Q&A with punk rockers Rancid

Rancid members (from left to right) Branden Steineckert, Lars Frederiksen, Tim Armstrong and Matt...

Rancid members (from left to right) Branden Steineckert, Lars Frederiksen, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman love messing with each other -- unless they are writing music. The California punk rock band release their first CD in nearly six years today.

-- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:28 AM ET

If you want to know why it took Rancid nearly six years to get around to a new CD, look no further than the title of their 1998 album: Life Won't Wait.

"Well," rasps mushmouthed singer-guitarist Tim Armstrong down the line from California, "Matt had two kids, Lars had a kid, I did a solo record, Lars did a solo record, I did a Transplants record, we toured on the solo records -- and then we toured as Rancid. Just because we weren't making records doesn't mean we weren't rolling together. We were still a crew, man."

Last year, however, the East Bay crew -- Armstrong, singer-guitarist Lars Frederiksen, bassist Matt Freeman and new drummer Branden Steineckert, formerly of The Used -- finally rolled back into the studio with longtime producer and Epitaph label founder Brett Gurewitz. Judging by the results, you'd never know they were gone.

Let the Dominoes Fall (in stores today) picks up right where Rancid left off, with 19 short, sharp shots of anthemic rock, blistering hardcore and white-boy skank crammed into a 45-minute disc that drags punk out of the mall and back into the mosh pit where it belongs.

With the band of brothers about to hit the road again with Rise Against hitting Toronto at the Molson Amphitheatre on July 31, we talked with Armstrong and Frederiksen about the album, the creative process, the state of punk and shaming the Beastie Boys on the court.

I know you guys have had other things on the go, but after two or three years, I can't believe one of you didn't turn to the other and say, 'Maybe we should write some songs.'

Lars: The thing with us is we always take care of ourselves first. Rancid the band is secondary. I mean, Rancid is the mothership and everything kind of stems from there. But we're at the spot where we know we can take our time -- we know we're not going anywhere.

How did these songs come together?

Lars: We sat down at this little coffee table in Branden's basement recording demos. And we would just sit there with our acoustic guitars and a practice pad and throw out ideas. And we have this rule that you can say the most outlandish thing, and nobody laughs. It's the creative process and you never edit in the creative process. You throw the kitchen sink at the motherf---er and see what sticks. And that's the way we did this. I don't know if there's any other place in my life where I can do that without watching what I have to say.

Tim: Yeah, we're all a bunch of goofballs, except when we're in that environment.

Lars: Like, Branden just walked into the room to grab some nuts, and I'm totally going to clown on him. Because he's grabbing some NUTS! If we were writing a song, I wouldn't do that. But that's who we are. We're just brothers hanging out. If we weren't hanging out writing songs, we'd be hanging out throwing a baseball.

But brothers can be competitive. Are you?

Tim: Nobody's more competitive than me and Lars. We're both younger brothers. But we're on the same team. For instance, my parents play dominoes. I grew up playing dominoes. But me and Lars have to be on the same domino team to play my mom and dad. Me and Lars gotta be together whatever we're playing -- whiffle ball, basketball, you name it. We challenge other bands on tour, and not to brag, but we take this s--- serious. One time in Germany, we played basketball against each other and nearly killed each other. That was the last time. And then we played Beastie Boys and we beat 'em. Who knew Rancid could beat the Beastie Boys in basketball?

Everybody's gonna know now. The Beasties are going to want a rematch.

Tim: Well, I think they're technically better than us. But we are just way, way, way too competitive.

The new album sounds like classic Rancid. But in punk rock these days, aren't you supposed to make a concept album with a choir and a symphony?

Tim: (Laughs) Punk rock is whatever you want to do. We're doing our thing, and everybody else can do their thing. Talking about the competitive thing, I ain't trying to compete with other bands. All my contemporaries, man, I'm stoked for them. If someone does well, it's all good. That's for real. You're never going to hear me hate on anybody, man. I'm stoked Blink-182's getting back together. That's going to be tight. I hope that blows up. I hope everybody does well -- Offspring, Green Day. I hope Good Charlotte goes through the roof. I mean it. We're just happy to have our deal and our band and our little crew that we don't care what anybody else does.

Lars: We've always been like that. We've always had our own mindset. We only care about Matt, Tim, Branden and Lars.

Do you have anything to prove this time out?

Lars: Nah. We've just always followed our hearts and followed our own lead. And in that sense, we've always been true to ourselves.

Tim: We've got this tour, and after that we don't have much on our plate. We'll see what happens. We ain't got no big game plan. We just have this record that we love.

You could try making another record in less than six years.

Tim: We wanna make another one faster. We don't wanna take as much time.

Here's an idea: Write longer songs! This album has 19 songs in 45 minutes. Doesn't anybody ever say: 'Hey, how about a solo?'

Tim: But that's us. That's how we see it. The bands that we grew up listening to -- The Ramones, Black Flag -- they wrote short songs. And even though these songs are short, I think they're fully realized pieces of artwork.

Lars: (Laughs) You sound like you could be a manager.


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