This week, we brought you a retrospective on The Offspring's landmark third album, Smash, which celebrates its 20th anniversary today. Frontman Dexter Holland offered some interesting, funny, rather self-depricating words on the band and where they were at that stage in their careers. More importantly, it gave you a little more insight into a band that you probably thought you knew everything about. Holland had plenty of stories about the making of the album that we couldn't cram into the main story, so we though we'd bring them to you now. Wanna know where that weird riff from “Come Out and Play” came from? Who was that guy who does the smooth voice over on the album's intro? Were Holland's lyrics for “Bad Habit” inspired by his own road rage? Find your answers here.
1. Dexter Holland snuck the middle-eastern surf rock riff into “Come Out and Play”
“Come Out and Play” was the last song to be recorded on the album. Holland remembers having the idea for the signature middle-eastern inspired surf rock riff, as well as the “gotta keep 'em separated” line for the chorus swimming around in his head but decided to keep it a secret from the rest of the band until it was time to do overdubs. “I didn't tell the other guys there was gonna be a middle eastern riff and a Mexican saying 'keep 'em separated' [done by Jason “Blackball” McLean] because I thought they'd say just forget it,” Holland says. “So I was just gonna tell them, “don't worry, there's gonna be something cool in the spot, and after we record it you'll hear it then. So they kinda went with it.”
When producer Thom Wilson first heard Holland's riff, he wasn't really feeling it. “I actually played it an octave higher, showed him and Thom looks at me and goes 'Eh, it's okay I guess,” Holland says. “He said 'let's try it lower.' So we tried it lower, and then the lightning hit. He looks at me and goes 'well I like that!' It was instant.”
2. The album was almost recorded in OC, but it didn't work out
The recording of the album was really a scramble. At the time, the band were getting ready to go on a 10-day tour with Pennywise and wanted to crank the recording sessions out before they left. “Initially we decided to record the album in Orange County to avoid the slog up to L.A. every day,” Holland says. “We thought we found this great place and we got in there with Thom [our producer] on the first day and there were some technical issues in there and we kinda thought it would be alright, but we were a little unsettled by it.” In the end, the band decided to bail and record the album at Track Records in North Hollywood. They'd only been there one time to mix the Ignition record. “I thought that studio was out of our league as far as what we could afford but we decided to just do it,” Holland says.
The studio also happened to be a few miles from the epicenter of the Northridge Quake, which hit a few days into their recording sessions. The day before the Quake, Holland says, Greg K. was recording his bass lines, but they decided to head out early. The next day after the quake hit, the signs of the disaster were obvious. “The next day the ceiling was like drooping,” Holland says. “Track Records was in the center of North Hollywood, so it got hit really hard.”
3. The band recorded their album next door to Snoop Dogg
“It was actually pretty exciting,” Holland says. “Because Snoop Dogg was actually recording in the next room [at Track Records] and that was probably the biggest music program we had ever been that close to.”
4. At the time of the recording, all of the band members still had day jobs, Noodles was a janitor.
“We all could not make a living off the music, that's for sure,” Holland says. “I was a student, Greg had a job, Noodles had the most colorful job, he was the janitor.” When things started taking off, the band had to go on tour and Noodles' boss at the Garden Grove School District said he really needed the guitarist to finish out the school year. “Noodles is such a nice guy, he decided to stay and keep on working, even though by this time we were on Buzz Bin on MTV, our video was literally getting played on MTV,” Holland says. “And kids at school were recognizing him, “Mr. Noodles, I saw you on TV this morning.”
5. The band was getting better response in NorCal and LA than in their hometown when the record came out.
For the better part of the Offspring's career, they were used to playing for an average about 10 people per gig in Orange County. Even at the time they were recording Smash, the band wasn't even close to being huge, even in OC. “The first place we found that was kind of a home for us was in Berkeley at Gilman St.,” Holland says. “We did better in Berkeley than Orange County for a while.” Right after the record came out, Holland says the band played a show at Goodies, a now defunct club in Fullerton, and only about 100 people showed up.
However, about a month after the album came out, the band did a sold-out show at the Whiskey that gave them some major confidence. Holland remembers one girl in the front of the crowd at the LA venue calling out for them to play “Self Esteem” before it had even hit the radio or got any major exposure. “I was amazed she was already calling for out for that. Then we played it and it went off and we were like wow, maybe there's something bigger going on with this record. It was a sign of what was gonna happen.”
6. “Bad Habit” was inspired by people's road rage toward Holland's slow driving
During the recording of Smash, Holland's primary mode of transportation was a shitty Toyota truck. It didn't go very fast. He wrote most of the lyrics to the Smash record while sitting in freeway traffic during his hour-long commute each way, since his car had no radio. “It was really just a way for me to sit down and concentrate on songs for two hours a day,” Holland says. But not everyone was glad that Holland's slow truck gave him more time to focus on music. Sometimes people would throw stuff at his truck on the freeway because he wasn't moving fast enough. “A guy threw a Big Gulp right on my hood from the next lane over because he was pissed off,” Holland says laughing. The road rage he endured went on to inspire “Bad Habit,” which alluded to the rash of freeway shootings that were happening on Southern California freeways in the mid '90s.
7. The band tapped John Mayer for the loungey voice over for intro and outro of the album
No, not that John Mayer. The John Mayer that the band used was a voice actor hired to portray a kind of soothing, Bing Crosby-style voice to open and close the record. A nice contrast to the gut punch guitar solos and driving energy of the album. Dexter wrote the words for the intro “Time to Relax” and gave them to Mayer to record. “There was something over-the-top about his voice and I just loved it,” Holland says. “And we've become good friends, I see him regularly and he's a great guy, he did stuff on Ixnay on the Hombre, Americana and I still have him do stuff for him from time to time.”