VIDEO: Green Day Tells Howard They’ll Play ‘Dookie’ & ‘American Idiot’ in Their Entirety on Upcoming Saviors Tour
Iconic punk rockers also talk hanging with Eddie Van Halen, scaring David Letterman, and the greatest drummers of all timeJanuary 17, 2024
It was an anniversary party of sorts for one of punk’s most beloved trios as Green Day made their heavily anticipated return Wednesday morning, sitting with Howard for a captivating conversation covering everything from their unique childhoods to their wildest David Letterman appearances before dialing up their amps to eleven and delivering a live, three-song concert for Stern Show listeners. The band — comprised of guitarist and lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool — has plenty to celebrate in 2024 between its brand-new album “Saviors” and the milestone anniversaries of their two most successful releases: 1994’s “Dookie,” brimming with mega-hits like “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around,” and 2004’s “American Idiot,” an album so well received Billie Joe adapted it into a Tony-winning Broadway musical.
How do the East Bay rockers plan to commemorate their impressive achievements? Well, they’re in their 50s now and don’t party as hard as they used to, so instead they’re bringing the party to their fans this summer by way of an epic world tour. The Saviors Tour, kicking off in May in Europe, will also feature frequent Stern Show guests Smashing Pumpkins, punk stalwarts Rancid, and the all-female rock group the Linda Lindas.
“It’s a stacked bill,” Billie Joe told Howard. “It’s gonna be really fun.”
What might be even more fun for Green Day fans is the band’s “Dookie” and “American Idiot”-filled setlist, which the trio announced live on the Stern Show. “Those records came out 10 years apart, [and] they’re these milestones in our career, so we’re going to be playing ‘Dookie’ in its entirety and ‘American Idiot’ in its entirety on tour,” Billie Joe revealed.
“Whoa!” Howard marveled. “That’s a great show.”
Meeting Eddie Van Halen
Music has always been a part of Billie Joe’s life, but it was legendary axe man Eddie Van Halen who gave him his first live rock ‘n’ roll experience. “When I saw Van Halen in ‘84 I was 12, and they were my favorite band, and I cried,” Armstrong recalled of his first-ever rock concert. “It’s like [Eddie’s] guitar playing came from a different place. He reinvented how to play guitar, but they also wrote great songs, and I think that’s the main thing I took away from Van Halen.”
Years later, the Green Day frontman got the opportunity to meet Eddie ahead of a Van Halen reunion show in Kansas City. “We went to the Midwest to see them play, and they were incredible. It was kind of an emotional thing,” Billie Joe told Howard before recalling how surreal it felt to go backstage and chat with the guitar legend while he prepped for a show: “He’s talking to me and shredding at the same time, and I was just like ‘Oh my god.’”
Armstrong vividly remembers many details from that day, from the enormity of Eddie’s hands to the sweet moment Eddie shared with his son Wolfgang Van Halen as they tuned their guitars. But nothing stuck in Billie Joe’s mind quite like seeing his idol get emotional.
“This really insane thing happened where [Eddie] kind of started crying. He looked at me, and he put his hand behind my neck … and he goes, ‘You’re the only one that understands me,’ and he just had tears coming down his eyes … He was like, ‘People think I’m an alien the way I play,’” Billie Joe said. “It was this really kind of heavy experience … I didn’t really know what to say. I was like, ‘Man, you have no idea how much you’ve meant to me as a musician and a songwriter.’”
Billie Joe Has Been Making Music Since He Was Five
Eddie Van Halen may have been one of Armstrong’s biggest inspirations, but the 51-year-old has been making music for almost as long as he’s been able to walk and talk. “I made my first record when I was five … I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he told Howard, adding that his smaller stature as a teen helped steer him away from sports and towards his inevitable future. “Music was the thing for me. I’ve known that pretty much my [whole life].”
After listening to his kindergarten-era track, “Look for Love,” Billie credited the secret voice lessons he took from his childhood vocal teacher, Ms. Fiatarone. “She just showed me how to carry a tune and kind of know how to use my voice and use like my diaphragm … She was great,” he remarked before recalling his regular shows at convalescent and veterans’ hospitals. “I had gigs all the time and I’d wear like tuxedoes … Sometimes I would sing songs like [the jazz standard] ‘Satin Doll’ … It would be kind of funny to see like a nine-year-old being like a lounge singer.”
Tré Cool Apologizes to David Letterman for Scaring Him
When David Letterman visited his old “Late Show” recently, the iconic host admitted to Stephen Colbert that whenever Green Day came on, he would be frightened by some of drummer Tré Cool’s antics. “I was trying to get him in a headlock,” Cool joked to Howard after confirming he would do things such as charge after Dave or kick a canned ham when they finished performing.
