Shouting out to all the crews and cities, Lars and the Bastards represent the street life, raw and uncensored. Whether they're "Mainlining Murder", or simply popularizing a form of gangster punk, the crazy past is the most significant memory to share. Lars takes this album one step deeper than the first solo record, as he's not afraid to spill his guts out about being in gangs, losing his best friends, getting beat down, and almost losing himself. Instead, Lars told me that writing these stories, "Is a way of therapy."
Not having heard the album before my interview, I missed out on a lot of questions I could have asked. But, now that I have dug deep into the music and lyrics of VIKING, the portrait of the album relates to even bigger issues, like, its extreme explicitness. Laced with pornographic pictures, and aggressive issues, as a female, it's really hard for me to relate to the album. Although I was very touched by songs like, "The Viking", where Lars uses spoken word to grasp everyone's attention about the voyages in his life. And on songs like, "Skins, Punx and Drunx", paying respect to his multi-cultural group of friends, really shows his sensitivity towards friendship.
Regardless of the delicate topics, VIKING is a strong album that is held down with an amazing team of musicians. The Bastards consist of, Big Jay (U.S. Roughnecks), Skatty P.R. (Hepcat), Craig-Leg (Transplants) and Known Bastard (The Forgotten). With the kick-ass drum beats and the hardcore guitar riffs, Lars always continues to expand his talents with every project he touches.
ANNETTE: I'm a big record collector myself, and I heard that you collect vinyl. How diverse of a record collection do you have?
LARS: It's mostly punk rock, and reggae. I got a little black metal in there, and psychobilly stuff. The other thing is, is that I think some records sound better, so, you know, if theirs a record I really like, I'll get it on vinyl, you know what I mean?
ANNETTE: Do you use it for any other purpose other than just putting it on your turntable (like actually DJing)?
LARS: I use it for chopping up my cocaine on, set my beer there, and maybe roll joints. I was just kidding; I was just trying to remember my childhood years. I don't really take my records out of the house, I leave them there, cause I'm a Virgo, so I'm totally clean, and I got to have my shit all tight, so, taking my vinyl out is...it's like once it's in my house, it's in my house.
ANNETTE: Are they alphabetized and categorized?
LARS: How did you guess?
ANNETTE: Spending some extra time in Tokyo must have been just the creative experience you needed to write new songs for your new album. How different did it feel for you, living in a new country for a while? Did the experience reflect on your album significantly or not?
LARS: You know, I was on a tour, so, being on tour it's like you're in different cities pretty much every night. So, you always have your creative juices flowing...whether you're in Lancaster, California or you're in Tokyo, Japan, they'll always something that comes to mind. Whether it's the meth lab or sushi, but um, you're always hearing things... some days you're connected, and some days your not. I think it shapes the record in a sense that, like with songs, and the ideas we have for the record kind of took shape in Japan. So, it had a lot to do with it, I think, in the end result. But, it wasn't realized until I got home and showed the songs to The Bastards and they put their own two cents, kind of their style, that's when the record really came to life.
ANNETTE: Do think you've grown with this new album?
LARS: Oh for sure, we're all better players and I think since the first time we all actually had met sort of officially, we all kind of knew each other from just around or whatever, but the first time we really, really got to know each other was actually the first day of recording the very first record, so, then we went on tour and we really got to figure each other out and we learned how to play together and it took us about a week to kind of figure out where we were going with it and then it just kind of came together really naturally and we really kind of became a band on this new record.
ANNETTE: Having your own solo project must be a completely different experience for you outside of Rancid. What are the biggest differences that you've noticed?
LARS: Well, it's not really so different you know what I mean? Me and Tim write all the songs together, we do that with Rancid too, so, he produced the record, and he took all the photos for the artwork that inside the record. It's just another extension of Rancid, I mean these guys...like, Big Jay is my guitar tech...and his band the Roughnecks are on Hellcat, so, its all a family thing, you know what I mean? Craig plays in the Transplants and the Bastards too. And then Gordy has been one of my best friends for 20 years, he plays in the band Forgotten you know that me and Tim are real big fans of and Scotty of course is in Hepcat which was on Hellcat records, you know. It's just kind of another extension of the Hellcat family and the Rancid family.
ANNETTE: I love how your music takes on the title of "keeping it real" both musically and lyrically. You tend to stick to the ruggedness of punk rock, like, talking about life on the streets, the rough past and the tough future. Is this your own way of keeping memories remembered and in a way writing your own autobiography?
LARS: I don't really necessarily know what it is, all I know it just, you know kind of just go through your conscious in your writing and, I mean I just talk about and even in Rancid we just talk about what we're going through at the time, and what we're facing, the shit that we dealt with when we were kids, and you never think its going to so...you sort of made it so poyant and I never really think about that, you know what I mean, its just a stream of conscious going through shit with your music and using it as way of therapy and a way of getting a lot of things out.
ANNETTE: Politics definitely makes a surface your albums. Do you think your lyrics are politically powerful enough to teach your listeners the concerns they should look after?
LARS: I'm not that type of person where it's like I try to teach any of my beliefs down anybody's throat, I think if there is any message that I have politically is think for yourself. I mean if you think George W. Bush is the best person to be in office, then go ahead, I'm not going to judge you...I don't particularly think that that's the best person, but I mean, everybody's got their right to think for themselves and believe what they want to believe. That's what America was founded on and I'm American, you know what I mean, so, I think it's everybody's own decision how they want to interpret ate things and like I said I don't force-feed my politics down anybody's throat.
