Having only been a band for the better part of a year and a half, …
The Offspring’s Smash is a record that pins us down to a time in our lives. We all remember where we heard Smash, and we have no idea where we’d be without it. Good Things Festival is paying tribute to this iconic record come December with a full album set by the band that un-broke punk for the 1990s and beyond.
Here’s our full-length interview with (almost all of) the band around the time of the album’s eighteenth birthday. This article was first published in Hysteria Magazine print issue #13, 2011.
Widely considered one of the most important records in punk rock’s rise to ’90s prominence, front man Dexter Holland, lead guitarist Noodles and bassist Greg Kiesel gathered ‘round to talk some Smash. We couldn’t find then-drummer Ron Welty as he has since become a secret agent or fighting monk or maybe just a regular guy. Still, three outta four ain’t bad.
HYSTERIA: Hey Dexter. Did you have any idea Smash would go on to become legend?
We didn’t at all. We started the band ten years before, and we were just inspired by punk bands that lived near us like the Adolescents and T.S.O.L. Of course we loved the Dead Kennedys and the Sex Pistols, those bands were like rock stars to us. That was nothing compared to what platinum-selling bands were doing. We continued to do the punk rock thing because that’s what we liked, but the idea of it actually being something that was popular was just inconceivable. That wasn’t gonna happen for a band like us. At the same time, we didn’t wanna start playing other music just to get popular. We really were doing what we loved, and we wrote original songs from the very beginning. I remember at one point when bands like Guns N’ Roses started getting big, and friends of ours who were in punk bands were ditching their punk clothes and growing their hair out and buying boots and moving up to Hollywood to live in a loft and try to make it as a heavy metal band. That just seemed wrong to us. If that’s what it takes to make it, then forget it. We weren’t gonna do that. It just seemed like something that we’re just gonna do for fun and wouldn’t really make it.
It wasn’t until ’91 when you saw Nirvana come out and it seemed like things were changing, like, “Wow, something’s really going on here.” It was totally revolutionary that that record came out and did as well as it did, but when we saw the video for Teen Spirit, it looked like we were watching one of our own gigs, or a show that maybe Pennywise did or something. That was really exciting that something like that was getting played on MTV. It was like there were little moments where we thought, “Maybe something could happen.”
You wrote most if not all of it, right? Some of your lyrics at the time, seemed pretty heavy.
I did, yeah. People ask me about lyrics a lot. I’m not really sure what to say about that, because I always felt like the lyrics were secondary to what we were doing musically. I’d write the songs have the melody in mind for what the vocals were gonna do, and sort of just fill in the words at the last minute. It seemed kind of whatever, or just kind of arbitrary. Looking back on it now, I think maybe it wasn’t quite so much like that. It meant whatever was gonna come out naturally was gonna come out, and wasn’t over-thought. There are themes in there about the world going to hell like It’ll Be a Long Time, or something as silly as Self Esteem. That was kind of in the popular consciousness at the time. People having low self-esteem, right? It was kinda like the buzzword of the moment. So, random and maybe not so random, I guess is what I’m saying. You have to draw on something I guess, right? Self Esteem was kind of like, me watching the daily talk shows, and that’s all they talked about. That kind of stuck with me, so when it came time to write something, that was it. Come Out and Play is about gang violence. I drove through the bad parts of LA every day on my way to work.
What were you doing with yourself at the time?
I was 27. I was a graduate student, and I was working on my doctorate in molecular biology. I didn’t finish ‘cos the band took off, so I had to postpone that. I was going to UFC, which is not a great part of Los Angeles. I was definitely aware and surrounded by that kind of culture. The songs all came from somewhere. Bad Habit is just … I had the crappiest car you could ever have. I was literally harassed by people on the freeway because they hated my car! It wouldn’t quite get up to freeway speed. I’d be on the on-ramp and I would be gunning it, you know, pedal to the floor, and by the time I got onto the freeway, I’d have to merge and people would think they were getting cut off. They would throw large drinks at me, you know, and they’d smash on the hood. I was just a lowly poor student who was in a punk rock band and couldn’t do anything about it. Also, at the time, there was a rash of freeway shootings in Los Angeles. Weird phenomenon they still have sometimes. I think I somehow just put that all together in my fantasy mind of what it would be like if a guy has just had enough and he’s gonna go out and shoot people, so that was Bad Habit. Like I said, random and not random.
