Interview with Rancid when they toured in Autumn 2003, and when they played Southampton. Interview in Rancid News #4.
RN: So is it fun being back in the Europe?
L: Yeah this is pretty much the first time that we did anything in Europe or England, for… well we haven’t been to what I guess you’d call the ‘Continent’ in like five years… yeah what do you call it?
RN: The Continent, or Mainland Europe perhaps.
L: But uhh England isn’t even really part of Europe.
RN: No we are. We really are!
M: We’ve been getting so much trouble over that whole thing here. ‘It’s so nice to be in Europe’. ‘You’re in England!’ ‘OK then, we’re in England!’
RN: Has that really happened?
M: Yeah from everybody. From crusty punks to the woman that works in a chip shop. It’s ridiculous.
L: But yeah so we haven’t been to the Continent in five years. We played here in 2001, when we played the Reading Festival and the V-Fest but that was it. We haven’t done a proper club tour in a really long time. Since 1998. And then we didn’t even do much.
M: Was it Reading? And then Nottingham and Glasgow?
L: I can’t really remember. I just know that the last time that we did a full scale club tour in this country was 1996. So it’s really be six, no seven years!
RN: So you enoying it then?
L: Yeah definitely!
RN: Did you expect the shows to be this big?
M: Not really.
L: I mean cos we play shows kind of this size back home in America. And that’s always where we’ve been biggest. But England… we’ve played some of the same places that we’re playing on this tour, but just to have this kind of excitement, that you feel from people who have come to the shows or whatever. It feels good.
M: Especially this far down the line – you know what I mean? When you think about it we haven’t really done a big thing in England. When we came over here in ‘96 it was the same venues…
L: … But not as many shows though.
M: We played about half as many shows I would say. And that was with ‘…And out come the Wolves’. You know all this time – all these years later – to be playing to the same amount of people, if not more, I think we might be playing some bigger places. I know that we played Brixton in ‘96. But then in ‘98 we didn’t.
L: Yeah we did.
M: Are you sure. Did we not play the Astoria?
L: We played the Astoria, and then came back and played Brixton. I remember cause I wore the England outfit cause it was the World Cup at the Brixton show. (laughs)
M: Alright. I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about!
RN: How come you think you’ve got this buzz behind you then?
M: Because of Lars’ (laughs) I think Lars knows England, and England knows Lars.
L: No it’s down to Matt. Freeman’s an English last name.
M: Yes it is. My great grandfather was English!
L: There it is!
M: I don’t know. Maybe it’s because things are right now.
L: Yeah I mean over in America the punk scene is just really big. You know what I mean? And I think that normally the UK and America have the same level on music most of the times. So maybe that’s why?
RN: So do you think it’s as big now as it was in ‘96?
RN: Why do you think that is?
L: I think it’s partly because a lot more people are writing about punk rock, a lot more people are recognising it as a genre of music, not just some sort of fad that’s coming in and out. If you think about it, when punk rock had that big explosion in like ‘93, ‘94, it really hasn’t died down. There’ve just been so many bands since then. And a lot of the older bands have reformed, or have gained some new recognition. I just think that it’s a combination of everything. Bottom line – it’s just really cool music.
M: Yeah I think that’s the bottom line. More people have figured it out. It’s great fucking music.
RN: Do you ever worry that because it’s becoming that much bigger it’s becoming that much more homogenised?
L: No. I mean the bigger it gets the better. Those are just words and things you know? After all punk rock is like a community. It’s about being true to yourself and if a lot more people are getting into it … maybe there’s a lot more misfits than everybody originally thought! (laughs) So you know it’s just really cool music. Plus the climate of everything, politically, and where the whole world is it’s like…. I was talking to Morat yesterday and he was saying that it kind of goes in surges in the UK. It kind of goes up and down, but this is just as big…. so!
RN: When Bush got elected a load of people said the punk scene would grow like it did under Regan. Do you reckon they were right?
L: Well maybe. There are some similarities, as far as that’s concerned. But that has a definite contribution toward it, because when you have certain situations in the world, rebellious music kind of rears it’s head. I think punk rock has always been known, along with reggae and ska, as rebellious music. All street music. It always makes an impact on the world.
