'Smash' hit puts Offspring guitarist's Ph.D on hold

October 28, 1994|By Alan Sculley | Alan Sculley,Special to the Sun

For most of the past decade, Bryan "Dexter" Holland figured his future would be in a science lab, where as a budding microbiologist he'd been cloning viruses in hopes of improving treatments of genetic diseases.

Lately, though, as his "hobby" has begun to take on a life of its own, Holland has had to put his scientific plans on hold.

Holland, guitarist/singer for the Orange County, Calif., punk band The Offspring, has watched two of his band's songs -- "Come Out And Play" and more recently "Self Esteem" -- become major alternative radio hits.

"The band was always a project that we really loved doing. But it was never something to bank on as far as a career," Holland said. "And I enjoyed science, so I wanted to stay in school. I had gotten a bachelor's and I had gotten a master's and was pursuing a PH.D, and had gotten maybe 50 percent of the way done with it. I was juggling both for a while. Then . . . when this record [came out] and it hit the radio, it just got real crazy for me where I couldn't get into the lab. I didn't want to do it that way, and my boss obviously didn't want me to do it that way. So I had to take a leave of absence. But I hope to go back in and complete it."

For now, Holland an the other three members of The Offspring -- guitarist Kevin Wasserman, bassist Greg Kriesel and drummer Ron Welty -- are enjoying their sudden brush with success.

"Come Out And Play," from the band's third album, "Smash," began its surprise assault on the charts when a major Los Angeles alternative radio station began playing the song -- which is memorable for its "Ya got to keep 'em separated" refrain. It quickly became the station's most requested track.

The response was noticed by MTV, which added the video for "Come Out And Play" to its "120 Minutes" and "Alternative Nation" programs. Other alternative stations jumped on the song, which quickly became a chart-topping hit. Now "Self Esteem" is enjoying a similarly emphatic response on alternative radio.

Certainly "Come Out And Play" had the pop appeal needed to get attention on the alternative market, with a catchy melody that alternates between meaty, hard-charging guitar riffs and a surf-style signature guitar hook. The song's lyrical message about gang violence also seemed to be a timely topic with audiences. Nevertheless, Holland never anticipated the hit potential of the song.

"The possibility of us getting on the radio, we thought, was just non-existent. So we didn't approach it from that angle at all," Holland said. "We were just kind of trying to write a good song. I actually wrote the song one day when I was at home sick in bed, and I was watching one of those daytime talks shows, Montel Williams. He had some kids on who said they had to bring guns to school to protect themselves. And I just thought, 'God, that's so ridiculous.' "

The group's punk rock roots are clearly present on "Smash." Holland said early '80s L.A. punk groups like the Vandals, TSOL and Social Distortion inspired him to form a band.

Also present is an emphasis on tightly constructed melodies. Songs like "Self Esteem," "Genocide" and "Something To Believe In," despite their less-than-cheery titles and lyrics, rock convincingly behind memorable guitar riffs and the propulsive tempos.

The band, which formed in 1987, has released two previous records -- a self-titled debut in 1990 on Nemesis Record and "Ignition," a 1992 release for their current label, Epitaph Records.

Dial-a-"Smash"

To hear excerpts from The Offspring's "Smash," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6232 after you hear the greeting.

The Offspring

Where: Hammerjacks

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $10

Call: (410) 659-ROCK

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