Friday, April 17, 2015

Green Day

Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day, Toronto, October 1997

GREEN DAY ARE BEING INDUCTED INTO THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME THIS WEEKEND. I'm not going to comment much on that except to point out that Dick Dale, Roxy Music and the MC5 aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And to use the occasion to revisit my own shoot with Green Day, done for NOW magazine nearly twenty years ago.

Green Day were already big but the success of Nimrod and especially "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" had pushed them to a new level, and the record company had put them up at the old Four Seasons in Yorkdale - the name hotel for movie stars and other celebrities. The band were feeling their oats that day, acting up even before their interview with Matt Galloway had begun - I don't know why Billie Joe felt he needed to stand on his chair to make a point to Matt, but I dutifully snapped away, already intuiting that things might get weird fast.

Green Day, Toronto, Oct. 1997

I shot a roll of the band during the interview but, still deep in my triptych period, decided to shoot them individually to illustrate Matt's feature. By the end of the interview, however, they were clearly restless and in a mood.

I suppose it was when Mike Dirnt picked up a hotel chair that things started going out of control. If I'd swung my camera just to my left, I might have caught the other two members of Green Day studying the room looking for things to knock over as they began a very self-conscious trashing of their suite at the Four Seasons. I do remember looking away from my camera for a second and, out of the corner of my eye, seeing drummer Tre Cool pushing a big TV off its stand; it landed on the carpet with a bright, glassy sound of something brittle snapping.

Mike Dirnt, Green Day, Toronto, Oct. 1997
Tre Cool, Green Day, Toronto, Oct. 1997
Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day, Toronto, Oct. 1997

The shower cap was Tre's idea; he quickly rushed into the bathroom to put it on when I suggested that he pose in the closet. Billie Joe was up last, and after helping his bandmates wreck the interview suite, walked himself into a corner of the room and set his face in a theatrical pout, the bad boy reporting for detention. Matt told me a day later that the band had been kicked out of the Four Seasons not long after we left.

I'm not in the habit of feeling bad for people who work for record companies, but I remember a twinge of sympathy for the Warner Music employees who had to rush to book rooms for the band somewhere else, not to mention the hotel staff who had to clear up the mess. Green Day had been trashing hotel rooms while recording Nimrod, which is probably why what I witnessed in the Four Seasons that day felt rote, like a performance they felt obliged to put on and - more to the point - have witnessed. I suppose a lot of time has passed, but Green Day are forever fixed in my mind as a bunch of overrated dickheads.

(UPDATE: After these photos ended up with over 1,000 notes on Tumblr, I recalled that I'd written about this shoot before. My recollection, of course, has gotten worse with time; I shot Billie Joe first, not last, and it happened at the Sutton Place, not the Four Seasons. Give it a read for an account of my Green Day shoot when it was still fresh in my memory.)


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