The Offspring started in 1984 by founders Bryan "Dexter" Holland and Greg K who met in their high school cross-country team. The decision came outside of a Social Distortion concert, when both were refused entry. The Offspring started out as a small SoCal garage band dubbed Manic Subsidal. Kevin 'Noodles' Wasserman was welcomed into the band because he was 21 and could purchase alcohol for Dexter and Greg, both of whom were under the legal drinking age.
In those early times, they had multiple members filling in on other instruments, one of whom was multi-instrumentalist and school mate of future drummer Ron Welty, Marcus Parrish. Marcus left to pursue a solo career before any recording was completed. Their only recorded song under the name Manic Subsidal was called "Hopeless," and was on a compilation album called Party Animal: We Got Power II, released in 1984 by Mystic Records.
In 1987, newly dubbed The Offspring, they recorded their first release, the 7" Blackball/I'll be Waiting, released on the fictitious Black Label. Black Label was an inside joke by the band, as they could not find a production company to release the single. To make themselves more tempting to future labels, they decided to name their record company after the cheap beer they were drinking while they were pressing the records. The line up for this single was Dexter on vocals, Child C-2017 (Noodles) on Guitar, Greg on Bass, and James Lilja on Drums. Lilja quit shortly after this to persue a medical career in gynaecology, and was replaced by Ron Welty, who was only 16 years old.
In 1989, The Offspring brokered a recording deal with a small-time label, Nemesis Records. With buddhist punk-guru producer Thom Wilson and a new lineup, the band recorded the album The Offspring. Their self-titled debut was released in limited amounts by the label, only in a 12" Vinyl format. The CD release of the album would not surface until 1995.
In 1991, again with Wilson, The Offspring produced the Baghdad 7". This single was instrumental to the band's signing with Epitaph Records. Wilson had been trying to get the Offspring to switch to Epitaph, a label run by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Gurewitz felt that The Offspring was just not quite pronounced enough for his label, but Baghdad convinced him to give the band a shot. Wilson and The Offspring entered the studio again and recorded Ignition. Released in 1992, Ignition exceeded all of the label's and band's expectations. The band went on tour for the next two years with punk heavyweights such as Pennywise, Voodoo Glow Skulls, and No Doubt.
Rise to fame (1994-2002)
When The Offspring returned to the studio to work on their third album in 1993, the band's relations with producer Thom Wilson had begun to strain. The darker atmosphere in the studio resulted in 1994's landmark album Smash. This album set the all-time record for most units sold by an independent label band at 8 million records. Fueled by the hit singles: "Come Out and Play," "Self Esteem," and, "Gotta Get Away." Holland credits Seattle-based grunge band Nirvana for creating the environment which allowed The Offspring to succeed.
After the release of Smash, and armed with a newly expanded income, the band decided to buy out the rights to their first album. Holland and Greg K then created their own record label, Nitro Records, and started signing bands. One of their first releases was a re-release of their first album The Offspring. The label also signed a number of punk bands including AFI, The Vandals, and Guttermouth. Soon after Nitro Records became solely Dexter's responsibility.
After Smash and the subsequent two years of touring, Wilson, who during the Smash studio sessions criticized the direction of the band's music as straying away from punk, was fired. Around the same time, the band left Epitaph and signed with Columbia Records, allegedly because they were offended by an insurance company.