Billie Joe Armstrong (born February 17, 1972, in Oakland, California) is the lead vocalist, main lyricist, pianist and guitarist for the punk rock trio Green Day. He is also a guitarist and vocalist for the punk rock band Pinhead Gunpowder and sings for garage rock band Foxboro Hot Tubs. He was the lead singer for New Wave group The Network.
Armstrong's interest in music started at a young age. He attended Hillcrest Elementary School, where a teacher encouraged him to record a song titled "Look For Love" at the age of five on the Bay Area label "Fiat Records". After his father died, his mother married a man that her children despised, which made Armstrong retreat further into music. At Carquinez Middle School, he met Mike Dirnt, and they immediately bonded over their passion for music. As a teenager he originally was into metal music, but got into punk after hearing the Sex Pistols song "Holidays in the Sun". Armstrong has also cited The Replacements and Hüsker Dü, both from Minneapolis, as major influences. He attended John Swett High School, and then Pinole Valley High School, dropping out on February 16, 1990, a day before his 18th birthday, to pursue his musical career.
In 1987, Armstrong formed a band called Sweet Children with childhood friend Mike Dirnt at the age of 14. In the beginning, Dirnt and Armstrong were both on guitar, with Teodor Boskov on drums, and a man called Sean Hughes on bass. After a few gigs and a demo recording (later featured at the end of Green Day's Oh Shit!) He and Mike Dirnt decided to join up with drummer Al Sobrante in 1988. At the same time Dirnt switched to bass and they became a 3-piece band. They changed their name to Green Day in April 1989, allegedly choosing the name for their fondness of marijuana. That same year they recorded the EPs 39/Smooth, 1,000 Hours, and Slappy, later combined into the LP 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, on Lookout! Records. Tré Cool eventually replaced Sobrante in late 1990 when he left Green Day in order to go to college. California Punk band Rancid's lead singer Tim Armstrong asked Armstrong to join Rancid, but he refused due to the progress with Green Day. Tré Cool made his debut on Green Day's second album, Kerplunk!. With their next album, Dookie (1994), the band broke through into the mainstream, and have remained one of the most popular rock bands of the 1990s and 2000s with over 60 million records sold worldwide.
Apart from working with Green Day and side-band Pinhead Gunpowder, Armstrong has proved himself busy in the music world, collaborating with many artists over the years. He has co-written for The Go-Go's ("Unforgiven") and former Avengers singer Penelope Houston ("The Angel and The Jerk" and "New Day"), co-written a song with Rancid ("Radio"), and sung backing vocals with Melissa Auf der Maur on Ryan Adams' "Do Miss America" (where they acted as the backing band for Iggy Pop on his Skull Ring album ("Private Hell" and "Supermarket")). Armstrong has produced an album for The Riverdales, and is also rumored to be part of a side project called The Network. The Network released an album called Money Money 2020. Many Green Day fans who listened to the record remarked the similarity between the two bands. Money Money 2020 was released on Adeline Records, a record label co-owned by Armstrong.
Today Armstrong mainly uses Gibson and Fender guitars. Twenty of his Gibson guitars are Les Paul Junior models from the mid- to late-1950s. His Fender collection includes: Stratocaster, Jazzmaster, Telecaster, a Gretsch hollowbody and his copies of "Blue". He states that his favorite guitar is a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior he calls "Floyd". He bought this guitar in 2000 just before recording their album Warning.
Armstrong also has his own line of Les Paul Junior guitars from Gibson. He also uses his signature line now in many of his tours today.
Armstrong has identified himself as bisexual, saying in a 1995 interview with The Advocate, "I think I've always been bisexual. I mean, it's something that I've always been interested in. I think people are born bisexual, and it's just that our parents and society kind of veer us off into this feeling of 'Oh, I can't.' They say it's taboo. It's ingrained in our heads that it's bad, when it's not bad at all. It's a very beautiful thing.