Rancid on the Road
An Interview with Matt Freeman
Where are you now?
Florida, and it’s so ugly.
Yeah, I hate looking at how it’s gotten ruined–when you fly over it, it’s so flat. It’s tree clump, mall, mall, highway and a little patch of trees. They totally fuckin’ ruined it.
That’s so true.
It’s fucked up not having any mountains or anything, I lived in Florida for a while.
You in the Bay Area now?
Yeah… I do family stuff, got a family now. This place used to be a sort of squat.
On Larkin St., next to Polk.
Yeah, I flew into that area… Used to be able to take the S bus over, but I don’t even know if that runs anymore. It’s still a fuckin’ hassle from the East Bay.
San Francisco’s so fucked man, when I came here it was… It’s kind of like this big homeless punk scene… There were a lot of places you could crack a squat, but now they ran everyone out.
Yeah, I read about that in the paper… Golden Gate Park by the Haight…
They closed that part of the park where all the kids camped out.
It’s a trip, too, ’cause, like, I’ve noticed the population…there’s so many fuckin yuppies in the city now.
Renting a studio is like $900 or $1000 or so, and 100 people show up wanting the place. We don’t know what we’d do if we got kicked out of this place.
Probably have to move over to Oakland like everybody else did (laughs).
So when you go home do you go to Oakland?
Oakland. I’ve lived in the city of Berkeley for about six years now, but before that I lived in Oakland, Emeryville, Richmond. I grew up in Albany. About the only city I haven’t lived in over there is El Cerrito. Emeryville used to be so fuckin’ cool like in the late 80s, lot of people lived there, then they put this mall in and things just blew up.
It’s like that in music too. I mean the fucked thing about punk bands, you’re fine if nobody knows about you, but once you get popular people get all pissed off. What about the gutter punks and the homeless punks who want to come to see you and they can’t afford it? You think that since you’re big that it’s harder to get in touch with those folks? Do you know what I mean?
Yeah, I know what you’re saying… I mean, I don’t seem to have any trouble staying in touch. I guess it’s a little harder playing in bigger places, but I mean a lot of times we hang out at shows, we’re sort of out there… I’ve helped people get into shows before… I make it a point to do that…
Honestly, in a way, it’s weird… Sometimes you want to hang out with people and stuff, when people are cool and like normal people, “Hi, how
are you.” Then you get some people who are, like, get so fuckin’ weird. I guess they’re intimidated or like you a lot or something… I really don’t know why… I feel like when I used to go when X was in town and I’d want to talk to them, I’d be fuckin’ scared to death of those people and act like an idiot, you know, stupid… I used to be sort of mean to those people–like, “What are you staring at me for? What’s your problem?” Then I thought about it and I thought, You’re being sort of a dick.
Do you like still consider yourself a punk?
Yeah, I mean, I do… I still feel like an outsider, you know, I do… Obviously I’m not a freak center punk. For me punk is really an attitude. It’s all what you did with it. It’s a real like, what am I looking for? Rancid, we just wanted to be a band and play shows, so we made that happen. That was the cool thing about Gilman Street way back, ’87 or ’88, you had all these bands. And we just make shit happen, like our first band, Operation Ivy, we went on tour and we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. We had this ’69 Chrysler Newport, fuckin four-door with a box on the top. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies out there… But we always just worked hard and we’ve always done what we wanted and we’ve always been honest about what we do.
You know the underbelly of how fucked kids’ lives can be. Do you ever have the feeling you want to reach out to those kids or give back, you know what I mean?
There are several parts to that question. We’ve never really tried to be a preaching kind of band. But at the same time the one thing we always try to do is we’ve made this point of trying to encourage self-reliance and going out and doing your own fucking thing. You just gotta go out and make it on your own. I mean, that’s cool, that’s the whole thing about punk rock and sort of got me into it, was all these people are sorta creeps, like me, did not fuckin’ fit in, fuckin’ high school, fuckin’ whatever, football, cheerleader bullshit or the college set, you know what I mean. I think a lot of us growing up just sucked. I think we’ll always gotta appeal to the disenfranchised, and say, “Look, people may think you’re fucked up, but you’re really not
fucked up, you’re really cooler than they are.”
It seems like if you’re a band like Veruca Salt, folks don’t have fat integrity expectations. When you’re a punk there’s a kind of expectation that you have a conscience–like there’s more of a connection to the real people.
The reason why is that it’s more of a community. I can only speak for shit that happens in the Bay Area. It was always a community. You had bands helping each other out and bands giving people shows and a whole network, you know kids putting on shows in grain halls across America, putting people up or taking them to where they have a squat. I think it’s more of a community…where [now] you have some of these bigger bands who go right from the clubs to a record deal… I mean a record deal was not even a fuckin’ rage back then. Maybe you’ll put out your own 7-inch, or maybe Larry Livermore will start and put your Operation Ivy on a 7-inch.
How did you like that show you played on that pier here in San Francisco?
That was pretty cool, sort of a weird place for a show, but… That was the Warped Tour. That was a really fun tour, really cool, really low-key. That was one of the hardest tours I’ve ever been on. You wouldn’t think so, but it was six days on, one day off and on the day off you were always driving 1000 miles someplace. Monday was always the day off. It was really weird, it was fuckin’ hot. Low-key. But it was really really fun. ’Cause you had all those bands there, part of why we did it was just because we wanted to hang out with our friends like NOFX. When you’re in a band you never really see any of the guys in the other bands that much; you’re on the road all the time.
