Offspring’s Drummer Left the Band When He Got Into Medical School and Later Saved a Juror’s Life During His Own Malpractice Trial

Quite a few bands have been around for decades. They continue to deliver outstanding music to their devoted fans year after year. But some groups have been making music so long they’ve lost original bandmates. Some members leave to pursue other interests, take a break, or settle down. (And, of course, some pass away.)

The Offspring is no exception to that rule. The band formed in the ’80s and has seen some members depart. One left quite early, in fact, to pursue a very different career.

The Offspring: Metal meets punk in the ’80s

Musical group The Offspring performs during BaseFEST Powered by USAA on September 22, 2018, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in Twentynine Palms, California
The Offspring in 2018 | Randy Shropshire/WME IMG/WME IMG via Getty Images for USAA

The Offspring is known for its unique sound that has made the band popular among alternative and rock fans alike, AllMusic reports. Members originally included Dexter Holland (lead vocals), Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman (guitar), Greg Kriesel (bass), and James Lilja (drums). Although the band technically started in 1984 (under the name Manic Subsidal), it didn’t release its first album as The Offspring until 1989. 

Three years later, the band’s second album helped it develop a serious underground fan base. This paved the way for major success with the release of Smash in 1994. The first single from the album, “Come Out and Play,” became an MTV hit that summer and garnered the band serious radio time. 

The Offspring saw wild success in the United States. The band continued to release hit singles, including “Self Esteem,” “Gotta Get Away,” and “Smash It Up” (on the Batman Forever soundtrack). In 1996, the group made a major change, moving from the modest Epitaph Records to the much bigger Columbia Records. Hardcore-punk fans were outraged at the switch to a major label, and the band’s next album, Ixnay on the Hombre, didn’t sell as well as previous works.

It’s been more than 30 years since the band began, and its members have seen many changes. For instance, they’ve been through a few bandmates. Drummer Ron Welty replaced Lilja early on and stayed with the band for 16 years. In 2003, the band replaced Welty with another drummer. That drummer left four years later. And after original bass guitarist Greg Kriesel left in 2018, he sued the other band members following a dispute. 

James Lilja left The Offspring to pursue a very different career

Although James Lilja was one of The Offspring’s founding members, he jumped at the chance to start a new career, SFGate reported. Lilja was a gifted drummer, but his real passion lay in medicine. When he received an offer to attend medical school in the late ’80s, he didn’t think twice about leaving the band. 

Bandmates recalled Lilja being so focused on getting into med school that he often wouldn’t practice with the rest of the group. His hard work paid off. He became a practicing gynecologist and still has his own practice in San Jose. Lilja specializes in cancerous and precancerous conditions of the female reproductive tract.

He proved himself a hero at an ironic time

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In 2018, Lilja was sued for medical malpractice, The Cut reported. A former patient and her husband claimed Lilja was negligent during her treatment, and a trial ensued. And during that trial, the former drummer performed a heroic feat. 

It was a morning break during the jury selection process in Oakland. A prospective juror was taking a break outside when he collapsed and hit his head. Bystanders called 911, but in the meantime, Lilja and his medical assistant arrived to help. 

Lilja administered CPR to the prospective juror, who was unconscious, not breathing, and had no pulse. Lilja and his medical assistant used a defibrillator to restart the man’s heart successfully, and by the time the paramedics arrived, he had a pulse. 

In fact, the heroic act led to a mistrial for Lilja. The judge thought the jury couldn’t remain impartial after seeing the doctor save one of their peers. Later, Lilja remarked, “No good deed goes unpunished.”