By: Greg Smith
For: Thrasher Magazine
Date: November, 2002
IT ALL STARTED IN THE DUNGEON THAT I USED TO CALL my office. Every day I'd come to a cubicle where the lights had to be out and the door closed while sage burned in the air and the loud sound of the overlord's music blasted throughout the room. One of the bands I remember from those days was The Distillers. They were one of the few bands I could dandle, and grew to actually like. Things have changed for the better; I now have light, there's no sage burning, the horrible sound or Ricky Martin's "La Vida Loca" isn't and I can think straight again-well, at least enough to bring you punk rockers this interview the Brodie Armstrong. Enjoy.
Where did the band's name originate?
I saw it one this distillery in Melbourne; I'm from Australia originally. I lived in Geelong when I was 16, which is this small, industrial beach town. It's an hour outside of Melbourne, so you had to catch the train and one day I went by this distillery. It was falling down and looked like it was haunted by some cypress trees-it said The Distillers on the top, like 1878. I through it was a great name for a band, so I always kept it.
What music did you listen to growing up?
Everything: the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper and Tom Petty. My first punk band was Discharge, and in Australia what we got was mostly English punk rock, like GBH and Discharge and the Clash. American punk was the Ramones, the Circle Jerks and the Dead Kennedys. There's so many, I can't think of all of them, and then... Here I am.
What was your first tattoo?
A star on my thumb.
This red back spider, which is one of the most poisonous spiders in Australia, or in the world actually. It bites you and it kills you; it's probably similar to the black widow. I have one of those on my ankle. It just reminds me of home.
Did you get that in Australia?
Yeah, and the Australin tattooing wasn't even very good.
Yeah, it was way ghetto. All my Australian tattoos lost their color.
Have you redone any of them here in the States?
No, I kind of like 'em. They're endearing.
What happened to Casper? Why did she leave the band?
I don't think she liked the regiment. Playing music is something that you want to do, you love it. You go on tour, you've got to be at certain places at certain times... She just didn't want to do it anymore, which sucks because she was really talented. I hope she keeps doing something.
Do you like having it as a three piece?
I started this band as a three piece, but I wanted to get a fourth person to help me out 'cause it's really hard. I'm not complaining, but it just takes a little pressure off. So I did that and it didn't work out, so it's marking me a better guitar player-I have to utilize the stage now. That sounds so retarded, but I have to like, fuck around on the stage, move around and put on a show. It's scary, but I overcame it.
So before you could focus more on vocals, and now all the guitar falls on you shoulders too?
It was never like that; Rose wasn't in the front of the house because she didn't really play her guitar.
Is it true that sometimes she didn't even plug in?
Sounds like the Sex Pistols, but yeah, she looked great, she had stage presence--It's like Britney Spears dancing and singing, it's one or the other. They over-dub some vocals and she dances around and pretends to sing. She was plugged in but it made so much noise that it blow the sound a bit, so sound guys would turn me way up and her way down.
What inspired you to write "City of Angels?"
Just the contrast here, from an outsider's perspective. Downtown Los Angeles, it's like the fucking walking dead. It's totally horrific how people live--they're totally addicted to their addiction and they can't get out. Then 10 minutes away people are totally oblivious to what's going on, and have never even been down there because it's not like the center of LA, like Hollywood is. So it's kind of repulsive, it's vulgar. The only time I really like LA is when the sun is going down 'cause it doesn't look like LA when the sun's going down.
Do you like touring?
I love touring, but it can be taxing, but that's what I chose to do. I got kicked out of school when I was 15. I kind of have no choice. I don't want to go back to school, 'cause I hated it. I was sent to two all-girl Catholic schools and it was horrifying. I'm not even baptized. They hated me.
How should your fans react to you playing bigger shows with bands like Garbage and No Doubt? How should they react as opposed to how they are going to react?
Well, I never liked that as a kid. When the bands I really liked got big--it had become yours, you know? When they got attention and really started to blow up, at first I was pissed, but after awhile as I got older I realized you had to do something in order to survive and make money so you can put food in your mouth. I let it go, so I don't give a fuck what the kids think. We have a fan base of kids who will always have our back and have through all this stuff, and there are some kids that all of a sudden don't like us anymore and you wonder whether they really liked us at all.
Did you really like the music? Is that what it's about for you or is it about keeping it underground and being punk and all this bullshit?
I don't care. There are kids out there who are there for us and come to our shows all the time, and we love them for it. The other kids, there's nothing I can do about it; it's kind of out of my hands. I got to live, you know.
Do you have any crazy love letter stories? From kids? Or even grown-ups?
Oh, even grown-ups...I think we have some stalkers. This one kid made me a doll and it was cute and he put his name on it and his phone number on it. So me and Craig from the Bastards, The Forgotten and The Transplants--I got to mention all those bands--I was like "Craig, let's call him up and freak him out." So we called him and left a message, and then my phone rings five minutes later and it's this kid. I'm like fuck, so stupid! I forgot about caller ID. We have fans that fly out from Detroit; it's crazy.
Tell me a little bit about Tim. How did that start?
Rancid played this festival in Sydney in '95 with the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, and a couple others. My last band played that show, and that's where I met him. It was my 17th birthday; my birthday is New Year's Day. I was 17 and told him I was 19--he's so hot and so gorgeous and I was totally in love with him. Now that I know him and he's my husband, he's so chivalrous. He's the most altruistic man I know. He does everything for everyone out of pure love, not as a favor. That's what he does and he's the best fuckin' songwriter that I know, definitely of his generation.
Does being compared to Hole burn you out or is it a compliment?
It doesn't bum me out, 'cause she was great and I really liked that first record and the ones after that. I'm nothing like her, I'm kind of anti what she's all about. I don't think she could be in a three piece band and play guitar like I do and take on that duty. I have other--there's Wendy O, which is huge for me; and Monkey Suit, which is one of the fuckin' hardest things I've ever heard; and Debbie Harry. There are lots of chicks out there who have influenced me along with the guys. Courtney is great or whatever...
So would you put her on your list of influences?
I would put that record on my list of influences, but not necessarily her and her personality. Although, I liked the fact that she had big balls and didn't give a fuck. But it kind of turned around and became this other thing and she's kind of schmoozy now; it's kind of gross. But I don't know the woman, you know, she's been through a lot.
Fang or Guns 'N Roses?
Safety pins or staples?
Ummm...if I could staple something I would; it would fuckin' hurt. Is that my only option? I'm gonna say staples. I'll fuckin staple shit to myself.
Pink or black?
Guys: American or Australian?
American. Australian guys are pigs, except for my dad.
Victoria Bitter or Budweiser?
VB. No, you know what? Neither. Have you ever had Coopers? You got to have Coopers, you can get it at some places. No one drinks Fosters, it tastes like piss. It's embarrassing that it's advertised and mass marketed like it is.
Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin or Crocodile Dundee Paul Hogan?
Oh no! I will go with the real deal, the real thing. I liked the fantasy when I was a kid, I probably wanted to marry Paul Hogan, but not anymore. Australian men aren't that bad. Some are total assholes, but they're like convicts down there. They don't know any better. I used to hang out at Amber skate bowl and there were a lot of professional skaters there back in the day.
Tas Pappas and Jason Ellis?
That sounds very familiar. Did Tas have long hair?
Yeah, he and his brother Ben.
Yes! They skated at the bowl all the time in Melbourne.
What does the future hold for the Distillers?
Just to fucking keep breaking down walls, keep doing what we're doing and go all the way, as far as we can with it. Exploit everything until we can get to where we want. It's kind of like do or die--we have this chance to do something right now, or we can sit in the same place and rot.