Interview with Green Day’s Mike Dirnt – The Band, Music, Gear and More
Green Day is an American punk rock band formed in 1986 by vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt. For much of the group’s career, the band has been a trio with drummer Tré Cool.
Green Day has sold more than 75 million records worldwide and has won 5 Grammy awards. Recently I was fortunate enough to catch up Mike Dirnt for a quick interview in Hollywood, CA.
Let’s start from the very beginning, like all good stories. What first drew you to music as well as the bass?
As a kid, I was kind of raised on radio and I was always humming and thinking songs in my head. Its funny, when I first met Billy in Fifth Grade, the first conversation we ever had was regarding songwriting. I do not know and I do not remember how it ended up being that way. I found out that he played music and I was impressed. That conversation was weird and prophetic. We were talking about a country song as well as country songwriting in general. Our conclusion was that it is music and it is something that we are drawn to.
I understand. As we know you grew up in California, which has a very reputable music scene. How did this influence your career and your music?
It’s funny that you mentioned that because we are now actually in the process of doing a documentary on the history of East Bay Punk Rock. It started as a documentary regarding Green Day up until 1994. We had all these interviews in and we realized that nobody knows shit about what and where we come from. Like all good stories we should start at the beginning, and now this documentary became something that is not only about Greenday. That is the anchor, and where it ends the ship is ready to sail for Greenday.
The California and the East Bay Sound are actually very interesting. We need to understand that there is great music everywhere and it exists on all levels, even if you use crappy gear, etc. No matter what it is, it needs to pass the campfire test. If it is a good song and you can just grab an acoustic guitar and play it around a campfire with nothing else going… and if it’s still a good song then there’s magic; the California music scene has that. Influences from around the world, sunshine, it is a multicultural scene, multi ethnic, cosmopolitan, etc. All these formed a unique music.
I am just inspired by good music. When I was a little kid, I used to love bands… The Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin… so many. And what was different is that there was constantly great music on the radio. After that I got into heavy metal; Cliff Burton was a big inspiration for me, Van Halen, etc. Bottom end I am constantly inspired by all kinds of music and mostly good songs.
Lets move on to more recent history. What is Greenday doing now and what are the future plans for Greenday.
We just finished recording “Revolution Radio”. The single “Bang Bang” is out now and it’s off to a blazing start. We just filmed the video for it yesterday. I have to say that it is a really menacing position to the song. I cannot give much away but…its really cool. After that we are getting ready to travel around the world and perform to our Greenday family around the world.
You have been with Greenday for… I don’t know 20 – 25 years. How is the songwriting process in the band?
You know, I get this question a lot. The process keeps changing. Sometimes Billy comes in and has all the parts down, therefore he has complete control. Sometimes we just all jam together and we exchange ideas. One thing we still do is that we always exchange ideas and work on the structure together. I always try to create counter melodies, maybe polyrhythms and hooks, as long as it fits the song.
You just mentioned that you are preparing to go on the road. Any touring advice for other musicians/bass players?
Be ready for everything to go down the drain, appreciate it and think of that as part of the adventure. You need to have a conversation with yourself. Always… something is going to happen. The bus might break down, disagreements… something is going to happen. That is when you need to understand that these experiences are what are going to define you as a band. Any group of guys can go on the road, but all these experiences are going to solidify you as a band and these experiences are going to transfer into your music.
Everybody loves talking about gear. How do you achieve your fat sound? I heard some of your latest recordings and I loved it.
On this new record “Revolution Radio” I used a tobacco-burst, road worn bass with a maple neck I just started playing with that and it sounded great. When it came down to recording, I plugged that into the Fender Super Bassman and just used the DI. Simple process. This simple configuration just sounds amazing.
Now I am actually using the latest Fender Bassman 800. I worked and collaborated with Fender in order to design this amp.
Everything from the great Di to the pull knobs, the blend with the gain on it. All these little things and they did a phenomenal job. Another Great thing is that it is extremely light, only 17.5 pounds! It has a clarity on the low end. It has a very clean and clear sound. Like you play with the tip of your fingers or a pick.
Let me sum up everything you just told me in one sentence because the readers will want to know all this information… It has pristine highs, a clear and fat low end and it cuts through the mix and a lot of power.
My cabinet of choice, because I am really punchy, I like a 6×10 cabinet. It’s about what you can fit in your car without owning a truck. Anyway, the 6×10 cabinet with the Fender Bassman is an impressive powerful combo.
I do, I like the consistency of the P-basses. Of course you have to make sure that there is no flat spot on the neck, or there is not a dead note. I also like to check my basses acoustically; I realized that if the bass sounds good acoustically then most definitely will sound good plugged in.
How does it feel to be touring with one of the most well known rock bands!
The greatest thing is that we are really fortunate to have found our sound and our musical identity. There are many bands out there that sound great. I love playing live shows through all the smile wrinkles and the pain. And believe me, there is lots of pain. For me, the greatest feeling is that I can connect and influence that many people.
I love performing “Holiday”. I love performing “Welcome to Paradise” and I always love digging into the old stuff. I am very excited to perform all the new stuff and I am hoping that all the Greenday fans will enjoy the new songs as much as the old stuff.
Andreas Farmakalidis is a freelance acoustic & electric bass player based in CA. Since graduating -magna cum laude- from the esteemed Berklee College of Music (BMus) as well as from Brandeis University (MA) has gained wide ranging international experience as a performer as well as educator focusing on music analysis. Andreas has shared the stage with many national acts such as: aika (www.aikahirahara.com), Candlebox ,WAR, Ryan Cabrera, Heleen Schuttevaer , Nicolas Farmakalidis, Nikolas Metaxas (Xfactor) and Steven Adler (Guns n Roses) as well as many premier local acts. In addition, Andreas has been collaborating with neilaproductions (www.neilaproductions.com, Marty Friedman-Megadeth, Ayaka Hiarahara), which is a Boston Based production Company, since January 2004. Moreover, he has toured all over USA and Europe including performances in most of the major Music festivals such as North Sea Jazz festival, 2005 European Bass Day, Florida Music Festival, SXSW, NXNE, Summerfest among many others. Andreas is currently using and endorsing Gallien Krueger amps. Visit online at andreas-bass.com
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