He attributed his wild behavior to the abundance of leftover energy he had after playing such a short set. “The first time we did [the show] that energy wasn’t done yet — playing one song is kind of hard,” he noted before explaining his thought process: “My energy is through the roof. Now let’s run around the Ed Sullivan Theater.”
And even when some of Letterman’s people asked him to calm down, Tré just couldn’t help himself. “I’m sorry, David, if you’re listening and I’m ruining your retirement,” he apologized with a laugh.
Green Day’s Take on the Greatest Drummer of All Time
When Howard asked the band to name the greatest drummer of all time, Cool was quick to send some peace and love in the direction of a certain Beatles legend. “I’m gonna piss off a lot of people when I say Ringo Starr, just because I adore him,” the Green Day drummer said before also making a point of praising jazz legend Buddy Rich, the Who’s Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, and the White Stripes’ Meg White.
“[Ringo] played what’s supposed to be played in the song. Drummers forget that they’re playing a song sometimes,” Tré continued. “It’s probably because we’re hiding behind the cymbals, and we don’t get to wag our dong in everyone’s faces.”
Billie Joe, meanwhile, had kind things to say about Metallica drummer and frequent Stern Show guest Lars Ulrich. “I think the way that him and James Hetfield play together is so just in lockstep. His drum fills are completely unique … I really dig the way Lars plays. He’s a great drummer,” he said.
“Yeah, me too,” Cool added. “And his energy is infectious. He’s like a heavy metal muppet.”
Billie Joe Explains His ‘Dilemma’ With Alcohol
Howard told Green Day he really felt the emotion in “Dilemma,” a new single off “Saviors” which Billie Joe had written about his struggles with alcohol.
“I was sober for five years. Then I thought I could kind of go back and be, you know, just a normal drinker again,” Billie Joe reveled. “And I think I was for a little bit —and then it just escalated. It just got to a point where I was just physically and mentally drained. I just felt terrible. I got tired of feeling tired, as they say.”
“This song was written while I was drinking. It’s a strange feeling,” he continued. “There’s no metaphor or anything like that. It’s one of the most honest songs I’ve ever written. It’s one of my favorites on the new album.”
While Billie Joe is sober these days, he doesn’t let that stop him from having fun. “I’ve got a great group of friends that I go out with, and we go see shows, and we’re still able to have a good, sexy nightlife, you know … but we just do it without drinking,” he said as the band geared up to perform “Dilemma” live for listeners in the Stern Show studio.
Green Day kicked off its live, in studio performance with an energetic rendition of “Basket Case.” The Grammy-nominated single hails from the band’s 1994 album, “Dookie,” which they’ll be playing in their entirety on The Saviors Tour.
Howard was blown away. “Wow! That holds up, man,” he told the band. “Watching you guys play that is the most fun thing I could ever watch.”
The trio continued their Stern Show performance with “Letterbomb,” a song off their other album celebrating an anniversary. “It’s a deeper cut,” Billie Joe said of the track, which appears on “American Idiot” alongside chart-toppers like “Holiday,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”
“It never got released as quote-unquote a single, but I think for us what’s important is making albums, so this is a song that’s a big part of that,” Billie Joe added.
Green Day’s Pirate Radio Station Busted by the F.C.C.
Green Day once drew the ire of the F.C.C. after hooking up a “pirate radio station” to its Los Angeles recording studio while laying down tracks for its 2009 album “21st Century Breakdown Studio.” Comparing it to a scene out of the cult Christian Slater classic “Pump Up the Volume,” Billie Joe said the trio broadcasted a stream of music 24-hours a day just to “hear what it sounded like [after] radio compression.”
“The neighbor had a cordless phone, and he was like, ‘All I hear on my cordless phone is your radio station, man,’” Cool recalled with a laugh.
It wasn’t long before the federal government decided to send a message.
“We came back and the F.C.C. had put a card on our door,” bassist Mike Dirnt said.
“It was like in ‘The Godfather’ when they send a horse head inside the guy’s bed,” Billie Joe added.
The F.C.C. came back but couldn’t do anything without a warrant. Even so, Howard wondered if the band felt intimidated.
“We didn’t really scare,” Billie Joe laughed. “But they were onto us, so we took it down.”
Green Day’s “Saviors” hits shelves on Friday. The Saviors Tour kicks off in May. In the meantime, catch the band’s exclusive SiriusXM Small Stage concert Monday night on Howard 101 and listen to Green Day Radio on SiriusXM channel 107.