BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE
There’s been a lot of talk about rock and roll being dead or whatever, but not if Green Day has anything to say about it. Four years ago Revolution Radio debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. Now, Father Of All…, released today, not only reminds us that rock and roll does, in fact, still exist, but kicks our ears and feet into gear with the infectious excitement of early rock pioneers.
When drummer Tré Cool picked up the phone, the first thing I heard was drumming. Turns out he was sitting at his “Glitter Kitty” purple and gold SJC drum set. I had asked where he was at the moment, as our office is in the the East Bay, where Green Day started.
(I may or may not have been secretly hoping he would be nearby and invite me to stop by and jam on his kit.) Mr. Cool turned the tables, asking, “Where are you at right now?” I told him I was in Richmond, and he shared a story of when he lived there and someone drove a truck into the front of the his neighbor’s house, got out, and started blasting a shotgun in the living room. “I was like, What the fuck!?” he laughed, some 30 years after the incident. “I mean, I’m from the country, I’m from Mendocino County, and we had shotguns but we didn’t shoot them in the house!”
Remember his country roots when he talks about sitting in with Willie Nelson—twice—in the interview below. But first, let’s get back to his band’s new album.
Yes, the spirit of rock and roll is alive and well, and Green Day has managed to pack it all into 10 Tweet-sized punk rock energy shots. Many of the songs clock in at about two minutes, and by the end of the 26-minute album we’re left wanting more.
“Father Of All…” kicks off the album with an ominous hi-hat line and a pause before the guitar jumps in with a staccato riff as Cool’s catchy two-measure, eighth-note–driven pattern cruises ahead at 160 bpm. It’s fitting that this album begins with the drums, since they’ll be the engine for the rest of the ride.
Green Day’s 13th studio album is the band’s shortest full-length to date—the closest is their 1990 debut 39/Smooth—but this album goes back way beyond the ‘90s. There are shades of surf, Motown, and early Beatles, especially on “Stab You In The Heart,” with a double snare 2 & pattern, fast fills, and energy that doesn’t subside for even one of the track’s 130 seconds.
The latest single, “Oh Yeah!,” sounds like a Hal Blaine special. It’s a minimalist pattern reminiscent of “Be My Baby,” with the big beat supporting the vocal and guitar hooks as Cool’s performance drives the song. The album’s closer, “Graffitia,” is an uptempo dance number with a bridge that would feel at home on Pet Sounds, especially with its reverbed-out percussion.
Maybe Green Day’s trying to show us that rock’s not dead; it’s evolved, just like the music that preceded it.
We caught up with the Grammy winning Tré Cool a day after the 2020 Grammys to chat about the making of Father Of All…, the upcoming Hella Mega tour with Weezer and Fall Out Boy, and the time that washboard he bought in an antique store finally came in handy.
DRUM!: The new album is tight and concise. Were you going for a specific sound for the drums on this record?
Tré Cool: Yeah. I used an SJC maple kit and an aluminum snare for a lot of it, and a ‘70s Ludwig Supraphonic, which I call the F150—it’s like a Ford F150, just a good ol’ truck of a snare drum. It’s been on a million records, tried and true. The room was pretty dry. We used this cool stereo overhead mic thing. No frills.
I get a ‘60s and ‘70s vibe in a lot of spots on the new record. Was that something you were going for?
Yeah. When we were coming up with stuff, we would send each other playlists. I was listening to a lot of Motown, The Miracles, ‘70s glam rock, and some ‘50s stuff, too. I wanted to get the vibe of some of these records I was listening to.
Not necessarily mimic the sounds or the playing, but just the vibe and the spirit, the way you can hear the drums as an instrument. Whether it’s super punchy, in your face, like a Mott The Hoople thing, or if it’s more ambient and driving like a Motown kind of thing, just the vibe, I really liked it. I had that in mind, and I think it kind of steered the ship in that direction.
A lot of songs, I’m using Roots EQ muffles—the ones that are the cloth all the way across the top of the head, and they have a ring one too. So, depending on how much mufflage I wanted, I used that. And, man, it makes it real easy to get a good sound.
