The band co-produced the album with Tim Palmer (U2, Pearl Jam), but it sounds like you brought in some others to help.
We finished the record with [Palmer], he mixed it, and then we sat down and really analyzed it. Something wasn't fitting right in my stomach about it. I was lucky enough to have the luxury to go back in the studio and redo a bunch of stuff that I really wanted to work on. I wrote a couple more songs and recut a bunch of tracks. We went in the studio with Rob Cavallo for a little bit, and then recut a track with Butch Vig, which was an amazing thing to do. He has a vision of what's going on -- he knows exactly what he's going to do, what he wants to do. He's not tyrannical about imposing it on you. He's probably one of the only producers left that has any real respect for the musicians that he's working with. Also there was John Fields -- a monster talent. My money is on that guy becoming humongous. He's pretty big already.
The album is very topical -- it seems like there's an undercurrent of anxiety to it.
I can't do what Green Day does -- make some blatant political or social statement. I tend to write a little more obliquely and try and leave some room for interpretation, which can work against you when people don't understand.
What inspired the tone?
I went through a period of time when I was working on the record, looking at where the record business is and everything, and just feeling sort of lost -- "What is my purpose?" I'm in my 40s, and the music business has become about instant pop stars, very disposable music. I thought, "Wow, what is going to happen to me when I don't have this job anymore? What am I going to do with myself all day?" I think a lot of guys that have other jobs think the same way: "I've been doing this job for 10 years. Now what? Where do I go? How do I take care of my family?" People drive their self-esteem and their identity from what they do in life.
You've had a long career with Warner. How have things changed in your time there?
Nobody is making money selling records. For me it hasn't really hit that hard, because I have an old-school record deal and I've been around long enough. When I went to Warner Bros. [originally] there were people there who nurtured us through difficult periods and didn't just drop us and let us go because we didn't have a huge hit right away. They had faith in us. They believed in us and that their investment would bear fruit. Now every musician is in sudden death overtime.
But touring still seems to provide a solid base.
I always love to tour during the summer, and we always play outside. It sort of became a tradition for us -- we always go out and play the sheds during the summer. I like being there when people have their big night out. Everybody has a good time and everybody is having a few drinks and enjoying the music and it's a beautiful night. People really cherish those kind of memories.