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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rancid Gets Sweet Taste Of Success

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Exhausted but content, Matt Freeman of Rancid plopped into a chair - a beer in one hand and a phone in the other.

Five minutes earlier, Freeman and his bandmates had been on stage at a club in Birmingham, England, blowing out eardrums in a room packed with rabid Brits.

“Crazy, drunk English guys were flying everywhere,” Freeman said with satisfaction.

After its European dates, Rancid returns to the United States for a months-long tour.

Life is good for Rancid, a four-man punk outfit from Albany, Calif., with a hit album on the little label that could, Epitaph Records.

Epitaph, which aided and abetted the careers of the Offspring and Pennywise, is again enjoying the sweet smell of success with Rancid - bassist Freeman, guitarist Lars Fredericksen, drummer Brett Reed and lead singer and guitarist Tim Armstrong.

Rancid’s third album, “And Out Come the Wolves,” is an aggressive and entertaining dance through the decibels. Like all rock ‘n’ roll from the edge, “Wolves” squeals around corners on two wheels and bottoms out on every bump and pothole.

Punk rock has been a growing commercial force in the past two years. But there is something inherently anomalous about a successful punk band.

“We got too big too quick,” Freeman said.

He wasn’t talking about Rancid, but his and Armstrong’s previous band, Operation Ivy.

In the late ‘80s, that ska-flavored punk band was among the top club bands in Albany, a working-class community that rubs shoulders with Berkeley. The area’s industrial-district punk scene also produced such groups as Neurosis and Green Day, one of last year’s big rock successes.

Being called rock stars didn’t sit well with Freeman and his bandmates, and eventually the group disintegrated. But the experience helped prepare Freeman for the out-of-left-field success of Rancid.

During a major-label bidding war last year, Madonna faxed the band a nude photo of herself and an A&R rep for Epic Records dyed his hair blue in hopes of signing the band to a $1 million-plus recording deal.

“Things were so crazy back then,” Freeman said. “We saw two of our favorite bands get super-big. We had people running around offering us millions of dollars.

“You’ve got to understand that we all came from working families. In April of ‘94, everyone was comfortable selling 20,000 to 30,000 records. Then overnight, everything changed and we freaked out. When everything was said and done, we asked ourselves, ‘What do we want? Do we want to be rich or do we want to stay on Epitaph?’ “

The choice was Epitaph, an independent California punk label with a reputation for nurturing young bands and making them commercially viable without sacrificing integrity.

For “And Out Come the Wolves,” Rancid went into the studio with producer Jerry Finn, who had worked with Green Day, Pennywise and The Muffs. Finn brought out the best in band members, especially Freeman and drummer Reed.