And you were on Epitaph at the time, too.
It was an exciting time for Epitaph. We were noticing things like Nirvana, but Epitaph had been doing really well for the last few years. They had Bad Religion who’d been selling 200,000 copies, which was a lot. Then the bands that came out like NOFX and Pennywise, were doing really well. We were just starting to play shows with those guys and we’d become friends with them. We could almost see it, like, “Wow, I see NOFX actually sort of making a living at it.” There was a possibility for something else to happen. Beside that, none of us knew what we were going to do. I hadn’t graduated from college and I was going back to graduate school, and all my friends had gone on to become doctors and all that stuff, and here I am in a punk band. I got an invitation to my high school reunion and I thought, “Oh my god I don’t think I can go back there, because I’m gonna be the loser. Everyone else has had ten years and done something with their life, and I’m gonna be the guy in a band.” It was a strange time. I say that it was a strange time, but I don’t feel like I was down or anything. To the contrary, the band was starting to pick up and do well and it was really exciting. I remember writing these songs and being really pumped up about them.
Did Epitaph really push you to get them out quick?
They did. Epitaph really were blazing new territory, right, because Bad Religion selling 200,000 copies with almost no radio airplay, no one thought that was possible. A band like Pennywise who was even maybe gnarlier, musically, was doing really well in an underground kinda way. So they looked at Bad Religion, who put out a record every year. They thought, “That’s what you gotta do. You gotta keep on putting out stuff.” We had put out Ignition which was starting to really pick up in sales until they were like, “You guys need to be on that schedule. You need to get something out.” I think it was a year and a half between those two records. At the same time we were getting some opportunities with Pennywise on the road, and I remember we were coming back from touring and I was calling Epitaph saying, “I can’t get this done. We gotta play some shows with Pennywise.” They were calling back saying, “No, you gotta finish it now!” How were we gonna do this? The studio’s not available and I had to do a couple of vocals, and they said, “Why don’t you go to another studio that’s just a vocal studio?” I remember the very last night I’d been at school and I went straight to Hollywood, and I had to sing two songs: Smash and It’ll Be a Long Time. Those were the last two vocals I did, and I hadn’t written the words yet. So the engineer got there and said, “What’s the deal?” And I said, “Gimme a couple hours.” I wrote Smash first, it took me a couple hours. I sang it for a couple hours, and at this point it’s 1am in the morning, and I’m like, “F**k I gotta write another song.” So I wrote It’ll Be a Long Time in about two more hours and sang that, and I was out at 5am. It was really under the gun to get this record done.
What was it like writing Smash with the other guys?
We would go to the regular practice places where you had to lug in your own guitars and amps and pay $10 an hour. We hashed the songs out. This was before demoing, so nobody really knew what the song was gonna sound like. You could tell what the drums, the bass and the guitar were gonna sound like, but the vocals? It was hard to explain to the guys, “Okay, I’ve got this one idea for a part in a song and somebody’s gonna say, ‘You gotta keep ‘em separated,’ right?” I was afraid to even bring up ideas like that to the band, ‘cos they would go, “What the hell are you talking about?” So we’d play the song, and stop, and they’d go, “So what’s gonna happen there?” It was funny because it was sort of like an incomplete picture. I had a lot of ideas I thought could work.
Bad Habit is just … I had the crappiest car you could ever have. I was literally harassed by people on the freeway because they hated my car! It wouldn’t quite get up to freeway speed.
[ DEXTER ]
Who’s the guy who does the spoken intro and interludes?
I just had an idea where I thought it’d be fun to do an intro where it was like relaxing, because it’s funny when the band kicks in and it’s obviously not relaxing. I wrote the monologue and the voice I had in my head was a lot like Bing Crosby; very, uh, almost drugged. Something you’d play in an asylum kind of, ‘cos it’s so mellow. I called a voiceover company, said I needed Bing Crosby. I figured they’d have an impersonator or something. They said, “We don’t have a Bing Crosby, but we can do relaxing.” So they had five guys audition it and they sent all of them to me on a cassette tape, believe it or not, and this guy’s name was John and he was the last one. He just had this quality to his voice. It was very relaxing, but there was something a little bit off about it, too. Almost something a little bit, I don’t know, creepy or wrong about it. I got a kick out of it and it cracked me up.
What’s with the totally obscure cover of Killboy Powerhead?
