Billie Joe Armstrong Interview: Talking Gibson Guitars

By: Courtney Grimes

Billie Joe Armstrong Photo Credit: Bill Bronson Photography

Punks from Cali are known to have weird clothes, crazy hair and tons of tats. They like to scream and break stuff and some wear makeup, and these three guys make a fortune doing it all.

The men of Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong (guitar, vocals), Mike Dirnt (bass) and Tre Cool (drums) have been instrumental in defining the punk scene since the early ’90s. By the time the band’s second album, Kerplunk, was released in 1992 on the indie Lookout! label, the group had developed a steady cult following and became such an underground hit, that two years later, the band had a major label (Reprise Records) debut, Dookie.

Dookie has sold over 8 million copies in America and over 11 million internationally. Along with the massive success of the album, Green Day also picked up a Grammy Award in 1994 for Best Alternative Music Performance. The very next year, the band released Insomniac which fell short of the critical acclaim that their previous record had brought them.

Two years later, the trio put out Nimrod, which went over well with fans and critics alike, before they took a brief hiatus and came back in 2000 with Warning, which the band self-produced.

This marked the first time the group had produced their own music since their very first album almost a decade earlier. The album fell to mediocre reviews, but did earn the band some top-of-the-charts singles including “Minority.”

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With their rock-opera release American Idiot, Green Day has topped themselves yet again, with edgy lyrics and punchy riffs. Billie Joe Armstrong recently toured the Gibson USA Plant in Nashville, TN, and took some time to chat about “Floyd”, LIVE 8 and offer some sound advice.


Billie Joe Armstrong and Fan Sing in Chicago Photo Credit: Bill Bronson Photography

Courtney Grimes: When did you first begin playing Gibson guitars?

Billie Joe Armstrong: I bought my 1956 Jr. “Floyd” in 2000, right before we started recording “Warning.” I picked it up at a guitar show in San Rafael and I could tell right away it was special. At the time I was playing mostly Fenders, and this Jr. was a completely different guitar from anything I had played before.

Courtney: Why do you like playing Gibsons?

Billie Joe Armstrong: They sound great. I love Les Paul Juniors. Dog ear ‘50s P-90s are the punchiest pickup ever made. It is perfect for my style of playing. They’re dirty but have great string definition. Solid-body Gibsons are the perfect rock guitars.

Courtney: Tell me about your Gibson collection. Do you have a favorite guitar?

Billie Joe Armstrong: “Floyd” [’56 Sunburst Les Paul Jr.] is still my favorite, but I recently bought a ‘56 Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty” and it’s a close second. I have about thirty vintage Les Pauls now and I love them all.

Courtney: American Idiot is considered one of the few punk-rock operas. Why? Was that intentional?

Billie Joe Armstrong: It carries a continuous theme throughout the record. But, we still felt that it was important that all the songs stood up on their own, and had their own meaning.

Billie Joe Armstrong Photo Credit: Bill Bronson Photography

Courtney: Tell me about your experience with LIVE 8.

Billie Joe Armstrong: Playing in front of half a million people in Berlin and millions more on TV around the world was an amazing experience. It was great to be part of the effort.

Hopefully people around the world understood the point was to convince the world’s leaders to end third-world debt and help end poverty in the poorest nations.

Courtney: What’s been your favorite Green Day album so far?

Billie Joe Armstrong: I would have to say American Idiot. It’s the most personally expressive record we’ve made.

Courtney: What is the best advice you can give to the up-and-coming generation of guitarists?

Billie Joe Armstrong: I would have to say that there’s no “wrong” way of learning to play guitar, and to be passionate about the music that you play.


The above article appears courtesy of and is reprinted on Guitar International Magazine with permission. Copyright 2005, Courtney Grimes and Gibson Internet Group. All rights reserved.


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  3. Rick (4 years ago)

    I think American Idiot was a good solid album, but i still love their really old stuff like their first record. They will always be a solid band though.

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