The Offspring Biography
The Offspring Biography
Vocal/Guitar — Dexter (Bryan Holland)
Drums — Ron (Ron Welty)(Left the band in 2003) Atom Willard (Atom Willard (Joined the band in 2003)
Guitar — Noodles (Kevin Wasserman)
Bass — Greg K (Greg Kriesel)
By 1984, when what would have become the Offspring formed, the original Orange County punk scene had fractured. We used to go this dance club called Circle City, and there’d be 10 different cliques, ” says Kriesel.”In our high school there was a rockabilly scene, as well as a mod scene and a New Wave scene, as well as a punk scene,” Holland adds. But at Pacifica High, a large public school in Garden Grove, Calif. Holland wasn’t a member of any of those groups. The third of four children born to a hospital administator father and a schoolteacher mother, he kept busy being a “good kid” and hoped to be a doctor. sports were a really big thing,” Holland says, “I was on the cross-country team.” He also happened to be class valedictorian (thus his nickname, Dexter). His senior year, Holland’s older brother gave him a Rodney on the ROQ compilation album.
Before then, Holland was a casual listener. But soon after, he was devouring Flipside and Maximumrocknroll, fanzines out of Pasadena, Calif., and Berkeley, Calif., respecively, that are virtual how-to guides to punkdome. His favorite bands were T.S.O.L. (particulary 1981’s Dance With Me), the Adolescents and Agent Orange County bands that weren’t as hung up on politic as their Bay Area counterparts. Holland’s cross-country teammate Greg Kriesel discovered punk even later. His investment-banker father saw law school in his son’s future. And for most of high school, Kriesel was a sports fan and self-proclaimed jock (he also played baseball). The first punk records he ever heard were the ones the ones Holland played for him. “Music wasn’t something that meant a lot to me,” he says. “But I started listening to it because it was around, and I got used to it.”
Holland and Krisel formed their first band, Manic Subsidal, with two other cross-country teammates one night in 1984 after failing to get in a Social Distortion show. At the time, the two didn’t even own instruments, much less know how to play them. “Bryan and I both learned together,” says Kriesel, “and he wasn’t even playing chords at the time, so he’d play on one string, and I tried to do the same thing. By the summer we were actually playing songs, but it took a while.” Kriesel’s house was the site of the band’s first gigs. “It’s just always a hangout,” Kriesel says, “on any given weekend night up to 20 people could drop by. I had a big upstairs that was pretty much mine, and my mom was downstairs. But she’s always been really cool about it.
That fall, Holland began premed studies at USC (he’s currently a Ph.D. candidate in molecular biology). Kriesel was attending Golden West Junior College and later recieved a B.A. in finance from Long Beach State while working part time in a print shop (he’s planning to attend law school). Weekends were the only time the band could rehearse. Once Holland had written a handful of songs with self-explanitory titles like “Very Sarcastic” and “Sorority Bitch,” the fledgling band headed for a cheap studio. Momentarily waylaid when its guitarist jumped ship, the band recruited Kevin Wasserman, an older Pacifica grad who then worked as the school janitor. Pretty soon, Wasserman was “not doing a hell of a lot except practicing at Greg’s house on weekends and drinking excessively.” Being the only member of the band over 21, Wasserman was particularly useful when it came to buying beer.
“I remember being amazed by Bryan,” Wasserman says, “He was valedictorian, he was such a math geek. So when I first saw him with black hair and plaid bondage pants, I was like ‘What are you doing?’ But I thought it was cool, going beyond what I thought was society’s role for him.” Ron Welty moved to Garden Grove for part of high school, and it was there that his older stepsister introduced him to Holland. “My mom’s been through a few divorces,” Welty says. “She’d get remarried and we’d move, and then she’d get divorced, we’d move.” Welt was only 16 when he begged Holland to let him substitute for Manic Subsidal’s drummer who had started medical school and wads missing lots of gigs.
In 1987, the Offsping paid to release their own 7-inch single. Unable to afford the additional quarter per copy it cost to paste the front sleves to the backs, the band bought a case of beer and glue sticks and held a party for its friends. “To this day the covers don’t hold together too well,” says Holland. It took the band two and a half years to get rid of the 1,000 copies it printed. Two years and a pile of rejections later, the Offspring scored a contract with Nemesis, a small punk label distributed by Cargo.
After tracking down producer Thom Wilson, who had crafted their favorite albums by T.S.O.L., the Vandals and the Dead Kennedys, the Offspring recorded another 7-inch single, called Baghdad, and an album debut titled The Offspring. “All punk bands back in ’84 wrote about was police, death, religion and war,” says Holland. “So that’s what we did.” While recording a track for a Flipside compilation with Brett Gurewitz – owner of Epitaph records and then Southern California’s biggest punk success story, Bad Religion – the Offspring glimpsed a rosier future. “A little after that, I got a tape,” says Gurewitz. “But I have to admit I passed on it.”
