Green Day: Rebel Yell
GW But can you step in the same river twice? I remember going back to CBGB in the Nineties, and it was like a tourist attraction.
ARMSTRONG But I think Gilman’s done a really good job of not becoming that. And I think that’s because it’s a collective of people. You can’t go buy a Gilman Street T-shirt at Hot Topic or Fred Segal or some place like that. Gilman is just a place that has deep values and beliefs. Being at a Gilman meeting, you feel like calling each other “comrade.” It’s a socialist way of looking at rock and roll music. It’s a community.
GW Speaking of being working class, you actually use the term “class war” in “American Eulogy.” That’s pretty strong. Is that what this is ultimately about?
ARMSTRONG No, no. I don’t think so. I just use harsh imagery to try to make a point or reach a conclusion. I use the English language against itself. [laughs] Or abuse the English language. But I don’t think we even know the definition of a class war, because it’s never really happened, not in America, anyway.
GW Another pretty strong line in “American Eulogy” is the one about the martyr who said, “It’s just a bunch of niggers throwing gas into the hysteria.”
ARMSTRONG That was written right around the time of Hurricane Katrina, and it’s a comment on how the response to Katrina was so indifferent to the suffering of the victims. So that could have been FEMA or George Bush saying that—the disconnect that he has with, I guess, anyone who didn’t go to Yale.
GW So here you’ve come out with another beautifully detailed, full-blown rock concept album in a world that’s increasingly just about download singles and short attention spans. Why do you do it?
ARMSTRONG Why do I do it? Because it’s art. It’s an art form. It’s just something that I feel I have to do. Something I’ve always wanted to do. I love great albums—anything from Revolver to Dark Side of the Moon to London Calling. I just like making records where the songs speak to each other and there are some singles on there too. I’ve got nothing against that. But I love the art of making albums.
GW Do you think you’ll continue to go in this direction? Will the next one be a concept album as well?
ARMSTRONG I’ll do it again, but I don’t know about the next one. Because I also love the approach that we have with the Foxboro Hot Tubs—just flailing and going for it. I’d love to maybe do something like record an album in China. Just take a weekend, have a bunch of songs and make a kick-ass punk record in China. There are all kinds of different ways to approach making an album. I can’t look at life all the time as a concept record. I’ll probably have to get outside of that for a while.
GW I was going to say, any fear of turning into Jethro Tull?
ARMSTRONG No. There’s no fear of that. [laughs] I don’t think you have to worry about that.
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