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Interview with Green Day’s Mike Dirnt – The Band, Music, Gear and More

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Photographer, Alice Baxley for Fender

Green Day is an American punk rock band formed in 1986 by vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt. For much of the group’s career, the band has been a trio with drummer Tré Cool.

Green Day has sold more than 75 million records worldwide and has won 5 Grammy awards. Recently I was fortunate enough to catch up Mike Dirnt for a quick interview in Hollywood, CA.

Interview with Green Day's Mike Dirnt - The Band, Music, Gear and More
Let’s start from the very beginning, like all good stories. What first drew you to music as well as the bass?

As a kid, I was kind of raised on radio and I was always humming and thinking songs in my head.  Its funny, when I first met Billy in Fifth Grade, the first conversation we ever had was regarding songwriting. I do not know and I do not remember how it ended up being that way. I found out that he played music and I was impressed.  That conversation was weird and prophetic. We were talking about a country song as well as country songwriting in general. Our conclusion was that it is music and it is something that we are drawn to.

I understand. As we know you grew up in California, which has a very reputable music scene. How did this influence your career and your music?

It’s funny that you mentioned that because we are now actually in the process of doing a documentary on the history of East Bay Punk Rock. It started as a documentary regarding Green Day up until 1994. We had all these interviews in and we realized that nobody knows shit about what and where we come from. Like all good stories we should start at the beginning, and now this documentary became something that is not only about Greenday. That is the anchor, and where it ends the ship is ready to sail for Greenday.

The California and the East Bay Sound are actually very interesting. We need to understand that there is great music everywhere and it exists on all levels, even if you use crappy gear, etc. No matter what it is, it needs to pass the campfire test. If it is a good song and you can just grab an acoustic guitar and play it around a campfire with nothing else going… and if it’s still a good song then there’s magic; the California music scene has that. Influences from around the world, sunshine, it is a multicultural scene, multi ethnic, cosmopolitan, etc. All these formed a unique music.

Any mentors or people that inspired you?

I am just inspired by good music. When I was a little kid, I used to love bands… The Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin… so many. And what was different is that there was constantly great music on the radio. After that I got into heavy metal; Cliff Burton was a big inspiration for me, Van Halen, etc. Bottom end I am constantly inspired by all kinds of music and mostly good songs.

Lets move on to more recent history. What is Greenday doing now and what are the future plans for Greenday.

We just finished recording “Revolution Radio”. The single “Bang Bang” is out now and it’s off to a blazing start. We just filmed the video for it yesterday. I have to say that it is a really menacing position to the song. I cannot give much away but…its really cool. After that we are getting ready to travel around the world and perform to our Greenday family around the world.

You have been with Greenday for… I don’t know 20 – 25 years. How is the songwriting process in the band?

You know, I get this question a lot.  The process keeps changing. Sometimes Billy comes in and has all the parts down, therefore he has complete control. Sometimes we just all jam together and we exchange ideas. One thing we still do is that we always exchange ideas and work on the structure together. I always try to create counter melodies, maybe polyrhythms and hooks, as long as it fits the song.

You just mentioned that you are preparing to go on the road. Any touring advice for other musicians/bass players?

Be ready for everything to go down the drain, appreciate it and think of that as part of the adventure. You need to have a conversation with yourself.  Always…  something is going to happen. The bus might break down, disagreements… something is going to happen. That is when you need to understand that these experiences are what are going to define you as a band. Any group of guys can go on the road, but all these experiences are going to solidify you as a band and these experiences are going to transfer into your music.

Everybody loves talking about gear. How do you achieve your fat sound? I heard some of your latest recordings and I loved it.

On this new record “Revolution Radio” I used a tobacco-burst, road worn bass with a maple neck I just started playing with that and it sounded great. When it came down to recording, I plugged that into the Fender Super Bassman and just used the DI. Simple process. This simple configuration just sounds amazing.

Now I am actually using the latest Fender Bassman 800. I worked and collaborated with Fender in order to design this amp.

Fender Bassman 800

Everything from the great Di to the pull knobs, the blend with the gain on it. All these little things and they did a phenomenal job. Another Great thing is that it is extremely light, only 17.5 pounds! It has a clarity on the low end. It has a very clean and clear sound. Like you play with the tip of your fingers or a pick.

How about the highs?

Bright and clear.