A year later, when the Offspring began circulating demos for what would become their next album to every punk label they could think of, Gurewitz reconcidered. “It definitely had what people call the Epitaph sound,” he says. “High energy, rebelleous punk with great melodies and cool economical song structures. “In 1992 Epitaph released Ignition, 12 brief but energetic Offspring songs that summed up the previous decade of Orange County Punk. Other Epitaph bands include Rancid and NOFX.In 1994 their breakthough single Come out and Play and top hit Self Esteem helped push thier third album, Smash to the best selling independent record of all time (9 million plus), and heavy MTV rotation.
After the success of Smash, new fans discovered Ignition as it reappeared in stores. Due to the amount of overpriced, poor quality bootlegs, they rereleased their self titled The Offspring in 1995 with thier own label, Nitro. Nitro has released albums for several other bands, including The Vandals and Guttermouth. In 1996, the Offspring signed with Columbia records after disputes with Epitaph.Their next album, Ixnay on the Hombre, was released in February 1997. Dexter and Jello Biafra stared their own benefit foundation, FSU this year. They are currently on tour
THE OFFSPRING TIMELINE
The Offspring (Nemesis/Cargo 1989 reissued on Nitro 1995)
Ignition (Epitaph 1992)
Smash (Epitaph 1994)
Ixnay on the Hombre (Columbia, 1997)
Americana (Columbia, 1998)
Conspiracy of One (Columbia, 2000)
Splinter (Columbia, 2003)
1984: Orange County high school classmates Dexter Holland and Greg Kriesel are inspired to form a band after an Irvine concert by local punk-rock heroes Social Distortion. With Holland the vocalist, Kriesel takes to the bass.
1985: School custodian Noodles joins up, allegedly for his ability to legally procure alcohol for the underage trio. The threesome practice in Kriesel’s parents’ house and play their first shows in Santa Cruz and San Francisco.
1986: The band, originally called Manic Subsidal, changes its name to The Offpsring. They press up 1,000 copies of the debut vinyl single, “I’ll Be Waiting” b/w “Blackball,” on their own Black Label. The band pioneers its DIY method by glueing the sleeves together at Kriesel’s house.
Sixteen-year-old Ron Welty becomes the fourth member of The Offspring after the original drummer leaves to devote more time to school.
1989: Band signs to independent label Nemesis/Cargo. With punk producer Thom Wilson (T.S.O.L., The Vandals and Dead Kennedys), they release The Offspring, their debut album, which sells 3,000 vinyl copies.
1991: The band put out a 7″ EP, Baghdad (Nemesis/Cargo) and records “Take It Like a Man” for a Flipside magazine compilation, The Big One, produced by Epitaph Records owner (and Bad Religion guitarist) Brett Gurewitz.
1992: The band signs to Epitaph and record their second album, Ignition. After a record release party in Fullerton, CA draws 25 diehard fans, the album goes on to sell more than 1 million albums worldwide.
1993-’94: The band tours the U.S. once with Lunachicks and next with Pennywise. They also do a European jaunt supporting NOFX.
1994: Smash, their second album for Epitaph, is released. Featuring the mega-hits “Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated),” “Self Esteem’ and “Gotta Get Away,” the album is a phenomenon. The disc sells more than 11 million copies worldwide, the most ever for a band on an indie label, after “Come Out and Play” becomes a gigantic MTV hit. The album peaks at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.
1995: Dexter and Greg start Nitro Records. The Huntington Beach-based label forms a roster that includes such California stalwarts as the Vandals, AFI, Guttermouth and others. Nitro also reissues the band’s self-titled debut on CD for the first time. The Offspring’s cover of the Damned’s “Smash It Up” is featured on the best-selling Batman Forever soundtrack.
1997: The Offspring sign with Columbia Records, and release the Dave Jerden-produced Ixnay on the Hombre in February. The album sells more than 3 million worldwide and peaks at #9 on the Billboard 200, with singles “All I Want,” “Gone Away,” and “I Choose” all hitting the Modern Rock charts. Spin raved: “Punk-rock zealots can take their rage to the grave, but what this band cares about beyond everything else is what zealots can abide least: songs.” The L.A. Times praised the album as “richly varied and thoroughly smart.. a mature, sometimes daring and always enticing effort by a band that constantly offers far more than meets the ear.” Jello Biafra makes a cameo appearance on Ixnay and joins the band on-stage to perform version of Dead Kennedy classics “Chemical Warfare” and “Holiday in Cambodia.”
