PC: Wikimedia Commons; FL: Freeman, Armstrong and Frederiksen
As any normal music fan, we sometimes aren’t satisfied with simply the songs when it comes to our favorite bands. Some of us want to know their back story, some of us want to know who they’re dating, and some of us even want to know their favorite food! While some fans are simply casual and other are downright fanatical, musicians are a different breed of fans, more like brothers in arms actually. Rather than wanting to know things that have little to do with music and more to do with the trivial personal matters in the artist’s life, musicians want the gear info! And why not? It’s a chance to look at the tools in their repertoire, compare it with themselves, or even just gain a deeper sense of what makes the band work. This week, we will be taking a closer look at one of modern punk rock’s most successful bands who, along with Green Day, are credited with the punk rock revival of the early ‘90s. Comprised of Tim Armstrong on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Matt Freeman on lead guitar and sometimes lead vocals, Lars Frederiksen on bass (and rarely on lead vocals) and Branden Steineckert on drums, Rancid is one of the most commercially successful punk rock bands still out there to this day. Read on and find out how a group of kids from Berkley finally made it and the gear that got them there!
Operation Ivy and Bands Before Rancid
The band that would eventually become Rancid has its roots in Albany, California near Berkley where two childhood friends, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, first met. By the time they both hit their early twenties in 1986, both Armstrong and Freeman had delved deep into the Berkley punk rock scene, collectively located on 924 Gilman Street, the very same scene that would eventually produce fellow pop-punks Green Day just a couple of years later. They began playing in the ska punk band Basic Radio with Michael Valladares and Jeff Kamalian, who would later go on to form the ska band Critical Mass. After the breakup of Basic Radio, Armstrong and Freeman decided to form another band along with singer Jesse Michaels and drummer Dave Mello known as Operation Ivy. The band instantly became Gilman Streets most popular group and garnered them a huge cult following. Although the band only ran from May of 1987 until May of 1989, anyone familiar with the group can tell you that the influence they bestowed upon subsequent bands is immeasurable and undeniable, spawning similar punk/ska/pop bands such as Green Day and Sublime. Although not commercially successful, their only full length release, Energy, has been regarded by many critics as one of the greatest punk rock albums of all time. After the breakup of Operation Ivy in May of ’89, Armstrong and Freeman decided to form a new band, the similar sounding punk ska influenced band Downfall, which broke up after only a few months. Their next two endeavors ended just as abruptly in the form of the hardcore punk band Generator and the subsequent ska punk band Dance Hall Crashers; the latter of which continued without them.
Rancid and First Taste of Commercial Success
PC: Wikimedia Commons; Operation Ivy in 1988
By the early ‘90s, Armstrong had begun struggling with his alcoholism and in order to keep him preoccupied and productive, Freeman suggested that the two form a new band. In 1991, they recruited Armstrong’s roommate Brett Reed as their drummer and officially formed Rancid. With Armstrong on lead vocals and guitar, Freeman on bass and Reed on drums, Rancid began playing around their old band’s stomping grounds in Berkley and quickly began ammasing a sizeable following. In 1992, the group released their first EP through Operation Ivy’s old label Lookout! Records but left shortly after its release to sign with friend and Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz’s label, Epitaph Records. Soon after signing with Epitaph, Rancid released their self titled and first full length album in 1993.
While writing songs for their follow up album, Armstrong was on the lookout for another guitarist to join the band. Billie Joe Armstrong had been friends with Tim since their early days at Gilmore Street and while the pair was writing the song “Radio” for Rancid’s next album, Tim asked Billie Joe to join. Already committed to Green Day, Billie Joe declined. Before Tim had asked Billie Joe, he had first tried to recruit Lars Frederiksen, who initially turned him down as he was already a member of punk band UK Subs at the time, but after Billie Joe also declined, Frederiksen changed his mind and joined Rancid as their lead guitarist and co-vocalist.
They returned to the studio in 1994 to record their second album – the first with Frederiksen – entitiled Let’s Go, which featured the dual Armstrong penned track “Radio.” That same year, fellow Epitaph band The Offspring achieved surprisingly huge success through their album Smash, thanks in part to the environment following the surge of pop punk bands attaining commercial success, specifically driven by Green Day. Rancid joined The Offspring for their ’94 tour which did much to expose Rancid to the mainstream market, helping Let’s Go reach No. 97 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. The album also spawned the single “Salvation,” whose video received much airplay on MTV, further exposing the group to a mainstream audience. The unexpected success of the album and the growing popularity of punk rock revival bands made Rancid a sought after band by several major record labels including Madonna’s label, Maverick Records.
