The Offspring Talk The Near End Of COVID-19, Why Birds Are "Badass" & New Album, 'Let The Bad Times Roll'

The Offspring

Photo: Daveed Benito


The Offspring Talk The Near End Of COVID-19, Why Birds Are "Badass" & New Album, 'Let The Bad Times Roll'

The Offspring are back with 'Let The Bad Times Roll,' a new album about global pandemonium. But despite the nightmares of 2021, frontman Dexter Holland and guitarist Noodles are taking a bite out of life

GRAMMYs/Apr 19, 2021 - 05:58 pm

Is this the worst time to be alive? The question is compelling. Sure, we may carry around the Library of Alexandria—plus the totality of music and cinema—in our pockets. But that's cold comfort in an era where mob mentality is the order of the day yet we may have kissed hugging goodbye.

This must have crossed the Offspring's minds. In their latest video, housebound youths are menaced by a) a smartphone with arachnoid legs b) anthropomorphic coronaviruses and c) a bloodthirsty crew of rioters. The title? "Let the Bad Times Roll." So, Offspring: Does it get worse than the early 2020s?

"It probably doesn't compare to the Dark Ages or the Bubonic Plague—or World War II, for heaven's sake," the OC punks' lead singer Dexter Holland tells "But no doubt, what we're going through is serious, right? That's why we're calling this album Let the Bad Times Roll. It's not a walk in the park."

Let the Bad Times Roll, which the Offspring released April 16, is their first album in nine years. But if you think they returned sober and austere after recent global nightmares, remember: These are the guys who wrote "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)." Their new tunes tackle societal unrest ("This is Not Utopia"), addiction ("The Opioid Diaries") and romantic ruts ("We Never Have Sex Anymore") with a giddiness that recalls their bleached-tips-era breakout.

What if the answer to that question proves to be "yes"? The Offspring are psyched to be alive anyway. Their guitarist, Noodles, is getting into birding these days; he calls birds "badass." In his spare time, Holland makes hot sauce, flies planes and bones up on molecular biology (he has a Ph.D. in the field). Maybe therein lies the lesson of Let the Bad Times Roll: the world might suck right now, but you can live around the suckiness—and live well. gave Dexter and Noodles a Zoom call at their studio to discuss the making of Let the Bad Times Roll, how a microscopic virus ruined everything, why Noodles dislikes chickens and myriad other subjects.

How was your weekend?

Noodles: Good. Long. Long and good. We were just talking about how I let myself drink a lot this weekend.

What's your drink of choice?

Noodles: Mostly Pacifico. I like the Mexican lagers—Modelo, Pacifico.

What about you, Dexter?

Dexter: Guinness.

That's probably the ultimate beer, right?

Dexter: It looks like we're playing in Dublin this year, so we're all very excited. The Guinness really is different there. It's fresh. They make it across the street in Dublin, right?

Noodles: It is. It's creamier.

Dexter: You can get a good pour pretty much all over Europe, but it's hard to get a good pour here in the States. I heard some urban legend that there's some piping directly from Guinness into some of these pubs.

Noodles: That's why it's so good!

We have a lot of ground to cover. This is the first Offspring album in nine years. What was going on in the interim?

Dexter: I mean, we write all the time, but it just didn't feel right yet. I didn't feel like there was an impetus to have to put it out. I can remember for a long time, we did records every two or three years. It felt like there was that pressure: You had to do that or you're going to fade away and stuff. I just don't believe in that anymore. I don't care! We tour a lot still, which is great, so we just worked on it in between when we could. It didn't really start coming together until a couple of years ago.

Noodles: We had a really creative period about two years ago. That's when most of this record was written. And we still probably have half a record's worth of songs, so once we get through this cycle, we can start taking a look at those again, and hopefully, the next one will come a little bit more quickly. But if it doesn't go like it did this time, then it won't be quickly! It'll still be long, you know? We make sure we don't put anything out that's not ready to come out.

Dexter: I want it to be really good. Good all the way through, in my eyes. I think we got there, for me, this time.

I don't think you're going to fade away anytime soon. The video for the title track has more than a million views [At press time, close to two million].

Dexter: Oh! Well, that's good.

Noodles: Which video?

Dexter: "Let the Bad Times Roll."

Noodles: Oh! Nice.

Dexter: We just hit a million! Alright! Woo-hoo!

Noodles: Right on!

Dexter: That means we've collected about 32 cents in royalties from YouTube.

Noodles: Yeah! Fyeah! Cha-ching, baby! Alright! Still got it!

It seems like your ability to craft hooks and melodies is unabated. Can you share your melody-writing secrets, or would that be a bad idea, publicly speaking? Like giving away the herbs and spices?

Dexter: [laughs] I mean, you kind of have to wait for a certain kind of inspiration to hit, and then you take it and run with it. It's generally melody first and lyrics second, but sometimes the best stuff is just both together. I think "Pretty Fly" was like that and I think "We Never Have Sex Anymore" is kind of like that. The lyric came about as much as the melody.

I love great melody writers in any genre. Who are your favorites?

Dexter: Favorite… artists?

Noodles: [under breath] Melody writers.

Yeah, those specifically.

Noodles: Well, I mean, I love the Ramones. They could always take three chords and make them so that you could sing along to them. I love the Ramones for that.

Dexter: I mean, what's great about music is that you can jump from genre to genre. Of course, we've spent a lot of time listening to the Ramones and stuff, but lately, I've been kind of into Vivaldi. And I was checking out John Denver the other night because his songwriting is really, really good, right? He comes across as a little light to a lot of people, but I think he's actually a really great songwriter.

Noodles: Oh, [he's] my parents' favorite, John Denver. As an adult, I had to go back and get the John Denver's Greatest Hits CD. Actually, it was not too long ago. I realized I didn't have it anymore. I still buy CDs. Isn't that funny?

The video for the title track is rife with smartphones and masks and quarantine imagery. Is this the worst time to be alive?

Dexter: [laughs] The worst time to be alive! Well, for all of us in the room, probably yes. But it probably doesn't compare to the Dark Ages or the Bubonic Plague—or World War II, for heaven's sake.

Noodles: But you bring up a good point. Are human beings just spoiled and complaining?