1998: An MP3 file of “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy),” from the band’s yet-to-be-released Americana album is downloaded a record 22 million times over a 10-week period, landing it the #1 spot on Rolling Stone’s Top Pirated Internet Songs chart. When Americana is released in November, worldwide sales climb past the 10 million mark, thanks to the catchy single and MTV video. Other singles include “Why Don’t You Get a Job?,” “The Kids Aren’t Alright” and “She’s Got Issues.” The band’s touring schedule takes them to Woodstock ’99 for an acclaimed performance captured on film and the 1999 Reading/Leads Festivals in the U.K. “We love what we do,” says Holland. “We want to make the best music we can and try to top what we did before.”
1999: The group follows its tour of the U.S. with shows in Australia and Japan. The Offspring makes a cameo appearance in the cult horror/comedy Idle Hands, playing a cover of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Beheaded” from their self-titled debut before Dexter is killed after speaking his one line.
2000: The group is hit with a cease-and-desist order from file-sharing service Napster after offering T-shirts sporting the company’s famed logo for sale on the band’s website. The band defends its actions, claiming they were simply “sharing” the logo with fans.
The band spawns more controversy when they decide to offer their new album Conspiracy Of One free of charge via the Internet prior to its initial November release date. Fans downloading the record were automatically registered in a contest to be awarded $1,000,000 directly from the band (live on MTV) on the day of the album’s release. Fans who go on to buy the record are awarded membership in the Offspring Nation digital fan club, receiving exclusive downloads of unreleased material, advance ticket sales, guarded chats with the band and more. Sony Music doesn’t agree and threatens a lawsuit. The band avoids the lawsuit by making individual singles available on their official website and MTV Online. “The reality is this album will end up on the Internet whether we want it to or not,” Holland tells the L.A. Times. “So we thought, ‘Why don’t we just do it ourselves?’ We’re not afraid of the Internet. We think it’s a very cool way to reach our fans.”
2001: The Offspring headline KROQ’s Inland Invasion at Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore with Incubus, Long Beach Dub Allstars, Pennywise, Social Distortion, Weezer, Mike D and Mixmaster Mike on July 18. In December, the band record “Defy You” with Brendan O’Brien for the soundtrack to Orange County, starring Colin Hanks and Jack Black. Dave Meyers directs the video.
2002: In March, The Offspring play the Las Vegas premiere of Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Huck Jam, with an array of action sports champions like Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Dave Mirra, Mat Hoffman and Carey Hart, then go on for four more dates that fall. In July, they play a benefit concert with T.S.O.L. at the Anaheim House of Blues for They Will Surf Again and Life Rolls On, not-for-profit organizations formed by professional surfers dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. In September, they open the Kerrang! Awards in London before being presented with the Classic Songwriter award by Garbage’s Shirley Manson. Said the venerable metal mag: “They have influenced and continue to influence new generations of K!-heads. Tonight’s award nails not only The Offspring’s glorious past, but their ongoing relevance.”
2003: The Offspring cover the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” which they first did for the film Idle Hands, on the tribute album We’re a Happy Family (Columbia), joining Metallica, Eddie Vedder, Marilyn Manson and KISS and among others.
The band lay down demos for the new album at Holland’s D-13 studios in his native Huntington Beach, then continue recording with producer Brendan O’Brien in Atlanta at Southern Tracks Recording and Henson Recording Studios in L.A. Drummer Ron Welty leaves the band. Former Vandals and A Perfect Circle drummer Josh Freese takes over duties for the recording process. The group is also joined in the studio by two old-school SoCal punk pals, Pennywise’s Jack Lindberg and T.S.O.L.’s Jack Grisham, who takes time off from his campaign for Governor of California to lay down some background vocals.
Holland announces the record will be called Chinese Democracy as an obvious tweak to Axl Rose, who had previously announced that was the title to the new Guns N Roses album he’s been working on for much of the past decade. “It was so damn funny,” says Dexter. “We felt like we had to do it. The idea of stealing the title of an album someone else has been working on for so long was very funny to us. You snooze, you lose. Axl ripped off my braids, so I ripped off his album title.” But ultimately, the band announced on their website that the decision to title the album Chinese Democracy had somehow caused production to come to a halt. “That album title jinxed us,” said Dexter.
The band visit Hawaii, where they film a surfing video with Da Hui, a notorious gang of native Islanders who welcome them to their North Shore turf. The footage will appear as extra footage on their upcoming CD.
The group decide to name the album, Splinter, which is now scheduled to come out Dec. 9 and choose the first single, “Hit That.” In October, they bring in drummer Atom Willard, who was in Rocket From the Crypt for 10 years as well as playing with Moth and the Alkaline Trio.
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