It was an unusual choice. Smash wasn’t very well thought out; we just tried to put together as many songs as we could. I think it has eleven songs on it, doesn’t it? We needed some more material, and I just really liked that song. I thought it kinda sounds like something we could do. To me it really had an Orange County punk kinda vibe. The band that did it was in Chicago, and I thought we should just do it, but then we thought maybe we can’t do it because they were sort of contemporaries. It wasn’t like it was a ten year old song that we were paying homage to. They were still around. We went back and forth about whether we should do it, but it sounded good and we liked it. You don’t have to ask permission to record another artist’s song, but you do have to pay a royalty. The band was called The Didjits, and the guy had never heard of us. All of a sudden when our band took off, he’s getting enormous checks in the mail! We saw him at a show and he didn’t even know what to say to us. “Uh, thanks I guess!” His girlfriend was beside herself. I think we bought them a house.
Mike Palm from Agent Orange wasn’t quite as happy with Come Out and Play. Didn’t he claim you’d ripped him off?
It was really interesting. As that song got to be more and more well known, people started coming out of the woodwork and saying, “Oh it’s our song,” or ,“It sounds like us.” Mike, he thought it sounded like their song Bloodstains. I guess because he uses that kind of surfy, Middle Eastern sound in some of his songs, and this obviously had a lick that was in that scale. But that was the thing that was hard to understand: A blues riff is a blues riff, but it doesn’t mean it’s the same because there was no similarity in the melody or the pattern of notes and stuff. There was a band from Boston … what were they called … they did a song. I had never heard this band’s music ever, and they were saying, “You pretty much ripped off our song.” Nobody ever actually sued us. They threatened to. You know, I’m familiar with Agent Orange because they grew up near us. They’re probably five or ten years older than us. I liked Agent Orange and I liked the Adolescents, so I was familiar with them—but not in a million years did we emulate them or take anything from them. It was just a weird time where all of a sudden the scene grew and bands like Green Day and Rancid started to break through, and a lot of this did make people really act weird. Some people were jealous or felt they should’ve gotten there, too.
Noodles, what was it like making Smash?
We did it over a period of time. Now when we go into the studio, it’s our studio and all our stuff’s there. Back in the day we had to go in on the cheap. We’d call and go, “Is anyone using the studio?” They’d say, “No, not tonight,” or, “Yeah we’re booked, call back later.” So it took us a long time to do. We really kind of piecemealed it together. Dexter wrote pretty much all of it. He’s always been the principal songwriter. He would come in with a song and we had to know the stuff before we went in. Nowadays a lot of the stuff is written in front of the microphones, actually. We have more time in the studio. But for Smash, we’d go to rehearsal and really work on the songs and try to get ‘em down before we went in to record them. There was a lot of stuff that we hashed out in rehearsals, too. If I had an idea or maybe wanted to change a little something up, we would change it there. Even though the main structure of the songs would be written by Dexter, a lot of the changes did happen even before we went into the studio. Some of them would continue to carry over into the studio, but the studio time was so expensive we tried to have all those changes hashed out before we went in. Sometimes things would happen that you couldn’t foresee. Things would pop up.
Like the intro to Self Esteem, you know, that waaah-waaah-waaah thing. We just threw that down on a whim. Yeah. Like, “Hey, I wanna try something, what if we just did this?” So we went in and did it and kept it. It worked. It’s most of us doing it together, maybe even some of the crew guys. “Instead of just coming in with heavy power chords, what if we tried something different?”
We could’ve done it on guitar. What if we just did blah blah blah? See what happens. We thought it was the stupidest idea. You gotta try some of this stupid shit before you figure out what’s gonna work, you know.
Hardly seems like the kind of song that’d go on to become a huge single when you tell it like that.
We didn’t think in terms of singles at all back then. We wanted every song to be great. We weren’t a band that put out songs for radio. That didn’t come in ‘til after Smash had done what it’d done. We just wanted to make some great songs, have some fun with the record, and not take ourselves too seriously. There are some songs that, lyrically, we take more seriously than others. We try to take all the music seriously, really craft decent songs that people are gonna enjoy. Primarily ourselves. We wanna do something that we can hold up and be proud of, but we don’t take it too seriously. We have a lot of fun in doing what we do.
Where were you during this period?
