Billie Joe Armstrong and co speak to Zane Lowe about 'autobiographical' new album 21st Century Breakdown, their five years away and buying their own records.
Green Day will tour the UK this October
From what I've read it sounds like you went through a lot making this record...
Billie: Since we got off the last tour we went right back in and started rehearsing... Our last show was December 2005 and we started in January 2006...
Tre: We just take the basic holidays off like anyone.
I suppose you're firing after having success with this record (previous album American Idiot), and playing the best tour you've ever played. Why break the momentum?
Billie: Yeah,we just wanted to keep going with song, especially with writing because I kind of felt we hit a new high with American Idiot. Now it's just like okay, we have the courage and audacity to come out with more stuff.
Do you realise now what a risk it was putting out that record (American Idiot) out at that time?
Billie: We believed in the record. We didn't realise the level of success it would have or anything like that. There's no way of judging that.
Mike: We were actually having a little discussion we said - 'OK here's the deal, don't read anything, we're happy with the way it is now. Let's just be happy and finish this record and go play for people and have fun on tour.' We gruel ourselves pretty hard over these records.
So was it (21st Century Breakdown) always gonna be the album opener? It's such a bold statement in setting the record up.
Billie: The song was kind of written in fragments - 21st Century Breakdown was written one time, then there's the sort of Irish drinking part of the song that happens after that - those are two different times. We connected them together and it just made sense.
21st Century Breakdown is the Californian band's eighth album
Conceptually, you've picked up where American Idiot left off and you've extended it and developed these characters. Did you write in some kind of order in your head and tell a story as you were penning the tunes?
Billie: Not at all - it was scattered all over the place - but that can cause a lot of confusion too... We did Christian's Inferno and Viva La Gloria! and we noticed we had two completely opposite characters... All of it is autobiographical...all of it's about me... and to put a name to them gives the characters flesh and blood.
Mike: Each song, it's not a linear story so much as just two characters to relate to through the whole thing.
Billie: We're brilliant, go on, say it.
Was there ever a chance of tying in with side project Foxboro Hot Tubs?
Tre: That one just kind of slipped out of our bum. And sort of jammy and getting us kinky on our instruments and getting some music on tape.
Billie: It just got us together as a band again and not take it too seriously.
It's the first record you've done without you regular producer (Rob Cavallo). Was that a tricky decision to break that long term creative partnership and do something fresh?
Billie: I just think we needed to go a different direction. It's our career and we really just wanted to work with other people...we talked to Linda Perry because we just wanted to do something different all together. She had some good advice but it just didn't fit. We knew Butch (Vig - producer of Nirvana's Nevermind) would be great because we're big fans of his anyway. But when he came in he's just a really cool guy and it was a seamless process.
Mike: When you're gonna spend six months to a year with someone you really wanna like them.
Billie: Sonically, the way the record sounds. It is the biggest sounding record we've ever had.
Do you go and buy your own records?
Tre: I'm gonna go buy one. Every record yep. Triple ten inch on this one, vinyl. Triple ten inch lets go, baby.
East Jesus Nowhere - I think that's one of the most immediate songs on the record and I think you'll find on tour it'll be a firm fan favourite...
Tre: We went to church - Billie and I - a friend of ours was having some kind of baby ritual at a church. We went and noticed a lot of direct contradictions the preacher guy was talking about. He said 'Keep an open mind' and then two minutes later he'd say 'Don't think so much'.
Billie: Don't have an opinion!... It was just kind of pointing out the hypocrisy in religion. There's good ways of using it, but a lot of bad ways.
You're far more open to the idea of ambition now, has that been a gradual thing or did you just have a eureka moment?
Billie: I think it was a little bit of a eureka moment. I think we got more confident especially during nimrod. Especially during the festivals, we came out here and played V '98. I think we're just trying to push our own rock theatre, or whatever you want to call it. Accepting it and having more fun with it. Our popularity was going up and down but we knew we wanted to stick together. By the time we did American idiot - it was like, 'Let's just have fun'. The rock star thing it is cool but it doesn't really mean anything because we come home to Oakland anyway. So we might as well have fun with it and not get self-conscious about it.
You went in the completely opposite way to Dookie with American idiot...
Billie: Yeah I think around Dookie if someone was to say you're going to make a concept record in ten years I would have probably punched them in the mouth.
I don't suppose the word 'concept' was thrown around then?
Billie: No. There were ambitions in a lot of different ways. It was a really creative scene, it wasn't like your three cords, your politics and that's all you're allowed. There was a lot of creative things going on. There were fanzines, people were doing plays, people were doing acting, they weren't being punks and blah blah blah.
You toured American Idiot very heavily - is that how to plan to begin this one as well?
Mike: We get tired we just do it. That's what we do.
Billie: You get your aches and pains every once in a while but they wear off pretty fast. We're hard wired for rock 'n' roll.
You're taking Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand on tour in America, there's a British theme there...
Tre: Well we're going to have to listen to a band every night - we might as well like them.
Mike: I think that Britain has always truly got rock 'n' roll ever since a long time ago.
Is there one band you could sum up as a key influence?
Billie: Abba? No, you know, I love The Who. We were just hanging out with Jesse Michaels from Operation Ivy last night so that was pretty cool his band played in town. I guess you mesh those together and you poop out Green Day.