The Offspring’s Dexter Holland on His Hot Sauce, 924 Gilman and Molecular Biology
A couple of years ago, I caught myself once again trapped in a late night music history Wikipedia hole. As far as hobbies go, I highly recommend it if you’re into feeling both lazy and productive at the same time. I’ve passively collected a nice base of otherwise useless facts from this practice, but on this night I was struck by one page in particular: Dexter Holland, lead vocalist of The Offspring.
Like anyone else growing up in the 1990s with a pulse and access to MTV, The Offspring was an omnipresent and beloved musical force. It’s hard to imagine the game soundtrack of Sega Dreamcast’s magnum opus Crazy Taxi without Dexter’s blaring vocals. Their chart topper “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” was a track about a goofy try-hard and is basically a nascent description of what you’d classify today as a walking meme. And can we please talk about the moment we all retrospectively realized that Zooey Deschanel was in the music video for “She’s Got Issues”?
But this nostalgia-driven image that I am sure is shared by the masses truly does not do justice to all that is Dexter Holland. As I combed through his Wikipedia, I realized that he is truly a contemporary renaissance man, a term which is otherwise overused and misapplied to the point of total dilution. But it’s hard for me to summarize the man in any other way after digging into what he’s been up to in recent years.
Apart from continuing to perform with his band, he managed to launch an increasing popular (and delicious) hot sauce brand Gringo Bandito in 2004. It has since sold over one million bottles and is available in over 500 restaurants, 7,000 supermarkets and ranks as a top rated hot sauce on Amazon. No big deal, right? Just kidding–he has also since pursued a PhD in Molecular Biology from USC, became a licensed pilot and dabbles in collecting stamps specifically from The Isle of Man.
Joined by MEB’s resident hot sauce expert and LA aficionado, Tanya Dracolakis, I sat down with Dexter before his band played Ignition at Cornerstone as part of a benefit for legendary music venue 924 Gilman Street which helped launch the band’s career. We talked about the growth of his hot sauce company, broke down his stated love of math and why we all need to care about and support the legacy of Gilman.
MEB Christina: I am a big fan of your hot sauce, Gringo Bandito. I would love to know what your earliest experience with hot sauce was and how you fell in love with hot sauce.
Dexter: It’d probably have to be Del Taco, right!?
MEB Tanya: The Inferno or the Del sauce? I am an avid Del Taco fan so their sauce is pivotal.
Dexter: I think you go through phases. You go through Taco Bell and then somehow around college or high school you realize that there’s this whole Del Taco thing you never even knew about. You’ll totally forget Taco Bell for awhile and then you kind of get back into it.
You know they just started with the Inferno Del Taco sauce awhile ago. Didn’t it used to just be mild, medium and hot? Now they’ve got Inferno which I like.
MEB Tanya: And the Del Scorcho! There were some great commercials in the 1990s for Del Scorcho.
Dexter: Seriously, let’s hear it for Del Taco. You know, when people find out you’re into hot sauce they think you’re a snob about it, but I don’t feel like that at all. There’s lots of different kinds of Mexican food that have their place, and Del Taco is just good grilled food. I am just really a fan of all hot sauces which is part of why I wanted to make hot sauces.
MEB Christina: How exactly did you get started making your hot sauce? What was the idea that pushed you from being a fan to being a maker?
Dexter: I don’t want to make too many connections with the band because that can get old after awhile, but when we started the band I thought it would be fun to be in a band. I was just a fan of music and then one day made the switch over. It was kind of like that with hot sauce, too. But I didn’t know how to make hot sauce so that was the challenge.
MEB Christina: Do you like to cook in general?
Dexter: No. I don’t know how to cook anything! So what I did was I just Googled how to make hot sauce like 10 years ago and there were all these recipes and I had no idea how you made it. It took awhile for me to learn that some people actually cook it, it tends to be vinegar based and all kinds of stuff. It was a journey. I spent like two years working on a recipe.