Dexter: I think so.

Noodles: Whiny little ankle-biters?

Dexter: A little bit. A little bit. But no doubt, what we're going through is serious, right? That's why we're calling this album Let the Bad Times Roll. It's not a walk in the park.

Noodles: And we really have seen a lot of human strife over the last four years. I think maybe a lot of it is just blown up in the press and world leaders trying to keep us…

Dexter: Divided.

Noodles: Yes. Divide and conquer, so they can stay in power.

I noticed in the video that it's all young people bearing the brunt of this. Obviously, it's all exaggerated and humorous. But has this generation—my generation—gotten the raw end of this deal?

Dexter: Are you part of the young generation? Is that what you're saying?

Yeah. I'm in my late 20s.

Noodles: Well, I mean, we wrote a song years ago: "We Aren't the Ones." Yelling at our forefathers: "Why did you fk up the world so bad? Now we have to come in and clean it up?" So there's always going to be a little bit of that. Certainly, taking care of the climate, taking care of the world we live in—I don't think anybody's been very good about that lately.

Dexter: What we're talking about is that your son missed his high school graduation. We're talking about the raw end of the deal. Little things like that. Yeah, absolutely! I think the answer is yes!

Noodles: [long pause] Yes. [both laugh]

"The Opioid Diaries" is kind of the emotional center of the album to me. That seems to reflect the nightmare a lot of people are going through these days.

Dexter: Right. It's interesting you bring up that song because it's really been getting a lot of attention. I thought of it as a great punk song, but we put it at number eight on the record or something. It's a song about addiction—and, of course, that's not a new topic—but I feel like, with the opioid crisis, there's something different about it. 

I almost call it "creating accidental addicts" because these people aren't searching for drugs recreationally or getting lost in drugs the way you typically think of it. It's people going to the doctor's office—somebody they trust. They've got a legitimate issue. It's a high school athlete or a blue-collar worker who's got lower back pain and they get prescribed this highly addictive stuff. They think it's OK, then before they know it, they're addicted and they're turning to heroin because they can't get a refill on their prescription.

We have this whole new crop of people who would never have become addicted before, and it's absolutely the fault of the pharmaceutical industry. 

The person burglarizing houses for a fix is just somebody who got in a car wreck.

Dexter: Yeah, that's right. I wanted to write about it because I thought there was a unique twist to what's going on here, and an unfortunate one.

"Hassan Chop" sounds like a throwback to old-school d-beat. Did you guys come up on that stuff in the old days?

Dexter: Old-school what?

D-beat. Like Discharge.

Noodles: What do you call it? P-beat?

No, d-beat. [demonstrates galloping rhythm]

Dexter: How funny. We've never heard that before!

Noodles: We're learning!

Dexter: You got us!

Well, if that's not a reference you're familiar with...

Dexter: We'll have to look that up! Yeah, I think it sounds like an older kind of sound. 

That was kind of the idea with this record: not to make an album that sounds like old Offspring, but to do some songs that were a little more straightforward, maybe. Some people associate that with old Offspring. There are people online calling it "classic Offspring." I don't know about that. But people seem to like it, and they say it sounds fresh but still sounds like us.

Noodles: Well, we knew after nine years of not putting anything out, it would be a really bad time to reinvent ourselves. But we don't have that much interest in reinventing ourselves anyway, you know? We always experiment with a song or two on any record, but there's a certain kind of music we love and a certain kind of music we love playing. We always gravitate more towards that. It's easy for us to do that.

"Gone Away" is softer and more introspective than I generally associate with the band. How did that one come about?

Dexter: Right. I know, it's kind of funny. On one hand, we're saying we're creating a straightforward album.

Noodles: But it's pretty varied musically!

Dexter: A song like "Gone Away" is what people would have called a departure for us a few years ago. It's almost like they're getting used to our turns.

Noodles: Well, it's an older song of ours, so I think the fans… maybe we're getting a pass for changing our styles up a little bit on that. But really, it was the fans who were clamoring for that song. We've been playing a similar version live for four or five years now and the fans love it. They immediately took right to it. And at meet-and-greets and on social media, they're always asking for a studio version of the piano [led] "Gone Away." So, we tried it and we felt good about it.

Dexter: We said it was OK.

I just watched your birding and surfing videos. You guys seem to have diverse nonmusical interests, but you meet in this band as the nexus point. How else do you guys spend your extra time?

Noodles: Actually, I hike that area and I do look at birds. I don't usually dress in the full gear and that telescope's way too heavy to be carting around.

Dexter: That was the joke: to take it a little bit too far.

Noodles: Yeah, yeah. But I do like hiking that area and other areas around here. Getting out. I haven't surfed much lately, but I still intend to. I think all the time about getting a new board and getting back out there. My old boards are kind of beat up.

Dexter: I make hot sauce in my spare time.

Noodles: He's got all kinds of st going! I'm the one who's got no excuses! I should be doing way more in my life. He makes hot sauce; he flies planes. He still studies genetics and viruses.

Dexter: [bashful voice] You're good too!

Noodles: I'm playing Sudoku.

Dexter, how does your Ph.D. manifest in your daily life? I'm sure you're just reading about it and soaking up as much information as you can.

Dexter: Right, right. I mean, I have the degree. I don't work in the field, but I try to keep up with the literature. I think the most amazing takeaway is that as much as everyone knows, no one knows. It's still hard to predict a pandemic and how it's going to spread. I don't think they saw the variants coming. It didn't look like it was that kind of virus. So, you're always being a little bit surprised, you know? I think they're doing a good job of trying to get ahead of it with vaccinations and all that, but we're not there yet.

I've noticed the language has changed so much from the days of "Flatten the curve!" or boiling your mail or something. It plunged us into the Dark Ages of scientific knowledge, suddenly.

Noodles: We weren't boiling our mail, but we were wiping down our groceries and st when the stuff first happened. We don't do that anymore.

Dexter: I talked to a guy I went to school with and he kind of said, "Well, what's cool about this is that the public gets to see science in action." This is real time, and we're going to change our opinion as more data comes in. They thought that the virus was contagious on surfaces. It turns out that it looks like that's not the case. You're seeing that this is how science works.

