Tim Armstrong: Dear Guitar Hero
He’s a guitarist, label owner and producer who helped revive interest in American punk rock in the Nineties. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is…
Let the Dominoes Fall is your first album since 2003’s Indestructible. Why was now the right time to put out a new Rancid album? —Larry Tierney
We always do things that feel natural to us. We don’t force anything and we ain’t got no boss, so we do everything on our own time. We started writing songs at the end of winter 2007 with no real plan, and here we are in 2009 and the record’s ready. We all have different side projects as well. I wrote most of Rancid 5 on my own, but we didn’t want to do that this time. So we came to Utah [where drummer Branden Steineckert is based] to write the record as a crew. That’s kind of how we did the early records.
I was stoked to hear that Rancid was putting out a new album. Do you feel like taking that break with everyone doing their own side projects allowed you guys to come back to Rancid with new energy and excitement? —Alton Benes
Yeah, of course. But we were never separated. We’re always talking. I know bands always say that, but it’s the truth for us. I can’t go a couple of days without talking to those dudes. The great thing is that I live in L.A., Matt [Freeman, bass] lives in the East Bay, Lars [Frederiksen, guitar] lives in San Francisco and Branden lives in Utah, and when we write a record, the crew is back together and it’s exciting. That includes [Bad Religion guitarist/Epitaph Records owner/producer] Brett Gurewitz, who has been with us since the first record and he pretty much produced everything we’ve done. He suggested we go to Skywalker Sound in Northern California for three weeks in 2008 where we tracked most of the record. We were close to home so we had all of the crew and family there. It was a great time.
I just heard Rancid’s new single, “Last One to Die,” and it rocks! In the song it seems like you’re looking back over your career and taking stock of everything you’ve been through. Having survived this long, how has your attitude toward the scene and music business changed? —Victor Vega
Yeah, that song is saying we’re still here and we’re stronger than ever. I think that we’re fortunate to be able to tour without a record out or even have press. We’re fortunate that we have the best fans ever—they’re super loyal. And now we have a career doing what we love to do. I love to play music with those guys onstage. Making records is fun, but to play music and travel the world with my best friends…that’s a great job.
You’ve had an awesome career with Operation Ivy, Rancid, Transplants and your solo stuff. If you had to pick just one track from your career that’s most representative of your sound, what would it be and why? —Seymour Scagnetti
I’d have to say the first song on the new record, called “East Bay Night.” It’s basically about my heart being in the East Bay, where I grew up. I’ve been all over the world and I’ve seen a lot of great places, but my favorite place will always be the Bay Area, particularly the East Bay. The song is tough, but it’s also catchy and it works well onstage. It’s also a song about who we are. We’re real, and we’re not faking anything when we’re playing. There may be some tough times in my life, but when I’m onstage with Rancid it’s all good.
I heard Rancid did cover songs at [pro skateboarder] Tony Hawk’s wedding. Is that true? Would you guys ever consider releasing a covers album? —Tim Booher
Yeah, we played Tony’s wedding out in Fiji. He’s a good dude, and we basically told him to write down some cover songs he would like us to do. It was awesome. As for the covers album, maybe. It’s not a bad idea.