Interview: Noodles from The Offspring

Life has come full circle! It feels like just yesterday it was the late 90s and I was lying to my parents about my whereabouts (friend’s house; of course), when in reality, I was attending The Offspring’s concert in Cleveland. (If my parental units are reading this, it will be the first they have learned of my fib. They’ll both be disappointed, but hardly surprised.) Coming full circle, some 20ish years later, Offspring guitarist Noodles is on the other end of my phone ahead of the band’s August 22 tour stop at Blossom Music Center!

I told Noodles about the lie that sprung me to an Offspring show.

“I hate that you had to lie to your parents in order to come see us,” he said with a laugh. “In a more perfect world, parents and children could share more love of the same rock band.”

While the interviewer has been prioritizing concerts and interviewing rockstars over giving his parents the gift of grandchildren, many peers have offspring old enough to attend Offspring concerts! “I love seeing the kids come out with their parents,” Noodles said. “Or, sometimes, it’s the parents coming out with their kids. Either way, I love it.”

The Offspring’s success is undeniable. They have hit albums in four different decades and to this day, are filling 10,000+ capacity amphitheaters on their current trek. The formula to this success, however, is unbeknownst even to the band. Like any band, the fans play a huge success in the success of The Offspring.

“I have to give our fans some credit. We’ve got the best fans in the world out there and they really stick with us,” Noodles confirmed. “Some of them have been around for decades. Some of them are relatively new. I think also, the fact that we keep getting out there and just doing it. If you show up, people will, too. And, we’re not afraid to show up! We love doing what we do. We love going out and playing shows. So as long as we keep doing that, I think that the fans are going to keep joining us.

With a discography as large as The Offsprings and a fanbase that spans multiple generations, touring is slightly more complicated, especially when it comes to crafting a setlist for the tour.

“It’s always a little bit of a question. What do you cut and what do you keep in? We kind of know certain songs we have to play,” Noodles said. “We have to play ‘Pretty Fly [(For A White Guy)],’ we have to play ‘Self Esteem’, ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ …We love playing those. When we start doing the deeper cuts or the new song, like, what songs from ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’ are going over the best, it takes a while to learn what connects with an audience live rather than what connected over the radio. Sometimes that’s different, too. We always miss somebody’s favorite song. They really want to hear some deep cut and we just didn’t get to it that night, you know? We understand. I mean, as a music fan myself, I hated it when I’d go to see a band play and they didn’t play that one song I was really hoping to hear. You can’t please everybody, you know? We try to, but it’s just difficult, you know?

The music business has been turned on its head since the band’s inception in 1984. The way a band gets their music to the masses and the paths to success have changed drastically. When queried on if he would have rather got his start in the mid-80s when FM radio was king or get started today with social media and streaming at a band’s disposal, Noodles had a lot to say!

“There are trade-offs, of course. We were lucky in the way we came up,” he replied. “It was a little bit more organic because we were on an independent label. We were kind of like the Davids taking on the Goliaths of the world. being on Epitaph. Epitaph didn’t have the money and resources to promote things the way the major labels did. We were very lucky that one of our guys went down and played, five songs from five different bands the music director at KROQ and the music director really liked ’Come Out and Play.’ They decided it was going to be Jed’s catch of the day. Jed the Fish was the DJ at the time in the afternoon slot. It was going to be his ‘catch’ during drivetime.

“We were really lucky. Nowadays, I think it’s a little bit more democratized because you used to have some kind of money behind you, some kind of label and money behind you to get big radio play,” he continued. “The internet has kind of taken all the wind out of the sails of the big corporate labels and really kind of democratized things.  A kid can, you know, come up with something in an afternoon, put it on his computer, film the videos at night, and if he uploads it right and gets it in front of the right people, he can go viral the next day and kind of become an overnight sensation. The problem with that is there’s way too much content out there. The gatekeepers have been kind of brushed aside, so pretty much anybody can get their stuff out there. How do I know that this is something worthwhile? There’s a lot of bad music out there as well as some of the good stuff, but, so I think it’s a trade-off, really.”

This interviewer remembers the now-defunct Cleveland radio station 107.9 The End hyping up The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)” single for days on end before it finally debuted during afternoon drive. Times have changed. FM radio is no longer king. Fewer people find their new favorite tracks that way.

“There are still some elements of that,” Noodles said. “We still do that, you know? We’ll work something out with radio stations or whatever, but I don’t think it is the same.”

The generic question of “Who are your musical influences” was a lame question in this writer’s toolbox when interview requests first started to be granted. Now, the question is reversed to the veteran bands. The Offspring has undoubtedly inspired many of the bands that have developed a decade or two after they got their start. Noodles was asked if there is a band that has told him that The Offspring was an influence on their careers.

“Some of the guys in Simple Plan and Sum 41 have said similar things, especially the Simple Plan guys,” he answered. “Some of the early Offspring stuff kind of inspired them to form a band and I’ll run into people that’ll say the same thing, especially young musicians. It’s always very flattering. I’m more concerned about, paying it backward towards the bands that inspired us; the bands that really kind of made us want to do this.”

As a Cleveland-centric, we would have been remiss not to ask Noodles Noodles if he feels The Offspring should find a permanent home in Cleveland and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“We usually are kind of overlooked by the critics by that sort of thing. I don’t think we’ve ever been nominated for a Grammy, let alone be awarded one,” he said. “It’s not something that concerns me. I like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m actually planning on visiting it while I’m in town.”

Without prompting, Noodles jumped in on the stupid argument that rolls around every time the new inductees are announced. ([Insert inductee name] isn’t Rock and Roll! It shouldn’t be called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anymore!])

“I think Rock and Roll should be inclusive,” he said. “I think Willie Nelson… people think of him as a country artist. Doesn’t he belong in the County Hall of Fame? You know, screw that! He also writes great songs. He rocks in his own way. So does Dolly Parton, of course. There are all the hip-hop guys, you know, like when NWA was inducted, people came out of the woodwork for that. That’s great. They’re punk as hell. They were defiant. That’s what Rock and Roll is all about: being defiant.”

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