M: I think it’s also become more accessible as well. Thinking about the change in communications and whatever. For whatever reason it doesn’t really matter, because bottom line it’s good music. It’s good music, it’s fun, and it gets a lot of angst out. And I just think that there are a lot of pissed off people out there, of all ages (laughs). I think that the more people get into it the better.
RN: How come on this album you’ve decided to do interviews again?
L: Well we kind of don’t give a fuck.
M: I mean we get a lot of requests for interviews between whenever to whenever. But I mean it was on ‘Life Won’t Wait’ that it just hit this peak of insane amount of interviews. We were just doing them all the time. I remember on the Warped tour ‘98 we were doing like… I actually – I’m not making this up – I did 30 interviews in one day. (laughs) Fanzine interviews. And it just got to this stage where I’d look at the list and it’d just be ‘jesus fucking christ’. So I actually just split these kids into groups of five, and made rules, you know?!? We did so many interviews that it almost got to the stage where we thought, OK we’ve got nothing left to talk about, lets not do anymore! That was basically it. As Lars said we basically don’t care. We do what we wanna do. If we don’t want to do any interviews then we’re not going to do any interviews. If we don’t want to tour, we won’t tour. If we don’t want to write a record, we’re not going to write one. And that may sound selfish or whatever, but it’s just the way we are. We do whatever the fuck we want to do!
RN: So do you have less interviews now than you did then?
L: Yeah I think where we’re at right now. We’ve always had complete 100% control of this band. As we said we don’t really give two shits about anything or anybody, you know what I mean? We get to dictate our life as far as who we’re going to talk to, who we’re not going to talk to goes. And if we don’t feel like doing interviews then we’re not going to do them. So it’s not really anymore or any less, it’s just a little more controlled.
RN: Talking of you guys doing whatever you want. Is Rancid a finite project?
M: Not really. It’s really weird. Well actually no it’s not really weird. But we’re like friends first and sort of band mates second. Tim and me have known each other for years now. We’ve been playing in bands together since we were kids. He’s gonna be my best man at my wedding. Lars is going to be the usher. It’s like Brad… Anything I do, I do with these guys, anything they do, we do together. When we’re off not doing anything, we’re always talking everyday, hanging out. I don’t really know other bands who do that. But then maybe other bands do do that. I don’t want to claim that we’re special or anything like that! My point is that I sometimes read these articles on bands, and they just have bands full of individuals you know? We’re individuals, but we’re a group first. So I can’t really see Rancid ending, because what does that mean? Does that mean we’re gonna stop being friends? Well no we’re not, we’re going to be together. It’s just really difficult to concepturlise. I can’t ever see us being together and not making music.
M: In another capacity there’s all the side projects and stuff, and we’re all interconnected on that. I mean just for example me playing bass when the transplants go out on tour and stuff. We’re so close like that. I think that’s the most important thing. Just to stay friends. Because band stuff can be crazy sometimes, like touring all the time, and business stuff, you know money and whatever. And I think that’s fucked up some bands. But for us we split everything equal. We all four equals, we all get along. If we have problems with each other then we work it out. It’s not like a job. It’s more of a lifestyle or whatever. I mean I’ve got this tattoo right here, ‘Rancid – True Til Death’. It sums it up really for me.
RN: So even if the band is inactive, you’ll still be making music or whatever?
L: Yeah I mean just to give you an example of what we’re like: After Reading and Leeds in ‘01, we went straight out to Japan to play, and then when we got home my back went out. I pretty much couldn’t walk for six months. And we had a lot of things lined up, but it all got put on hold because of me. a lot of other bands would have just got another guy and carried on. Meanwhile Matt’s driving me down to a doctor every other fucking week. And that’s the kind of people that we are. The most important thing for us is for us to be healthy. The band comes second, it always has, everybody’s personal shit comes first because that’s what’s important. This shit’s just the icing on the cake, you know what I mean.
M: I’ve read articles about bands getting back together, with all the inside dirt about what this guy wants, and about what this guy wants and whatever. It just seems like a fucking merger. It’s really fucking weird. I mean who would want to do that?!? Who wants to be mad at somebody. Music’s a fun fucking thing, why’d you want to be angry about someone over it.