Especially with the snare. And also, my SJC kit tunes up super fast and super nice. It’s not hard to get those things in tune. And then you slap one of those bad boys on it in kind of a dry room, it sounds like it’s 1974.
Yeah, I could hear that, and a lot of added reverb. “Graffitia” it almost sounds like it could have been on Pet Sounds.
Yeah, it’s cool. You can really control the amount of tail on the note when you do it that way. If you record in a room like Ocean Way, a big, beautiful room that was built 100 years ago to record orchestras and stuff like that, you can’t take away that room sound. But you can always add stuff.
Where did you guys record this one?
This was at Ruby Red in Santa Monica. It’s Butch Walker’s studio.
What’s that place like?
One big room. Not that big, actually. It’s not dry as a bone, but fairly dry in there. Another cool thing about it is his desk is inside the same room as the guitars and drums. He did isolate the amps, but he’s not in a control room behind glass or anything—he’s in there with us.
What kind of effect did that have for the recording?
It speeds things up! You don’t have to do a take, and then go, Okay, let’s go in the other room, through these double doors, another set of double doors, and everyone sits down, and rewind it and play it. It’s just, How was it? Did it sound good? Alright, play it back in our cans. Okay, cool. We weren’t listening back on the speakers, we just listened to make sure we didn’t make a mistake, and just trusted that our sound was good. It really flew by. I recorded the drums so fast.
How long did it take you to record the drum parts for this album?
A little over a week.
Wow, that’s fast.
Yeah, it’s fuckin’ fast. I had booked like two months in a hotel Santa Monica—it’s a big rock and roll record, you know? Who knows how long it’s going to take. We’re working with a guy we’ve never worked with. But Butch Walker is a really cool guy to work with.
What did you like about working with him?
When we first met him and went in the studio, I felt right at home. It seemed like he had been our bro for 20 years. He had old motorcycles in this lounge, and pinball machines, and coffee and whiskey—all the same shit we like. Old cars, all the same records—he had a good turntable. He’s just a cool guy. It was really fast and really easy, and I just felt really comfortable.
And he gets good takes out of you. He doesn’t sit there and second guess you like, Oh, maybe we could try something like—no, he’s just like, Yeah, it sounds good! I like it! It made me able to use my energy to have good performances, so that’s what you’re hearing. He was able to get the best out of me.
“It became evident that we wanted to make a record that you listen to and you put right back on and listen again. Get in and out.”
You can make the sound do a million things after the fact but you can’t always fix the performance.
Right, but that’s not always the way it’s done. That’s not always the way I’ve done it. Sometimes in the past I would spend a whole day hitting snares, trying to get the right snare sound. But I did all that ahead of time. I’ve got a giant drum collection, and going through the songs I knew what songs we were going to record and I narrowed it down to two kits.
I had an old Ludwig kit and an SJC kit. Then I was like, You know what? I don’t even need the Ludwig kit. The SJC kit is so versatile, it sounds so good. If I bring an extra drum set I’ll just be second-guessing myself. I had an SJC 14” x 6.5” aluminum snare, and then I had the Supraphonic from the ‘70s.
Was that a 5.5”-deep Supraphonic?
Yeah, 5.5” deep. So, one’s a little girthier. But you couldn’t tell with that Supraphonic. I kind of tuned it down a little bit and I used those Roots EQs—it sounded fat. This record’s probably half and half between those two snares.
When I was recording a song and I didn’t play a rack tom on the song, I would strike it. I didn’t want anything ringing that doesn’t need to be ringing. If I only played one cymbal, I only set one cymbal up.
Have you done that before for recording?
Yeah, I have. You don’t get all those overtones and it’s much easier to get that punchy sound that you’re hearing.
How about cymbals?
Mostly Zildjian. I have some really cool vintage hats—746g, 857g, 765g ‘60s and ‘70s Zildjians. I had a Sweet Hat bottom, and a Z Heavy bottom that I’d use sometimes, just different combos of those hats. And some Constantinople and Keropes. I had an 18” Sweet Crash, and an Istanbul thing, like a crash-ride.