It's miraculous that we got a vaccine in eight months or so.

Noodles: Agreed. Agreed.

Dexter: It is really amazing that they have that. Luckily, they'd been working on the technology before, so it was easier to get it going quickly because they almost had it ready to go. Unfortunately, that also brought up all the "Oh, it was developed too quickly! It's not safe!" kind of stuff.

Noodles: There's been an undercurrent of anti-vaccination sentiment for a number of years anyway.

Dexter: From the beginning. Edward Jenner was vaccinating people with cow pus, so they were saying you're going to grow horns. Those were the comics that would lampoon people in the day. They would have these people growing limbs and all that.

Noodles: See, I'm still hoping for fire antlers! I want fire antlers from my Pfizer shot!

Noodles, what's the essence of your love of birding? Is it the sense of discovery? Their sheer variety?

Noodles: I just think they're badass! [both laugh] I like getting out and hiking. I love being out in nature. I love fishing a lot. I love surfing. So, I'd always see these birds and I didn't know what they were. I started looking into it more. You see how they're all related: some of them are really similar, some of them are really different, you know? Some travel from all over—from pole to pole, almost, in their migration. So, all that st's just interesting.

Now, I don't know what I'm talking about that much. I know some of the bigger birds that you'll see. The birds of prey, I think I'm a little bit more fascinated with. They're just so beautiful.

Dexter: It was kind of surfing and being outdoors that got you to look at them. It wasn't like you were always fascinated with birds. It was sort of a byproduct. 

Noodles: Like, I'm not a big fan of chickens.

Dexter: [laughs] No?

Noodles: Although some of the ducks are pretty cool-looking. We get a lot of ducks in the wintertime.

Dexter: What about parakeets? Would you ever get a parakeet?

Noodles: I would actually love to have a bird like that!

Dexter: Now I know what to get him for his birthday.

Noodles, I have two bird questions before we wrap this up. Number one: How do they know how to migrate thousands of miles without a map? How do they know where to go?

Noodles: Yeah, I don't know that they've actually discovered that. I've read some articles on that. Mostly with pigeons. Like, how do pigeons know how to home in on stuff, right? A lot of these birds just kind of go to their ancestral lands somehow, but pigeons would go to particular houses and homes. Especially the messenger pigeons during World War II and stuff. I'm not a big fan of pigeons. They seem pretty stupid, but they do these incredibly smart things.

Dexter: He's selective! Birds are badass, but there are certain birds that don't make sense! I heard birds could sense magnetic lines of the earth's revolution, maybe.

Noodles: Some studies suggest that, yeah.

Number two: When I wake up and I hear birds chattering outside my window, what are they saying? Because it sounds like it's generally the same call repeated—not a ton of variation.

Noodles: I have no idea.

That's pretty much all I've got. What are you guys listening to lately, besides Vivaldi and John Denver?

Noodles: I recently found this band called Pist Idiots from Australia. They've just got a great sound. I think they've got some great songs. Kind of post-punk, but guitar-based, so I kind of like that. My kids have been hipping me to some kind of funny, different stuff. Punk-ish hip-hop stuff. A guy named Nate NoFace is kind of interesting to me. Nasty Noona's another one. Deathsquad is this band all these people are in and out of. They just all collaborate together then do their own stuff as well.

Nice. I'll check them out. What about you, Dexter?

Dexter: Well, like I said, Vivaldi, John Denver. There's this cool band called Beat to Death. Stuff like that. It's all over the map.

Noodles: I don't know Beat to Death.

Dexter: I'm actually making it up. [both laugh uproariously] 

My ex-sister-in-law went out with this guy and he was in a hardcore band. I was like, "What's your band's name?" and he said, "Beat to Death." That was the most ridiculous thing! And not even "Beaten to Death!" It's "Beat to Death!" It's grammatically incorrect and silly at the same time, so I thought that was kind of the ultimate name.

23 Years After Forming, Pop-Punk Patriarchs New Found Glory Look Back On All 10 Of Their Albums

Corey Taylor Finds Home Within Exploration On 'CMF2': "This Is The Closest To The Real Me That I've Been"
Corey Taylor

Photo: Pamela Littky


Corey Taylor Finds Home Within Exploration On 'CMF2': "This Is The Closest To The Real Me That I've Been"

Amid his latest solo tour, Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor details to how his second solo album expanded on his multifaceted musical universe — and helped him find himself in the process.

GRAMMYs/Sep 13, 2023 - 02:37 pm

Solo albums by famous lead singers can be dicey gambits. They can offer an artist a fresh musical pulpit, or they could divide the group that made them famous. Luckily for Corey Taylor, his solo endeavors haven't interfered with his main metal mission.

With CMFT and CMF2 — the latter of which arrives Sept. 15 — Taylor crafted legitimately interesting albums that also suit the odyssey of his multiple musical personalities. Best known for fronting the GRAMMY-winning metal band Slipknot, Taylor's masked persona has allowed him to vent rambunctious energy on and off stage; his original group, Stone Sour, saw Taylor explore more melodic heavy rock avenues. While his solo work is somewhat aligned with the music that made him famous, it's another animal altogether.

Taylor first began performing solo acoustic shows in late 2011, nearly a decade before 2020's CMFT. The shows completely shed any musical assumptions people would associate with the singer, as he covered songs he wouldn't normally do with his other bands and gave people a look into his true multifaceted identity. His solo performances also included various spoken word segments with spontaneous comedy bits, a nod to his literary instincts (to date, he's authored four books and a comic book series).

CMF2 continues to bring the unexpected. While many of its 13 tracks are heavy, they also span wider genre influences, notably '70s and '80s classic rock sounds. Tracks like "Post Traumatic Blues" and "All I Want Is Hate" bristle with intense electric energy and the acoustic ballad "Sorry Me" taps into introspective territory; the bluesy "Breath of Fresh Smoke" resides between the two sonically, building from a gentle first half into a spirited electric guitar solo at its center. "Dead Flies" closes the album by invoking '90s hard rock vibes – ultimately proving that there's really no rock style Taylor can't tackle. caught up with Taylor in the midst of his recent tour with his solo band to discuss the new album, his artistic progress over the last 30 years, and how his solo ventures are a good way for him to transition into other musical adventures.

