Fly Boys have fun

MIKE ROSS

, Last Updated: 12:25 AM ET

Before Kevin Wasserman became Noodles - the raw durum wheat and egg yolk that would one day turn into the guitarist for one of the most successful punk rock bands on the planet - he, too, was pretty fly for a white guy.

 New rule: One can't write an article about the Offspring without mentioning the words "fly" and "white guy." This one is no exception, thanks to a particularly large hit the band came up on their latest album, Americana. The band plays tomorrow night in the AgriCom. With special guests the Vandals, the show is sold out, thanks again, I imagine, to that particularly large hit.

 We're talking about Pretty Fly (For a White Guy), of course. You may have heard it on the radio once or twice. Heed its message. It tells the tale of a white, suburban kid who becomes a huge hip-hop poseur after listening to one rap record - Vanilla Ice, in this case. The song can be taken as a piercing comment on the impact of peer pressure and the influence of mass marketing on today's teenagers. Or ... it's dumb fun. It is, in fact, both.

 What's "fly" now was "cool" when Noodles was a teen in California. And so, he points out, the sneering humour in the song is also directed at himself.

 "It's about us as much as it is about anybody," he says. "When I first got into punk rock, I probably looked pretty ridiculous and I did some ridiculous things, the way I did my hair up or whatever, or the way I got rid of all my rock records because rock records were all of the sudden evil."

 Frampton Comes Alive probably went first, he recalls, traded straight across for the Dead Kennedys or some such thing. He got rid of all his Aerosmith. Van Halen vinyl was likewise cleaned out, since David Lee Roth "became the antichrist."

 The future Noodles (so named because he "noodles" on the guitar; that's his story, he's sticking to it) hesitated on his KISS record, however, "I actually just tucked it in the back of my record collection." Some old rock records are just too good to be thrown away.

 The 36-year-old guitarist says he has no regrets about his flurry of classic rock housecleaning, but admits he's mellowed - or at least followed the formula of anger plus age equals comedy.

 "Now that I've seen Spinal Tap, I can look back and appreciate Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing and David Lee Roth is just a big joke to me now. If you take him with a big spoonful of salt, he's funny ...

 "Spinal Tap is a huge influence on us. It really puts us all in our place. I don't care how you manage your band, there's going to be Spinal Tap aspects to it. We're always getting lost backstage. Hello, Cleveland! And we played in Hawaii two months ago and I jumped up on the monitors and the monitors promptly rolled out underneath my feet and I fell on my (butt), so I just rolled back and jumped up with my hands in the air like 'I made it, I meant to do that!' It was like getting stuck coming out of the pod."

 Having a sense of humour, especially about oneself, is crucial to being "healthy and happy," Noodles says. This attitude has been evident since the Offspring's Smash album sold 11 million copies, thus allowing the band members to quit their day jobs. It was there in the less successful follow-up Ixnay on the Hombre ("only" selling about two million) and even more so on the gleeful, sarcastic blast of uptempo songs on Americana - another smash, sales-wise.

 Rock records once rejected are now embraced. You can hear shades of the Beatles (Why Don't You Get a Job is an obvious lift from Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da) and, yes, maybe even Van Halen.

 Boy groups are the designated targets of the Offspring's ire now. The band plans to bring out Backstreet Boys blow-up dolls before Cool To Hate - and club them. The crowd goes wild, Noodles says.

 On Americana, you can hear social commentary, you can hear moralist preaching, you can hear anger - as on a butchery of Feelings in which feelings of love become "feelings of hate" - but it's all been turned sideways.

 Noodles explains, "There's a lot of things that we like to scream and yell and bitch and moan about, as well as, hey, let's just have some fun with this song, because life is short."

 Takeoff nixed

 Before he came to Edmonton in October, "Weird Al" Yankovic told The Sun that he tried to do a parody of an Offspring song before Pretty Fly For a Rabbi - and was shut down.

 A successful punk band famous for not taking themselves too seriously turns down the Weird One? It seemed hard to believe.

 Guitarist Kevin Wasserman, aka Noodles, explains they were flattered by the first offer, but "we really weren't 100% behind the idea.

 "And, quite frankly, I think what he did to Pretty Fly is a lot better than what he wanted to do with Come Out and Play. His idea for that was It's Laundry Day, 'don't put in the colours with the whites, you gotta keep 'em separated.'

 "We thought it was kind of weak. But Pretty Fly For a Rabbi is hilarious.

 "I think we've always been big Weird Al fans, maybe just in a closet sort of way."


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