Oh gosh, I was 29, I think, when we made it. 30, maybe. I was the janitor at an elementary school. Yeah, I have come a long way [laughs]. Literally, I was the head custodian. I was going to school off and on, just the local junior college. I had no real direction, you know. That was it. I was really just a working stiff, a blue collar guy. I knew I’d probably have to quit the band. I mean, I had a real job. I guess! [Laughs] Janitor. I knew that I didn’t wanna stay there forever, but I really had no idea what I was gonna do in the future. Playing with the band was a chance to go out and have fun. It’s really what it was about.
And then Smash went ballistic. Did you have any clue that was gonna happen?
No way, no way. We had no idea. Right before we made Smash, we had just toured with NOFX. We supported them in Europe, and these guys could actually afford a bus. It wasn’t a very nice bus, but it was a bus. They had to kind of manufacture these bunks where normally there’d be chairs and tables, but we were like, “Wow, these guys are actually making some money.” It wasn’t a lot and they weren’t big rock stars or anything, but they were able to actually make money going out on tour. We thought, “Maybe we could do that for a couple of years.” But we never thought that Smash was gonna be what it was. We hoped we’d double our listenership. Ignition was at something like 40,000 copies sold worldwide when we went in to make Smash. We were hoping to double that, maybe get up to 100,000 copies. We’d played all over the country at that point. We’d been to Europe. We’d expanded our fanbase, but we had no idea it was gonna take off like it did. MTV didn’t know we existed.
Right before we made Smash, we had just toured with NOFX. We supported them in Europe, and these guys could actually afford a bus. It wasn’t a very nice bus, but it was a bus.
[ NOODLES ]
What was the vibe like in the studio?
It was fun. We were working with [producer] Thom Wilson, at that time, and we’d enjoyed working with him on all the records that we’d done before. It was in and out, so it probably changed from day to day. We were in different studios from time to time, too. We tried to get this studio where we could do it cheaply, and in the end it got down to the point where, “We’re almost done, let’s finally hunker down and finish this off.” It changed from day to day, week to week. We were excited whenever we were doing something new, but you never know how it’s gonna be received. We were a little worried about that.
What was it like being on Epitaph at that point?
Even back then, Epitaph was different. It was a punk rock, underground, independent label that wasn’t like one of the big labels where they give you a big chunk of money and set you up in a studio. We snuck in through the back door. We did things on a shoestring budget, coming from an independent label and stuff. Epitaph certainly didn’t have the kind of money to spend on a studio or on a band that some of the major labels did—back when records still sold and labels made money. We self-funded our very first album, but once we got signed to Epitaph it was a combination. Sometimes we’d spend our own money. We tried to stay within a budget that Epitaph had allotted for us. I wasn’t really one of the money guys. Greg or Dexter could probably tell you more about that. They didn’t trust me with money! I’d spend it on beer, is why.
Is it really true you gave away your guitar when you were filming the video for Self Esteem?
Yes. It was our second video, and I found out my girlfriend was cheating on me at the time. When we were making the video, I smashed the guitar and that wasn’t acting. I was actually really f**ked up at the time. It was still okay though, and there was this cool little kid who was in the video and he happened to show up and I went, “Here, hey man, have a guitar.” It was a cheap Mexican-made Stratocaster. It wasn’t like I gave him a real, serious guitar.
You didn’t do a whole lot of noodling on Smash anyway, Noodles.
There wasn’t a lot of solos on that record. On the record before, Ignition, I had a lot more solos. Guitar licks, really. There’s little things here and there on Smash, but there’s not a whole lot of solos. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because we went in and we had all these songs pretty well compacted. They didn’t need a whole lot as far as solos. We always thought of solos as a way to help the song, and if it doesn’t help the song, then get rid of it. It was kinda that big anti-rock star thing in punk rock. Every song on the radio had to have the guitar solo in it, you know, and not every song needs it. Certainly punk rock doesn’t. How many Ramones songs have guitar solos in them?
What’s your fave song on Smash?
I always liked Bad Habit. I think the aggression of it is really fun. It’s an angry song, too, you can get some of your anger out but in a way that’s kind of tongue-in-cheek. You can get angry and laugh at yourself. There are two kinds of drivers in this band: The kind of driver who drives really slow and turns off the freeway at the last minute and causes everyone to have to slow down to get over, and then there’s the guy who’s pissed off at that guy, cussin’ and screamin’ and yellin’. I’m that guy. And Dexter’s the guy driving really slow and holding everyone up.
He was telling me about his shitty car just before.