While your label is promoting the heavier tracks like "Beyond" from CMF2, there's a bit more nuance here than on your first album, which had some mellower moments.

Absolutely. This is the only way I've been able to describe it — the first album was "I've got all these tunes, let's just see if anybody likes them." There was really no plan, there was really no focus. I'd never really had the opportunity to present the songs that I've written over the years to see if people even like these things.

Once I realized that the audience was there for my songwriting — not the band, not the aesthetic of anything, just me writing as an artist — then we could lean into this. Now I can tap into stuff that I really want to do and really try to focus this album and make it a journey.

What I've tried to do with every album that I'm involved with, whether I'm producing or not, is to make it feel like I'm taking people somewhere, and hopefully bring them back. So on this album, the nuances are overstated. The heavies feel heavy, the quiets still quiet. The contemplative nature is still there, but the songs are just really, really good.

What's the most personal song on the new album for you?

Oh man, that's tricky. There's so many different sides to me on this album. It's a toss up between "Post Traumatic Blues" and "Sorry Me." Just from a strictly selfish point of view.

If I was talking about the more optimistic, almost romantic side, "Starmate," "Beyond," "Someday I'll Change Your Mind" — songs that I've written for my wife — that stuff brings that whole other side out of me. But when it comes to just those moments of contemplation and really dealing with those darker moments that depression affords me, "Sorry Me" is definitely one of those things where you're just sitting there and feel dog-piled by the mistakes that you've made in your life. You know it's not something that you're doing, it's the depression pulling those out of you. It's pulling those memories out to almost weigh you down even more, and fighting your way through that to get back to the surface of that ocean is tough.

"Sorry Me" is almost like that moment where you have to forgive yourself for the mistakes that you've made in your life and realize that time is moving on. And if you don't allow yourself a little levity, then you're just going to be carrying around a million tons of bricks for the rest of your life.

A lot of your lyrics, metaphorically, go into a place of trying to find home. Not home within your house, but home within yourself.

You're absolutely right. I spent so many years on the road when I was a kid that I had no real sense of what a home was. The only real home I knew was my grandmother's house. That was the only place I felt safe. It was the only place where, when I got there, I felt like I didn't have to worry about what was going to happen to me. It was the only house in the world where I felt like I could just be myself.

As I've gotten older, my home that I have now is that. I didn't really have that over the years, even when I was living by myself — maybe because I wasn't comfortable with myself. I was still finding myself. But my home now is definitely the place where I can take that deep breath and feel okay with it.

So, musically, maybe that's where my journey is still going, and maybe that's one of the reasons why I enjoy writing in so many different genres. I've never felt like there's one genre that feels like home. I'm constantly exploring different things. Then again, maybe it's just music in general that feels like home. So why can't I explore all of these different genres? Because I feel really comfortable. There's a flip side of that coin that I've never really considered before.

Your acoustic sets show another side of you, and you get to pull out unusual covers. You have a rowdy crowd, but they're willing to indulge you. Do you think because of the way you can embody these different styles, you've been able to pull in a lot of metal fans who might not normally be along for the ride?

I think so. I've definitely inspired a sort of trust because of just how many years I've been doing it now, and the fact that anything I do has really showed that it comes from the heart. It doesn't come from any other place other than this really true, honest place. I've never written music just to write music. I've written music because I wanted to write that type of music, I wanted to play that type of music. And, to me, that's the best way to try to ensure that the audience is going to show up and listen. The second you throw them for a loop and it's not honest, they're going to be like, "Nope, we're never trusting you again."

I've never known anything other than to be completely honest musically. So you're right — when it comes to the acoustic shows, there would be the handful of metal dudes [coming who were], like, the closeted metal fan who loves softer stuff but never wanted to admit it before. "If it's not Slayer, it's not heavy!"

It's those guys [who are] singing [the Slipknot ballad] "Snuff" the loudest. When you have something that touches people like that, man, it doesn't matter genre-wise.

I think that's one of the reasons why I've come to be this solo artist because, to me, the songs are what matter. A good song transcends a genre. It will transcend your gatekeeping for a certain type of music, and it will make you go, "You're going to enjoy this whether you like it or not. You just need to get over yourself."

In the "Beyond" video, I see that Corey is learning to do some lead guitar work.

Well, I'm finally sharing it, anyway. A lot of people don't know this, but when I started Stone Sour back in '92, I played rhythm and lead while singing. It was largely because everybody that we tried out just wasn't good enough, and that was the story of my life, really.

When I first started playing music, it was almost a catch-22. I was always better than the drummer that we had in the band. And when I was playing drums, I was always better than the singer that we had in the band. It was one of those instances where it was either s— or get off the pot. I had to pick one. Finally I was like, I'd rather sing. I feel really good when I sing. Not that I don't love playing drums, and I still play drums. But I would rather sing because, to me, the challenge is finding those ways to emote and do those things.

The same with guitar playing. I didn't necessarily want to be the lead guitar player, but at the same time, I've got these songs that I really love and nobody's playing them the way I want them to be played. So I have to do that. Then once I discovered people like Jim Root and all the other people that I've been blessed to work with, I've been able to give up that.

But when I demoed "Beyond" and I wrote that solo, it was one of the coolest solos I'd ever written. It's short, it's concise, it's melodic, it's got a hook of its own. I knew that if we recorded it I wanted to be the one to do it. It's just one of my favorite solos which is one of the reasons why it's the one that I do on the album.

You also play mandolin on the album, and you say your piano playing has been getting better. It's not often you see a lead singer as a multi-instrumentalist or soloist.

I guess it's because I just love writing music. I love writing songs, period, and to me, the best way to be able to write different kinds of songs is to learn to play different types of instruments. Because I learned by ear, I'm pretty adept at getting good fairly quickly. It takes me a minute. And obviously, I'm not going to go out and perform with the London Philharmonic, but at the same time getting to learn chords on the piano, or learning different tunings on the mandolin, is a lot of fun. It helps me explore stuff to the point where if I want to write something now in any genre, or any style, I can pull the Wurlitzer out on this and lay down a Doobie Brothers kind of thing and just have fun with it. That, to me, is the exciting part of learning different instruments.

