"This is definitely the only interview I'm gonna do about it", Billie Joe Armstrong says, dropping onto a couch at Green Day’s studio in the Jingletown section of Oakland. “I never want to be the kind of guy who talks about addiction. The last thing I want is sympathy from anybody. I don’t want a pity party.”
Armstrong, Green Day’s singer-guitarist and driving songwriter, is starting a second day of intense, candid talk about the past six months of his life; his violent meltdown during Green Day’s set at the I Heart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas last September; his trip to rehab for alcoholism and addiction to prescription medications; a cancelled tour and the disastrous effect on sales of Green Day’s three new albums, Uno!, Dos! And Tre!; and the severe testing of his lifelong friendships with bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool.
“After our first interview, I was like, ‘We talked so much about addiction’,” Armstrong says. “I’m fucking bigger than this thing, better than this shit. This is an incident. It happened. The rest is history. I have so many important things to do. I have my family to take care of. I have my band. I’m a crazy-idea person. I always will be. And that will overshadow anything with my addiction problems.”
...The Armstrong who turned up in Las Vegas on September 21st for the I heart Radio concert – part of an international touring-and-promo blitz for Green Days new records – was a mess: taking a runaway combination or pills or anxiety and insomnia, compounded by a long history of heavy drinking.
Backstage before Green Days set, “I took him aside,” Dirnt recalls, “and told him, ‘Dude, you’ve got to fucking lay off the sauce.’ And the minute I walked onstage, I thought, ‘This is not gonna be good.’ We’re known as a pretty tight band. He couldn’t play guitar.”
At a 2010 show in Peru, during an anti-technology rant, Armstrong shouted, ‘I can’t wait for Steve Jobs to die of fucking cancer.” Jobs died a year later. “It was a really stupid thing,” Armstrong says, cringing. “A lot of that shit was going on.”
At the end of our second session, I ask Armstrong if he owes one more apology: to the Green Day fans who saw or read about his blowout in Las Vegas, “I let them down,” he responds bluntly. “The thing in Vegas – some people love it, some people hate it. I know I’m not gonna relive that. That’s a side of me I don’t want my fans to ever see again.”
What drugs were you taking?
“I don’t want to say. They were prescription – for anxiety and sleep. I started combining them to the point where I didn’t know what I was taking during the day and what I was taking at night. It was just this routine. My backpack sounded like a giant baby rattle [from all the vials inside].”
How much were you drinking? What’s your idea of heavy?
“Some people can go out, have a couple of drinks, and they can take it or leave it. I couldn’t predict where I was going to end up at the end of the night. I’d was up in a strange house on a couch. I wouldn’t remember [how]. It was a complete blackout.
I’ve been trying to get sober since 1997, right around Nimrod. But I didn’t want to be in any programs. Sometimes, being a drunk, you think you can take on the whole world by yourself. This was the last straw. I had no choices anymore.”
Drinking was a big part of Green Day’s original imagine –three guys making great punk records around a few bottles and a six-pack.
I’d have anywhere from two to six beers and a couple of shots before I went onstage, then go and play the gig and drink for the rest of the evening on the bus. (...) I was a functioning alcoholic.”
In Las Vegas, though, you completely lost control.
“As soon as I landed in Las Vegas, I was in a bad mood. To be honest, a lot of it was trying to come up with a set list. I know I should have thought of it like a TV show, not a convert. I was thinking, ‘How can I bring that mentality, that spirituality, of Irving Plaza to playing after Usher?’ And I couldn’t. I’d say to Adrienne, ‘What do you think of this set list?’ Then I’d text Mike: ‘What do you think of this?’ I remember this feeling of ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’
“I remember tiny things – getting to the venue, being backstage, trying to shake the buzz off. I remember seeing the 15 minute sign clicking down – click, click, click. Then I went out and got hammered the rest of the night. The next morning. I woke up. I ask Adrienne, ‘How bad was it?’ She said, ‘’It’s bad.’ I called my manager. He said, ‘You’re getting on a plane, going back to Oakland and going into rehab immediately’. I said, ‘All right’.”
How long did you think you were supposed to play?
“I heard 15 minutes. Adrienne seemed to think it was a half-hour. We usually play for two and a half, three hours. I barely break a swear in 15 minutes. I should have just played a few songs and been done with it.
Do you have any memory of what you did or said onstage?
“No. People will remind me a little bit. Or I’ll see a photograph. And it makes me so sick. What I said or did – that’s not what really bothers me. It’s the fact that it wasn’t me. I’m not that person. I don’t want to be like that.
“I’m a blackout drinker. That’s basically what happened. Sometimes people will talk about it, and I go, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ But it’s like amnesia.”
Did you consider watching that footage, as part of your rehabilitation?
“No. I can’t go there. That’s my last drink. Which is good – it’s documented. Anytime I feel like drinking, I can think about it.”
Describe your first week in rehab, at home.
“I was going through withdrawal. That was gruesome, laying on the bathroom floor and just feeling… [pause] I didn’t realise how much that stuff affected me. And it’s not the stuff that is immediately in your system. It goes back to how long you’ve been using. It was working its way out.
“I was going through so much shift. Even into the second week, I was like, ‘I don’t belong here. I’m not convinced.’ The sick part of it is I wanted to get all of the narcotics out of my system so I could start drinking. But that’s the insanity of the whole thing. You make excuses. You rationalize. You can take a shit in a mailbox. That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”
Did you speak with Mike or Tre while you were in rehab? Did you know what they were feeling?
“There was semi-contact. I think Tre was scared. Life got real serious there for a while. Mike was fucking pissed. Right when I got home, after [Las Vegas] happened, he said all this stuff. It was everything within three or four sentences. ‘You’re scaring me. You’re fucking up your life. You’re fucking up everybody else’s life. You need to get your shit together.’
I didn’t realize how destructive I was. I thought everybody was in on the joke. But I was the joke.”
So you can envision doing this – being in Green Day – at 50.
“Oh, yeah. Keep going!”
You will be back on the road soon. Have you, Mike and Tre come up with some rules and changes – such as no alcohol backstage – to keep your sobriety going?
“We still have to talk about that. Everybody knows it’s coming – what’s going to keep me from falling off the wagon, where everybody is happy at the same time.
“Sometimes I’m not sure I’m ready. There is still the obsession for alcohol. There’s also sleepless nights. But I have to work on it every day. Because I know what goes on out there. I’m hosting this giant party for people. At least 70-75 percent of the people in the audience have been getting a drink on. I’ve got to watch my step."
The next time you want to drink, what will you have instead?
“I’ll probably run outside, hail a taxi, go back to my hotel room and have a soda. Probably a root beer. I love root beer.”
There's a lot more at the SOURCE
I know Green Day isn't all that popular here on ONTD but it's a really good interview with a lot of insight on addiction.