Oh dude, it barely went the speed limit. He wouldn’t be driving. He would be writing songs; he would be thinking about his schoolwork, you know, he’s thinking about other stuff when he’s in the car. He’s a safe enough driver, but not fast enough.
Greg’s next. How best to troll Greg?
Ask him about the Australian soap opera star. Yeah.
Hi Greg. Noodles said to ask you about the Australian soap opera star.
Oh … Ha ha.
She wasn’t a soap opera star, she was in a sitcom. It was … Jesus, what’s the name of the show … Newlyweds. Yes. We just hung out one night! That was it. Never saw her again [laughs]. Noodles seems to somehow take more pleasure in my past before I got married … whatever I’ve done in the past, he seems to remember more fondly than I do for some reason.
How fondly do you remember the making of Smash?
It was quick. It was a quick process back then. We spent a couple of years on our latest album, but that one … you just had to churn them out back then. Back then, Dexter would kind of do a rough demo in the car, and he’d come and show us the parts on an instrument. Nowadays with the electronic stuff he can demo the whole thing by himself, but back then he’d show us and we’d demo it. Like, he’d show me the bass line for Smash or Come Out and Play, and then we all went in together and took it from there. Usually it was individual stuff. I would go meet with him and learn the bass parts, and Ron would go meet with him and learn the drum parts, and Noodles would go meet with him and learn the guitar parts. Then we’d go in and start rehearsing ‘em. After that it was us just trying to get everything solid.
From what the other guys have said, it sounds like you had pretty modest expectations for the record.
Back then, punk rock wasn’t on the radio. Nirvana had broken through a little bit and bands like Smashing Pumpkins and even Social Distortion were getting moderate airplay in Los Angeles, but as far as a punk band really breaking through, it hadn’t happened yet. The most we could hope for was building a grassroots following with it. Ignition had sold maybe 40 or 50,000 copies by the time Smash came out, so we had some high hopes for it. I remember I said I thought it could sell 100,000 copies, and that was like shooting for the moon. Everyone was like, “Whoa, are you crazy?” I was like, “Well, I think it should double what Ignition did, I think it’s a better album, I think we’ve already got a following, I think it could do well.” That’s about as high as we could dream about at that time.
Back then, punk rock wasn’t on the radio. Nirvana had broken through a little bit and bands like Smashing Pumpkins and even Social Distortion were getting moderate airplay in Los Angeles, but as far as a punk band really breaking through, it hadn’t happened yet.
[ GREG ]
Which songs did you think would be the ones that resonated?
I think my favourite at the time probably was Self Esteem, because of the bass line and just because the first time I heard it with the lyrics, I liked it as a listener, as a fan of music. I didn’t think it would really work that well for us, though. It was slow; it didn’t really fit in with everything. I thought it should be on the album, but would be a song we’d probably never play live, and that’d be it. As far as what I thought could really do well, I remember thinking Genocide was a really cool song. Smash was one that everybody kinda liked. Come Out and Play was almost a throwaway, like this kind of quirky song tha-
You really thought it was a throwaway?
Yeah. That was the last song that came in, and it didn’t have the Arabian lead on yet. It didn’t even have the “keep ‘em separated” line on yet, either. So I heard the music and it was like, “Ah well, whatever.” It was a song I never thought we’d play live. I heard the finished version and I thought it was cool, but I was still a little indifferent. Then somebody from Epitaph came up and said, “We want to send it to KROQ.” Okay, knock yourself out. Then it took on a life of its own and just went. It just seems to have all the right parts. The music is a straightforward groove that I think can draw people in, and then you have the lead, which is a really cool hook. Then you have the “keep ‘em separated” line, and even the “Hey hey, come out and play,” stuff … it just has all these elements that all just came together somehow.
It also seems like the song you guys spent the least time and effort on.
I think so. I think it really was the last song that came in. I don’t even remember if we demoed that. I think Dexter came in during recording and said, “Hey I’ve got this song I wanna do.” It was like, “Okay, whatever, that’s good. We need to fill out the album.” It was almost like an album filler! It kind of developed, and then Jason McLean came in to do the “keep ‘em separated” line.
If you’d left Come Out and Play on the cutting room floor, what kind of impact would that have had on Smash?
It might never have broken through at all. That was the one that kinda launched Smash. I don’t know if radio would’ve picked up on Self Esteem or Gotta Get Away or Bad Habit had that not been there. Come Out and Play was kind of an afterthought, and it’s pretty much what set us in motion.
