GENRE IS DEAD! Interview With Bob Gruen

GID: The book really captures Green Day’s aesthetic, due in part to Avi Spivak’s eye-catching illustrations.

BG: Yes, Avi added a lot of feeling to the book. We’re really grateful for his input. It just made the book much more fun and not as dry as a [traditional] photobook. It’s more in the Green Day spirit of being lively and fun and Avi really captured that. I love the little drawing of me especially – he’s got pictures of me taking pictures, so that’s really cute. All of the doodles really help illustrate the feeling of the book.

GID: They really do and they give the book its own personality. It really does stand out from other photobooks.

BG: It’s very different. I mean, I don’t know any other photobooks that have graffiti and doodles all over the pages, but he did it really well. Each page has unique drawings that go with what’s being said and what’s being filmed.

GID: How did he get involved with the book?

BG: Billie recommended him. The band was very involved particularly Billie. They were on top of what I was doing, asking me how it was coming along. In the years of taking pictures, we were always talking about making a book someday. And in the last year, Billie’s been very responsive. If I ask him a question he gets back to me literally within minutes. It took a little while, but when he came in with the handwritten forward it was just so perfect on school paper written in pencil, it’s so Green Day. What he says is so open and really heartfelt.

GID: Not only have you toured with Green Day, you were there for some of their major moments like their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and American Idiot on Broadway. What was it like being there for those moments?

BG: It’s part of being alive. For me rock n roll makes me feel very alive and that’s why I like to see things and be there in person rather than just hear about them. I like to experience the live moment. So I go out of my way to be there.

GID: What were you feeling seeing them get inducted into the Rock Hall?

BG: I’ve been going to the Rock Hall of Fame for many years since they started. It’s really fun to see people who started dropping out of high school to play with their friends suddenly finding out that it really mattered, it really made a difference. So many musicians go through life with their family and relatives telling them to get a real job and then when they end up in the hall of fame it’s like hey mom look what I did.

It’s a very poignant moment to see these musicians finally getting recognition for all their hard work, especially when most musicians face such unlikely odds when they start out. [2015] was a really good year because Joan Jett was inducted too. The inductions are always exciting, that’s why I like to go.

GID: Did you attend this year’s ceremony when The Cure and Janet Jackson were inducted?

BG: No, it’s kind of getting past me a little bit. I was excited when KISS got in because I do a lot of work with them. But now the induction ceremony is getting bigger and bigger. This year’s was at the Barclay Center and it used to be such an intimate industry event when it was at the Waldorf. Now it’s become a really big TV show and I don’t get the same feeling from being there that I used to. The ceremony itself has changed and tickets are very expensive. Over the years it’s gotten more expensive and exclusive. They usually use my photos in the program, so I end up getting to go. But this year I was out of town and I didn’t want to make a big deal about it.

GID: You’ve not only worked with Green Day, you’ve also worked with a lot of rock icons like Blondie, The Sex Pistols, John Lennon and The Clash. What is it about rock n roll that appeals to you?

BG: Rock n roll is the freedom to express your feelings loudly in public. That’s what I like about rock n roll and I think that’s why it spread around the world – it’s all about freedom. It’s about that moment when you’re in a crowd and everyone is screaming yay and no one is thinking about paying the rent or will they have to go [to work] tomorrow. It’s the feeling of freedom and that’s why it’s so popular all over the world.

GID: This year you had your first ever museum exhibit showcasing your work. Seeing all the iconic photos you’ve taken, it’s clear you’re a part of rock and roll history. What does it feel like to play a role in rock n roll history?

BG: It feels like I’ve been vindicated for all those people who thought I was just hanging out in a bar for no reason – apparently there was a reason. It’s something I’m still getting used to. I’m starting to be recognized and have people thank me in public telling me they like my pictures. But it is very rewarding to know what I did mattered. For many years I didn’t know if it mattered or not having exciting pictures in Rock n roll magazines, but apparently it did.

Green Day Photographs by Bob Gruen is out now. Pick up a copy here. You can visit Gruen’s exhibit “Bob Gruen: Rock Seen” at the  Morris Museum in New Jersey from now until November 10th. Find more information here.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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