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© Erik Ward /Retna Ltd./Corbis
In his only UK guitar-oriented interview, Billie Joe Armstrong tells us how he made his own amps, his secret love of shred and why Zakk Wylde should love his band's new album...
MOST bands set out with a dream that's been cast from the rock 'n' roll blueprint: play some gigs, build a fanbase, sign a record deal. Many manage the first two, and if they're really lucky, they'll achieve the third. Some bands, on the other hand, capture the attention of a generation – and very special bands manage to do so twice.
In 1994, Green Day – each member aged only 22 – took over the world. Kurt Cobain's death had left a hole in rock music, simultaneously destroying grunge and silencing the legion of plaid-alike bands that the music industry had courted for the last three years. Just as Nirvana had ushered in a sea change with Nevermind and the rallying sentiment of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Billie Joe Armstrong and his band's music struck a palm-muted chord with a generation of disenfranchised suburban slackers with one simple question on Dookie's Basket Case: 'Do you have the time/To listen to me whine?' As it turns out, they did.
Three albums later, things were different. Green Day had turned from snotty punk brats into strung-out millionaires. Subsequent releases Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning made an impact, but failed to replicate Dookie's commercial success. A new wave of sugary pop-punk had emerged, spearheaded by the likes of Blink-182 and Sum 41. By comparison, Green Day's music appeared bloated, the folk- rock direction of 2000's Warning sounded sluggish, and they were all but written off by the mainstream rock press. In the post-9/11 world dominated by paranoia, nu-metal, reality TV and 'wacky' pop-punk pranksters, a generation was left searching for something, but nobody was looking to Green Day to find it. Perhaps that's why 2004's American Idiot was such a success.
While it divided older fans, American Idiot's political subject matter – presented as a concept album complete with proggy acts, The Who-style anthems and a general feeling of being pissed off – sparked the sense of youth rebellion yet again, catapulting Green Day to the top of the charts and the biggest stages in the world.
That was eight years and two albums ago, and Green Day are back with not one but three new records (¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!) set for a staggered release between now and January 2013. The first, ¡Uno!, saw the band return to a stripped-back sound that splices the infectious hooks of Dookie, while the second part of the trilogy, the "wild and sexual" ¡Dos!, hits the shops today. If anyone has a chance or three at reviving guitar music this year, it's Green Day, and speaking to Billie Joe Armstrong, it's clear that the band are re-energised and ready to rock...