Where were you as a person during the making of the record?
I’d probably just turned 29. I was working in a print shop and I stayed there because they were really flexible with my hours. I was still living at home with my mom. I had the upstairs, she had the downstairs. That’s where I was, and when we recorded Smash, I remember I used to work from 7am and they would let me off early. I’d get off at 1pm, drive to LA, get there around 2pm, stay there recording ‘til midnight, go home, get five hours sleep, and do it again. We recorded it all in about two weeks. That’s pretty much because of the budget we had. Back then we couldn’t spend two years in the studio.
So Smash finally allowed you to move out of home.
Yes. And I quit my job right before it came out. We were touring, and I was like, “I don’t wanna have to go to work. You know what, even if it doesn’t go huge, I can live off my savings for the next year or so while we tour on this album, and then I’ll figure something else out.” Everybody was like, “You’re crazy. What are you doing that for? What are you going to fall back on?” I said, “I want to enjoy this.” A year later after Smash came out, I bought a house.
Music is so absurd.
Yeah. It kinda works that way a little bit. Remember, we were together ten years before Smash came out, so it wasn’t an overnight kinda thing. The way Smash happened though, yeah. That was pretty much overnight. Come Out and Play on the radio, obviously, was a good sign—but the first tour we did was a six-week tour probably in June or July of that year. So we went on this six-week tour, and sometimes you have a hit song and that’s all people want to hear. But people were into the whole album. Come Out and Play sometimes wasn’t even the biggest hit of the night. It was either Bad Habit, or Self Esteem would go off. We thought, “Huh.” We came home in the middle of that tour to do an Epitaph show at the Hollywood Palladium. To headline the Palladium was a huge deal for us. Even just playing there was like, wow. That day we got home to do that show, the album hit the Top 20. It was kinda like, “Okay. This is really gonna happen.”
That must’ve freaked out Epitaph pretty good.
It was way smaller and only had a handful of employees. When Smash started breaking they were working ‘round the clock, pretty much. We brought in Jim Guerinot, our manager. He was the president of A&M Records at the time, so he obviously knew how to work an album. It was great. It was cool to be part of an independent label where we weren’t worried about an A&R guy or a suit coming to the show and trying to affect what we were doing. We could do what we wanted, basically.
Basically? Did Epitaph try to interfere in any way?
Not really. The only thing that happened was that they tried to sell the album, actually, during that summer. I think they made a deal with CBS or Capitol or Warner … I can’t remember who it was. I’m not really sure, but they actually made a deal. Part of the deal was we’d have to sign with one of these majors for more albums, and we said, “No. We’d rather stay with Epitaph right now; things are going good, have been for a few months already, they can handle the volume, and our management can handle it.” So we said no and made Epitaph keep Smash—and made them tens of millions of dollars in profit [laughs]. That was the only thing they kind of did to try and affect it, but besides that they pretty much let us do our own thing. For them it was the biggest thing that ever happened, too. I think the biggest selling album that Epitaph had before that was maybe like a Bad Religion album, maybe like 100,000. By Christmas that year, Smash was doing 300,000 a week. For them it was just a whole new world, and I think they just kind of went with it. //
SMASH & THE DEATH OF KURT COBAIN
“The album came out the day Kurt Cobain was found dead. It was April 8th when the album came out, and I think he killed himself on the 7th and was found on the 8th. It was almost kind of bittersweet. Our album came out that day, but all over the news, Kurt Cobain had been found dead. We were under the radar at the time. Come Out and Play was getting moderate airplay in LA and kinda getting picked up around, but it had just been on the radio for a couple of weeks. Back then Epitaph was an independent label with a punk band. They weren’t gonna do a two-month pre-release kinda thing. It was more like, give the single to somebody and then the album comes out. I think it would’ve flown under the radar anyway had Kurt not died, but it was such an irony that Nirvana ended on the same day we had our beginning. It was hard to celebrate. “ [ GREG ]
THE OFFSPRING’S MYSTERIOUS FIFTH MEMBER
Since Smash immemorial, one question has plagued fankind: Who’s the guy who does the “You gotta keep ‘em separated” bits on Come Out and Play?
