Pennywise's Fletcher Dragge sits down for a new interview

A Pennywise for your thoughts: The politically outspoken group performs at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville tomorrow.

The new disc is filled with vitriol, following in the footsteps of 2001's "Land of the Free?"
Such tracks as "God Save the USA," "Judgment Day" and "Rise Up" are a reaction to post-Sept. 11, 2001, events and how the Bush administration has handled the sticky situation.

"We live in a very scary world," guitarist Fletcher Dragge said while calling from his Hermosa Beach home. "I just don't understand it. It nauseates me. We spend so much money on weapons to kill people to defend us from the hate we're breeding. We're a difficult nation to figure out. We can't keep the homeless off the streets. We have some of the best medicine, but people can't get to it since we have a terrible health-care system. We have a president that is talking about going to Mars. I'm not against the space program. I'm for exploring space, but that's the last thing I think we should be focusing on now. We should focus on the problems we have on Earth, while we still have Earth."

Dragge can't help but to vent at "hello."
"I look forward to speaking to newspapers and magazines of any level to get the word out about the situation," Dragge said. "It would be great if we sold 14 million albums like a Linkin Park so we could get on MTV and then we could air out how we feel to millions, but we know that isn't going to happen."

Pennywise, which also includes vocalist Jim Lindberg, bassist Randy Bradbury and drummer Byron McMackin, could never make the concessions to join a major label. Major labels have been courting the group, which has been with Epitaph, an independent record company, since it released its eponymous debut in 1991.

Pennywise will not give up an iota of autonomy. "We have an agenda," Dragge explained. "We have to do what we want. We're not about what the corporate world wants. Our message is undiluted. That's something we'll never change."

As a result, Pennywise has devoted followers who own every turbo-charged, in-your-face collection of urgent, political rock the band releases.

"We appreciate the support we've received from our fans," Dragge said. "They're the reason we've been around for so long."

Fans know what to expect from Pennywise, as the group doesn't veer much from its sonic formula. "What we do works for us," Dragge said. "Our music packs a solid punch. It's not so much due to our genre. It's just something we do. For instance, if we did country-western, it would still feature loud guitars and drums, which go 200 mph. That's our calling card."

The group figures there will always be issues that will inspire material.
"Unfortunately, we live in a country with lots of problems," Dragge said. "As long as that continues, you'll have Pennywise songs."

Dragge hopes a Pennywise fan will become president someday.
"It would be incredibly cool if someone raised completely on Pennywise became our leader," Dragge said. "Then we might be able to get somewhere. The world would be a better place. Until that happens you'll have us bitching and moaning album after album."

Pennywise With Guttermouth, Stretch Armstrong and Bleed the Dream, 7 p.m. tomorrow, Starland Ballroom, 570 Jernee Mill Road, Sayreville. $15. (732) 238-5500.