Lars Frederiksen has many fingers in many pies. Best known as the guitarist in Berkeley, California punk legends Rancid, he’s also in numerous other bands, has his own wrestling podcast called The Wrestling Perspective Podcast, has produced classic albums from the likes of Agnostic Front and Dropkick Murphys, and is also an avid follower of Millwall football club. It’s been quite a ride for a snotty punk rock kid, so we caught up with him to ask what he’d learned through it all.
PUNK REALLY ALLOWED ME TO EXPRESS MYSELF
“There was a guy named Sean Gregonis who lived in our neighbourhood. The first time I saw him he was wearing a white t-shirt, had rolled-up jeans and was carrying a boombox listening to [LA punk band] X. I wanna even say he had a little dog collar chain like Sid Vicious.
My brother became friends with him first; this is like 1979, and we also watched Ramones’ Rock’N’Roll High School video together a bunch of times. Where I grew up there weren’t many opportunities to express yourself in any way. I gravitated to punk for the shock value. I think I’m a pretty provocative person, and I liked the freedom to say what you wanna say, to dress how you wanna dress.”
CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY…
“The music I make is always staunchly anti-racist, anti-fascist – about acceptance. But weirdly, when we kids, we were all really judgemental as well! We were just teens trying to work the world out and you make mistakes. I think it’s sad that the world doesn’t let you make mistakes anymore.
But I tried to surround myself with friends who had the same moral code and moral compass as me, and all these years later all of my best friends are punks or skinheads still. I’m glad I made sure I surrounded myself with the right people.”
AND THE SAME GOES FOR YOUR BANDMATES
“Tim [Armstrong, Rancid vocalist] and I were two peas in a pod; both younger brothers who came from working class families. We could feel that the energy was tangible from the first time we met, we just clicked and became inseparable. My friendship with him helped me to mature. He helped me focus, he would always tell me how I had this talent, and he pushed me.
When we started making music together it was like lightning striking, the chemistry that we had. I’ll add in Matt [Freeman, Rancid bassist], Brett [Reed, original Rancid drummer] and Branden [Steineckert, current Rancid drummer] in as well… the speed bumps we hit, the mountains we climbed, the partnership we shared, the moral compass we share. That’s what has kept us together.”
BE AWARE OF YOUR HISTORY
“One of the first times I understood the gravity of what my mom went through [Lars’s mother was the only member of her family to escape the Nazi occupation of Denmark during the Second World War and fled to the US], was when I had an American flag that I used to use as a bum flap, and I put swastikas on the stars.
This was, like, 1985. I came home and she asked me what I had done to the stars and I said, ‘America… blah, blah blah’, all the punk shit. She sat me down and explained exactly what that symbol meant to her. I wasn’t educated on what my mom had been through, I suddenly understood the gravity. I was using it to be provocative, but over the years, understanding what it means, knowing what that meant to her, as well as my own personal experiences with being looked at weird because of how I dressed, made it so clear to me how stupid the idea of hating someone because of their race or sexuality or… whatever is.”
WE WENT INTO OUR SHELLS TO RECORD 1995’s …AND OUT COME THE WOLVES
“I don’t think that we knew at the time what …And Out Come the Wolves was going to do. It was the realest example of where we were and all the chaos around us. We had a little bit of success with [1994’s] Let’s Go, but the heart and soul and energy of making that record was just pure, unbridled joy.
We slept at the studio and got up first thing in the morning because we couldn’t wait to get started. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but we knew we were conscious that we were getting the stuff out of us.”
WE OWE A LOT TO MR. BRETT
“The record really took shape when Brett Gurewitz [Epitaph Records founder] came along. [Producer] Jerry Finn had to go and do the Jawbreaker record [1995’s Dear You], so Brett came along and helped out. We had the essence of what that record was going to be, but Brett really pushed us and told us to re-do vocals. Me and Tim did a new vocal take on Roots Radical in the studio while we were mixing it! It was literally getting made up until the 11th hour… that’s why the song is called that! If there is going to be an album for us to be remembered for, then that is a pretty good one.”
YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOUR MUSIC WILL AFFECT
“I knew that punk rock was the coolest music in the world, so the fact that it was getting exposure, for me, was rad! I remember going to see Kiss on their 1996 reunion tour, and Gene Simmons came up to me, as did Rob Halford, picked out Avenues & Alleyways and said it was so cool we had written an anti-racist song.
The fact that these guys from a completely different world to us knew who we were, not only that but they recited actual lyrics by us… that was the most ‘Kaboom!’ moment. We grew up listening to Kiss and Judas Priest!”
YOU CAN’T HATE SOMETHING UNLESS YOU UNDERSTAND IT
“We were all from working class families, so when the major labels came sniffing around we had to take that seriously and at least speak to them. Just getting out of that neighbourhood was seen as making it; a lot of the guys I knew aren’t with us now. So, we were very aware of the fact that we had to hustle. I know a lot of the punks hated it and thought they were suits and exploitative, and that’s fine, but we had to go find that out for ourselves.”
SUCCESS DOESN’T MEAN YOUR TROUBLES ARE OVER
“Everything happened organically for us. That’s the right way for it to have happened, and we’re still here 30 years later and still pretty relevant. But there were people that didn’t like it, that suddenly treated you differently. I’d get into fights, because people thought I was doing something wrong. I got banned from Florida because these cuckoobirds were making noise outside of our bus and I went out to fight them with our sound man. They had to put a rule in place where I just wasn’t allowed off the bus or I’d be out there having a punch-up. But that was my nature; that’s where I came from.”
WE WERE HONOURED TO BE THE INSPIRATION FOR AEW’S RUBY SOHO
“I’m a massive wrestling fan, have been for years, and I have my own podcast. I had been watching Ruby Riott – as she was then known – in the WWE and thought she was awesome. So, when she was released [from WWE], I sent her a message and asked her to come on my podcast.
It was the first time she had been interviewed since her release and she was saying that she wanted to keep wrestling but would have to use another name. I was like, ‘Duh! You’re a Rancid fan!’ [So she should name herself after the song, Ruby Soho.] It’s a dream come true to have a wrestler come out to one of our songs. To play her out to the ring was as nervous as I’ve ever been in my life!”
THERE’S JUST TOO MUCH DIVISION TODAY
“There’s no meeting in the middle these days, everything is so polarising. When you’ve grown up in this music and you realise that this dystopian future is on us, this divide and conquer [thing], which is as old as dirt, is happening, you don’t want to be part of it. The separation of people because of their race, sex, religion… it’s so fucking stupid! It’s a waste of time. On your death bed you are not going to be going, ‘I’m so glad I made my political point on Twitter!’”
EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS A LESSON
“I’ve gone back to my pagan roots since my mom passed and it’s made me more spiritual. I learned that in everything in life, there is a lesson. Are you going to learn that lesson? That’s the question. Because if you don’t, trust me, you will be asked that same question over and over again. You either grow or stay stagnant. It just made me realise that all of this was so temporary.”
To Victory is out now via Viking Inc.