7TH August 2016
If I could go back in time and tell young teenage Chris Herron that on his 32nd birthday he would interview Lars Frederiksen just two weeks after being invited for a drink with NOFX, he would have laughed, and vituperated me for being foolish and a liar. Then I would have drank that little shit under the table for being a wide-o.
Rancid and NOFX were my great introduction to punk in my early teens, changing my life almost overnight, I have followed Lars' career closely for the past two decades, his posters adorn my walls and his t-shirts my body, I've been to all his Scottish gigs past fifteen years, and I have all his albums.
I already had tickets for the show and my shamanic friend Loic (also a fan) said 'do you think you could get to interview him?', I thought, 'no way', but then the wheels turned and I figured, NHC have quite a bit of sway with promoters and bookers in the city these days, and the venue, Nice and Sleazey's, is closely associated with us, 'yeah, why the fuck not, might as well try'.
Once again Mainy worked his magic with the strings and before I could comprehend it, it was arranged! I was interviewing Lars Frederiksen!!
Almost twenty years after buying that first Rancid album I heard, I'm sitting at the bar in Nice and Sleazy's drinking white Russians and awaiting one of my childhood musical heroes, who said he would meet me at the club at 6! This is big!
I should have been really nervous, and I was certainly buzzing with excited energy, but once Lars appeared I just clicked. Here was someone I already had plenty in common with, and even if he didn't know me, I grew up with him, it suddenly felt natural. Lars is a scary looking guy, skinhead, tattoos on his scalp and SKUNX inked across his face as well as a jungle of tattoos crawling up his neck and all over every inch of his bronzed flesh, and he's big, and... he has a reputation.
When I was a kid, I can't remember where, but somewhere online I think, I read some accounts of Lars' rough childhood growing up in the poor quarters with Mexicans in Campbell California. They inspired me enough to write some short stories based on Lars' early life, I wish I still had them, to have shown him them, but alas, they are long lost.
Despite Lars' fearsome reputation and appearance however, you will find him to be one of the most humble, grounded, gregarious, and pleasant people you could ever meet.
After introducing myself I explained what we were all about at NHC and he really dug our cause and was happy to take me backstage for a chat. I have heard of Lars refusing to accept albums for free given to him by up and coming bands trying to get their music heard, and instead always gives money for them, because he believes in buying records and supporting musicians. So when he heard of the work we did within the unsigned music community in Scotland he was more than happy to take the time out of his busy schedule (OFC's touring schedule is so tight you could slip a Rizla between the dates!) to talk to us...
...He sat back, casually lit a cigarette, and was informing me on how to make the perfect taco, his friendly warm attitude put me at ease and what follows is the equivalent of interviewing a member of The Clash or The Pistols in the 70s... Lars Frederiksen, on tacos, Old Firm Casuals, Rebellion Festival, punk, football, wrestling, life, and above all, music...
LARS - ....When you make Mexican food, or you make tacos, you have to double the tortilla or the food falls through, that's like rule number one with any kind of Mexican food. You gotta' put a little mayonnaise in, guacamole, just a touch of mayonnaise. I grew up with Mexicans, I grew up in California so it's like Mexican food everywhere you go, we're known for having the best Mexican food in the world. I had this haddock taco here and it was good but it just needed one more tortilla...
NHC - It was all falling apart yeah. Right, well, firstly, thank you very much for doing this.
LARS - My pleasure.
NHC - Any time you wanna' wrap it up just let me know I don't wanna' keep you too long.
LARS - No worries.
NHC - Okay, well I guess the obvious place to start is if you could tell us how the Old Firm Casuals came about, what was the catalyst? Did you all know each other?
LARS - Er, well, I mean it was a combination of a lotta' things, I was... Bored (chuckles), y'know cos' Rancid was sorta' not really doing much at the time and I wanted to do another sorta' band, cos' y'know The Bastards were sorta' defunct and it didn't look like that was gonna' get back together any time soon, and what the Old Firm Casuals are doing, that is what I wanted the Bastards to be, y'know the first record was street punk oi, the first Bastards record, that's what it was it was, an oi record, y'know, my version of it anyway, and then the next record wasn't that, and then I just kinda' lost interest in it, I didn't like where the direction was going, but the direction was kinda' going its natural way, but it wasn't where I wanted it to go.
