's cool, Corvallis would be a good place to do that. So did you all grow up in Berkeley?
M: Around the suburbs of Berkeley. It's like a shitty ol' suburb of Berkeley called Rodeo, it's actually pronounced Rodao but spelled Rodeo.
A: When you were in high school did they have a really cool scene in Berkely?
M: No. We went to school in the suburbs. It was really shitty. One year the high school I went to was really shitty. But then I went to a school that was somewhat more alternative. But there were still a lot of shitheads and everything. It was somewhat more alternative. There were alternative kids, but you still got fucked with a lot. Kinda lame.
A: So a lot of your songs are about life in suburbia and being bored out of your mind?
M: Yeah. Just sitting around a lousy town. We come from a town where everyone looks forward to their senior ball and their boyfriends and girlfriends.
A: That sounds like my high school. Sounds like everbody's high school.
M: Well...yeah it kind of is. It's like everyone's big in the Bay area a lot of people do a lot of speed and a lot of drugs. And they just sit around and they'd rather work shitty 9 to 5 jobs and waste out. Instead of actually getting out there and doing what they would rather be doing. Their only limitation is that they're in this suburban subculture. The thing with subcultures's just too much of a bad thing.
A: I have a friend who saw you guys on 120 Minutes and she said that you guys looked really bored and pissed off. Is that true?
M: No. Not really. We actually had a good time that day. We were getting a little bored because we had to do a thing like 5 or 6 times. It would either be us or Louis Largent either saying "fuck" or saying "shit" or saying "pot" or something like that which they didn't want us to say.
A: "Pot" is not allowed on MTV?
M: No drug references.
A: Speaking of bad words, who chose "Longview" for your first single?
M: Warner Bros. wanted it and we wanted it. We were actually the ones who were a little more hesitant...see whether or not it would hurt our radio play or anything. But Warner Bros. was encouraging it and I thought that was really cool. So we went with it. I'm sorry, I mean Reprise was encouraging it.
A: All they do is take liberties with it and cut out the bad words.
M: Yeah. People can figure out what we said.
A: They most certainly can. How about "Welcome to Paradise" was that the band's idea to re-record that?
M: Yeah, fully. There's a bunch of songs on Kerplunk that we only knew for about a week literally, and that's one of them, before we went in to record them. That song, the song "80", the song "No one knows", "One of my lies"...there's a lot of songs...they all came together within one week. And so, that song in particular we felt we wanted to represent it as a really strong song. In Kerplunk there's a lot of spooky stuff going on in the middle [makes weird noises]...all sorts of weird stuff. We just wanted to show it as a solid song, and we thought it fit better with this album too.
A: So you like the new version of it better than the old version?
M: I like them both, but I think the song fit really well on this album. It's gonna get it's fair shake now. It's not like we wanted to come out with it as our first single, but we thought it fit this album really well lyrically, content-wise, and we just wanted to show what a strong song it was...what a straight forward song it was. A: Did you feel like you had a lot of creative control as to what went into the album?
M: 100% Actually 150%
A: Did you notice any difference between Reprise and Lookout?
M: Yeah. There's a big difference between when you spend a lot of money on a record and when you spend $1500 to $700 on a record. Which is the totals of our other records, $700 for the first record and $1500 for the second record. We had some time to actually pay attention to what we were doing. The reason things are louder is because you're doing things in a more contained environment, you've got a bigger studio, better equipment. The whole album sounds bigger. That's the main difference between any major label album and any independent album, because the independent albums are recorded on a small budget and they sound transistor to some the real high end...and the low end doesn't kick as much as everything else. That's not a problem...I love that. But radio and tv...a lot of people have a hard time listening to things that aren't incredibly audible. Like my dad would tell me "god, the quality of your records...the songs are good and everything, but the quality is so low-fi." Well, that's what we're recording as, and I think we obtained the same sound that we would have obtained if the other ones had they been on a major label.
A: You like the sound of the new album?
M: Yes. I love the sound of this new album.
A: So you're pretty happy with the transition?
M: Yeah, very much. I think we made the right decision, the right label.
A: Was it a consensus to change to Reprise?
