Many people think of Billie Joe Armstrong as an icon of modern alternative music, and that is indeed a tough point to argue against. As the frontman for the American rock band Green Day, Armstrong impacted so much of the rock and alternative music scenes throughout the 2000s and beyond.
If you’re curious about the music that inspired him to become the power player he is, you aren’t the only one. His style was extraordinarily influential, so it only makes sense that the origins would spark curiosity. When it comes to the music that shaped his life, he has tales of everything from Elvis to The Replacements.
Armstrong is partial to a lot of classic punk and classic rock, his musical roots fiercely embedded in the scene. When it comes to his inspiration for becoming a musician, Hüsker Dü can be accredited with that one. He said, “I’ve been playing music ever since I can remember, but when I first started getting into alternative music, I picked up [1986’s] Candy Apple Grey by Hüsker Dü, because I was watching the video for ‘Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely’ on 120 Minutes on MTV. I was immediately blown away by that song. I started a long love affair with Hüsker Dü. I wanted to be like Hüsker Dü when I started Green Day.”
However, he also considers Joey Ramone and Kathleen Hanna to be some of the best musicians, saying of Ramone, “Joey is the Jesus of punk. He has this endearing quality where his voice matches the way he looked. He’s incredibly handsome, in a praying-mantis kind of way. He’s just gangly and long-legged and his voice [sounds like] that—it’s like a really insecure kid that’s become empowered through rock & roll music.”
Additionally, he speaks highly of the riot grrrl star, “Kathleen [Hanna] is one of my favourite singers. Bikini Kill embody everything that I love about music: They’re full of power, there’s a vulnerability about them, and obviously, there’s the political side. It’s great to listen to before a gig, because it totally gets me jacked up and ready to play. Kathleen Hanna makes me drunk.”
But rock and punk aren’t his only loves. He speaks of listening to Elvis growing up, “There was a lot of Elvis in my house, because my mom is of that generation. All of his movement, the way he played guitar…” The charismatic frontman is no stranger to a duckwalk across the stage and, he shares a similar adoration for Chuck Berry. In fact, ‘Johnny B. Goode’ was the first song he ever learned to play on his guitar. He told EW, “I got my first guitar when I was eight years old. It was a Hohner Les Paul. I had a guitar teacher back then; he’s the one that showed me how to play that song. It was the first song [where] I realized, ‘Oh, I’m playing something!’ It shaped everything I did after that, subconsciously, for the rest of my life.”
Billie Joe Armstrong definitely has a varied music taste that has shaped him into the artist he is now. And on top of it all, he has a cheeky sense of humour about it all. When asked what music he listens to when falling asleep, he said Canibal Corpse, immediately followed by, “I’m just goofing around! [Laughs] I have too much music going on in my brain. If I listened to anything else before I went to bed, it’d drive me crazy.”
It’s a collection of songs that makes for a truly inspiring playlist.