NHC - So are you kind of indulging yourself with the OFC, is that kind of sound something you always wanted to do?
LARS - Nah it's something I've always done, I mean that's just been my version of it, y'know, even Rancid do this style of music, it's not maybe to the fullest extent, but I mean in Rancid it's four guys, different songwriters, I mean me and Tim are not writing the songs for this y'know, I mean I mostly do a lot of it by myself but I try to include everybody cos' that's what makes, I think, the best songs, when everybody contributes.
NHC - Get a nice melting pot going?
LARS - Yeah, I mean I knew Casey from when we were doing this indoor soccer, football, and we're doing it on Wednesday nights at nine o' clock and Casey came along and that's how I first kinda' got to know him better, I'd seen him around shows and whatever, hardcore shows and whatever, and we just started chatting one night and I was like 'Yeah I'm thinking of putting together another band and this is the kind of music I like' and he's like 'Yeah I like the same kinda' shit' and I'm like 'Well do you wanna' do this with me' and he's like 'Fuck yeah let's do it'. So I wrote a song or two and I called him up and said 'This is kinda' what I'm thinking of doing' he said 'Yeah this is awesome I'm totally down', he's a guitar player though so I said 'Do you wanna' play bass? I'm thinking of just keeping it a three piece, keeping it simple', he's like 'Yeah I can play bass' and I went 'Cool. Do you know any drummers that are into the same shit?' Cos' I didn't know anybody, y'know what I mean, that was into this kinda' thing, at least not anybody that was in the immediate area, and I thought he might, and he knew Paul cos' he had played in a band with Paul, and Paul loves this kinda' music, hardcore, and that's like y'know, the elements. We just got together, we got a practice room, it was like seven years ago in October!
NHC - And after that it came together quite naturally?
LARS - Yeah
NHC - Okay, you just finished playing Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool, was that good, what kind of experiences do you take from it?
LARS - Well y'know I've done it a few times, it's always great, it's the best festival for punk rock or oi music or any kinda' subculture music...
NHC - Best in Britain or best in the world?
LARS - In the world I think, I mean there's a lotta' great ones, Endless Summer's a great one, Ruhrpott Rodeo's another good one, but I think Rebellion, for me, well it's the first one, so I think it's the best one.
NHC - What other bands did you go and see while you were there?
LARS - GBH, Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects, Argy Bargy I saw on the first day, UK Subs [Which Lars was a member of briefly in the 80s], saw Discharge, um, but I couldn't get around to most the bands I wanted to see...
NHC - There are a lot of good punk bands at Rebellion!
LARS - And that's the thing, it's kinda' too much
NHC - Aye, it is too much! So, you're travelling all over the UK, Ireland and Germany throughout this month, do you thrive on the road, or do you find it hard?
LARS - I just get tired, hahahaha, I get tired on the road, nah I mean it's fun, you're playing gigs you're doing music. I'm a fucking poor street kid, well working class kid, y'know, I was actually working poor before they had the fucking term working poor, so for me every day on two legs is a good day. I mean I miss my kids obviously cos' they're the most important thing in my life, I mean I'm kind of a family man now, which is sort of a change but it's been that way for the last nine years. I love making this kind of music and I'll do it anywhere y'know, as long as you give me a place to do it I'll do it. But these types of rooms [Gesturing around to the cavernous, dingy, intimate surroundings of the stage area], these types of venues, this is where my heart is, I don't wanna' play... I mean don't get me wrong, I'm very lucky and I'm very grateful for everything I've ever gotten in my life, everything. I've been able to live a life beyond my wildest dreams. As you get older you get more responsibility, right, and you sorta' lose track of life and what is important and what's not important, and for me, I've been coming to punk shows since I was ten years old, I'm forty four, y'know what I mean?
NHC - Proper old skool punk.
