10 Questions for Billie Joe Armstrong

The punk front man and bandmates star in Green Day: Rock Band. Billie Joe Armstrong will now take your questions

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Georg Hochmuth / EPA / Corbis

Why did Green Day decide to do a Rock Band game?Doug Click, BLOUNTVILLE, TENN.
It was a new way of getting our music out there. Formats are constantly changing, and there are really no rules for the way you put your records out anymore. There are also so many people who are gamers. I am not. But I've played the drums [in Rock Band], and I'm terrible.

How do you respond to people who say Green Day isn't punk anymore?Ron Fisher, LOUISVILLE, KY.
Our main goal is to write great songs, and that comes before genre. The thing about punk is that there are purists. Once you start going outside of that, they don't think what you're doing is punk rock. My range of favorite songwriters goes anywhere from the Sex Pistols all the way to Lennon and McCartney. So that's what Green Day is — there are no rules.

What do you think about the current state of punk rock?Thais Mayara, BELÉM, BRAZIL
There are always young bands playing in their garages. A lot of punk rock is not going to be in the mainstream. It's below the radar. The beauty of it is that you're not supposed to always know. It's subterranean.

What made you want to have a Broadway-musical version of your album American Idiot?Kryssi Kay, BEDFORD, ENGLAND
When we were recording American Idiot, we thought it was very theatrical and that it had a story line. We always thought it should be staged somehow. I didn't know women would sound that good singing my songs. They're even better than the way I sing them.

How did your band get its name?Jessie Jarrett, MILES CITY, MONT.
I wrote a song called "Green Day" because I was smoking a lot of dope. Our drummer put Green Day on his jacket and said, "Maybe we should call the band that." And I said, "That's a good idea." We used to be called Sweet Children.

How do you create a set list for live shows?Nico Küstner, HAMBURG
Set lists are tough because you come up with this structure of how the songs are going to go from one to the next, but at the same time, you have to be spontaneous and take requests and change the set list at the drop of a hat.

A while ago, in Behind the Music on MTV, you said you regretted signing to a major record label. What do you think now?Kristi Helm, ST. LOUIS, MO.
I have no regrets at all. I don't know what head space I was in [when I said that]. Back then I had a lot of time to reflect on my life and career. But no, I don't regret signing to a major. It was the right thing to do, and we've had no problems.

Do you think musicians have a responsibility to have a social or political message in their music?Jack Lowe, CANTERBURY, ENGLAND
The only people who should sing about social issues or politics are the ones who aren't full of s___. It can't just be some empty rhetoric and a bunch of finger-pointing. If you're going to write a political song, it's gotta come from the same place that you write a love song. I have that song, "Don't wanna be an American idiot." I'm talking about myself and what's going on in my country at the same time.

What bands influenced you?Katelynn See, INDEPENDENCE, KY.
A lot of Minneapolis bands like Hüsker Dü and the Replacements. After that, the Ramones, then the local punk-rock scene that we came from in Berkeley, Calif. There was this great compilation called Turn It Around! That was a pretty big record for me.

Why do you never seem to age?Eldon Mills, CHESTERFIELD, ENGLAND
[Laughs.] I definitely age. It's about trying to mentally keep yourself in a place where you're never resting on your laurels. That's the fountain of youth. It has nothing to do with the wrinkles on your face, how fat you get or if you get gray hair. It's your zest for life.