In the end, the band decided to stick with their current label for the release of their third album, …And Out Come the Wolves, which was released on August 22, 1995. At the time of its release, the album easily became the band’s most successful release, debuting at No. 45 on Billboard’s Hot 200 and was certified gold less than a year after its release – a feat that took their previous album six years to accomplish. The album received generally positive reviews and spawned three singles – “Time Bomb,” “Roots Radicals” and “Ruby Soho” – all of which charted on the Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks. The album also garnered Rancid its heaviest airplay on radio stations and MTV to date.
Subsequent Releases and Current Success
Courtesy of RancidRancid.com; Photo by Dug Belan
Since hitting the mainstream following the success of …And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid has released four more studio albums. Although both of the albums following Wolves – Life Won’t Wait (1998) and Rancid (2000) – failed to reach the mark made by the breakthrough record, their 2003 album and sixth overall release, Indestructible, gave Rancid their highest ever debut position, garnering No. 15 on Billboard’s Hot 200. On June 2, 2009, Rancid released their latest album, Let the Dominoes Fall, and was the first to feature new drummer Branden Steineckerk, formally of rock band The Used, who was called in to replace Reed during Rancid’s 2006 tour and subsequently was asked to stay on as a permanent member.
At the present time, Rancid is celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band and are currently in the studio working on their yet to be named eighth studio album with an expected release date of late 2012/early 2013.
Tim Armstrong – Rhythm Guitar/Vocals
Not only is Armstrong the frontman of Rancid, he is also the lead in the side-project The Transplants as well as owner of the Epitaph sub-label Hell Cat Records. Armstrong is also an experienced producer, having worked on album from artists such as Pink and Jimmy Ciff. His main guitar is his 1971 Gretsch Country Club Hollowbody and was the basis for his signature model electric.
Fender Tim Armstrong Acoustic (Replica of Tim's personal '60s acoustic)
Gibson Les Paul
Gretsch Country Club Hollowbody ‘71
Gretsch White Falcon
Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier amplifier
Mesa 4x12 cabinets
Mesa Boogie combo amp
Orange Dunlop Tortex picks with custom black writing
Lars Frederiksen – Lead Guitar/Vocals
Before becoming a member of Rancid, Lars played with punk band the UK Subs. He is also the frontman of his personal side project 'Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards.' Just like Armstrong, Frederiksen plays his guitar straight to the amplifier without the use of any effects pedals.
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Alpine White
Epiphone Les Pauls
Gibson SG Special ‘64
Gibson SG Special ‘65
Marshall JCM 900 100 watt amplifier head
Marshall 1960A 4x12 cabinet with Celestion speakers
Matt Freeman – Bass
Freeman has stated that he was heavily influenced by The Who bassist John Entwistle and it is apparent in his style. Unlike the standard punk bass line which sticks to the root note and simply follows the guitar, Freeman is a master of arpeggios and scales which is clearly evident in Rancid songs such as “Maxwell Murder,” “Axiom” and “White Knuckle Ride.” Freeman is well known for his love of Fender Precision and Jazz bass guitars, even receiving his own signature model in 2011 based off the Precision model, the Squire by Fender Matt Freeman Bass.
Custom Hill Guitars Bass
Fender Jazz Bass ‘77
Fender Jazz Bass ‘78
Fender Kingman Bass SCE
Fender Precision Bass ‘66
Fender Precision Bass ‘74
Fender Precision Bass ‘77
Fender Tony Franklin signature
Guild B-50 acoustic bass guitar
Music Man StingRay ‘78
Rickenbacker bas ‘77
Ampeg SVT-5PRO heads
Korg DTR rack tuner
Branden Steineckert – Drums
Formerly of The Used, Branden joined Rancid in 2006 following the departure of original drummer Brett Reed. The first Rancid album to feature Steineckert on drums was 2009s Let the Dominoes Fall.
Orange County Drum & Percussion
SJC Custom Drums (Clear Acrylic w/Dexter themed graphics and black hardware):
6.5×14″ Snare Drum
24×22″ Bass Drum
14×12″ Floor Tom
16×14″ Floor Tom
DW 9000 Series Pedals and Hardware
14″ A Brilliant Mastersounds Hi-Hats
11″ Oriental Trash Splash
10″ A Custom Splash
21″ A Custom Projection Ride
19″ A Custom Projection Crash
21″ A Brilliant Sweet Ride
20″ Oriental China Trash
Black Suede Emperor or Coated Emperor (Rack Tom and Floor Toms Batter)
Black Suede Black X or Coated Emperor X (Snare Batter)
Clear Powerstroke 3 (Kick Batter)
Power 5B Nylon Tip