Green Day’s Oakland, CA, studio is about what you’d expect from one of the world’s biggest rock bands. The fenced-in complex includes a Ping-Pong table, outdoor weight room, vending machines, vinyl library, huge motorcycle garage, basketball hoop, and almost anything else a young punk could want. About the only thing it doesn’t have is its own tattoo artist. Bummer—because the place would have been an amazing source of inspiration.
The indoor and outdoor walls are covered in an incredible graffiti shrine to the Bay Area trio. In the same way the band mixed their ambitious new album, 21st Century Breakdown, within, designer Chris Bilheimer’s art was born and crafted on the outside, along the walls. “The cover of the record was actually made from a 12 by-12-inch stencil. It took [Bilheimer] about 10,000 years to cut out and spray and then take pictures of it,” bassist Mike Dirnt says, laughing. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Those visuals are already—or will soon be—inked forever on the men whose music inspired Bilheimer’s art. Dirnt, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, and drummer Tre Cool are like walking billboards of their band’s history. And why the hell not? More than two decades into their careers, they’ve experienced plenty, becoming the biggest band on the planet with ’94’s Dookie, falling into self-described valleys, and reemerging as bona fide rock auteurs with 2004’s American Idiot. Green Day have morphed from pop-punk kids into what Armstrong calls “the most socially conscious band out there.”
And on the stunning new 21st Century Breakdown, they’ve done it all while mixing the trademark Green Day hooks and fired-up anthemic rock with some of their most audacious and complex arrangements yet. It’s a worthy successor to the world’s first punk rock opera, and an album the band—and their fans—should be damn proud to get tattooed all over them. INKED visited the band in the Bay Area to talk to each member about tattoos, family, rock stardom, and The Who.