By Nick Krewen
Special to the Star
When California punk rock superstars Green Day finally reconvened to plan their first album since 2016’s Revolution Radio, only one decision plagued them.
“Were we going to pick up where we left off or strip it all away and start from scratch?” drummer Tré Cool told the Star recently down the line from California, prior to the Monday release of Green Day’s 13th studio album, Father Of All Mofos (the final word is a shortened expletive than has been cleansed for the purpose of this article.)
“The exciting part is if you go after something new, you don’t know if it’s going to work.”
And since the East Oakland trio – which features singer, songwriter and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bass player Mike Dirnt and drummer Cool, born Frank Edwin Wright III – has carved a career out of risk-taking (check 2004’s socially subversive punk opera American Idiot, 2009’s manipulation-themed 21st Century Breakdown or 2012’s 36-song, three-album cycle of Uno, Dos, Tré for reference) the band ended up the path of most resistance to fulfill their creative wiles.
“You just have to be open to doing things differently and pushing yourself out of the comfort zone that you’ve created – out of the warm and fuzzy feeling okay, this is how I’ve been doing it,” explains Cool, whose band headlines The Hella Mega Tour triple bill at the Rogers Centre on August 24 with Fall Out Boy and Weezer.
The decision to stretch out has paid off handsomely in a career that has seen Green Day sell more than 70 million records, register – according to record company bumph – 10 billion streams, nab five Grammy Awards and an induction into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall Of Fame.
But it wasn’t until a series of jams that resulted in the title track of the new album that Cool says the band found its new groove.
“When we recorded “Father of All Mofos,” we thought, ‘hey, this is fun, there’s a whole lot of things going on here,” he recalls.
“There’s a herky-jerky kind of beat and there’s Billie singing falsetto – and he also never sang a song about money before.
“It was a fun, fresh new thing and we thought, ‘wow, this isn’t the same old stuff. This is cool.’
“A few more songs into it, we went, ‘Okay, we’ve made THESE changes…now what if we went in this direction?’ It opened the floodgates.”
As a result, the 10 songs on Father offer more complex and layered arrangements than Green Day fans have previously experienced, with songs like “Stab You In The Heart,” “Fire, Ready, Aim!” and “Meet Me On The Roof” employing echoes of the Merseybeat sound against an energetic melodic punk framework scented by soulful, psychedelic go-go keyboard flourishes.
“We were listening to a lot of stuff like Little Richard, Motown, the Miracles, – that vibe is what we were trying to capture – but do it our way,” says Cool.
“We kept talking about how The Beatles would do a rhythm & blues song and it would sound like The Beatles – that it wouldn’t sound like Chuck Berry or anything. They were true to their sound and did the type of music that excited them. We understood that we have a sound, but we wanted to go after a vibe or a spirit of what we loved, which is old kind of classic stuff.”
The album is also short and sweet: just over 26 minutes long in total.
“We had a few more songs that we thought were going to be on the record, but it just kind of flowed this way and we thought, ‘wow, this is enough,” Cool admits. “This record feels complete. We’ve done other short albums – I think it’s two minutes shorter than Dookie. You can listen to the album on the way to work.“
(For the record, Dookie is 14 songs and requires 40 minutes of your time.)
The band enlisted Butch Walker (Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Pink, Taylor Swift) to handle production – and Cool says the band enjoyed his simple approach.
“He did awesome work,” says Cool. “We knew we were going to go after a different vibe with it – and having an extra set of ears and his whole spirit really made it possible to achieve what we were thinking.
“He keeps it nice and simple. He doesn’t overthink things. He puts mics in front of the drums and the amps and says, ‘Ok, play.’
“We didn’t have to go after tones or sounds: we were just able to concentrate on giving good performances. He utilized our energy for making music rather than focusing on production.”
While Dirnt and Cool are obviously an integral part of the well-oiled Green Day machine, it’s Armstrong that does the lion’s share of the songwriting.
And Cool says he’s constantly impressed by what Armstrong comes up with.
“The things that Billie Joe can do with the English language is just amazing,” Cool marvels. “He’s an excellent writer – and he’s got notepads full of word association. Somebody will say something and it will catch his ear and he’ll write it down.
“When you go back to the song ‘Warning,’ for that one he told us he wanted to write a song where the lyrics were made up of bumper sticker slogans. That’s the ability and freedom he has with language.
“God forbid you get on his bad side, because he can tear you a new one.”
While they’ve been sitting on the album for months – it was done in August, while singles “Father Of All…,” NHL anthem “Fire, Ready, Aim” and “Oh Yeah” were all released as singles – Tré Cool says the best part of the cycle is yet to come: touring.
“Woo, damn – Rogers Centre!,“ he exclaims. “That’s going to be f$#%^g amazing: I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it.
“I love sharing the music and playing for big crowds – the bigger, the better. It’s definitely better than drugs – it’s the greatest!”
Cool – who has been pounding the sticks for Green Day since 1991’s Kerplunk, says he and his bandmates don’t take the group’s longevity for granted.
“We’re really blessed to still be doing it, still be relevant and still be putting out music that people dig,” he notes. “Some artists may get hung up on instant gratification. They want immediate accolades.
“But we’ve been through it enough to know that people are listening to it, people are digging it, the songs are either in people’s headphones or on their radios. It’s a cool thing – it’s very communal and we’re a part of a lot of peoples’ lives.”