I have my signature sticks, which are these big ass pieces of lumber, but for this record I went a little bit smaller. They’re Promark Japanese oak PW5DW. To make them feel right for my hand, I wrapped them with Vic Firth stick wrap to make them a little thicker, because I’m used to that bigger grip. I just wanted a smaller stick when it’s hitting the drum and the hi-hat, just for that feel.
This record is short, is that something you guys went into the studio with in mind?
We actually recorded more songs than are on this record, and it just kind of didn’t need them. We were kind of sequencing things, and these other songs—they’re great songs and we’ll probably use them at some time in the future, but they weren’t living with the record in a way where it takes you on the ride.
And I think when we started sequencing it, it became evident that we wanted to make a record that you listen to and you put right back on and listen again. Get in and out.
People’s attention spans now, even ours, are admittedly affected. I read somewhere it’s like, collectively we have a seven-second attention span now. If it doesn’t get your attention in seven seconds, you’re off to the next thing. It’s pretty bad.
I think that there’s a lot of animals that have bigger attention spans than us, we’re kind of the worst ones [laughs]. But we didn’t want to be longer with the tunes on this. A lot of times during the writing process it was like, Should we do another chorus? Does this song need a bridge? It might just be the way this flows. It’s in and out, let’s go.
The songs are short, too. It almost feels like the Dookie-era with these short songs.
It’s shorter than Dookie.
Is this your shortest full length?
Do you use any electronics? Any samples, or drum replacement stuff?
We sampled Joan Jett on “Oh Yeah!” So that’s a sample, and the drum beat of that is a sample, but I’m playing with it. I’m not sure how Butch mixed it, but I’m hearing my drums in there—my kick and floor toms and stuff. We were able to get stupid low-end on that song, it was rad.
As far as multi-effects pads, playing live or anything like that—any electronics at all for you?
No. When we were starting to write this, we wanted to experiment with that kind of stuff. I bought one of those Roland pads, and didn’t really end up digging it. First of all, it’s such an eyesore. I’m from a different generation, maybe, and it just doesn’t seem right. It’s kind of like when cars started making plastic dashboards and all the Baby Boomers were like, Ahh, cars are shitty now [laughs].
It’s generational. But I did get this one thing, and I love it. It’s called the Handsonic, by Roland. That’s a fun toy. I’ll tap that on the tour bus just to have fun. You can play, like, bongos on it, and stuff like that, but we don’t use that on the record or anything.
So you’re not anti-electronics, but just for this band you’re not looking to play around with pieces like that?
I’d rather just go to my warehouse and dig out instruments and play them. I love playing percussion.
What kind of percussion did you play on this record?
Tambourine, cowbell, a lot of shakers. Some other hi-hats—I overdubbed a hi-hat thing.
Do you have a favorite song on this record to play or listen to?
Ah, man. Everyone always asks that. It kind of goes here and there, but I think “Meet Me On The Roof” is such a killer song. I love that song. And we just made a video for it, which nobody knows yet, except you. I’m not going to tell you anything about it, or who’s in it.
Oh, you’re good at the tease.
[Laughs]. Yeah, it’s probably my favorite video that we’ve made.
You’re going on tour with Weezer and Fall Out Boy this summer, what are you most looking forward to about that?
And The Interrupters, don’t forget.
Oh, I don’t know much about them.
We’ve toured with them before, they’re really good friends of ours. We’ve played some shows with Weezer in the past. I love their music, I think Weezer’s a super fun band. I’ve always kind of rooted for Weezer, you know? Fall Out Boy, another good group of guys. We wanted to play a bunch of big ass stadiums, and we were like, Well, we want to play big ass stadiums that are full of people [laughs].
So, we invited some other big bands to open. And I see a lot of other big acts are putting packages together now, so we’re kind of ahead of the game. This is obviously the best deal out there. And it’s sponsored by Harley Fucking Davidson, come on!