Let me sum up everything you just told me in one sentence because the readers will want to know all this information… It has pristine highs, a clear and fat low end and it cuts through the mix and a lot of power. 

Yeah, LOTS of power.

How about cabinet? 

My cabinet of choice, because I am really punchy, I like a 6×10 cabinet. It’s about what you can fit in your car without owning a truck. Anyway, the 6×10 cabinet with the Fender Bassman is an impressive powerful combo.

Fender Bassman 800 with cab

I also noticed that you usually use a P-Bass. 

I do, I like the consistency of the P-basses. Of course you have to make sure that there is no flat spot on the neck, or there is not a dead note. I also like to check my basses acoustically; I realized that if the bass sounds good acoustically then most definitely will sound good plugged in.

How does it feel to be touring with one of the most well known rock bands!

The greatest thing is that we are really fortunate to have found our sound and our musical identity. There are many bands out there that sound great. I love playing live shows through all the smile wrinkles and the pain. And believe me, there is lots of pain. For me, the greatest feeling is that I can connect and influence that many people.

What are your favorite songs to perform?

I love performing “Holiday”. I love performing “Welcome to Paradise” and I always love digging into the old stuff. I am very excited to perform all the new stuff and I am hoping that all the Greenday fans will enjoy the new songs as much as the old stuff.

Follow online at www.greenday.com

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Bass Videos

Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

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IG &FB @bythethousands
YTB @BytheThousands

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Gear News: Bergantino Welcomes Marc Brownstein to Their Family of Artists

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Bergantino Welcomes Marc Brownstein to Their Family of Artists

Bergantino Shares: The innovative bassist/sonic explorer/DJ Marc Brownstein discusses his life of touring with Disco Biscuits, the current tour with the new album “Revolution in Motion, and more!

By Holly Bergantino

Marc Brownstein is the king of “Trance-Fusion” – a subgenre that his band Disco Biscuits has been in the center of for the past two decades. As a founding member of the band from their days at UPenn, Marc has quite the experience under his belt, and each tour has gotten more and more exciting. Disco Biscuits is currently on tour with their new album Revolution in Motion, a full multimedia experience accompanied by a 25-minute animated film that tells a story of intergalactic travelers finding their way on Earth. 

D. J. Brownie! What made you want to be a musician and start playing bass and who drew you to it? 

I was drawn to music after John Lennon was assassinated. I was raised in NYC and the city was just going crazy. I was 7 years old at the time and my thought was, wow why is everyone freaking out so much, this guy must be really special. And so I started to check the Beatles out and that was the beginning of my journey with music.  

A question from one of your fans and fellow bass players Karina Rykman: “How do you keep your bubble of positivity intact and thriving”?

Well it’s funny she should ask. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the run of positivity we are experiencing now began right at the beginning of tour at the beginning of January 2023 when we had Karina opening for us for a week. I can say that her positive energy on tour definitely left its mark on the rest of our tour. Some people are so naturally happy and positive that it leaves you feeling that way, sometimes permanently! 

Besides the bass guitar, what other instruments do you play? 

I dabble with piano, guitar, and I can make my way around a drum kit if I get into it for a few weeks. I’ve played flute and saxophone as well at different times. I also play the double bass. But I would say Piano is my second instrument at this point. I play everyday. 

What is your favorite (and least favorite) thing about touring? 

The best part of touring is the 4 hours on stage with the band. But also getting to visit so many great places all of the time. That’s the silver lining.  The only thing I don’t love about touring is missing my family. 

Tell us about your first music teacher. What lesson did you learn from this person and still use today? 

My first music teacher, Mrs. Koslov, 2nd grade, I just was at her funeral a few weeks ago. I eventually became best friends with Mrs Koslov’s son and we stayed in touch for my whole life. She taught me a lot but really she was the one who gave me the courage to perform. My first public performance ever was a piano version of Eleanor Rigby. 

What was the first bass you had? 

This is tough. I think I had a standard Ibanez jazz style bass first. Within a year or two I got an American Fender Jazz bass. 

What are the basses you have and use now? 

My main bass is an Elrick 5 string by Rob Elrick. I also have a Q5 Modulus and an Alembic 5 as well. Oteil (Burbridge) sent me a Roscoe custom 6 during the Pandemic that I like to play. I also have a Sire Marcus Miller, a newer American Fender Jazz bass, a custom Ibanez SDGR, an Ibanez BTB and an Elrick 5 string Fretless bass which is my main bass at home. 

