Rancid bassist Matt Freeman runs with the Devil’s Brigade
Tropicana1696 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95815
Punk rockers Matt Freeman and Tim Armstrong have been musical soul mates since their early days of trolling around the East Bay, like the Simon and Garfunkel of the West Coast, but with more skull tattoos. Operation Ivy, Rancid and almost all of Armstrong’s solo projects have all been team efforts. Devil’s Brigade stays true to the formula—with one exception: Freeman runs the show this time around, and Armstrong swagger takes a back seat to Freeman’s grizzly-bear vocals and upright bass. Days before hitting the road with Street Dogs, Freeman took a minute to tell SN&R why he’s psyched.
What other bands were you listening to during the writing process for the new album?
Funny story. Before I go into a studio, there are bands I listen to get me pumped up, and one of those bands is X. My favorite band of all time. Tim and I love that band; they were a huge influence on us. So I was listening to these records, and they sound freaking cool. Anyway, we scheduled our studio time and then we wondered, “Who should we get to play drums?” Tim called me one day and asked, “What are you up to?”
I told him, “Oh, I’ve been listening to a lot of X records lately.”
He said, “Oh, man, I love those fucking records.”
I told him, “We gotta get someone like D.J. [Bonebrake]; he’s got such a cool style.”
And Tim said, “Why don’t we just get D.J.?” (Laughs.) So we called him and, of course, he said, “Sure!”
That’s so rad!
We’re really lucky. And man, he’s so fucking good. He has a lot to do with the way the record sounds, him and Tim. When we started, we recorded Tim and D.J. together at the same time. I was playing the upright bass with them, but we put that in later because we wanted to mic it up really good. I didn’t want to be in a box where I couldn’t face anybody; it’s sort of a challenging instrument to get on tape. But Tim and D.J. really melded together. Tim’s listened to those X records since God knows when, so I think those two working together is a big part of the record.
D.J. has got some crazy style on drums.
Yeah, he really does. And it’s cool because Tim and I work really well together, obviously, but D.J. came in, and we’re such X fans. It’s so funny because when we’re sitting around writing songs, at one point I started messing around, I said, “I have this song.” And I started playing [X song] “Los Angeles,” and he looked at me and said, “All right, I think I know what do here. Let’s put stops right here, like this: dun dun dun.” (Laughs.) And I said, “No man, that’s one of your songs.” He laughed and was like “Oh, I thought that sounded familiar!”
My point is that he’s not weird or didn’t just say, “Oh, that’s a stupid joke.” He’s just a good guy, and this was a fun record to record.
I think it’s really cool when members of an established band split off and do their own thing, because you get a clearer picture of what that person brought to the band in the first place.
Rancid is pretty cool like that. We’re really lucky to be able to try all the stuff. I know some bands are really weird about people doing side projects or whatever, but we’ve always been such team players and helped each other. I’ve been involved in all of their side projects, playing on the Transplants record and doing stuff on [guitarist] Lars [Frederiksen’s] record. We all help each other out is my point. We’ve always been good about that, which I think it makes Rancid better. I know bands that have totally hated each other, you know; they all have separate buses, and if they want to live that way, that’s fine. But it must suck.