The Offspring was in Paris to record the TV Show Taratata. It was the perfect opportunity to sit down with frontman Dexter Holland to talk about the new record, its PHD and everything that happened in recent months.
On Friday November 13th, you just released a new version of “Gone Away” as a single. These are difficult times, especially in France with the remembering of what happened in Bataclan. Do you feel that this song can be a sort of anthem about loss and how to commemorate loss?
Dexter Holland (vocals/guitar): It was sort of an accident, the way it came about. We’ve been playing this on tour, for many years and thought, we wanted to do something during the show just to change up the show a little bit. Our show being very punk and fast and loud. We wanted to just take a minute to let it breathe for a second. And so, we thought, well, let’s do “Gone Away” in a different way. We’ll do with piano instead. And it’ll just kind of change up the show.
We liked the idea that having a piano on it would almost makes the song feel more personal, more direct. Now you hear the lyrics more. And that wasn’t really a conscious decision. What we didn’t expect the first time we played it, was how people were responding. This was really something and we kind of kept on playing it. And we started getting messages from people saying: “Where can I get this recorded? I want to hear this version of the song“. We were kind of going back and forth about whether to do it as it is strange to re record a song that we did 20 years ago and put it out again. But the events over the last couple years have really changed things. And I think that people are have so much more of a profound sense of loss in the last few years than they had. Maybe it’s one of your relatives, or maybe somebody died of COVID or died in the Bataclan, there are different things people can connect it to. And that’s always what’s interesting about a song is how you can attach it to something that’s meaningful in your own life.
Talking about re recording songs, you did that with “Dirty Magic”, after you played it live in an acoustic version. It was a different way of feeling the song and hearing it.
Dexter: Yeah, that one that was on Ignition(1992), which was before Smash (1994). So Smash, did very well for us. And I feel like all these people needed to hear Ignition, because that’s a good record, too. But it’s like no one knew “Dirty Magic”, except for the hardcore fans. So we kind of thought, well, maybe we should re record it. So people hear what a good song it is. And I think that one because we didn’t really change it. We just kind of re recorded it. And I don’t know if it had the desired effect because sometimes I think maybe you shouldn’t go back and revisit your art. There is this great story about To Kill A Mockingbird. JD Salinger said that he went back 10 years later, and he looked at the book, and he saw things that he wished he could have changed. He said: “I feel like that that was dumb, and I shouldn’t have said this this way“. And then he realized that, for all its flaws, that’s part of what gives it the character of what it is. So maybe looking back Ignition, it doesn’t sound like it has a ton of money in production or whatever, but it has a character to it. And maybe that’s what connected at the time.
Five Finger Death Punch released their own version of “Gone Away”, which was kind of unexpected. Did they talk to you about it before doing it?
Dexter: You don’t have to ask, you can cover a song without any consent. Maybe they saw us when we were playing it on piano. They are nice guys. I get along with them. I think whenever someone covers one of your songs, it’s flattering. So. I just kind of took it like that.
Your last record Let The Bad Times Roll came out in April, it starts with “This Is Not Utopia”. We know that you don’t like to consider yourself as a political band. But the words you use and the message you convey are quite strong and direct. It reminds songs like “LAPD”.
Dexter: You’re right, I don’t consider us as a political band and that song might be the closest we’ve ever come to being a political band. You know, and you mentioned “LAPD”, which is funny because, even back then I debated whether to put a song like that on the record. I was talking to our producer and he said: “This is what’s going on, how can you not write about what’s going on?” So in the same way with “This Is Not Utopia” it was just, that’s what was going on in the world. And I was almost like, how could you not? If you didn’t write about it and be ignoring something that was really important? No. And I think the message of that song is hate. Hate is very real in the world. And it seems especially so now. It’s such a shame that, the end of the song says: “How long will it take to love conquers hate“. That that’s the message, ultimately. You can write a song and complain and say, this sucks. And this sucks, and everybody’s hating each other and stuff. But I feel like you have to offer some hope at the end of the day.
You also mention the wall that Trump wanted to build between Mexico and the United States. It’s packed with lots of ideas and touchy subjects.
Dexter: “Let The Bad Times Roll”. I felt like the title just came out. Because it was obvious. That’s what’s going on in the world. There are all kinds of things going on. And it’s not just the pandemic, it was all the social upheaval that was going on at the time, and there’s things going on with political leaders. It feels like people are pushing each other more instead of like, acknowledging that the times are bad and try to get together to make it better. You think this is bad. I’ll make it really bad. It’s like people are doubling down on making things bad. They want to make things worse. And I I feel like that’s different than before. And that’s, that was kind of the point I wanted to make in that song.
It was really nice to hear a song like “Hassan Chop” on the record. It’s like unleashing pure and raw energy. How did it feel to write and play something like this?
Dexter: Raw energy, yeah that’s about it! Whenever we play it, we just laugh after because it’s just so funny. It’s just like, super punk. It’s not really even songwriting. It’s more like energy than song, right. But that’s an expression of a feeling. So that’s kind of cool, too. We liked that it was very stripped down, it just made us laugh, because it was fun to do.
Fun is always a core component of what you do, often in unexpected ways. Like this song “We Don’t Have Sex Anymore” and its video clip.
