Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Keep 'Em Separated

By Alan Sculley

OCTOBER 27, 1997:  When the Offspring signed their major label deal with Columbia Records, many of their longtime fans undoubtedly felt the band was cashing in on the success of their multimillion-selling 1994 release, Smash. The theory makes sense: With major labels -- awakened by the popularity of Smash and its hit single "Come Out And Play" -- showing keen interest in buying out the band's contract from Epitaph Records, the timing for such a move was right.

The only problem with that theory is the Offspring never intended to leave Epitaph.

"The independent thing was just very cool to us," says guitarist Noodles (real name Kevin Wasserman). "At the time we felt it was the only way we would be able to do [music] and keep control of what we were doing."

The entire Offspring-Epitaph split is a complicated story. But Noodles maintains that the band -- which also includes singer Dexter Holland, drummer Ron Welty and bassist Greg K (Kriesel) -- was forced into making the move by Epitaph owner Brett Gurewitz. In fact, Noodles says, the band twice talked Gurewitz out of selling the band's contract when Smash first started to gain momentum.

"When things started to get crazy, then he wanted to sell us to a major, and we talked him out of it," Noodles says. "He wanted to do it again in Europe when our record started to do well over there. And we talked him out of it, and we said let's do this together."

So the band agreed to share in the marketing and promotion costs of Smash as the record continued to pick up steam, and the approach worked well. By the time sales started to tail off, Smash had sold some 6 million copies and spawned the additional hit singles, "Gotta Get Away" and "Self-Esteem." But instead of the joint efforts of Epitaph and the Offspring cementing a long-term relationship, Noodles says Gurewitz continued to secretly entertain offers from major labels.

The band, however, had their suspicions and confronted Gurewitz late in 1995. Gurewitz at that point admitted he was investigating offers to raise money. The band was angered by Gurewitz's admission, and this was what spurred the Offspring to take label matters into their own hands.

"That whole thing was shitty," Noodles says. "It really kind of felt like going through a divorce. It was really shitty. We felt like we didn't have a home for awhile. Ultimately what happened was Brett told us, I mean, he sat down in the midst of these kind of heated negotiations and told us he was going to have to sell part of the label at a time when we were the lion's share of [the income for] Epitaph. And we didn't want to be sold and not have any say in the matter, so we decided that it was up to us to leave."

The band quickly struck a deal with Columbia Records, which in turn bought out the band's contract from Epitaph. Noodles admits the episode left some damage. ("I'm not real crazy about Mr. Brett. None of us are ever going to be his friend anymore," Noodles says). But in the end the split was best for all involved.

"In doing so, Brett's been able to remain independent. He sold just the Offspring and Epitaph remains independent to this day," Noodles says. "All the bands now, they don't have to compete just within Epitaph with the Offspring anymore. Everything at Epitaph, all the tools they have at their disposal, are now for the NOFXs and Pennywises and stuff, and these guys are our friends."

Naturally, with all the attention the Offspring received over the move to Columbia, there was plenty of curiosity surrounding Ixnay On The Hombre. But fears that the label would smooth over the band's punk sound proved unfounded. The rapid-fire, hook-filled sound the band established on Smash returns on new tracks like "Mota," "The Meaning Of Life," and "Cool to Hate." Ixnay, however, does have more rhythmic variety, with several songs such as "Me And My Old Lady" and "Gone Away" using more straight-ahead rock tempos. But even these songs still carry a punk attitude.

"We've got like a 10-year history of that [playing punk rock]," says Noodles, referring to the fact that the Offspring first formed in Orange County, California, in 1984 and until Smash had been known primarily only on the underground punk scene. "I don't think within two years we're ever going to do away with the whole punk thing. But at the same time, there are other things out there, at least musically, that we'd like to branch out into. And I think we just felt a little freer to do that, to try things. I mean, some of these songs are just downright rock. I think 'Me And My Old Lady' is just a real rock song, but I think it's a good one and I don't think it's as pretentious as a lot of rock songs were getting. It was a lot of the pretentiousness that drove me to punk rock in the beginning."

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