You've done a lot of guest appearances and collabs over the years— everyone from Korn to Apocalyptica to comedian/voice actor Tom Kenny. What's been the most challenging?

That's a good question. I've been really lucky in the fact that everything that I've done I've been very adept at and really taken to it. Some of these genres [I've worked in] I'm already a fan, so I already have a taste of it. I will say the most nervous I ever was, and this is true, was getting up with Tom and doing the "SpongeBob Theme Song". It was so rad and we had so much fun doing it. Tom is such a sweetheart of a person, and I don't even think he realizes what a fan I have been of him for years. When we were making the very first Slipknot album, we watched Mr. Show with Bob and David every day. We had all of the episodes on videocassette, and we would watch them at the end of every night and just laugh hysterically. I just think he's one of the funniest people on the planet. Not only do I love him from that, but my son was a massive SpongeBob fan, so his voice has literally been in my life for over 25 years. It's cool to be able to have that moment now, and hopefully we'll have some more because he's like, "We have to stay in touch." And I'm like, "Oh God, this is gonna get fun now."

You've got a couple of "secret" guest musicians on this album. Duff McKagan wrote some notes for the promo materials. So is he one of them? Or are we being left to guess?

Actually, no. He sadly didn't. I would have loved to have had Duff, and maybe I'll do it on the third album. But there were two real people who played on the album, one of which was Fred Mandel. He provided the Hammond work. Roger Manning was on there and did this incredible key work on stuff like "We Are The Rest." But the two other names are actually pseudonyms for me. Richard Manitoba was one of my hotel aliases that I used in the past.

Handsome Dick Manitoba from the Dictators!

Yeah, yeah. That's where I got it from because I was a massive Dictators fan when I was a kid, and then Pebbly Jack Glasscock was a baseball player from the 1940s. That has been my email name for years.

The reason why I was almost forced to use those is because [producer] Jay Ruston refused to not credit me on the album for all of the stuff that I had played. I didn't want my list of musical credits to look like, "Oh, look, he's just got to have credit for everything." And he was just like, "We've got to put something on here." I was like, "God dammit." So I gave him those aliases. And he ran with it.

The song "The Rest Of Us" talks about the effects of PTSD and the prolonged impostor syndrome hanging over your life. For people who don't understand that — because you've had all this success, you've done all these great things — what do you think keeps that imposter syndrome lingering for you despite your achievements?

That's a good question. Maybe unresolved issues from my childhood, the stuff that I've never had the chance to explore with a therapist because there's always so many crazy things going on in my current life. That's at the bottom of the list because it just doesn't have priority.

I don't know, maybe it's because of the things that were done to me and the things that were said to me — not just when I was younger, but from prior relationships. I had a bad habit of getting together with people who didn't like the fact that I was really good at what I did, and that I was in demand. So it would consciously or unconsciously come out in the abuse that they would pile on me, and it definitely takes a toll. When you have people who don't try to inspire you to be yourself, it will make you feel like you didn't earn the things that you've earned. It's something I still struggle with.

I know people hear that, and they go, "Are you out of your mind?" Maybe I am a little bit. But it's tough when you're paraded and told that you're not any good for so many years, or that you don't deserve anything, or you're not even responsible for the things that you've earned. All you can do is try to work it out in therapy. Then once you get to the point where you're a little stronger in your life, you go, "I'm not going to allow that in my life anymore. I want to surround myself with people who appreciate me." And that's just it.

Luckily, I'm in a wonderful marriage now. We inspire each other, and we push each other to be the very best. And that leads to inspiring my kids to do that. So I'm slowly but surely giving up the ghost on that. But it's something that maybe will still haunt me until I'm towards the end of my career. Who knows?

You've talked about the fact that, with Slipknot, you can only can keep up this pace for so long. That sounds like a smart idea for you to transition into exploring other things, and still have that audience and be you, without people expecting you to jump on stage with a mask and go crazy for two hours.

Right. As a performer you physically want to rise to that occasion. The only thing that holds us back in performance is age, and I'm lucky that I'm healthy enough that I can still go at a certain level. But I know I can't continue that forever. The guys in Slipknot also know that, and that's something that we're talking about very honestly. "What do we do?" "What does the next level of Slipknot look like?"

We're looking at it from an artistic point of view. How do we make it still seem frenetic and off the chain, but also something that we can deal with from a strength point of view? It'll be interesting to see where that challenge takes us.

It also allows me to be able to do stuff like this solo thing. It's high-energy right now, but when it gets to the point where I want to tame it down a little bit, I have songs that I can lean into and let them do the heavy lifting for me.

This is probably the closest to the real me as a performer that I've been in my whole career. Because obviously with Slipknot, it's really one side of the genre. With Stone Sour, I was being held back because of certain people in the band. But with this, there are no limitations, and I can do music carte blanche as far as genre goes and performance goes. I have a band that can play anything, which is just criminal. It's really, really cool. I'm just really fortunate to be in the place where I am right now.

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How Hole Moved Beyond The Grunge Scene By Going Pop On 'Celebrity Skin'
Hole at the 1998 Billboard Music Awards.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage


How Hole Moved Beyond The Grunge Scene By Going Pop On 'Celebrity Skin'

As Hole's pop-leaning album, 1998's 'Celebrity Skin,' turns 25, looks back at the concept album which pushed Hole from the fringes of the mainstream to four-time GRAMMY-nominated success.

GRAMMYs/Sep 8, 2023 - 01:38 pm

Upon the release of Hole's third album, 1998's Celebrity Skin, guitarist Eric Erlandson revealed to Spin the biggest worry he and founding member Courtney Love had in their early days: "that Hole could not be a mainstream band, and we wanted to be popular enough and sell enough records." Within the space of 12 months, such fears had unequivocally been put to bed.

Indeed, Celebrity Skin sold 86,000 copies in its first week to become the group's first Top 10 entry on the Billboard 200. It also picked up four GRAMMY nominations including Best Rock Album, spawned two Hot 100 hits and shifted more than 1.4 million copies in the United States alone. Suddenly a band whose first three singles were titled "Retard Girl," "Dicknail" and "Teenage Whore" had become part of the MTV elite.

