Green Day: Rebel Yell
GW It also seems like you’re really going after religion on this album.
ARMSTRONG Almost like a fetish! [laughs]
GW What’s your beef? Have you been put off by the way some people use religion politically to manipulate people?
ARMSTRONG Yeah, that, and there are just some scary moments. You know, I believe there are people who really think Barack Obama is the Antichrist and we are entering end times. And it’s almost like they want to fulfill a prophecy. There’s no sense of thought that comes after that, no thought of making things better. It’s like, Why make things better when this is God’s way? It causes people to become complacent and do nothing. And that’s frightening. I write about what’s scary about that. What’s the difference between that and being a suicide bomber? Most wars are fought because of religion. And in this last election, it became so important to know what someone’s faith is. Why? I had no interest in the religion of whoever was going to become President of the United States. So I just tried to tackle the hypocrisy of that whole situation and to make some sense of it.
GW “East Jesus Nowhere,” I guess, centers on the poor souls who drank the Kool-Aid, the ones who buy into this whole thing.
ARMSTRONG Yeah. You know, it’s kind of scary.
GW And in the song “Before the Lobotomy,” I kind of read the lobotomy as the dumbing down of American culture over the past eight years.
ARMSTRONG No, not really. That wasn’t the intention. I got that title from a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle. The article was about a guy who’d written a book about how he’d gotten a lobotomy because his dad thought he was too hyperactive. He was a problem child, so his father made him get a lobotomy. So the title of the article was “Before the Lobotomy.” Or maybe that was the title of the book. I don’t remember now. And the song could be about the dumbing down of society, but it all comes from personal experience, you know! [laughs] Dumbing yourself with drugs and alcohol. Overdoing it.
GW The media itself can be an addiction, a damaging drug.
ARMSTRONG Oh, fuck yeah. Television is definitely a major distraction. That’s a big one for me. The song “The Static Age” is about how you’re just bombarded with information. You know, like they come up with new diseases to have, that you need to be medicated for. It’s like graffiti on the sky, a fucking billboard—like they’re taking away a chunk of the sky to sell me something. It just gets overwhelming, and the song is overwhelming.
GW That image of static is in a couple of the songs on the album. I also took it as a reference to right-wing hate radio, Fox Network… “the bottom feeders of hysteria,” as you sing in “American Eulogy.”
ARMSTRONG Um-hmm, but I think it comes from all angles. CNN is just as responsible for confusing people as Fox. My brother-in-law is a professional skater, and he always says, “Just live. Fuck all the bullshit and just live.” That’s a very simple thing to say, but there’s so much truth in it. Get past all the bullshit and the noises in your own head. Shit, in my head, it’s like having two radios on at the same time while you’re watching television. So the thing is just trying to turn the noise down and find power in silence.
GW It’s especially hard to do that in modern culture, with the internet, BlackBerries, iPhones…
ARMSTRONG Yeah, it’s weird. It seems like fewer kids want to be rock stars. They want to be the guy who invents the next YouTube or Twitter or something. It’s a strange time.
GW American Idiot was a huge success. It put Green Day in a whole new league. So was there any anxiety over having to top that or equal that? Was it the 400-pound gorilla in the studio?
ARMSTRONG I think it was a little bit. We definitely felt that we set the bar high on American Idiot, and we wanted to set it even higher for the next record. We were arrogant enough to think we were gonna outdo American Idiot—and we were completely humbled by the process of trying. There’s pressure every time there’s a success like that. But what do you do with that pressure? Do you let it get the best of you, or do you use it as some kind of fuel?
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