I fell in love with Rancid the first time I saw the video for “Nihilism” on 120 Minutes. Unlike most of the bleached-blonde southern California punk rockers that were gaining prominence in the mid-1990s, Rancid looked like they could walk the walk and not get their asses handed to them if they got into a legit fight. After buying Let’s Go on double 10-inch vinyl at Let It Rock, I quickly soaked up everything the band had put out up to that point and even ignored my no-ska rule to listen to Operation Ivy. 

In the summer of 1998, I was approached with the possibility of interviewing Rancid’s Matt Freeman — possibly the greatest bassist in the world — during the annual Warped Tour. I quickly said, yes, but was bummed to find out that it would be a punk rock press conference, of sorts, with a bunch of other fanzine editors also asking questions. Below is the full interview, including some pretty stupid questions from the associated punk press, conducted on August 1, 1998 at Randall’s Island. 

This interview was originally published in Life In A Bungalo #8 in Winter 1998.

George: What was it like touring with other bands on Lollapalooza? Were any of the other bands assholes? The Ramones were pretty angry about some of them on their home video. 
Matt: I get along with everyone, because I didn’t take it all that seriously. I like the Ramones a lot. Honestly, it was what it was. Metallica was riding in helicopters half the time. It was a spectacle, but they were nice enough. It was nothing like The Warped Tour.
Fanzine kid #1: What is it like playing on The Warped Tour?
Matt: It’s a lot of fun. You see it for what it is – a big free for all and I know almost everyone.
Fanzine kid #1: What’s the worst thing about it?
Matt: The heat. You know how fucking hot it’s been in the Midwest? It is 102 degrees in Kansas with humidity. This is nothing. It was bad, and I feel awful for the crowd that’s going from stage to stage to see their favorite bands. You play “Roots Radical” and they get all burnt out and have to be carried away because of heat stroke. That’s the worst part.
Fanzine kid #2: Are there bands on the Warped Tour that you’re good friends with?
Matt: All the Hellcat bands that are on the tour. I’ve known NoFX for god knows how long. ALL, I’ve known them for… fuck, ALL played with Operation Ivy.
Fanzine kid #2: Speaking of Operation Ivy, can you give us some history on how that band got started?
Matt: It’s no big mystery. Me and Tim wanted to start a band with Jesse and we just started writing songs. We played 185 shows in two years and we broke up before we put out our record on Lookout.
Fanzine kid #3: Why did you break up?
Matt: There’s a lot of reasons that I’m sick of talking about it. It happened nine years ago. Leave it alone. 
George: Are you still friends with Jesse?
Matt: I see Jesse hardly at all, but I see Dave all the time. Hey look, it’s Duane Peters, everybody.
Everybody: Hi, Mr. Peters.
Duane Peters: Hi, boys and girls.
George: Why don’t you sing anymore? Your vocals were great on the first album.
Matt: I really don’t like singing that much and Lars and Tim are such good singers.
George: So you don’t do any of your songs anymore?
Matt: Well, we do “Adina” and “Tenderloin” sometimes.
George: No “Battering Ram?”
Matt: I haven’t done “Battering Ram” in a long time. You can never tell when we will. We were doing “Idle Hands” for a while, but only four people knew what that was.
Fanzine kid #1: Do you feel that you have matured as a band since this album is totally different from the other three? It’s mellower; less punk rock.
Matt: Woah, okay kid. I don’t know. I think it is pretty punk rock. My definition of punk rock is to be able to do what the fuck you want to do and that’s exactly what we did. I mean, we could have made another Let’s Go or Out Come the Wolves if we wanted to, but we always want to try something different to mix it up. Did we mature as a band? I guess so, but the older you get the more you mature and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Fanzine kid #2: What are your biggest influences?
Matt: X is probably my favorite punk band of all time. I’ve got a tattoo of X. I also like The WHO a lot. 

Fanzine kid #3: I heard a rumor that Billie Joe of Green Day was in Rancid. If it’s true, why didn’t you keep him?
Matt: What happened was, we were thinking of getting a second guitarist but we didn’t really know how it was going to work out. Well, Billie Joe was hanging around and we asked him if he wanted to play a show with us. He came to a practice and said, “Sure.” So, he played the show, but of course he couldn’t play in the band because he’s in Green Day, so we got Lars. So, no, he was never in the band. He would have been welcomed but he had his own thing going on. 
George: In your contract, what’s your money split like? How much does the label get; how much do you get? I’m not asking you how much you make, just what you have to pay for vs. what the label pays for. 
Matt: We do our own tours. Hellcat is Tim’s deal. Epitaph puts up the money for the record and we do it. We give them the record and they put it out.
Fanzine kid #1: I see you’re a big fan of New York Hardcore – you have an H2O tattoo…
Matt: I just got this yesterday. We all got it – Tim, Lars, Toby. H2O are good friends of ours. Sick of it all, too. 
Fanzine kid #2: How’s the scene different now form when you started out?
Matt: When we started, six years ago, the scene was a lot smaller – none of this existed. It’s a lot bigger now and a lot of different people are into music and there’s a lot of good bands.
Fanzine kid #3: How’s the new record doing?
Matt: I guess it’s doing well, but I don’t know.
George: The album opened at 36 in Billboard. 
Matt: There you go. Thank you. You know more than I do. I care more about finding a good bathroom, honestly. 
Fanzine kid #1: Are the latrines always this bad at Warped?
Matt: The ones at arenas aren’t that bad. The only porta-johns they had yesterday had no locks on them and they were right next to the press area. So I figure this is going to be great. I’m going to be there doing what I have to do and some wise ass is going to open the door, and I’m going to be on the cover of some fucking fanzine. 
George: Do you miss playing smaller shows and are you planning any more intimate dates?
Matt: We did a little of that earlier on. That’s fun. It’s a lot different than this. We still play smaller clubs in Europe, because we’re not as big over there. 
Fanzine kid #2: Do you feel that clubs are more intimate – would you go back to playing them?
Matt: Well, we don’t always play big arena and we do our own tour, we will probably be playing thousand seaters. I’m sure in seven years we will be back to playing smaller clubs. Nothing lasts forever. I’ve played a lot of smaller clubs in my time. Ninety percent of all the shows I’ve played have been at smaller clubs. We’ve done it all – squats, parties, everything. 
Fanzine kid #3: What do you do in your free time?
Matt: I try to keep myself busy. I practice a lot. During baseball season, I got to a lot of games.
George: What’s your favorite team?
Matt: San Francisco Giants and the only team I really dislike are the Dodgers.
George: Even with Scott Radinsky in the team?
Matt: I don’t like the Dodgers. I’m sure your parents have told you about the rivalry between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. Well, it carried over to the West Coast. We hate the Dodgers and the Dodgers hate us.