In an era when pop was still very much considered a dirty word, Hole brazenly refused to be shackled by the music industry's self-appointed tastemakers. They pursued a sound which owed just as much to the harmony-laden soft rock of Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac as the caustic grunge of 1994 predecessor Live Through This. Their new set of collaborators indicated a shift, too: After initially courting Brian Eno, the quartet teamed up with Michael Beinhorn, the man who'd helped spearhead the careers of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden ("probably the Michael Bay of record producers," drummer Patty Schemel wryly noted in her memoir). They also requested the services of Love's ultimate frenemy Billy Corgan halfway through recording to boost its hooky appeal.

This change in direction was no doubt inspired by the quartet's decision toreturn to Los Angeles, with Erlandson opting for Laurel Canyon, Schemel and bassist Melissa Auf der Maur residing in Silverlake Hills, and Love settling in Beverly Hills. But as hinted on its front cover — a slightly blurry Polaroid shot of the band standing in front of a burning palm tree — Celebrity Skin was no picture-perfect tribute to Californian life.

Take the title track, for example: Named after the voyeuristic porn magazine (and not, as Love once joked, because she'd "touched a lot of it"), "Celebrity Skin" fully embraces the idea that Hollywood is a place where dreams go to die rather than be fulfilled. "Oh, look at my face/ My name is might have been," Love sings on the second verse. "My name is never was/ My name's forgotten." Hammering the point home, its dazzling Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-inspired promo, firmly in keeping with the blockbuster tone, even had Love and Auf der Maur lying in open caskets.

It was a fitting narrative for Love, who  had reinvented herself over the past four years from the rock scene's enfant terrible (in 1995 alone, she'd punched Kathleen Hanna, gatecrashed a Madonna interview and even attacked her own fans) to a respectable Hollywood darling. She earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as the titular pornographer's wife Althea in 1996's The People versus Larry Flynt, later partying with celebrity boyfriend Edward Norton on the Oscars' red carpet ("The most thorough transformation since Eliza Doolittle met Henry Higgins," wrote Time).

However, she was still keen to depict the state as a den of decadence which chews people up and spits them out. The driving power pop of "Awful," for instance, takes aim at the music scene's corruption of young girls, including Love's teenage self ("And they royalty rate all the girls like you/ And they sell it out to the girls like you"). "Hit Me Hard" (which references the Crystals' "He Hit Me (And Then He Kissed Me)") is a similarly tricky portrait of domestic violence in which Love envisages herself drowning — a theme which, partly influenced by the tragic death of friend Jeff Buckley, is prevalent throughout Celebrity Skin.

Interestingly, the album's theme was very much a last-minute decision. Frustrated by the direction of their early demos, Love decided it would be better to tie everything together with a concept, "even if it's fake." Yet, it was one which made sense with her new lifestyle.

"It was her Hollywood phase," Auf der Maur remarked, adding that the frontwoman's daily routine consisted of chain-smoking Marlboro lights, auditioning and heading to the beach with her personal trainer at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. The title track is unarguably where all these elements coalesced to perfection.

The most striking thing about "Celebrity Skin," though, is how it leaned into the super-sized pop metal sound Hole and their ilk were supposed to have made obsolete. Its crunching riffs could easily have been lifted from Motley Crüe, Skid Row or any other group from the height of Sunset Strip excess. (And while Love firmly denied rumors Corgan was the true mastermind behind the record, she was more than happy to give him credit on the title track.)

It's hard to believe this is the same band whose 1991 debut, Pretty on the Inside, reveled in a challenging, and often cacophonic, mix of noise-rock, art punk and sludge metal. Yet they still pull off the pop-metal sound. Indeed, "Celebrity Skin" not only scored Hole their first No. 1 on Billboard's Alternative Airplay chart, but it also earned two GRAMMY nominations, for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song. And the fact it's since been covered by the Glee Cast and Doja Cat — not to mention being subjected to the slightly creepy AI treatment, too — further proves just how much it crossed over.

Second single "Malibu," both the best and the biggest of the band's career, also found a place on radio stations that previously wouldn't have touched Hole with a bargepole. Originally penned with Stevie Nicks in mind, the melodic slice of AM rock doubles up as a desperate plea for a drug-addicted boyfriend to seek sobriety before it's too late. Contrary to popular belief, however, it was inspired by Love's first boyfriend Jeff Mann, not, late husband Kurt Cobain.

In fact, Celebrity Skin only occasionally touches on the Nirvana frontman's passing — despite being the band's first chance to address it on record (Live Through This came out just a week after the tragedy). Macabre track "Reasons to Be Beautiful" includes a subverted line from Cobain's suicide note ("It's better to rise than fade away"), and almost feels like Love is writing her very own ("Love hangs herself/With the bedsheets in her cell"). And towards the end of the album, Love delivers a thinly veiled attack on Cobain's Nirvana bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic — who she'd soon become embroiled in various legal battles with — on "Playing Your Song." ("You trusted everything/They sold you out.")

If all this sounds a little angst-ridden for a record specifically designed for the masses, Love and Co. help sugarcoat things with an array of blissful vocal harmonies, shiny guitar riffs and singalong melodies perfect for driving down the highway. Craig Armstrong, then best known for his BAFTA-winning score for Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, also provides some beautifully elegiac strings on "Dying" and closer "Petals," a bittersweet reflection on the fleeting nature of relationships and life itself.

It's not all dark cautionary tales and meditations on grief, either. "Heaven Tonight," an ode to a "sun in the form of a girl" (which some believe is Love's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain), is possibly the sweetest thing Hole ever recorded. And although "Boys on the Radio" eventually becomes another cutting riposte to men in suits, it initially looks back fondly at the days when Love used to seek solace in her pop idols (bizarrely, her teenyboppers of choice were the tartan-clad glam rockers Bay City Rollers).

Sadly, Celebrity Skin was also the album which literally broke Hole. After wearing Schemel down with weeks of punishing studio time, Beinhorm managed to convince the band that session musician Deen Castronovo would be a better fit; Love later admitted regret over listening to the producer and essentially ruining the drummer's life. Erlandson would also describe the making of its 12 tracks as "insane," and by the time the Hole name was revived for 2010's Nobody's Daughter, Love had assembled a whole new line-up, a move she later acknowledged was "a mistake" that cheapened their legacy.