When I finally got the recipe, #8, I gave it to my friends and they were like, “This is really good! You should put this out.”
MEB Christina: And so hot sauce was born. So I know you’re selling your hot sauce in some really solid stores right now and has good distribution. So how have both Offspring and non-Offspring fans taken to the sauce?
Dexter: You might not like my band, but you’re going to like my hot sauce! I’m kidding, but fans of the band are pretty receptive to it for sure. Other people like it and are surprised to find out that it’s linked to me. The response has been really positive. I think making hot sauce is easier than being in a band because people are critical of bands. People just like hot sauce and it just makes them smile. It’s like pizza!
MEB Christina: I am an East Coaster so you’re speaking my language here.
Dexter: Are you used to Mexican hot sauces? My style is more of a Mexican version of a hot sauce.
MEB Christina: If I am being honest here, I’ve lived in the Bay Area for a year and am still a hot sauce novice. Tanya however is from Orange County and a true expert.
MEB Tanya: I am from Mission Viejo, deep south!
Dexter: Awesome! We grew up in Garden Grove.
MEB Tanya: Oh perfect. I am more of a Cholula fan so much more of a vinegar influence there.
Dexter: I think the Mexican hot sauces are less vinegar-y, for sure. I like Tabasco and Frank’s Red Hot and those you taste the vinegar in.
MEB Christina: You’re a busy guy and do a lot of other stuff besides make music and hot sauce. You could say you have a very diversified fun portfolio. So we stalked you a bit online and learned that you pursued a PhD, are a licensed pilot, collect stamps, and sky dive. Are there any other random hobbies or projects you’re into right now?
Dexter: Hah! Those are almost all true. I’ve never sky dived. I don’t think I want to do that.
MEB Christina: Oh snap–Wikipedia done goofed!
MEB Tanya: Fake news! It could happen to anyone.
MEB Christina: But seriously–how do you juggle all of these high time investment interests?
Dexter: I know, it’s hard! The PhD was obviously the hardest one and took a lot of time, but I am about to wrap it up. I am going to graduate from USC in May so I will be on the look out then for a new hobby. My degree is in Molecular Biology and my research was on HIV. I’m interested in a lot of things–there’s so much to do in life so you should take advantage of what makes you happy.
MEB Christina: With your PhD wrapping up, how do you plan you spend your extra time?
Dexter: I actually plan to spend a lot more time in the studio. We didn’t put it on hold but we’ve been less active on the recording side for the last few years so I would like to put out another record. The band is number one for me and what I am most passionate about. Especially intimate shows like tonight’s are such a different and fun vibe, so I’d love to do more of this.
MEB Christina: Speaking of the show tonight, this is a benefit for 924 Gilman Street, a venue that you guys used to play a lot. What’s the significance of tonight and what does Gilman mean to you?
Dexter: It’s important because we played Gilman a lot when we were starting and in a way I felt like they gave us a chance. They let us come up every three months and there was no place like that to play in LA. There were no steady venues for you if you weren’t a metal band. We would drive all the way up to Berkeley just for the chance to play somewhere regularly. We developed our first following up here and made lifelong friendships, like with the guys from Rancid. It was important for us to be here and help with this benefit.
MEB Tanya: Tonight you’re playing through your album, Ignition. What’s the significance of playing that album tonight?
Dexter: We wanted to play some older stuff from back in the day that the crowd would appreciate. We’ll play some other classics too but don’t tell anyone yet!
MEB Christina: Scouts honor! Before we part, I wanted to ask you about a great quote of yours I found online. In 1995 you said, “Punk rock is just as exciting as math.” Do you still feel that way?
MEB Tanya: And if so, can you provide a PROOF for it?
Dexter: Hah! Well I think that some math is more fun than others. I liked calculus a lot and really any math that has to do with actual numbers. I took a lot of advanced math courses that dealt all in abstracts and letters and it was kind of a bummer after awhile. I like getting an answer!