Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was in a bad place with pills and alcohol before checking into rehab last year, and he's fighting to stay on the straight and narrow now. In the new issue of Rolling Stone, Armstrong goes into details about his blackouts and how they affected his band, his family, and his personal outlook. But the basic arc — rocker self-destructs, rocker (you hope) puts himself back together — shouldn't be a surprise.
What's heartening news is Armstrong's confirmation at the end of the piece that, after releasing three albums in a four-month span late last year (¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!), he's already working on new songs. And, maybe just as hearteningly, he's going to take it easier this time. Most intriguingly of all, he throws out the idea of recording another American Idiot-style rock opera, only with scrappier-sounding recording.
"It would be great to do another rock opera, but using more lo-fi technology," Armstrong told RS. "I love shitty-sounding records. I'd love to do more stuff with Green Day that is 100 percent live. Sometimes I wish we would have recorded our last records that way — that Exile on Main Street feel, where you just get some good tones and go."
But don't expect Green Day's next opus anytime soon. Armstrong has guitar riffs and is constantly writing lyrics, but he's not churning out a quickie "rehab" album. "It's too early," he told RS. "I feel I have to wait this one out. I don't want to jump in and get myself overwhelmed."
He continued, fittingly echoing a slogan of Alcoholics Anonymous: "I can only take it one song at a time. I just want to write good songs that people love, which is a tough thing to do."
Luckily, Armstrong has good inspirations and a perfectionist streak. "One thing I can't do is do anything half-assed," he's quoted as saying. "I want to make sure everything is right, that the song is fully realized. I think of the first Ramones album and the first Clash album — those songs are fully realized, well played."
From the sound of it, Armstrong is doing his mightiest to realize himself as a fully sober, reliable frontman for the band he has led since they were teenagers hanging out on Berkeley, California's Gilman Street. Green Day will kick off a 33-date U.S. and European tour at the end of March. But first, they'll descend on South by Southwest 2013, where along with performing, they'll also screen ¡Quatro!, the making-of documentary for their album trilogy.