L: Yeah that’s another thing about us, no matter who writes the songs it will still split four ways. I mean we’re really lucky to have this set up – don’t get me wrong! I mean they cut me in on the first record, which I wasn’t even on. So yeah we’re lucky to have each other and lucky to be in the band like we are.
RN: Fair enough. OK, a while ago I read an interview with Lars saying that the one thing you wanted at a Rancid show was for the audience to feel part of the band and vice-versa.
L: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
RN: But umm how is that possible at venues this size, with security and barriers and whatever?
L: Well the thing about it is this. I think that in any atmosphere, wherever you play, you have some kind of control over it. And I think no matter what kind of place you’re playing in you can transmit the feeling that the crowd’s getting into you, and you’re getting into the crowd. Because I’ve been to big shows, where I’ve felt that. I mean I went to see Motorhead, which was a pretty fucking big show, and it felt like he was singing to me.
M: Yeah I remember seeing the Clash, with the Who in 1982, and I remember feeling the same way, despite it being a huge fucking stadium.
L: I think that once the music starts there are no fucking barriers. That’s there because it has to be. Straight up, because there are laws in certain towns, and that’s how it’s got to go down. If we had it our way there wouldn’t be. They’re there to help people keep safe. And you know that’s the most important thing to us. It’s not how many fucking t-shirts we’ve sold. I’ve been at shows, and it’s been a case of people getting fucking dead, and the band have just kept on playing. They don’t give a fuck. They’re more worried about whatever. We’re not like that. We’re not a metal band, we’re a punk band, we want people to come in and be safe, and feel part of something. There’ve been people at our shows who have gotten hurt, and we’ve stopped it. It happened like three times to us on the Warped Tour. We stopped and made sure they got proper attention. That’s the most important thing. If someone gets hurt they need to be looked after! We’re their guests, they’re not our guests!
RN: Have you ever been tempted to do secret shows?
M: We did that with ‘Life Won’t Wait’ a couple of times. When the record came out we did small shows, like 500-seat capacity shows. We did that with NOFX and it was pretty interesting. The thing is… I know a lot of people do secret shows. But the thing about them is that it’s all well and good, because it’s fun. But we’ve hit the point where we’re kind of dammed if we do, dammed if we don’t. ‘Ohh Rancid are playing this fucking huge 2,000 seater, blah blah blah, I want to see them at a 500 seater!’ Well that’s great for the first 500 people that buy the tickets, but what about the other 1,500 kids who didn’t get their’s in time? Who didn’t have the money at the moment to buy the ticket? It’s sort of like as Lars says, we’re their guests. We’ve got to be responsible too. We can’t be too selfish. If people want to see us, we’re going to play the big places. If that many people want to see us then we’re going to play for them, because they should all have the chance to see us. Especially if we’re coming all the way out here. Why the fuck would we come all the way over here and play some small arse fucking place, with only 500 people getting to see you?!? (laughs) Yeah it might be fun and there are great things about playing the small places, but I’m sorry, I just feel bad for all the other kids that can’t get in.
L: Yeah I mean from what I understand the show’s over here started off in smaller places. And as more and more buzz got going, and people wanted to see the band so it got moved up, which is fine. But it’s like we will always try to keep consistency in our ticket prices, and in our t-shirt prices, to make them affordable. We’ve always tried to make it affordable for people to come to our shows. We’ve always done that! I can’t say that every band has ever done that, but we have always done that. We’re Rancid and that’s one of the things that we do.
M: And plus we don’t really care what any of the other bands do. I guarantee after we play this show someone will come and say they wish we’d played a smaller venue. But I guarantee that if we played that venue, we’d have more kids complaining that they wanted to see us! What I do know as well is that after every one of these shows that we’ve played in the UK we’ve hung out with people after the show.
L: And you know with the odd exception, as Matt says, we always get positive reactions. ‘Thank you for coming’, ‘We’ve been waiting so long to see you!’, ‘You played the songs I wanted to hear’. So much good stuff. England just makes us feel at home.