Who were the musicians who inspired you and what qualities do you admire about them? 

I was deeply influenced by Phish when I discovered them in college. I admired their ability to mesh jazz, classical and rock Improvisational styles. I was very inspired by classic jazz musicians. Miles. Monk. Coltrane. Dexter Gordon. Cannonball Adderly. Mingus. This is the generation of musicians that laid the groundwork for what we do now. 

You studied and started the band Disco Biscuits at UPenn. Tell us more about the origins. 

The band just sort of linked up in the quad (dormitory) and we started to set up our gear and jam for fun. Within a short time I realized the guys I was playing with were really talented and so I applied to the New School for jazz and went and spent a year crash coursing music at a high level so I could return to Penn and start a band with them. 

You have a new album “Revolution in Motion,” that you’re currently touring on. How is it going? 

The tour has been amazing. It’s one of the best tours we ever had in our career. We sold out more than half of the shows and are receiving really great feedback across the country. 

I watched the video on YT for Revolution in Motion. The Choreography, production, color, cartoon characters, and theme were so much fun. Space aliens and psychedelic art, pop ups like a comic book, and you in your alien jump suit with your baseball cap were amazing. Loved! How was this collaborated?  

We have a co-writer on this project named Joey friedman. He conceived of the concept for the album and he had a very specific vision for what the visuals would look like. He spent hours and hours with the animators (Blunt Action) and the AI animator (Todd Kushnir) working through each iteration to make it come to life in the way that it was conceived. 

How would you describe the music you create for Disco Biscuits? 

We always hoped that the music we created would be the weirdest and craziest music of all time but we describe it as Trance-Fusion, which was a name that was drawn from jazz-fusion, the mixing of jazz with rock and roll instruments. We found our own sound by mixing trance music with rock and roll instruments, hence the genre title. It was renamed jamtronica many years later by the folks over at SiriusXM who started a radio show called the Jamtronica show to highlight acts from our scene. I was the host of that show for the first 3 years. 

Describe the creative process when you write new music. 

These days the creative process is a team effort. Usually we start by combing through improvisational sections of music from the tours to see if we can find any melodies or chord structures that are song worthy. When we find it we bring it into our DAW (ableton) and creating a grid. This is easy for us because we often play to a time clock on stage. From there we start building out the structures of the new piece of music while Joey and maybe me or Aron or Jon will start working on some lyrical concepts. Within an hour or two we start to record some of these initial lyrics and melodies and Jon usually starts to adapt them and tweak them to make them comfortable for him to sing. Usually within a few hours we are able to walk away with a very advanced demo of a new song. It’s been an extremely fruitful experience that has left us with albums worth of the best material we’ve had in decades. 

The lighting for your shows is amazing. Who does the lighting design work and choreography for the tours? 

Our new LD is known as Herm, but his name is Alex. We know him as Herm though. He came to us from the band Twiddle at the beginning of this year and has totally revitalized the visual elements of the stage show. He’s a really great fit and we feel grateful to have been linked up with such a massive talent. It was luck and timing and some might call it fate. 

How would your bandmates describe you? 

My bandmates would probably describe me as energetic and talkative and headstrong but also they might notice that I’ve become really good at going with the flow and backing their creative instincts. They may further describe me as anxious and nervous but may also notice that these elements have been remediated of recent. Mostly I think they would describe me as loyal and dedicated. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio systems? 

I was first introduced to it by Ed Grasmeyer who I know as Mike Gordon’s tech in Burlington. I was playing a show at Nectars and needed a backline and Ed came and set me up with the ForteHP2 and I was blown away by the tone. I then noticed Karina Rykman was using Bergantino as well and that’s when I started to think I needed to get in contact with the company. Karina was opening for the Biscuits on Boston and that’s where I had the chance to demo the forte hp2 in the context of the biscuits stage show. I haven’t looked back since that night. 

Tell us about your experience with the Forté HP2 on the tour? 

There are so many things that I can say about it but the most notable is that I’m not struggling to hear the frequencies that I want to hear on stage anymore. I used to have to boost the bass everywhere. In an EQ pedal, on the preamp on the actual bass. But every time you add a little of those low frequencies in those other places you risk degrading the tone of the signal. With the Forte HP2 there is a punch button that gives me exactly the frequency I’m looking for. 100 hz. 4 db. It’s perfect. 

