Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong talks about “how fucked-up social media has become”
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong is subject of the latest Kerrang cover story, and he had a lot to say about his career, his family, social media, mental health, being a new rock band in 2020, and more.
On social media, he said:
I think the thing that makes [fame] uncomfortable is how fucked-up social media has become, and how everyone’s got a camera in their pocket now. There are a lot of people out there who aren’t fans who just wanna be guilty by association or something. They wanna hold you in their pocket as a souvenir. And I think that sometimes that’s the part that gets annoying. I don’t like my picture being taken with people (laughs). It’s fine with fans – and I can always tell when someone is a genuine fan. But then there are people where you’re just sitting there in your fuckin’ sweats and they just want to get a piece of you for their own ego. That’s the part that I’m uncomfortable with – when you’re in compromised situations. But it’s par for the course, and I have to kind of wrestle with it a little bit.
When asked, "If Green Day were just starting up as a new band now, in the age of social media and streaming, how do you think you would fare?," he replied:
Ooft. I don’t know! It’s getting more and more rare to get three or four people together to make a rock’n’roll band, you know? Especially because people are able to do home recordings, so I feel like there’s maybe more solo artists now. Getting a band together… God! I don’t know. It’s a tough question to answer because it’s all hypothetical, but I think that we would definitely have people that dug what we do. But do I think it would be on a level that it became back when Dookie and all that happened? I’m not sure. I think we always generate new – and young – fans, and people still seem to be discovering albums like Dookie. I think there’s something about the energy that always shined through with us. But my answer is: it would be likely and unlikely at the same time (laughs).
And about mental health, he said:
I think that rock musicians are very troubled people, and I think that that’s what sets us apart from pop music, because it’s not all lollipops and rainbows for us. You think about someone like Chris Cornell, or Chester [Bennington], or Kurt Cobain, or even Tom Petty – nobody knew that the guy spent a lifetime on opiates. It’s like numbing yourself until you murder yourself. Music has always kind of been a big drug for me, but, at the same time, when you see these casualties, you’re like, ‘Oh, fuck, when is this gonna happen to me?’ I never expected to live this long – and who knows how long I’m gonna stick around?
[...] I feel like I started going through a mid-life crisis when I was 20 (laughs), because I didn’t think I was gonna live that long! It’s something that’s always been in my head. Whether it’s people dealing with PTSD or… like, everybody’s got a part of their brain that is neurotic, or maybe even paranoid, or bi-polar, or they have a personality disorder. The punk rock scene, for me, was a scene of all these people with personality disorders coming together a lot of the time. And I didn’t really realise that until later on. If you’re into punk and hard rock, it kinda mellows people out. In a way, it’s the antidote for really troubled people. And I think that maybe Green Day is kind of the same way: I sing about a lot of anguish and despair – but I try to do it in a funny way. And I think that’s maybe what’s relatable about it… I don’t know. It’s just being real.
There are a lot of other good anecdotes in the interview, which you can read in full here.
Green Day recently rescheduled their "Hella Mega" stadium tour with Weezer and Fall Out Boy for 2021. Billie Joe has also been keeping busy during quarantine with his solo covers songs series, and Green Day did a full-band cover of Blondie's "Dreaming." Listen to a few of the recent covers below.
In July, Billie Joe's son Joey Armstrong (of the band SWMRS) responded to allegations of abuse made by Lydia Night of The Regrettes.