So, you’re a motorcycle guy? Did they give you all Harleys to ride on the tour?
They gave us all Harleys to own. I already had a Harley, so now I’ve got two. I can’t ride them at the same time, obviously. But I love my old Harley so much that it doesn’t make sense to get rid of it. So right now, yeah, I’ve got two Harleys in the garage.
And my wife, she rides. She used to race in the desert growing up. Actually, our first date involved motorcycles—we went out on a motorcycle ride together. So, I knew this is the gal for me.
So now you’re doing these stadium shows and world tours, did you have a favorite venue to play before Green Day made it big?
I really loved Gilman (in Berkeley, California). I love Gilman, still. My old band, The Lookouts, played the very first week it opened. We were part of some really incredible nights. It’s a formative part of who I am as a musician and a human, it’s such a cool scene. So, definitely Gilman.
Since Green Day has blown up, I’d say playing the Oakland Coliseum on our last tour was one of the highlights of all time. And Wrigley Field. I really like the big shows. The bigger they are, I just get so pumped.
Do you get nervous? What does it feel like for you?
It’s like a rush. It’s better than drugs, man. It’s definitely a great feeling. The community of it, there’s dust, and people are going apeshit and jumping up and down, and it’s like a sea of humans singing your music. You can’t really describe it. And some of the festivals that we’ve played in Europe are amazing.
Do you get to go to a lot of shows as an audience member?
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. They tend to invite me backstage and I get to meet a lot of artists. I don’t go to a ton of them, but if somebody comes through and I’m like, Oh, I can’t miss that…
Have you seen anyone lately?
Where was that?
At the Fillmore. And I actually sat in with him.
Yeah. One of his drummers, Paul English, went home sick. And I’m friends with (Willie’s son) Lukas, and I was in San Francisco. And Michael (Harmonica player Mickey Raphel) was in Berkeley, and I said, “I was thinking about coming and seeing you guys play tonight,” and he said, “Oh, do you want to sit in? Our drummer’s out,” [laughs]. I was like, Oh, okay.
So, I sat in, and Willie didn’t make it a big thing, he just introduced the band and was like, “And there’s Tré back there.” I think maybe a handful of people realized it was me. It’s San Francisco, it was great—and his weed’s real good. The next week I saw that he was playing in Southern California and I was there, so I played another show with him. I played, like, bongos and shakers.
Did you play drum set?
No, he doesn’t have a drum set, it’s all percussion. He’s got a snare drum that (percussionist) Billy’s playing. And then there’s a box of shakers, and all this stuff. For the second show, I noticed they didn’t have a washboard so I brought my washboard. I have a 100-year-old washboard, so I played washboard for some of it. Willie got a kick out of that.
Finally, the washboard comes in handy.
Yeah! I got it like 20-something years ago. I think I got it at some antique shop. I just knew that this thing was going to come in handy someday [laughs]. It was so fun, he’s so rad. His family, they’re all so awesome. What an experience. Bucket list shit.
So you knew the songs and everything. You’re a fan of his?
Of course. I’ve been listening to Willie my whole life.
One last question: did you check out the Grammys at all last night?
A little bit. I have it recorded, I might check it out later. I was happy that Lizzo won. That’s my favorite record of the last year. That record’s so, so good. I’m glad she won. I would have liked to see her win a couple more. I was happy Billie Eilish won. I like the Grammys, they’re fun.
Tré’s Touring rig
14” x 6.5” aluminum snare
M5 maple kit w/30-degree edges:
22” x 16” bass drum
13” x 8” mounted tom
16” x 15” floor tom
18” x 16” floor tom
Zildjian, left to right:
14” K top, Constantinople bottom hi-hats
19” K Dark Medium Thin crash
19” A Custom crash
22” vintage EAK ride
22” K Constantinople renaissance
19” K Custom Hybrid trash smash
Toms: Remo coated Emperors over clear Ambassadors
Snare: Coated Emperor over Hazy Snare Side Ambassador
Bass: Clear Powerstroke 3 batter and Starfire resonant side