Despite all the contention, there's been much talk of a Celebrity Skin-era reunion, Schemel included, since. In 2014, Rolling Stone wrongly reported Love's solo single "Wedding Day" had emerged from a recording session with all four members, although the singer did reveal that they'd spent time playing together again. And five years later, they all apparently enjoyed rehearsal time at, rather aptly, the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But should they fail to nail down anything else in the studio, Celebrity Skin is one hell of a highly polished swansong.

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Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters performs in Cologne, Germany in 2011

Photo: Peter Wafzig/Getty Images


Foo Fighters Essential Songs: 10 Tracks That Show The Band's Eternal Rock Spirit

On their recently released album, 'But Here We Are,' Dave Grohl and company offer a gripping confessional of both painful loss and blistering resilience. In honor of their 11th album, revisit 10 of the Foo Fighters’ most essential tracks.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2023 - 05:48 pm

Foo Fighters — one of contemporary rock’s most pivotal mainstays — boasts an almost mythical history. What began as Dave Grohl’s one-man band in 1994 after the devastating end of Nirvana has become a seminal machine with a catalog that spans three decades.

The group currently holds the record for the most GRAMMY wins in the Best Rock Album category, picking up awards in 2000 (There Is Nothing Left to Lose), 2003 (One By One), 2007 (Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace), 2012 (Wasting Light) and 2022 (Medicine at Midnight). At the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, Medicine at Midnight also took home awards for Best Rock Performance ("Making a Fire") and Best Rock Song ("Waiting on a War").

Their recently released 11th studio album, But Here We Are, is the facet’s first project following the death of drummer and vocalist Taylor Hawkins last year. Hawkins, who joined Foo Fighters in 1997 and would become a driving creative force in the group, was mourned by musicians and fans across the world. Tribute concerts in London and Los Angeles presented by the Hawkins family in conjunction with Foo gracefully paid homage to his legacy. 

Grohl and company managed to push through their collective grief on But Here We Are. The project serves as a gripping confessional of both painful loss and blistering resilience. In honor of their latest endeavor, lists 10 of Foo Fighters’ most essential tracks.

"Big Me," Foo Fighters (1995)

Released one year after Kurt Cobain's death, Foo Fighters’ debut  album brimmed with promise. "Losing Kurt was earth-shattering, and I was afraid of music after he died," he told Anderson Cooper during a 2014 episode of "60 Minutes."

Though Grohl insisted that the record was just an outlet for grief, it marked the beginning of his illustrious career. "Big Me," the final saccharine single from the project, proved that the drummer-turned-frontman had a knack for crafting catchy tunes that would become undeniable hits. 

The campy nature of the track was the result of Grohl not putting much thought into the album, but that intrinsically simple approach — which trickled down to the song’s video which famously parodied Mentos commercials — was the start of something great.

"Everlong," The Colour and The Shape (1997)

One of Foo Fighters’ most exhilarating moments to date comes in the form of a love song. "Everlong," which was the second single from the band's sophomore effort, pulls listeners in with its gentle, melodic chords, keeping  their attention with sweltering percussion and heart wrenching lyricism. 

"Everlong" is about being so in tune with a romantic partner that the conclusion of that relationship is wholly devastating. "Come down and waste away with me," Grohl serenely sings. "Down with me/Slow, how you wanted it to be/I'm over my head/Out of her head, she sang." He performed it for the first time acoustic in 1998 on "The Howard Stern Show," which Grohl said "gave the song a whole new rebirth" during a performance at Oates Song Fest 7908.

"Breakout," There Is Nothing Left To Lose (1999)

"Breakout" appeared on both the band’s third album, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, and is filled with a frenzied, punk energy that channels Grohl’s grunge roots. While critics praised the album and noted the Foos' notable progression toward more melodic anthems, this quick, fast hit remains worthy of the hype it received over 20 years ago. 

The track also appeared in the 2000 comedy film Me, Myself & Irene starring Jim Carrey, and several of its stars appear in its music video. There Is Nothing Left To Lose also spurred the radio hit "Learn To Fly," which won the GRAMMY Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 2000. 

"Times Like These," One By One (2002)

The Foo Fighters' fourth studio album marked a turbulent period in the band’s history. Aside from personal issues, Grohl had just recorded drums for Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf, and joined the group for a subsequent tour. 

While the fate of Foo remained unknown, a triumphant performance at Coachella in 2002 gave the members a new outlook on their future. "‘Times Like These’ was basically written about the band disappearing for those two or three months and me feeling like I wasn’t entirely myself," Grohl stated in the group’s 2011 documentary Back and Forth. "I just thought, ‘Okay, I’m not done being in the band. I don’t know if they are, but I’m not.’"

 With its lyrical simplicity and crippling sincerity ("It’s times like these you learn to live again/It’s times like these you give and give again"), the song has come to embody love, togetherness and hope.

"Best Of You," In Your Honor (2005)

"I’ve got another confession to make/I’m your fool," Dave Grohl howls at the top of lungs on the riveting opening for "Best of You." His declaration is followed by the existential proposition: "Were you born to resist or be abused?" 

In Your Honor’s lead single is ripe with emotion, in which the Foo frontman is buoyantly defiant and encourages those listening to his words to be the same. That sentiment was politically driven, as "Best of You" was penned after Grohl made several appearances on the 2004 Democratic presidential campaign for John Kerry. 

"It’s not a political record, but what I saw inspired me," he told Rolling Stone in 2005. "It’s about breaking away from the things that confine you." "Best of You" is their only song in the U.S. to reach platinum status.

"The Pretender," Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)

One of the group’s most highest charting songs was "The Pretender," from 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Grohl’s songwriting on the track is of macabre proportions, as introductory solemn chords give way to the lyrics: "Send in your skeletons/Sing as their bones go marching in again/They need you buried deep/The secrets that you keep are ever ready." 