M: Yeah, fully. The main reason we switched labels, it took us over a year to make the decision, because there comes a point where 15-16 year old kids can't put on 600-900 people shows. So you end up dealing with medium size club promoters, and a lot of those guys are really sleazy. If you have no legal stance, then they're just gonna rob you. 3 out of 4 shows on our tour were being cancelled because the fire marshall would show up and close down this punk club, either fully close the club or just close the show down and alert the police and the fire marshall to these clubs. All that's doing is damage to punk shows. And then we're getting all these people going, "Look at all these other jerks showing up at your shows." I've had people come up to me now and go, "Man, look at these people you draw to your shows now, look at them all." I'd say, "You know what, man, you're fucking racist." That's a problem. If I meet someone and they're a jock or I meet someone and they're different than me in any way, if they're a nice person I'll shake their hand, but if they're an asshole and they're letting me know it, I'm gonna tell them they're an asshole. Our music wasn't created strictly for punks. But it was put out and we did play to punks because our friends were punks and we like to hang out and do the punk circuit. And I felt that we gave a lot of the best of us. We've played close to 1000 punk shows now and it really takes its toll out on you. And it really hurts even more when I hear people saying, "Well now kids at my school are gonna like your music, 'cuz it's like the trendy thing to do blah blah blah." To me that's kind of selfish. Yeah, but you had the music when it first came out there, be glad that you had it years ago. That's how I feel about it. I get people that are mad at us just for that and that alone. We don't want to draw any of those legal aspects into punk shows, into the punk scene at all. We were drawing a lot of people who didn't understand punk shows, so there would be fights going on. It was all leading to one thing, either quit or go on. So we're going on. A: We've heard a lot of people say that the fans have been sort of beligerent towards you guys and yelling out requests in the middle of a song, or stuff like that.
M: That's cool. They've always done that. That's why we don't have a set list. We play to the reaction of the crowd to some extent. We don't play everything they yell. We have somewhat of a format that we play, but we've never had set lists, at least not after our first tour. The day of our first tour we threw away our set lists and said let's not use them ever again. So we don't. Decide what songs you're gonna play and have some that you can work around too, for energy-wise. If the crowd's not real energetic we're gonna try to make more energy, and if it's too energetic then we've got to give them a break, slow things down a bit, becuase you don't want anyone getting hurt or anything.
A: So you have a feel for the audience?
M: Yeah, we're gonna play according to the audience reaction.
A: But they never get too out of control? Saying shit to you on the stage...
M: Yeah, they do. Well, some people get pissed off yelling, "Play this, Play this!" Like a guy at one of our shows was like, "Play Knowledge, play Knowledge!" This was out in Rhode Island. And I was mouthing to him, "We will, we will!" But he couldn't hear me and he was all, "Man, fuck you!" Totally got irate. And I came over and he's all, "Man, I give you respect. Man, fuck you!" But I talked to him and I said, "Hey. Did you hear what I said? I said we will, and you said fuck you to me anyway. You know what, fuck you!" And all of his friends laughed at him. He was like, "I'm sorry." "Yeah, think about what you're doing first. If I hadn't played Knowledge, would you leave the show hating us?" It's one of those things, I mean we can't play every song that everybody wants us to play, but we can try to suffice with the majority of ones that we feel are going to please everyone.
A: So how's the tour been going?
M: The tour's been going great. Just about every show's been sold out. A lot of good crowds.
A: Are you tired?
M: Yeah, we're really tired, but we go home for 2 weeks then we go to Europe for 6 weeks. Then we come back for 2 weeks and then we go out on the road again for 2 months or somehting like that. So, we're going to remain tired for the rest of our lives.
A: So from here you're going to Seattle and then
M: Vancouver and then we're going home.
A: So have there been any incidences on the tour that stick out, any really cool shows or cool places that you remember?