Did you think Jim talked too much when you met him in Boston? 

I will never notice when someone talks too much because chances are I’m out talking them. 

What’s your process for dealing with performance anxiety? 

I used to self-medicate for this purpose but I was recently in touch with a psychiatrist who has helped me regulate my own chemical imbalances and I have found that my performance anxiety isn’t really an issue when I have the proper amount of dopamine in the system! 

Imagine that you’re at a party and it’s a little stale. What’s the “party trick” (or hidden talent) that you’d bust out to liven the place up? 

Before the app existed I was known as a real life fruit ninja. I take a big knife and people throw fruit from across the room and I chop it in half in mid-air. It’s not the safest party trick anymore because I lost vision in my right eye a few years ago and I’m not as accurate as I used to be! 

What hobbies do you have outside of music? 

I love sports. I love reading. I love word games. I love gardening. I love hiking/running/moving. My biggest hobby was snowboarding for many years but I’ve grown injury prone and stay off the mountain these days. 

What is the most trouble you ever got into? 

Well, I managed to stay out of trouble until college. But before weed was legalized I had a series of run-ins with the law and spent a night in the clink in Amherst Mass during my freshman year fraternity pledge trip. Luckily this isn’t an issue anymore for those of us who don’t drink or smoke cigarettes but prefer a little of the wacky tabacky to cool down. 

What is the message you would give to your fans? 

Well I give them so many messages all the time but the most important one that I try to remember to keep constant is a message of gratitude. Thank you so much for sticking with us through thick and thin, through ups and downs, for decades now you have allowed us to live our dreams and have the most blessed lives possible. 

How do you feel social media has impacted your music? 

Social media is a double edged sword. It has allowed us to create a strong community where everyone feels like a family but for someone like me who gets addicted to things easily, I really have to be vigilant with practice and writing and other aspects of my life not to spend the whole day scrolling and wasting the time away. 

What is your favorite song of all time? 

Right now my favorite song of all time is probably a short and beautiful little ditty by Labi Siffre called Bless the Telephone. I would suggest everyone take the 1:29 to listen to it and feel the bliss. 

What did I miss for a question that you would like to share? 

Bass players don’t really get to play solo shows, at least not my style of bass, so I’ve had to learn how to DJ in order to perform by myself at times and I would suggest coming out to see a DJ Brownie show at some point. 

Last one! Describe your perfect meal! 

I love to eat great meals. I’m partial to Asian foods but the perfect meal to me is one slice of pizza from Freddie and Peppers on 72nd and Amsterdam in NYC. PERFECTION. 

Follow Marc Brownstein:
Instagram: @marcbrownstein
X (formerly Twitter): @marc_brownstein
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marcbrownstein4
www.discobiscuits.com

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Curly Hendo

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Interview Wity Bassist Curly Hendo

Bassist Curly Hendo…

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, bassist Curly Hendo has been super busy. Starting with dance from a young age, Curly took up bass shortly after and has been going strong ever since. She has collaborated with numerous acts worldwide and is an in-demand session/touring bassist and musical director.

Join me as we learn about Curly’s musical journey, how she gets her sound, and her plans for a very bright future.

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Bass Videos

Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

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Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

Bassist Derek Frank…

Many of you will remember the last time I chatted with Derek Frank was back in 2017. The main thing that impressed me was how busy Derek was and how he juggled playing with many huge acts.

Now, I am happy to hear that Derek launched a new album last March titled “Origin Story” where he digs deep into his roots and pays homage to Pittsburg.

Join me as we get caught up after all these years and hear the details about the new album, how Derek gets his sound, and his plans for the future.

Photo, Stephen Bradley

Visit Online:

www.derekfrank.com
www.instagram.com/derekfrankbass
www.youtube.com/derekfrankbass
www.facebook.com/derekfrankbass

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

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Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

Bassist Graham Stanush…

Return to Dust is keeping Grunge alive and well! They have a new self-titled album that went out on May 3rd, 2024 and will be super busy promoting this project in the near future.

Graham Stanush is the bass powerhouse driving their sound and adding vocals to the mix. Join me as we hear all about Graham’s musical journey, details about the new album, how he gets his sound and their plans for the future.

Visit Online:

linktr.ee/returntodust
instagram.com/returntodustband/
twitter.com/Returntodustbnd
youtube.com/@returntodustband
tiktok.com/@returntodustband

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