There's something called a "critical period." If you're younger than 20 you're still in it. If you're 30, it's definitely over. Basically, the critical period is the time in your life when everything that comes in through your five senses---all your mental and physical experiences---leave an permanent mark on your brain. And then there's no going back. You can change after the critical period is over. But it's nothing in comparison to how early experiences shape you. The stinger is, usually by the time you fully grasp that its over. Depressing? Well, not if you play(ed) your cards right. At least in one way I'm sure I did. Every single day for more than 12 years now I've been listening to Rancid. So the opportunity to sit down and interview singer/guitar player Lars Frederiksen was not something I was about to miss. Lars was in Boston while on tour with his other band, Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards. Their latest release, Viking (Hellcat Records/Epitaph), is arguably the hardest punk rock album out there right now, and their live performances are unmatched. Sitting in the back of the tour bus, parked below the bleachers at Fenway, here's what Lars had to say. ---Andy Huberman
Between Rancid and the Bastards, seems you're touring non-stop. So where's home? Campbell, California will always be home, but San Francisco is my home now. I've lived there since 1997. I like the vibe. You can walk down the street and nobody really gives a shit. You know SF is one of the only places in the world, besides Denmark, where gay people can get married. I think that's fucking cool. I like being in a city that celebrates diversity.
You sing a lot about Campbell. Does the Campbell of today look anything like the Campbell you grew up in and describe in your songs? No way. Today it looks like anywhere else that's got a fucking strip mall. It's that consumerism that's been bred into our culture. The fuckin' Barnes and Noble with the coffee shop in it. Its convenient, but that consumerism is going to be the death of America. The East Coast cities, and SF is a great city for this too, they have that when-they-were-built vibe. Some cities in the South, they have it too. It's just that the whole country is so doped up on consumerism that most cities are not what they used to be.
Tell us about your clothing company and your affiliation with Vision Street Wear. The Vision shoes are actually Duane Peters' model. I've known Duane a long time. He's my good friend and he gave me a pair and they were the best shoes I've worn in my entire life. So when I did those Vision ads for him, I was proud because Duane's my friend and I love the shoes and they're all that I wear. My clothing company is called Nihilism Hardcore, and you can get that through www.machetemfg.com. We do stretch pants, vests, T-shirts, stuff that I feel comfortable wearing.
I know you injured your back a while ago. Tonight you were jumping around stage a lot. How's the back? Good, as long as I take care of myself. Years of skateboarding and sleeping on floors will do this to you. I just feel lucky to be on two feet.
Growing up, did you skate Campbell skatepark? I used to go there and watch Cab and Ray "Bones" Rodriguez. I've known Cab since I was 10 years old. Me and Simon Woodstock grew up together. His family was kind of broken up, just like every kid in the neighborhood. We all just bonded together. Later, when we were in high school we would skate. That was around 1985-1986.
What about Cab? One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was knowing Cab. Once, when I was on the Warped Tour with Rancid he pulled me aside and told me how proud of me he was. He's a great skater but he's also a really solid guy and a great musician. I remember when I was a kid and Cab was like the number one skater in the world. I would be sitting at a party and he would come walking by and say, "Hey Lars, how ya doin'?" I was a 13-year-old punk rock kid that hated the fucking world, so for Steve Caballero to be nice to me meant a lot. You know, when you come from one of those towns there's a lot of envy and a lot of jealousy, so there is a lot of hatred toward guys that are really making it. But Cab was always the most humble motherfucker. He still is.
I know you're a serious pro wrestling fan. So who is the all time favorite pro wrestler? I liked Dr D, David Shultz. Nature Boy Buddy Rose. Coco B-Ware. Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat... I could go on and on. I think the reason I'm able to talk on the microphone to a crowd, the only reason I have the balls to do it, is from the years of watching wrestling, watching those guys cut promos. The way they say things and the way they communicate, their inflections. For me, being a punk rocker, they were my only friends in a lot of ways. It was an escape. I remember back in 1983-1984, on Saturdays there would be about eight hours of wrestling and I would just stay home all day, glued to the TV. I could follow it all. I loved it. I still love it. I love it as much as I love punk rock.
So for kids out there playing music and writing songs, they must wonder how you got to where you're at. What advice can you offer them? Practice your craft. Pro skaters don't get anywhere sitting on their ass. Pro weightlifters lift weights four- to five-hours a day, every day, seven days a week. That's how I learned how to play guitar. I sat in my room with tapes and tried to make something sound good to what I was listening to. Once I did that I started feeling like, "Okay, I can express myself." It wasn't until I was 16 that I picked up a guitar. Anyone can do it. You don't have to be a genius. It's a matter of passion. If you want to do it to make money, you probably never will. If you want to do it for the love of it, you probably have more opportunity to do that right now in the world today than ever. And that's why there will always be punk rock music too. Out there now is some kid who's fucked up, feels disenfranchised, disconnected from the whole world, and he's got a guitar. That's what happened to me, that's what happed to Tim, that's what happened to Matt, that's what happened to Brett, and all the Bastards too. We're that kid. We didn't feel like we fit in so we tried to do something of our own. Whatever you put your mind to you can do. I'm living proof of that. Hard work, that's what you need to do it.
Every Rancid album is so different from the last, but at the same time, something seems to unify all of them too. How does it come together? Is there a preset plan? We've always been very off the cuff. We don't know what a record is going to sound like until we start making it, and even then we don't really know. They really don't take form until the last three-four days in the studio.
Rancid 2000 was all loud, fast, short songs. So, you didn't plan that? No. We were just fucking pissed. There was a lot of tension in the world. It was coming from a place of pure anger. We put it down and that was the result. Indestructible turned out to be more focused on our personal lives, but it was also political, focused on the mass consumerism of the population. You know, it's a video game culture now. There are shows about video games on TV. Reality shows. I don't subscribe to that shit. I don't care if anyone does, that's their business. But I will not participate in it. I don't speak for anyone else when I say this, but I think it's all part of dumbing down America. Obviously if a Nazi like George Bush can win another term as president, then, man, its just scary.
Are we completely fucked for the next four years? I think we're fucked for the next 20 years. I think the next generation of kids is really going to feel it. I just don't understand how people are duped into thinking Bush is good. It's all fear and scare tactics. Its like if I show up at your house with Big Jay Bastard, and say, "He's going to blow up your house unless you give me five bucks. Are you going to give me five bucks?" That's what Bush is doing. He's just using guys from the Middle East. I've got a nephew in the 101st Mountain Division over in Iraq right now. I worry about him every day. All he wanted to do was be a police officer. He thought being in the Army would look good. He had no other way. It just goes to show it will always be the kid from the lower or middle class and below that go to fight the wars, because the other opportunities in life are not going to be there for them.
You've always sung out for people that have no voice of their own. Where does the desire to do that come from? Everything I think I am today is a result of being in Rancid and growing up the way I grew up. My mom put the time into me. She's had a huge impact on my life. She's everything to me. I was taught to judge a person by their merit. Not by the color of their skin or their sexual preference. That's bullshit. Not their religious beliefs either. It's when their religious beliefs or their political beliefs step into my territory, that's when I will have a problem and I will fight back. Nobody is going to tell me how to live my life. You tell me what I'm going to do, "Fuck you!" I don't care who the fuck who you are, what color you are, what church you go to, if you suck dick or you don't. You treat me with respect, I'll treat you with respect. I'm not going to hate anybody on ignorance. At the end of the day all I've got is my passion, my love, my music, my family, and that's who I look after. I don't give a fuck about anyone else.
By Andy Huberman