Eleven years ago, Green Day made the most important album of their career, ‘American Idiot.’ A concept album and rock opera following anti-hero Jesus of Suburbia, it marked their graduation from scrappy punk trio to bold, rock anarchists of the highest theatrical order.
Filming them every step of the way was director John Roecker. His footage was subsequently squirreled away for years but thanks to new documentary film Heart Like A Hand Grenade it’s finally seeing the light of day bringing with it a fresh insight into the world of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool as they set about making their ambitious seventh album.
Ahead of the film’s release on November 13, here are six exclusive behind the scenes pictures from the rock doc.
Fuelled by a lifelong passion for punk music, director John Roecker refused to embrace any fancy filming techniques during his nine months with the band. “It shows a band on top of their game creating incredible music,” he said. “It is a film that inspires. It is also a very small film. All it took was a box of tapes and one camera. Going back to the DIY ethic that I was raised with.”
By 2001 Green Day were flailing. Describing their greatest hits compilation as a “midlife crisis waiting to happen”, they began recording new material in 2002 but the master demos were stolen. Pushed to the limit, they started over in an entirely new way, individually writing extravagant 30-second songs. These became the album’s two musical suites and paved the way towards rock opera stardom.
With the ‘American Idiot’ demos complete, Green Day relocated to Los Angeles to record the album. Shacked up in a Hollywood hotel nearby and confident about their new direction, they threw themselves back into rock stardom, with Armstrong reportedly scheduling vocal recording sessions around his hangovers. “For the first time, we fully accepted the fact that we’re rock stars,” he said.
Fans are gearing up for a never-before-seen Green Day concert included in the film. “After the recording was finished they booked a small theatre and performed the album in its entirety,” Roecker revealed. “Fun fact! This was 11 years ago folks and the camera phone was not invented so this is the only way you can see this legendary concert!”
Inspired by Chinese communist propaganda, Green Day asked artist Chris Bilheimer to think up an image “at once uniform and powerful” for the album artwork. Bilheimer was inspired by a lyric from ‘She’s A Rebel’ – “And she’s holding on my heart like a hand grenade.” He settled on a blood soaked fist gripping a heart shaped hand grenade, a powerful symbol for the album’s story.
Released on September 20, 2004, ‘American Idiot’ went six times platinum in the United States, Canada and the UK, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide and been turned into a Grammy award-winning stage show. Describing the new documentary as a “time capsule rock doc”, ‘Heart Like A Hand Grenade’ offers a rare chance to watch a band on the cusp of world-domination. We can’t wait.