Punk rock has always flirted with mainstream success. Every couple of years a new batch of punk bands will explode onto the scene, and more often than not, within six months, they are never heard from again. Or they turn pop. Only a few stay the course and keep making great music. Rancid is one of them.
Driven by a deep love of music instead of dollar signs, Lars Frederiksen has been playing guitar for Rancid since its inception 20 years ago. “Rancid would be doing the same thing whether it were for 10 people or 1,000 people,” he says.
Only Frederiksen’s passion for the art of tattooing rivals his passion for punk rock. Since getting his first tattoo at the ripe old age of 11, he has embraced the culture wholeheartedly. Today he owns a stake in the legendary New York Hardcore Tattoo, and on occasion will pick up a machine to ink his buddies. “I figured that if I was going to be owner of a tattoo shop, I should be a tattooer too,” Frederiksen jokes. Whether it is in the tattoo shop, onstage, or at home raising his two sons, Frederiksen always holds dear what he has learned through the punk rock scene: “All I’ve ever done is try and make a better life for myself without stepping on anyone’s
toes. That’s what the music taught me—that’s what my culture taught me.”
INKED: Can you believe that Rancid has been around for 20 years?
LARS FREDERIKSEN: Actually, yeah. The whole deal with us is that we have always put the friendship before the band. When you have a strong, solid friendship as your foundation, that means that you’re going to have longevity. I also think that coming from our working-class backgrounds and not having a college education to fall back on has motivated us as well. I wouldn’t say that was the full driving force—the friendship is. There are so many factors in keeping a band together; it’s like being in a marriage with the other three members, and we get along.
You mentioned not having anything to fall back on if the band had been a failure. Do you think that lack of options helps hold the band together?
The success that we had was, mind you, 17 years ago with …And Out Come the Wolves. It’s not 1995 anymore; it’s not like we are millionaires with mansions and limousines. We’re just regular dudes. It’s nice to be able to make a living off of what we do, but at the same time that’s not the motivation behind it. I don’t make music for money. If I made music for money I wouldn’t have become a skinhead again and started an Oi! band. Rancid has always been a working-class punk rock band and will always be a working-class punk band.
What was it about the skinhead and punk culture that attracted you initially?
It was my brother. He brought home all of the music. The Oi! stuff, the Jamaican reggae, the Ramones, and the U.K. Subs. I owe all of my musical taste to my brother, who is no longer with us. As a younger brother you look up to your older brother, so if he drank beer then you drank beer. Back then there weren’t a lot of people into this type of music—I remember being chased home from school because I was different—so those who were gravitated toward each other. It was very tribal, in a way.
A lot of people tend to associate all skinheads with the racist element. What’s it like having to deal with that ignorance?
I dealt with that a lot back in the ’80s. This was the time when that whole racist thing was big and cops would pick you up off the street if you even resembled one. They would give you what we used to call the “Black Eye Elevator Ride.” You’d go in on the first floor and by the time you made it to the third floor you would have two black eyes. There’s always going to be a stigma. Anything that’s rebellious is going to have one. The media will never report that skinheads came from Jamaican reggae in the ’60s.
Would you consider your Oi! band, The Old Firm Casuals, a new band or a side project?
I definitely wouldn’t call it a side project because it is definitely a full-time band. It means as much to me as Rancid does. This is the band that I always thought the Bastards would be. That first Bastards record, I wanted to make a street punk record, which we did. That first record was definitely what I envisioned it to be, but then the band took on a life of its own and became something else. That’s the thing with music—it has its own legs and sometimes you just got to roll with it. The Old Firm Casuals is what I wanted the Bastards to be in a way. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.