LARS - Well y'know it's not even about old school or new school or any of that shit, it's just about this is the music I love and these are the places I like to do it in.
NHC - Intimate, small venues.
LARS - Yeah, I mean I like bigger places too, fuck, when you play in front of fucking eighty thousand people, that's a rush! But it's almost harder to do it here cos' they're in your face, and I like that, y'know, I like sweating, lord knows I could use it, know what I mean? [Grins wolfishly].
NHC - [Laughing] I have to ask, is Old Firm Casuals a direct reference to football sections?
LARS - Absolutely not, no.
NHC - Does it mean something else in America?
LARS - Well, it's kinda' like, when you talk about the old firm, you talk about the gang, y'know, you guys call it the firm, I started thinking about the name cossa' 'We Are The Firm' by The Cockney Rejects, that's where I came up with the name, then we named the band Old Firm Casuals, it was a little too late to change it when we came to the Rangers and Celtic shit, I don't believe in any sectarian bullshit, I don't believe in any religion, I'm not Catholic nor Protestant, I'm not any of those fucking things, I don't wanna' get involved with any of that shit, it's none of my fucking business, it's a whole different world, it's a whole different country, I had a girlfriend who was from Paisley, I know exactly what this shit is all about...
NHC - You had a girlfriend who was from Paisley!?
LARS - Yeah, fuck yeah, I'm not gonna' name her but I spent a lot of time in Paisley.
NHC - Yeah!? That's cool! You know Scotland at street level then?
LARS - Yeah. But y'know the name of the band is more like... Your friends. We're in a crew called D.M.S right, and I refer to it as The Old Firm, it's the firm, it's the crew, it's the family, and that's what it was sorta' modelled as, I almost wanted to... It sounded like a cool name and Casey and Paul both looked like football casuals, to some extent, and that's where the casual part came from, but honestly it wasn't ever started with the football culture or anything to do with Rangers or Celtic.
NHC - I just had to ask to clear it up for the Scots who were asking.
LARS - Well I cleared that up six years ago, so you're a little late to that question my friend.
NHC - [Moving swiftly on] I understand you're a fellow fan of pro wrestling?
LARS - [Smiling] Yeah, fucking ay'.
NHC - We've done work with ICW, I don't know if you've heard of them? An independent Scottish wrestling promotion.
LARS - Yeah, yeah, of course
NHC - I was wondering if you've ever made any sort of in-ring appearance?
LARS - I was a manager on an indie show one time, and my wrestler was called The Milwall Brawl and he came out in full royal blue and white. It was great, I was a manager, I buried this guy in front of his family, it was a squash match, y'know what I mean? It was like a minute, it was like the whole Bundy S.D Jones Wrestlemania, it was like fucking five seconds it was over, it was great though, really cool. But it's one of those things where I'm like y'know, I like wrestling, but I don't wanna' do it.
NHC - It's not as easy as it looks [And I can say that from experience].
LARS - Well y'know I used to love music so much, but there was a moment, a period in my life where I couldn't even fucking enjoy it cos' I did it.
NHC - It became like a job?
LARS - Well yeah, to a certain extent, but then ya' just gotta' find something different about it and you fall back in love with it.
NHC - Do a different project. You've done loads of stuff, you've produced many great punk albums for many great bands and had many side projects of your own, so is that how you keep it fresh?
LARS - Yeah.
NHC - If punk never had existed, what kind of musician do you think you'd be?
LARS - I'd be in jail, I wouldn't be a musician, I'd be robbing your house right now, actually I probably would have never made it to Scotland they would have never let me in the country. Yeah, I probably wouldn't be here right now, honestly, if it wasn't for music.
NHC - Good stuff. Okay, last question for you then. Here at NHC we support local music, we give bands a platform, photography, reviews, get their albums out, get them gigs, protect them from sketchy promoters, or whatever help they need...
LARS - That's rad.
NHC - We're charity-based, non-profit, all profit goes back into local music.
LARS - That's great!
