Having survived the 90s nouveau-punk sitcom intact, American veterans The Offspring are currently knuckling down to finish off their as-yet-untitled eighth album. According to frontman Dexter Holland, the record will mark the quartet's first studio release since Splinter almost five years ago.
Following a world tour to promote their Greatest Hits album in 2005, The Offspring took time out to go their separate ways. Bassist Greg Kriesel worked on his golf game, guitarist Noodles went fishing while Holland says he indulged in his long-held passion for flying aeroplanes.
"I have a little jet called a Citation, a private jet by Cessna and it's really cool," says the singer-guitarist who boasts an instructor's pilot rating. "But the crazy thing is I bought a little plane last year called an L39, which is a Russian military plane that they had over there just collecting dust and people began importing them and putting them back together. So this is actually a little Russian fighter jet that does loops and rolls and dog fights and all that crazy stuff!"
While admitting airborne stunts in his MiG-style jet definitely tip the needle on the thrill scale, Holland says the adrenalin buzz of 50,000 stadium fans screaming your own songs back at you is tough to top.
"They're different kinds of rushes for sure but there's nothing like having a great show - that's the winner hands down!" he laughs.
Currently finishing off lyrics for the next album, produced in Orange County with uber-producer Bob Rock (Metallica, The Cult, Motley Crue) - "his chops are fantastic" - Holland says the key to the band's widescreen appeal isn't so much about sonic muscle as it is a sensitivity to everyday emotions.
"I try to make things a little more universal," he says. "I mean I could write about molecular biology but you know. Doing a song like Self Esteem, that was not an experience that happened necessarily just to me, it was sort of combination of maybe stuff in my past and also things that were going on with friends. But it was just one of those things that people seemed to be able to really relate to."
Carrying a pocket tape recorder with him to capture spontaneous melodies that pop into his head, Holland says ideas for songs appear at the strangest moments.
"When I get an idea I just kind of hum it in there," he says. "It's weird, you can be in the produce section in the supermarket! Like Pretty Sly .. the part where it goes 'uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cino, cino, seis', we were in South America doing interviews and this guy had a microphone and was saying 'testing one, two, three'. He was saying it sort of like that, 'uno, dos, tres' and he almost said it rhythmically and for me the light bulbs went off. I thought I should use something like that in a song."
After more than 20 years together and 32 million albums sold - including ten million sellers Smash and Americana in the 1990s - the challenge for the Californian bunch this year is to maintain their freshness without sacrificing their signature sound. Deviating from their proven punk-pop blueprint won't be on the agenda in 2008.
"I always make sure we don't get too far from what we're known for," explains Holland. "On every record, I think we try to return to that but it always comes out a little bit different just because we're different people and we're playing through different amps and all that. I don't think anyone's going to be shocked by the (next) album.
"If there's a difference, it's that it sounds really big but in a good way - not in an overwhelming way. But it's hard to be objective about it. We played a new song in Japan a couple of months ago called Hammerhead and it very quickly made the live recording rounds on the internet and I think people dig it. They say it sounds like our older stuff - so great."
"We've always been careful about selecting what we wanted to do. I think not becoming over-exposed was the main thing. We were always cautious about that because I think you can just hear too much from a band, whether it's on the radio or on TV. You want to be just one step under the radar."