ANNETTE: Are you a registered voter? And if you are, how important will the elections be for you this year?
LARS: Yes. Well, Bill Clinton, I truly believe was the best president we've ever had, and I wish we didn't have the rule about the terms, because I think that like he was the greatest president that we've had in my lifetime...you know, so, I'm not a democrat, I not a Republican, and I'm not a green party person...I'm just kind of like an independent sort of thinker...I believe that people should be able to own guns but I don't believe that we have the right to tell a woman if she could have an abortion or not, so, I'm al over the place we it comes to things...I'm a gun owner myself, you know, and if someone tried to break in my house, I'll blow their fuckin head off. I believe in capital punishment to, I think that if you rape a young child you should get your dick cut off and you should be dead, and I think if you kill, you should be killed.
ANNETTE: I was at the Punks vs. Psychos Tour here in L.A., and I couldn't help but to notice a few things that were different about your performance. One thing was that I was always speculating about who is the "unknown bastard", and he is now the "Known Bastard." What band is he from again? Was it just his time to take off his mask?
LARS: He sings in a band called The Forgotten. The Bastards is always something kind of fun for me, you know what I mean, it's like, I'm like to consider myself a pretty humorous guy...and I love professional wrestling, so, I thought the guy in the mask would be kind of cool, you know what I mean, so, shit changes, you try to do different stuff and I didn't want him to be in a mask all the time!
ANNETTE: It's a given that you have many tattoo's on your body, and much of them must be like a diary to you...but there's something more powerful about your new tattoo on your forehead that reads "SKUNX." In relation to your previous album, Skunx was the street gang you were in as a youth. How does this tattoo mark the importance of this memory?
LARS: Well, there has been a lot guys who past away who was part of that, my brother being one of them, and it's something I believe in, and It was a part of my life and still is a part of my life, and you know, I was in Japan and I've always wanted my forehead tattooed and fuck it! It's important to me in a way, if it wasn't I don't think I'll be tatting it on my forehead, you know, it's just a part of my life, and I'm not embarrassed of anything, and I don't really give a fuck, I've been stupid as a kid, I've been a junkie, I've been homeless, I was out of an identity, my identity for three to four years was a junkie, you know what I mean. I just do things that I feel natural and comfortable with and I pay homage to those who came before me and I think that history and my history is very important to me and where I come from is very important to me and I think that my culture is something that I have for my very own, which is my life and how I'll p[probably raise my kids, I've I ever have any, or what ever is important to me would be something I hold very dearly and part of being growing up and joining gangs and stuff is part of my culture, a part of where I come from, and a part of what makes me who I am today.
ANNETTE: Would you teach that same thing to your own children?
LARS: My mother taught me and my brother to think for ourselves and if my kids get out of line, I'm going to spank em on the ass, I think parents these days, their too hippie about their shit and I think that this government passes all these laws so we can have young animals out on the street, because I was one of them, you know what I mean? I think that I'll raise my kids to how I think being fit, but I won't beat the shit out of them, but I think parents should rule with an iron hand, take control, take response fuckin bility for what they've created. Their whole way of Parenting is so much rooted in fear...I never wore a helmet when I rode a bicycle, you know what I mean, it's like, I crashed into palm trees and got hung by the neck, I'd just stop if I didn't know how to break. My mom didn't send me out with a full helmet and knee pads. It's so fucking fear orientaed because you got the TV media saying that you should be afraid and you should stay inside for the rest of your life, you know what I mean, so, if anything it's so funny it's the irony of like what we have going on in the world today, I mean, we're driving through fucking Arkansas, and theirs a big sign that says "you call it abortion, God calls it murder," and you know it's the whole right wing fucking Christian deal, and yet you got a right wing Christian guy in the white house sending the kids that weren't aborted over to Iraq to get killed for his blood money. It's ironic, I mean, how they think. Like it's okay to go and kill children for somebody's greed, if somebody is for whatever cannot financially handle a child and it's the best thing, or maybe they don't feel as responsible as they should be and they pick out a situation, you know what I mean, it's their right to do that. Their pointing the finger saying their murdering an unborn child...yes, their sending your children off to war to go die for somebody's oil. It's all a scam. Don't even get my wrong by thinking I don't support the people over there who our fighting for our country, because I believe in them, and you know I have family and we have family over there who is fighting, and I support them 100 fucking percent. I do not support what the government says this war is about, but I do support the people who over there fighting.
ANNETTE: Being that I have not heard the album yet, can you elaborate on the messages behind the ideas and directions you take on Viking?
LARS: It's basically my life. I'm not a role model or a punk rock cop or anything like that, I'm just kind of doing what comes natural to me, like Willie Nelson plays country music for the last 70 fucking years, I play punk rock, you know.
ANNETTE: Is there a sense of completeness when you make your own record? Are there more chapters to come?
LARS: I think it's a sense of closure, and a sense of urgency to do the next one. Because your always gathering new ideas and new thoughts.
ANNETTE: What's the extent of touring for the new album?
LARS: I'll be touring through next year.
Interview via-telephone and photos by: Annette Ovanessian