M: All of the shows have been really good. Chicago was great. The crowds up there are always really nice and they've always been good to us. Florida was really huge. Not that I'm in love with Florida, but there's a lot of really cool people in Florida, unfortunately they're stuck there. A lot of them feel that way too. It's a crazy place. Everywhere we've gone there's been great shows. Last night we played in Salt Lake City. Thought it was really cool that MCA from the Beastie Boys showed up. He like the show. But that show got kinda out of hand because kids were jumping off this balcony that was as high as this roof onto the crowd. I don't mind stage diving, just as long as people are courteous of others. If there's 5 or 10 people standing around and they're not packed together and a guy just jumps on them and lands all of his weight on one guy's neck, that's wrong, or a girl's neck for that matter. I would say 60/40 the girls have taken the bulk of the landings on this tour. It's pretty brutal. Like 5' tall, 20 lb girls in the front catching these 200 lb dudes jumping out. And this guy who was jumping off the top was like 180 lbs. He jumped off twice and the second time he jumped off he knocked himself out. He was out cold. He was literally passed out. Everybody got out of the way, he hit the ground and they had to drag him outside. It was like, you're an idiot.
A: Do you keep playing when something like that happens?
M: No, we stop. If there's a fight, if something like that happens we stop. Actually we stopped when they found him. 'Cuz the guy was an idiot. I mean, you shouldn't jump from that high. And this crowd was spaced out too. It wasn't like completely packed.
A: It's going to be pretty packed tonight.
M: You think so?
A: Yeah, I'm sure it will sell out...for $5. How did you manage to keep the show price so low?
M: We lost a lot of money. We basically paid for it out of our own pocket. Believe it or not.
A: Was it worth it?
M: Yeah, it's worth it. But there are times when I get really frustrated 'cuz kids are yelling at us anyway, thinking we're making a lot of money 'cuz we're on a fucking major label. MTV doesn't pay you. Unless kids go out there and buy your records, you're not making anything. We're still not making anything. We've lost thousands of dollars on this tour. Something like $15,000. Doesn't sound like a lot, whatever, but I guess it is. I don't really care about the money thing. I just don't like people rubbing it in my face, saying that I'm a rockstar. A rockstar is two things, a rockstar is an asshole and a rock star is rich. I'm neither of the two. I'm nowhere near either of the two. It really bothers me too. Some people will come up to us and ask us the weirdest questions. Just ask us money questions about this and that. When we're selling our t-shirts for really cheap and we're not making a dime off of them. To keep our t-shirts this low, our merchandise guy gets really upset when people bitch about a $10 t-shirt. Any lower than that and we've got to pay. After this tour, our prices have to go up a little bit, because we can't aford to keep paying to play. This tour has been physically exhausting, playing 10 days on 1 day off and that whole day off is driving. Then another 6 days on 1 day off driving. Another 10 days on...this whole tour we've had one day off where we didn't have to drive. So it's physically exhausting. That's how we did it, and it worked out real good...all of the shows have sold out. People have gotten our shirts and that's rad. I don't know if we stepped on our own foot by having people expect $5 shows every time we come around because we can't do it. It's too expensive. A: But the people who read the program guide will know.
M: Well...I don't care. Waah for me. So what? We booked our own tour, that's our own situation. [someone comes in to tell Mike that he is needed for the sound check] Well, I've got to do a sound check. Any other questions? A: What is a Green Day?
M: Well, Green Day is just a song, but a Green Day is a day with lots of green bud where you just sit around taking bong hits, hanging around. You guys smoke pot? [answers deleted to protect the not-so-innocent]
A: How old is Larry Livermore really?
M: I think he's about 150. His brother's Yoda.
A: Are there any bands that are younger in age than you that you really like?
M: Smoking Popes. Potatomen, Lawrence is in that band but the other members are all younger. Smoking Popes are from Chicago.
A: We posted on the Net asking for questions and somebody posted "How do boogers and snot affect your life, specifically your leisure time?"
M: Specifically my leisure time? [someone peaks in again to tell Mike that he is desperately needed on stage] Ok...Mainly they affect my life when I'm on stage, 'cuz they all come out onto my face. Shake your head enough and it will happen to you too. In my leisure time, I don't know. Let's just not pick that one [laughing].
A: What about the fascination with dogshit? Dookie and all the dogshit all over the cover?
M: We personally believe that dogs are going to take over the world. And when they do they're gonna hit everyone with shit.