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Clash of the titans

Rancid's Life Won't Wait is one of the year's most critically acclaimed albums, a messy, Clash-esque opus that throws together ample doses of punk, reggae, ska, and simple rock 'n' roll. Fresh off eight weeks on the Warped Tour, guitarist and occasional singer Lars Frederiksen recently spoke to The Onion about touring travails, his band's sprawling new album, and all the inevitable Clash comparisons.

The Onion: How long have you been out on tour?

Lars Frederiksen: It's been about five months, but we've done Europe and we did the Warped Tour. The Warped Tour was like eight weeks, and that was grueling. Then we did some shows with the Beastie Boys, and some one-offs by ourselves. This is kind of the first break since May.

O: And now you're going out on your own as a headliner.

LF: Yeah. It's about time, you know what I mean?

O: Have you had your fill of summer festivals?

LF: Right now, I just think it's time that we get out there and do it ourselves, because it's so much better for the people who might want to come out and see Rancid. You're not stripped down to a half-hour set. You can play your full hour, get in 24 songs, and it's a little bit more intimate. I mean, it was a great tour. We had a lot of fuckin' fun. But we were playing six days, and then a day off, and that day off you were driving. That can be hard no matter what you're doing, especially when you jump around [on stage] as much as we do. That can get a little tiring. But it was fun—fuck that, I ain't gonna bitch about it. We were very fortunate to be able to do it, you know?

O: Between Warped and Lollapalooza, which—

LF: [Interrupting.] Warped. A lot better.

O: I would imagine. Between the two of them, what was the stupidest thing that happened to you?

LF: [Laughs.] Uh... Jesus Christ. Trying to take a shit every day was hard, on either one of them.

O: They didn't have those facilities set up backstage?

LF: They got those fuckin' Port-A-Potties, and those things stay out in the sun, you know what I mean? You're just fucked. You're sweating, and there are flies; there's already five hours of shit in them already. You have to go search for one with toilet paper, and you're lucky if it's not pissed all over.

O: You'd think that with the backstage facilities, you'd be a little bit better off.

LF: No, man, you're thinking about Metallica. [Laughs.] It was like us and the Ramones looking for Port-A-Potties every day.

O: Well, the Ramones were why you guys did Lollapalooza, right?

LF: Yeah, that's the only reason we did it. I mean, how often do you get to see the Ramones 30 times in a row? The best thing was the Ramones, and Psychotica was really fucking good, too. I liked them a lot. Pat [Briggs, frontman] is just a genius, dude, and he's a really nice guy. Sometimes you can like a guy's band if you know him personally and sort of see where it's coming from. He was sort of ripped off, I think, in a lot of ways. I think a lot of people—I'm not going to mention anybody—ripped off his whole androgynous thing.

O: Who could you be talking about?

LF: I don't know, but [Briggs has] been doing it longer than anybody. That whole androgyny thing was his to begin with, but whatever.

O: When I first heard Life Won't Wait, the word that sprang to mind was "exhausting."

LF: [Laughs.] How's that?

O: There's so much to it. How did you guys hold that record together thematically? What sort of thought went into that?

LF: Oh, man. We had a good engineer [Thomas "T.J." Johnson]. We had one engineer pretty much for the whole record, with the exception of a couple songs. He had the hardest job; he was the overseer. He helped us keep it together, because we produced the record ourselves, and we were going crazy, bringing this, that, and the other into it. It was sort of T.J.'s job to make sense of it. It was cool, because we got to make the record we wanted to make. If there's one thing we can say at the end of the day, it's that we wanted to make that record. Every day, it was something new in the studio. There was always something else happening, and it was never the same sort of thing twice. In all actuality, it might have taken us a long time to get the record out, but a lot of that record was recorded over the course of a long time. In essence, we didn't really spend that much time on it; we just stretched it out. We didn't lock ourselves in the studio for a year, but we knew we didn't want to lock ourselves in a studio for a month, bang out a record, and get back out on tour again. We had been making records, or on tour, for the last five years of our lives, without a break. We did, like, 27 van tours and almost 1,000 shows. We wanted to sort of chill out and enjoy life a little bit. And now we're all refreshed and ready to go again.

O: You guys must be unbelievably sick of your stuff being compared to Clash records.

LF: You know, I mean, I've heard that a lot from interviewers, but you know what? It doesn't really bother us. It's like how, if you drink Vitamin C every day, you build up a tolerance. It doesn't work after a while. [Laughs.] I've got the textbook answer, and here it comes. Get ready: "It's like being compared to Willie Mays if you're a ballplayer." You know what I mean? That's what it all boils down to. It could be a lot worse. It could be, like, "How do you guys feel about being compared to Bon Jovi?" Then you're going to start a fight. [Laughs.]