Don’t call LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS a solo record. Instead, call it the new Rancid record. Full of new songs about old friends and hard times, LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS adds another chapter to Rancid’s already well-documented history. For Lars, it all started back in a town called Campbell…
Can you tell me where Campbell is? What was it like growing up there?
Campbell is in the south bay of the Bay Area, and San Jose surrounds it. Campbell is a working-class little town. There are two streets in the center of Campbell that have lower-income housing, and I grew up on one of those streets. My father left when I was three years old, and my mom was a Danish immigrant. She was not an American citizen, and she raised two kids on her own. I pretty much grew up out on the streets—started gangs, got into fights, ripped off people. It was shit that kids do, I guess. Or it was shit that I did, anyways.
I read a press release that Hellcat put out about your new record, LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS. It talked a lot about an old friend of yours named Ben. Who is Ben?
Ben was a really good friend of mine who died around Christmas time, the year before last. He died from complications of pneumonia and a heroin overdose. I never got to say goodbye to him because he was in prison for awhile. And when he got out of prison, he was only out a week and a half before he died. So, this record was another way of saying goodbye to him. Ben was this great, charismatic kid. He was as punk as fuck. When I got into Rancid, he was a constant supporter. He would always pat me on the pack and say, “Glad you got out [of Campbell].” Ben was an important person to me.
How was Tim Armstrong involved with making LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS? And would you call LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS a solo record or a new Rancid record?
Tim came up with the idea [of making LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS]. Tim said, “Man, I love your stories about Campbell. I think we should write some songs and get them on wax.” So, we wrote all of the songs together, and he produced the record. [LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS] is an extension of Rancid. Making this record was no different than making a Rancid record.
Tim Armstrong also owns Hellcat, the record company that released LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS. Rancid is in a pretty enviable position—do you guys call all of your own shots?
Rancid’s like a family. Those guys have given me unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, and unconditional friendship. I don’t give a fuck about anybody else except for my band. And the whole time Rancid and Operation Ivy have been making records, they’ve been for independent labels. Operation Ivy made their record on Lookout. The first Rancid single was on Lookout. All the Rancid records were on Epitaph except for the last one, which was on Tim’s label, Hellcat. We manage ourselves, we put out our own records, we do our own videos. It’s not like we have some big fucking major corporate label who turns out a bunch of fake-ass bullshit music. [Nobody] is putting pressure on us to write a radio song, do a million interviews, or any of that shit. We’re in charge of our own destiny.
Being your own boss is really important to you. Does your working-class background have anything to do with your desire to stay as independent as possible?
That’s what makes us different from a lot of other bands. We’re fucking punk rockers. We’re working class kids. Tim’s dad was a janitor. My mom raised two kids on her own. Matt’s dad was a cop. Brett’s dad did odd jobs to raise him. We all come from broken homes or single-parent families. And we’ve got a working-class ethic. That’s what we are, a working-class fucking punk rock band.
OK, I got it. Here are some more questions about the new record, LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS. I am going to name a couple of songs from the record, and could you talk a little bit about them? Do you have anything to say about “Subterranean”? What is that song about?
The people in [“Subterranean”] are people I had grown up with in Campbell. It’s almost a “people who died” thing, or a Jim Carroll thing. Some of those people are not with us anymore. It’s about remembering where I came from, who I ran with, and paying homage to them.
What about “To Have And Have Not”?“
To Have And Have Not” is a cover of a Billy Bragg song. Tim would always say, “Man, that song was written about kids like us.” The song’s about working-class kids, and it just seemed relevant to growing up in Campbell and the theme of the record.
You are the only member of Rancid who is given credit for performing on LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS. The credits list Big Jay on bass, Scott Abels on drums, and you. Is that right?
We actually added a new guitar player. His name is Craig, and he is in a band called the Forgotten. The Forgotten is a band from Campbell. We call him “Craig Forgotten” because not only does he play in the Forgotten, but we forgot to put him on the record. So, we think the name fits him. It all goes back to what I was saying about Rancid being a family. Scott was in Hepcat, who were on Tim’s label, Hellcat. [Scott] was also Brett Reed’s drum tech. And Big Jay Bastard was Matt and Tim’s guitar tech. I only had to look behind me [to find the Bastards’] rhythm section. We keep everything in the family. Whether the musicians [are from Campbell] or Rancid’s roadies, [LARS FREDERIKSEN AND THE BASTARDS] is a family operation.
Someone called “the Unknown Bastard” is also given credit for performing on the record. Who is he? Is Tim “the Unknown Bastard”? Can you tell me who “the Unknown Bastard” is?
Nope! That question kind of answers itself. I mean, “Who is the Unknown Bastard?” He’s unknown! The only thing I can really say about him is that he’s a kid [from Campbell] that I grew up with, and I’ve known the guy for about fifteen years.
That’s cool. I do not have anymore questions. Is there anything you would like to say?
Kids come up to us all the time and say, “We’re in a band and we’re never going to sign to some major label. We’re going to stay independent like you guys. You guys proved you don’t need to sign some major label and all that bullshit [to be successful].” That’s the most gratifying thing anyone can say to me or to any of us.
This article first appeared in Mean Street Magazine. Please check out www.meanstreet.com.