Heavier riffs and pulsating percussion make it quite the auditory experience. Perfectly paced crescendos on the "The Pretender" give it just the right amount of suspense, making it indelible to the Foo discography.

"White Limo", Wasting Light (2011)

In 2012, Wasting Light earned four GRAMMY Awards including Best Rock Album. "White Limo" snagged the accolade for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance — and for good reason. 

The second single from Foo Fighters’ seventh studio album is a ferocious number saturated with primal screams and whirlwind rhythms. "White Limo" was one of their most raucous songs to date and the group does their best Motorhead impression (Lemmy Kilmister’s appearance in the music video serves as the ultimate seal of approval). The group was intentional in maximizing their aggression on the heavy-metal track, making "White Limo" the sonic equivalent of a lightning bolt in their immense catalog.

"Make It Right," Concrete & Gold (2017)

2017’s Concrete and Gold wasn’t about redefining the wheel as much as it was perfecting it. The group’s ninth studio album is as rock 'n' roll as it gets. 

There were a slew of memorable guest appearances including Paul McCartney on "Sunday Rain," Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman on "Concrete & Gold," and the Kills’ Alison Mosshart on "The Sky Is a Neighborhood" and "La Dee Da." 

The album’s best track, "Make It Right," features an uncredited, sonically off-putting cameo from Justin Timberlake . Yet the collaboration’s venture into heavier territory pays off, with Grohl paying respect to Led Zeppelin. The rock legends'  influence oozes all over "Make It Right"  in the form of ragged taunts and splintering riffs. Timberlake slinks into the background with additional vocals, making sure to not alter Foo’s formula in any way.

"Waiting on a War," Medicine at Midnight (2021)

Foo Fighters’ 10th album, Medicine at Midnight, was a refreshing return to form for the rockers. 

Sparked by a conversation by Grohl’s daughter, "Waiting on a War" embodied the group’s pensiveness about  America’s ominous future.  Over four minutes, Grohl  states that he’s "waiting for the sky to fall," though his melancholy thoughts ultimately transform from wistful crooning over acoustic guitar chords to a rumbling, full-throated ferocious outro. Foo’s bold approach snagged them a GRAMMY Award in 2022 for Best Rock Song.

"Rescued," But Here We Are (2023)

The power in "Rescued," the emotionally-charged first single from But Here We Are, relies not only on the lyrics to spell out the feeling of despondency, but on Grohl’s expression of them. 

"We’re all free to some degree/To dance under the lights," he sings. "I’m just waiting to be rescued/Bring me back to life." His voice languishes between fatigue and vigor as swirling guitars and ethereal buildups provide catharsis for both the band and the listener. The vulnerability of "Rescued" channels the intriguing self-awareness heard on albums like The Colour and The Shape and In Your Honor. But this song represents a brand new chapter for Foo and it’s one that confronts their pain head on.

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Remembering Seymour Stein: Without The Record Business Giant, Music Would Be Unrecognizable
Seymour Stein in 2007

Photo: Edward Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images


Remembering Seymour Stein: Without The Record Business Giant, Music Would Be Unrecognizable

The music man who signed everyone from the Ramones to Madonna will be profoundly missed throughout the global music community. He passed away on Apr. 8 at 80.

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2023 - 03:33 pm

There’s a Belle and Sebastian song titled “Seymour Stein” that evokes a real-life, lavish feast between the soft-spoken Scottish indie band and the record company executive.

In the 1998 ballad, singer Stuart Murdoch details the tension between their working class identities and the dizzying prospects that Stein held in the palm of his hand. “Promises of fame, promises of fortune/ L.A. to New York/ San Francisco, back to Boston,” Murdoch dreamily sings. But he demurs, thinking of a girl back home in the country: “My thoughts are far away.”

There was a very good reason Murdoch and company associated Stein with an almost blindingly paradisiacal vision of music success. For an entire generation of alternative weirdos, Stein — the co-founder of Sire Records and vice president of Warner Bros. Records — was the guy who made it happen.

Sadly, Stein passed away on April 2 at his home in Los Angeles of cancer at the age of 80. This seismic loss to the global music community has rightfully earned tributes from far-flung corners of the music industry. Many, like his signee Madonna, openly pondered where their lives would be without his razor-sharp perception and adoration of all things music.

Think of the three-or-four-chord powderkeg of the Ramones’ 1977 self-titled debut, and the CBGB-adjacent army that answered to its detonation: Talking Heads, the Pretenders, Richard Hell and the Voldoids — on and on. Stein signed them all to Sire, either initiating their careers, as per the Ramones, or heralding their second acts, as he did the Replacements.

That paradigm arguably amounted to the biggest shift in guitar-based music since the Beatles — the ratcheting-down of opulent ‘70s rock into something leaner, meaner, and arguably more honest. But even that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Stein's influence on music and culture at large.

Stein was the man who signed Madge, a profoundly pivotal figure in the following decade. And the rest of his resume was staggering: the Smiths, the Cure, Seal, k.d. lang, Brian Wilson, Lou Reed, Body Count… the list goes on.

He helped to establish the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, by way of the foundation of the same name, initiated by Ahmet Ertegun in 1983 — and was himself inducted in 2005. In 2018, the Recording Academy bestowed him with a coveted Trustees Award, which acknowledged his decades of service to the music community.

Indeed, the music man’s loss reverberates throughout the world’s leading society of music people.

“Seymour Stein was one of the greatest A&R executives of all time,” Ruby Marchand, the Chief Awards & Industry Officer at the Recording Academy, tells “His passion, magnetic energy and natural curiosity underscored a lifelong dedication to unique artistry.

“He especially prized the art of songwriting and had an encyclopedic knowledge of songs, often bursting out in song to regale and delight friends and colleagues,” recalls Marchand, who worked with Stein for decades. “Seymour traveled the globe for decades and basked in the glow of discovering emerging artists singing to small audiences, from Edmonton to Seoul.

“He was a doting mentor, advisor, cheerleader and advocate for hundreds of us in the industry worldwide,” she concludes. “We cherish him and miss him terribly, and know how fortunate we were to have had him in our lives.”

The Recording Academy hails the late, great Stein for his monumental achievements in the music industry — ones that have fundamentally altered humanity’s universal language forever.

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