Billie Joe Armstrong

The Green Day leader talks Bush, Britney and being a middle-aged punk for our 40th anniversary.

DAVID FRICKEPosted Nov 01, 2007 8:19 AM

Exclusive Audio: Armstrong discusses why he never wants to be twenty-one again, and how he handles pressure.



Click HERE to watch a video of Armstrong on the set of his photo shoot, where he chats about how his life has changed since his first appearance on an RS cover in 1994 and how to get people to connect with music as the industry shifts.

You have two young sons. What kind of America will they inherit?

This war has to finish before something new blossoms. There's no draft — that's why none of the kids give a shit. They'd rather watch videos on YouTube. It's hard to tell what's next — there is so much information out there with no power to it. Everything is in transition, including our government. Next year, it's someone else in the White House. There's no way to define anything. It's Generation Zero. But you gotta start at zero to get to something.

Is there anyone now running for president who gives you hope for the future?

Barack Obama, but it's a bit early to tell if this is the guy I like. I get sick of the religious-figure thing. People don't question their rulers, these political figures, just as they don't question their ministers and priests. They're not going to question George Bush, especially if he goes around talking about God — "I'm going to let God decide this for me. He's going to give me the answer." The fear of God keeps people silent.

When did you first vote in a presidential election?

In 1992. I was twenty. I voted for Clinton.

Did you feel like you made a difference?

Yeah. The Eighties sucked. There was so much bullshit that went along with that decade. I felt like Clinton was a fresh face with fresh ideas. There were times when he was dropping bombs, and I'm thinking, "What the fuck are you doing?" But he became a target. We have this puritanical vision of what a leader is supposed to be, and that's what makes us the biggest hypocrites in the world. We got so inside this guy's sexual habits. Now we have a president going around, killing in the name of what? In the name of nothing.

What did you accomplish with your 2004 anti-Bush album, "American Idiot"? He was re-elected anyway, and the war in Iraq is still going on.

I found a voice. There may have been people disenfranchised by it. People have a hard time with that kind of writing: "Why are you preaching to me?" It does sound preachy, a bit. I'm a musician, and I want to say positive things. If it's about self-indulgent depression or overthrowing the government, it's gotta come from my heart. And when you say "Fuck George W. Bush" in a packed arena in Texas, that's an accomplishment, because you're saying it to the unconverted.

Do you think selling nearly 6 million copies of that album might have an effect on the 2008 election? A kid who bought it at fifteen will be voting age next year.

I hope so. I made it to give people a reason to think for themselves. It was supposed to be a catalyst. Maybe that's one reason why it's difficult for me to write about politics now. A lot of things on that record are still relevant. It's like we have this monarchy in politics — the passing of the baton between the Clintons and the Bushes. That's frightening. What needs to happen is a complete change, a person coming from the outside with a new perspective on all the fucked-up problems we have.

How would you describe the state of pop culture?

People want blood. They want to see other people thrown to the lions. Do audiences want rock stars? I can't tell. You have information coming at you from so many areas — YouTube, the Internet, tabloids. Watching Britney Spears the other night [on the MTV Video Music Awards] was like watching a public execution. How could the people at MTV, the people around her, not know this girl was fucked up? People came in expecting a train wreck, and they got more than they bargained for.

She was a willing conspirator. She didn't say no.

She is a manufactured child. She has come up through this Disney perspective, thinking that all life is about is to be the most ridiculous star you could be. But it's also about what we look at as entertainment — watching somebody go through that.


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Photograph by Mark Seliger


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