Pretty fly for rich guys

DAVE VEITCH

, Last Updated: 12:25 AM ET

Pop music isn't what it used to be. Kids aren't what they used to be.

Heck, dads aren't what they used to be.

Nice to know, though, that some things never change.

As a teenager, Kevin Wasserman used to drive his father crazy by playing the first Ramones record over and over again. Now 36, the man known to millions as Noodles -- guitarist for California punk-rock superstars The Offspring -- can't stand the music favoured by his nine-year-old daughter: The Backstreet Boys, N Sync, Britney Spears, 98 Degrees and their teen-pop ilk.

"My daughter loves all that crap, so I hear it quite a bit when I'm in the car with her," Noodles says in a telephone interview.

"That whole genre is really the McDonalds, the fast food, of popular culture.

"So, we've got a deal. On the way to school, we get to listen to my stuff and, on the way home from school, we get to listen to her stuff, which is Radio Disney."

Karma, perhaps?

The mega-watt guitar-rock of The Offspring, after all, has probably caused more than a few splitting parental headaches. The Orange County quartet's last three albums -- 1994's Smash, 1997's Ixnay On The Hombre and last year's Americana -- have shifted more than 20 million units worldwide thanks to such irresistible, hook-laden singles as Come Out and Play, Self-Esteem, Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) and Why Don't You Get a Job.

The group plays the Max Bell Centre Thursday and Friday.

With mainstream success comes criticism from mosh-pit purists upset by the band's leap from the independent Epitaph label to a major, Columbia, and other perceived breaches of punk-rock conduct. A New Musical Express review of a recent gig in London, England, slammed the band because security promptly removed a few overzealous fans who jumped onstage during the show.

Noodles remains nonplussed.

"It doesn't even register in most cases now when we get that kind of criticism," he says.

"It's been done so much, it doesn't faze us."

Besides, Noodles remembers when he, too, was an idealistic punk-rock teenager.

"I was into Van Halen and Led Zeppelin right before I got into punk rock and, as soon as I got punk-rock records, forget it, I got rid of all that stuff," he recalls. "That only lasted a year for me, then I started listening to a little bit of everything, just secretly. I didn't let my punk-rock friends know I was listening to The Rolling Stones from time to time."

Yes, The Offspring are guilty of selling a lot of records and making good money, but they're hardly breathing the stratified air preferred by many a millionaire rock star.

Singer Dexter Holland sinks a lot of his cash into Nitro, a small but much-respected punk-rock label he established five years ago.

For his part, Noodles uses his royalties to fund his "one extravagance -- collecting guitars. I have 24 nice guitars now. I've built a little rack in my den here."

Not quite the stuff of Rock Babylon lore.

Noodles seems too down to earth for that.

On playing punk rock while approaching middle-age: "Do I see myself jumping off the drums at the end of the set when I'm 50? No, I'll probably kill myself. But in 20 years from now, nobody will want to buy an Offspring record anyhow."

On the disappointing sales of Ixnay, which sold three million copies, compared to 11 million for Smash: "We just kind of thought our career had plateaued ... but it wasn't something that we were afraid of. We still went out and toured the world for over a year after that and had a great time doing it."

One of the most enjoyable segments of the current tour? When Holland and Noodles assault effigies of The Backstreet Boys.

"It's the stupidest thing we've done onstage, bar none, but the kids love it," says Noodles, although one suspects he also enjoys bludgeoning his daughter's beloved group.

"It doesn't matter if I miss a note here or there, as long as we beat up the Backstreet Boys."


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