Dexter: Yeah, for sure. I mean, we put strange songs on our records sometimes or oddball songs. I’d had the idea for the song for a long time, it was kind of a swing song. But it was hard too hard for us to pull that off because we don’t play that kind of music. We would kind of work on it and think that it doesn’t sound convincing, and put it aside and come back to it a couple years later. It took us until now to actually get it together and finish it. Then when we played it for people in the industry, they said, that this song was never going to work as a single because it doesn’t sound like anything else that’s out there right now. And we thought that we wanted to do something that sounds unique. We also thought that we had to come up with some outrageous video, something that is going to let people understand where we’re coming from. Some people were saying, that it just sounds depressing to say that we never have sex anymore. People don’t want to talk about that. They want to talk about having sex. But I always thought that this is the song for the most of the people in the world who are not getting lucky. And so we just kind of thought, well, let’s make this make a silly fun video. Showing a couple. Obviously they’re not connecting, and I knew that we couldn’t do it with humans. So we had to do it with chimpanzees.
You also surprised everyone during lockdown when you released “Here Kitten Kitten”. What was the deal with this song?
Dexter: Did you guys saw Tiger King? It was just blowing our minds. Like I know, America is might seem crazy to you anyway. But this even for us was like really crazy. I couldn’t stop watching it. We were kind of stuck with the pandemic anyway, we felt like we didn’t want to put out the record right then. We were just kind of sitting around waiting for something to happen. And someone said: “Hey, why don’t we cover a Tiger King song?” So we picked a song that Noodles liked. We kind of just started playing it. And the more we played it, the more we just felt like we had to adapt it for us a little bit. We changed the arrangement a little and I had to be a different character and voice. But it really came down to the video. How are we going to do the video? And that was, as you know, right at the beginning of the pandemic. We played in masks, and we had the six foot rule and people dancing. It was just silly, but sometimes those are the most fun things where you’re not trying to achieve something, you’re just trying to make something that’s just good just for its own purpose.
We love you for that, being able to do fun things just because you feel like it. During the pandemic you spent lots of time connecting with your fans on Facebook and then you released some videos How To: With The Offspring. How did you come up with these ideas?
Dexter: It’s becoming more and more obvious that video is really important. I mean, what you people in the industry call content. You need content. It just sounds like it’s just product, right? And you want to have something that is real. So we were trying to think of what we could do. That made sense for us. I just, I didn’t want to start an Instagram account and post what I’m having for breakfast. I know, some people do that, or whatever, and it just doesn’t feel right. I wanted to do a video for every song. So you have some kind of video to look at, even if it’s just a lyric video. We did lyric videos for all the songs. And then we did more like MTV style videos for what, three or four, four songs on this record so far. But then it’s like, what else can we do? We just kind of came up with the idea of How To: With The Offspring, which is kind of it kind of a take off on an instructional video because it doesn’t really tell you how to do anything. And that was kind of the joke!
You took us up in the air, flying with you on a plane!
Dexter: I thought the more random, the better. Like how to catch a wave, but it’s just bird watching. I was trying to think of new things and I asked Noodles what he likes to do. You know that he was a custodian before the band took off. So he’s like: “I guess I could do how to clean up vomit, you know“. We kind of thought that might be funny or might be gross. But because he lives near the beach, he likes to watch the waves in the mornings. He’s a surfer. And he because he’s out there watching nature, he looks at birds sometimes. He’s grown to where he can identify a lot of species. And he said we could do birdwatching. And we’ve got more coming up. I think we did one we filmed that we haven’t put it out yet called: “How to open a beer bottle with anything“. Because, when you’re on tour, you don’t always have a bottle opener. You have to use a knife or something. And, and you actually get very good at it after a while.
So you could do a “How To Get Your PhD With The Offspring”?
Dexter: Okay, that’s a great idea, but how do you make that? How do you make that funny? I don’t know how to for now.
It’s very inspiring to learn that you came back to school to get your PhD while running some businesses and being in an international successful band. How did you get back to it? What triggered this decision?
Dexter: Thank you. I wanted to finish it. And I kind of feel actually kind of guilty, because I haven’t. I haven’t pursued it as much as I would like to after the degree, I’d like to do some more research. And we’ve just been very busy with the record. It was kind of one of those things when you have things where you’re like and say: “Well, I’d like to do that someday“. And you kind of put it off.
I happened to have lunch with one of my old professors. He made it seem like he felt like the door was still open, that he thought the school would accept me back. He was getting older. I knew that the window was going to close if I didn’t kind of start in the next couple of years. So that was kind of the impetus to it. If I’m going to do this, I really should do it. I thought I could do it in a couple years, because I was doing a part time. But it took five years. It was a lot of work. We didn’t record as much and we didn’t quite tour as much, but it was okay, it was the time to do that. And I’m really glad now that I did it. And now we’re back with the record and I’m busy.
So tomorrow, you’re going to play for the TV show Taratata, what’s on the menu?
Dexter: We’re gonna play three of our songs. And we’re gonna sing a couple more with Shaka Ponk, I guess. Oh, wow. That should be fun. I don’t know. I’m sure I’d be nervous about this TV show.
To conclude, we are RockUrLife so what rocks your life, Dexter?
Dexter: Oh, gosh, so many things! I just think there’s so much out there in life that you got to go out and grab what’s fun. Our time is short. Sometimes you don’t realize it and all of a sudden, years have passed. I went back to school. I’ve been so fortunate with the band thing. I just did my first triathlon, there was five hard hours! You got to make the most of the time that you have and that’s what rocks my world my life.