NHC - So I have to ask, on behalf of all the bands registered with us, if there's any advice an accomplished musician could give to someone down at the independent level? I mean I know you're independent, but I mean musicians down at localised underground levels
LARS - I been on an independent label my whole career. Well, y'know it's all relative to what you're dealing with, I mean the bigger your band get the more responsibility you got, more keys on your key chain so to speak. I mean one thing I've never done is I've never capitulated what I said or what I did or who I am, y'know, if I feel like I'm gonna' be this way I'm gonna' be this way, when I make up my mind on something I just do it, y'know. So with me it was just about no compromise, and as you get older you get smarter, you realise what's important and what's not important. The one thing I kinda' wish I had done back in the day is enjoy it a little bit more, cos' you were so focused on just doing the next gig you never really got a chance to breathe and look around and see what was going on, I mean it just kinda' happened, next thing you know you're twenty five/twenty six and you say 'What the fuck!?' So y'know enjoy the time that you have, enjoy that time that you're up there cos' it's a blur, one gig runs into the next and... I don't know if I necessarily have any advice for any bands cos' I did so many things the wrong way, but I never really came up short, you gotta' take any kinda', quote unquote, failure as a learning experience and every bit of glory as a learning experience too, it's just been my experience, and I should say that, I should preface it with that, it doesn't matter if you're selling a million records, or one record. A lot of people get this idea that cos' you've done this thing in your life that you're now a different person, and they judge you and the bigger that you get the more jealousy happens, the more people wanna' take you down, and you just gotta' ignore that, for instance, Rancid is bigger than any of the individuals, it means so much to so many different people all over the world that there's nothing... We can't even touch it anymore, it's not even ours y'know, it's theirs.
NHC - It's become a separate entity?
LARS - Well it's become everybody else's, which is fine, y'know, it's like Cock Sparrer, or fucking... AC/DC, or whatever, the band is bigger than the band, not that I'm saying we're AC/DC, or as good as Cock Sparrer or AC/DC, I'm just saying it's the same kinda' thing, the band is bigger than the individual members.
NHC - It connects a lot of different people.
LARS - Yeah, it's no longer yours, but I dunno', advice? Everybody's gotta' learn themselves, that's the best way, that's my best advice, learn for yourself.
NHC - But enjoy yourself, take it as it comes, and learn to take a look around once in a while?
LARS - Yeah, pretty much.
NHC - Well thank you very much Lars for taking the time.
LARS - Thank you for taking the time.
Afterwards, and after a few more white Russians, I found myself at the edge of the precarious moshpit, shielding my girlfriend because it looked like it could erupt like a volcano of mixed punks and neds (a strange mix for a moshpit), with the Old Firm Casuals about to blow up in Glasgow's face with some hard-hitting, ear-splitting but melodic and fantastic street punk oi, spearheaded by the legendary Lars, flanked by three brilliant musicians. I've been to a fuck of a lot of punk gigs, I think I've seen almost everyone, but that was a proper punk gig.
Lars is a natural of course, despite drunk Scottish hooligans crowding his mike, he was not in the slightest bit phased, his banter between songs was the mark of a true raconteur, and fuck me did we slam the night away to the O.F.C's onslaught of songs. Lars is a huge fan of Scotland, Scottish women, Scottish shortbread, and of course Irn Bru! He was even handed these items from fans in the crowd. Lars refused the tonic wine, being tee total now, but the look on the rest of the band's faces when they tasted shots of Buckfast from the crowd was comical. During swigs of Irn Bru Lars stated that "I'm not blowing smoke up your ass Glasgow, but I've been coming to this country for twenty five years, and Scottish people are among the nicest in the world! You guys will open your doors to anyone. Thank you Scotland!" The night even ended with a classic punk stage invasion, and despite the stage swelling with punters the band didn't skip a beat, they played right on through an encore and it looked like the party was gonna' go all night after that...
Huge thanks to Lars Frederiksen for taking the time to support the local music scene in Glasgow and on a personal note for taking the time to sit and have a chat with one of his biggest fans, and an even bigger fan now. Catch OFC on tour round the UK and Ireland now for an awesome night out.
And until next time,
See ya' in the pit!!!!!