DEXTER: His name is Jason McLean. He was a friend of ours … he became a friend by coming to our shows. He was a real fan, but he’s a very obnoxious guy so he was almost like a heckler at the same time, too. He may very well be the guy who invented the saying “Play your old shit”. He likes to heckle bands like that. He’d come to our shows when we were playing songs from Ignition and he would want us to play an old song called Blackball, which was off our very first record and we just didn’t play that song anymore. He would yell at us and after the set he’d come up to us at the t-shirt stand and cuss us out for not playing Blackball, so we started calling him Blackball and it became a running joke and we actually became friends. I knew I wanted this part and I wanted it to be like a Latino, gangster-style sounding voice. I figured I’d have to call a casting company or something. Then I thought, you know, I bet this guy Blackball, he might be able to do it. If it doesn’t work out whatever it doesn’t cost anything except him coming down for an afternoon. He nailed it. What you hear is the second take. He was stoked because Snoop Dogg was in the studio, so he got to see him! And I bought him a Double-Double burger from In-N-Out Burger. He says he’s been paid plenty because he got to hang out with Snoop Dogg and I bought him a Double-Double! We’re friends to this day. He lives in Seattle now. I saw him at a show about a month ago. I actually just texted him today.
NOODLES: He’s the most obnoxious guy. He’s funny as hell, but he’s just the most obnoxious guy. He’s always got something really wrong to say. He would show up at our shows and just yell at us to play Blackball. He was a fan, and he would come to a lot of our early shows. He was really abusive, and we didn’t know how to take this guy. We thought, we’re either going to have to hate this guy or become friends with him, so we became friends with him. Dexter had that part for Come Out and Play, and he was like, “Who would be a good voice for that?” Blackball grew up in a really Mexican part of Whittier, and he hung out with all the Mexican vatos. He totally talks like he’s got a Mexican accent, and he’s a Scottish guy from Whittier! He still talks like that. He married a beautiful Mexican girl and he moved up to Seattle. He’s hilarious. His dad’s nuts. His poor mother, oh my god. His dad’s really funny too, Bob. He’s a mailman. He’s up in Seattle and he’s got this white beard and he was dressing as Santa Claus, and the US postal service tried to tell him he couldn’t do it. You’re not allowed to wear Santa outfits if you work for the government, apparently. Some atheist on his route complained about it. He’s allowed to do it now, though. That’s the family Blackball comes from. His exploits are hilarious. The things he’s done to his mom. One time they took a bunch of silverware from a restaurant they were eating at and put it in his mom’s purse, and then went up to the manager of the restaurant and told him, “That woman’s trying to steal silverware.” She tried to leave the restaurant and she had no idea all this stuff’s in her purse, and they’re just dying laughing watching her get busted for thievery.
GREG: We actually approached Snoop Dogg about that part in Come Out and Play and said, “Hey,” and he kind of said, “Who the hell are you guys, I don’t wanna do that.” In hindsight it was actually a lot better to just have some fan of ours from Whittier come in and do the line. Blackball shows up every once in a while. If we play up there in Seattle, sometimes he’ll actually come out onstage and do that part for Come Out and Play.
WHAT HAPPENED TO RON WELTY?
“For the most part Dexter writes the songs as a whole. Early on I think I tried to alter my parts, but he wants it the way he wrote it. So that’s what I did. None of us have a problem with this. Well, one of us did. That’s why he’s no longer in the band. Part of the reason, anyway. Noodles and I have accepted our roles and we’re happy to be able to do what we’re doing and to do it at this kind of level is amazing. For us to sit there and say, ‘No, we want to do our own parts even though we’ve been successful this way for a long time,’ I think would be counter-intuitive. There was always a little tension with Ron. At the time I think he went with it because he was working at a muffin shop and the next thing you know, he’s gone and bought his own house also. It was the next album, Ixnay, where he demanded that he write his own drum parts. We were kinda like, ‘You gotta be kidding. We just sold something like 8 million copies of Smash, and now he’s demanding to write his own drum parts?’ His ego always kind of got in the way. It was also because he wanted some of the writing proceeds. Nobody’s really had contact with him since he’s been gone. I’m not sure if it’d be a fond memory for him, or more of a bitter thing for him.” [ GREG ]
Tickets for Good Things Festival—which will feature The Offspring’s special Smash commemorative set—are on sale now.
GOOD THINGS FESTIVAL
MELBOURNE // Friday 7 December // Flemington Racecourse
SYDNEY // Saturday 8 December // Parramatta Park
BRISBANE // Sunday 9 December // Brisbane Showgrounds