I wanted to go. I had tickets, but I couldn’t resist selling ’em.
Was it sold out?
I don’t know, but I used to trick and one of my old customers happens to work at Atlantic Records…
Way. Whenever I want anything from any of the Atlantic bands, he hooks me up. I lived in L.A. and I tricked there, so there’s a lot of guys in different bands. He messengered me up tickets. But we had a baby group to go to that day. It’s a different life than it used to be for me.
Having kids and stuff like that.
I have a boyfriend, and he and my best friend had sex, and that’s how we had Thor. And we all live together.
Well, that works out.
It’s like the Brady Bunch… Are folks who interview you sometimes harsh?
Yeah, sometimes people try to be. I got a couple rules. On the Warped Tour we did pretty much solely fanzine interviews, just kids showing up with fanzines. People that do the fanzine thing I have respect for, ’cause it’s such a bitch. They’re working it. They’re trying to hustle interviews, they’re at Kinko’s at 3 a.m. putting together this book. So if they try to ask me hard questions, I’ll answer them politely, and if they get too mean, I’ll deal with
them, you know what I mean. But I’ll take it from them a little bit because I got respect for them.
Who I won’t take it from is sometimes you get these college reporters whom I consider sort of like rich kids… These kids that work for some college paper, man, call you a sellout, “Blah blah blah, don’t you think being on MTV is being a sellout?” You know what I think, living on Mommy and Daddy’s money is a sellout.
They’re really crafty how they get after you.
Gotta be careful to be honest. I respect a person a lot more if they know what they’re talking about. Sometimes you get these guys, the only exposure with punk rock they’ve had was they got Combat Rock, maybe London Calling, but you run into all kinds doing this, so I try to be nice and mellow and not take their questions seriously.
Do you guys have a lot of girls trying to be groupies?
I guess. I really don’t know. I don’t really look for that kind of thing. I’m pretty bad at spotting it. Tim and Lars are married, you know, and I got a girlfriend… I’ve never been into that kind of thing. I’m pretty oblivious. I think they give up after about 10 minutes. If some girl comes up to me and starts talking about something really dumb, I’ll be like, okay, really nice…and then excuse myself.
Do you have any stories about when you went down South or in the Midwest?
We had this Ford van and we were driving from Little Rock to Pensacola, and there was like no direct route and we had to take like these access B-roads, state highway things. We were crossing Mississippi, we crossed over to Vicksburg, and a cop pulled us over. He comes to the side, says, “Can I search the van?” and Richard goes, “No.” And I go, “This is Mississippi and they’re going to search it anyway,” and of course they did. They brought out the drug dog and search us all, and they tell us, “If you have any drugs, boy, you’d better tell us now, or else.” So I’m kinda scared, because this is the South. I don’t know what the hell they’re goin’ to do, so we’re just, “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” trying to get the fuck out of there. So Lars [Frederiksen, guitarist] has this GBH discharge hair, you know? And he had this totally charged-up hair.
So they searched the van and they didn’t find anything, ’cause we didn’t have anything. And they’re relaxing a little. They’re like, “So what do you
boys do?” “We’re in a band.” “So what are you, like, punk rock?” “Yeah, we’re punk rock.” He’s like the chief of police in Vicksburg and he goes to Lars and is like, “What light socket did you stick your finger into?” And Lars goes, “It wasn’t my finger, sir.”
(Laughing) If you could have like taken a picture of every one of our faces–except for Lars, he’s just up there sayin’ it, you know, and all four of us were like… I mean, I thought I was going to end up on a chain gang or something. Like, okay, that’s it. They plant something and all of a sudden we’re building highways for the state of Mississippi. But they actually laughed about it. It took them a second to get it. They thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Then three hours later we’re driving down the same highway in Mississippi and we get pulled over again.
What’s your van look like?
It’s a fucked-up red van with graffiti on the side. We kept it fucked-up because we had this theory at the time, which actually was pretty smart. We had this fucked-up windowless red van with graffiti on the side, which looked like some fucked-up windowless red van with graffiti on the side, not a band van, so they’re not like going to steal equipment, right?
We were pulled over three hours later, and these two big troopers get out and say they want to search our van for drugs, and by this time were late and I’m like pissed off. “Look, we got pulled over at Vicksburg, can’t you like call them?” You know? “Call the Vicksburg police department, they’ll tell you we’re good guys.” “No, we’re going to search.” So of course it’s out of the van again. So they go through the van, and they find Lars’ bullet belt. You know what a bullet belt is, obviously.
They’re like machine gun bullets, right?
That’s actually what they are. They’re like those things in the war movies, those strips that go into the machine guns with bullets. He picks this thing up and goes, “What’s this?” And I’m like, “Jewelry.” He’s like, “What?” I’m like, “Jewelry, a costume. What d’ya think we got some 30 caliber machine gun we mount on the top of the fuckin’ van to take car of state troopers?”
And this dude’s partner starts bustin’ up and he gets all red and says, “Okay, get out of here!”
You really find out, when you get inland, how different it is.
Yeah, we’ve had some pretty… When we stop at truck stops, like in Arkansas or Alabama, we get a lot of stares and comments, but I don’t know, after a while they just leave you alone.
Truckers can be really cool or really bad.
Exactly. As long as you don’t start anything, we just go in there. We just eat food and leave; they leave us alone. Usually they leave us alone. Sometimes they try to start shit, but you know… We don’t give them anything to get going.