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The Offspring’s Dexter Holland and Noodles on flying fighter jets, supporting the NHS, and ‘smelling the gold records’

Written by on 7 November 2021

If The Offspring’s Dexter Holland were to make it into the Guinness World Records hall of fame, his accomplishment could be, he thinks, “the most stuff”.

“Goddamn overachiever right here – I’m just drinking beer and watching YouTube videos,” says his bandmate, lead guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman, as the pair contemplate over Zoom with Sky News the fact that Holland is not only the frontman of a multimillion-selling band but also a licensed pilot with a PhD in molecular biology.

“Well, I don’t sleep,” he jokes. “I think the band has always been first and foremost for me, this is what we love to do and it’s my main work focus. But I’ve always been interested in other things, flying is one of them, science research is another one. You just have to figure out how to carve out blocks of time to do those things.”

The Offspring. Pic: Tijs Van Leur Image: ‘We thought they were owed a little bit back’: The Offspring will play a gig supporting the NHS in Hull. Pic: Tijs Van Leur

Holland and Noodles have been sharing their expertise on certain subjects in YouTube videos, How To… With The Offspring; the latest on how to fly a fighter jet. Noodles, as it turns out, is a keen birdwatcher, while Holland can also catch a wave.

But all this is second to The Offspring, the punk-rock band that rose to fame in the 1990s with their third album Smash and went on to sell 40 million records, best known for hits including Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) and Original Prankster.

Earlier this year, the band released their 10th album and first in a decade, Let The Bad Times Roll. The titular song had been written before 2020, during a period of deep political division in the US.

The bad times, says Holland, had well and truly “been rolling for sure” way before the pandemic hit. However, a world in lockdown really cemented it.

After making their live return earlier in 2021, they are getting ready to tour the UK once again and promising fans “a good time celebrating the bad times”.

“We’re tip-toeing back into it because things are definitely not normal yet,” says Holland. “It’s fits and starts and two steps forward and one step back, but it’s getting there.”

When they come to the UK later in November, the band’s shows will include a free gig in Hullin support of the NHS and frontline workers. While several British acts – from Liam Gallagher and The Charlatans to JLS and Rick Astley – have also done this, it is a significant gesture from a band from the US.

“We come to the UK pretty much every year, it feels like a second home to us in a lot of ways,” says Noodles. “The NHS and frontline workers are doing a phenomenal job, They’re really kind of putting themselves on the line to keep us all safe. We thought they were owed a little bit back. It’s our pleasure to do this.”

“We felt like it was so important to acknowledge,” says Holland. “This is such an unusual time and all of those people in those services have really stepped up to help humanity. So it was important to us.”

Earlier this year, the pair reworked the band’s 1994 hit Come Out And Play, changing the lyrics from “you gotta keep ’em separated” to “you’ve gotta go get vaccinated”. A few months later, drummer Pete Parada said it had been decided he was “unsafe to be around” as he was unable to have the COVID-19 vaccine due to underlying health issues, and that he would not be joining the band on tour. Headlines said he had been dropped from the band.

“He wasn’t really dropped from the band, even to this point,” says Holland. “He was either unable or unwilling to get vaccinated and we couldn’t take an unvaccinated person on tour with us. We looked into it, you know, we tried to work all of these different scenarios and we kept hitting roadblocks. And so we needed to have a completely vaccinated crew and band.”

The Offspring. Pic: Daveed Benito Image: Drummer Pete Parada (left) has not been touring with the band this year. Pic: Daveed Benito

In October, Noodles tested positive for COVID-19, and told fans on Twitter that being vaccinated “certainly made it easier” and “might’ve just saved my life”.

“We understand how vaccines work and we trust them,” he tells Sky News. “We believe they’re safe. There are some people that are legitimately unable to get vaccinated, we understand that. And so I think those that can should do that for those people as well.”

As well as supporting health workers and helping spread the message on vaccines, The Offspring also address other issues through their music. The Opioid Diaries, from Let The Bad Times Roll, looks at America’s drug addiction problems, with a powerful video spelling out the statistics in black and white.

“I think a lot of times [people] think of our more fun, light-hearted songs, but there’s always the serious side of us on albums too,” says Holland. “We thought this song was important to write because addiction in general is something that needs to be addressed [but] this was almost sort of an unwitting addiction… people were kind of innocently thinking they were getting pain medication that they legitimately needed and didn’t realise how addictive it was.”

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They have also been performing a reworked softer version of Gone Away, from their fourth album Ixnay On The Hombre. During the pandemic, it’s a song that has taken on new meaning.

“It’s been brutal, says Holland, of the past 18 months. “Everybody experiencing loss with that message and that hitting home of the loss has been especially poignant in the last couple of years.”

As well as the serious songs, fans going to the live shows will also get the hits. Still punk-rocking in their 50s, how do they feel looking back at the CV?

“We’re more of a forward-looking band, I think,” says Noodles.

“It’s been amazing that we’ve been able to go this long and this is what we love to do and definitely realise that we’re very fortunate to still be able to do it, for sure,” says Holland. “But as Noodles said, that’s not what we rest upon. We don’t just walk down the aisle and look at the gold records.”

“Well…” Noodles interrupts. “We do take some time to stop and smell the gold records.”

The Offspring’s Let The Bad Times Roll is out now. The UK and Ireland tour starts with the show in support of the NHS and key workers in Hull on 19 November