Billie Joe Armstrong On How “Uncomfortable” Fame Can Be: “Everyone’s Got A Camera In Their Pocket”
He’s been in the public eye for over a quarter of a century now following breakthrough 1994 album Dookie, but Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong has admitted that he still struggles with the more invasive nature of fame.
The frontman recalls how “completely uncomfortable” it felt to be thrust into the spotlight in his early 20s when the band’s iconic third album propelled them to global stardom. “I was completely out of my comfort zone, because it was all chaos,” he tells Kerrang! as part of this week’s huge, exclusive Cover Story. “It was like every day this thing was getting bigger and bigger.”
He continues: “It was really exciting, but it was also really stressful, because you suddenly go from doing everything yourselves and sleeping on floors, and then suddenly it was like everybody was in a frenzy to get to me, Mike [Dirnt, bass] and Tré [Cool, drums]. It was just nuts – it was a crazy time.”
Now, over 20 years later, “comfort” still isn’t a word that applies to how Billie Joe feels about fame. And a huge negative in that regard is the prominence of social media and mobile phones in people’s everyday lives.
“I think the thing that makes it uncomfortable is how fucked-up social media has become, and how everyone’s got a camera in their pocket now,” he considers. “There are a lot of people out there who aren’t fans who just wanna be guilty by association or something. They wanna hold you in their pocket as a souvenir. And I think that sometimes that’s the part that gets annoying.”
While a big plus side of fame, he says, is being “able to communicate with fans and people are cool, and when people get something out of the music and you make these connections”. But Billie also jokes that he doesn’t really like having his picture taken with people; “It’s fine with fans – and I can always tell when someone is a genuine fan,” he explains. “But then there are people where you’re just sitting there in your fuckin’ sweats and they just want to get a piece of you for their own ego. That’s the part that I’m uncomfortable with – when you’re in compromised situations. But it’s par for the course, and I have to kind of wrestle with it a little bit.”
Billie Joe Armstrong: Life Lessons In Punk Rock is available to read in full right here.
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