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MondoSonore Interview(Jay&Brian)

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    Posted: 06/06/2019 at 06:46
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On the occasion of the passage of Bad Religion for our country as headliners (with the permission of NOFX) of the Punk In Drublic festival (with dates in Madrid, Barcelona and Vitoria) we analyzed with Jay Bentley and Brian Baker their new album "Age Of Unreason" (Epitaph / [PIAS], 2019). Following with his maxim of reflecting in his songs his sociopolitical vision of the events of our current crazy world. The seventeenth work of the band serves as a pretext to review with them their positions regarding nationalisms, the situation of punk in current music or the relevance of maintaining the technical language that has always characterized their compositions, among others.


The publication in 2013 of your previous album, 'True North' (2012) brought a lot of speculation about what could be your last album. Were you also at that point and, if so, what made you change your mind to record new material?
(Brian Baker) The truth is that I never thought it would be the last record. All Bad Religion albums have been the last ... until we make another one. It was only speculation, in the end the discs are made when they have to be made, not when they are expected to be made.

In these six years in the world, many things have happened ...
(Brian) Yes, and it's good to have been able to rest and enjoy a little of this "break" because we had many things to think about.

Although you can not say that you were standing ... Brian has revived Dag Nasty, Jay has done some tours with Me First And The Gimmie Gimmies, and you have also played a lot with Bad Religion.
(Jay Bentley) Yes, the band has been busy all this time. Greg has also released his solo projects. After publishing 'The Dissent Of Man' (2010) I remember having a very interesting conversation with Brett. He thought that we had to release another album soon, and when it came out 'True North' we both thought "If this has to be our last record, we're fine with it", because it was a good record and we were happy with it. It always seems that we are getting old ... and each record may be the last, and each concert may be the last ... but there is no drama in it, it is a fact. After 'True North, although we were very satisfied with the result and turning a lot, many things in the world started to change and Bad Religion obviously had to have a part in it and something to say about how things were going.

Brett (Gurewitz) has commented that Age Of Unreason is the most relevant work of the band since The Empire Strikes First (2004). Do you think the same?
(Brian) According to the time it has been published, I agree, yes. Both have been written at a very relevant global moment at all levels.
(Jay) One of the things that we try with the group is to write material that is timeless and although this moment is a very singular one because of everything that is happening globally, I think that in five years, when we listen to "Age Of Unreason" again, In the end, everything we write is not so marked by an ideology but by human behavior, we have always been interested in the socio-political as a whole.

But in the end the message that he transmitted and that at the time you described in The Empire Strike First in relation to the government of George Bush seems to be still valid today. Are our "new" problems simply the same as before but with different masks?
(Jay) And they are the same ones we've been talking about since we wrote 'How Could Hell Be Any Worse?' In 1982 (laughs). I guess everything always depends on the flow of events, there have been moments in my life where I really felt that we were closer to achieving a harmonious global community than we had ever been, but I can also tell you that right now, in 2019 , I am very far from that idea. In my fifty years on this planet, I have had time to see both sides of the coin.

The album, although without expressing it in an obvious way, is clearly influenced by your President Donald Trump, mentioning the border wall, children locked in cages, etc. Do you think that the rise of nationalism is one of the biggest problems we have today, and how have you wanted to answer this phenomenon with the album?
(Brian) I do not know, in the end everything is included within the umbrella of ignorance, which is taking control in many places where it is adopted as a kind of regressive lifestyle. There is something that happens in all communities when people are frustrated, and that is basically that they transform that frustration into suspicion towards other people, this has been happening for hundreds of years. The best way to cover your own shortcomings is to blame someone else.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Priesterseminar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/06/2019 at 06:49
You talk about this topic in 'The Paranoid Style'.
(Brian) Yes, there are some good instructions for this that I was telling you on that subject (laughs).

I suppose you are aware that here in Spain we have our own ultra-right phenomenon with the rise of VOX, which have taken more than two and a half million votes in the last support and have the support of Steve Bannon, former adviser of Trump.
(Brian) Yes, and I do not like to use the word "conspiracy", but it is clear that there is a global concern about this movement of the right: some believe that it is the dreamed response to the diseases of society, and others we think is the cause of these diseases. I'm sorry that here you also have to live something like this ...
(Jay) Historically, when societies are scared, they tend to vote much more conservatively. The conservative people have realized this and for me the biggest danger with respect to all this is the spread of disinformation, and how quickly it can move. When conservative parties realize that this fear attracts votes, something like what we are experiencing now happens. If you make people afraid of something, whatever ...

Although that fear does not even exist in reality ...
(Jay) That's it, it does not matter, you invent it. There is an idea in the United States that the best way to increase the consumption of weapons is to propagate the idea that they will take them away, and even being a liberal and defending the position that "probably having weapons is not the best idea" , that same statement makes some people who listen to you buy more. In the end you see yourself in a situation where you can not talk about anything or express yourself, because whatever you say is going to be manipulated to get that vote of fear.

Of course for this kind of thing they are smart, at least we have to grant them that ...
(Jay) They are, a lot. They spend a lot of time thinking about their strategies, posting things on social networks to test the reactions of people, what works and what does not, and depending on that, they act. We used to say that the answer was in education but now we do not have time for that, you have to know what is happening in four minutes, and if at the end you throw those four minutes reading something that is false, that's the position you're going to adopt, and that is something very difficult to undo.

As we mentioned before, you have always focused a lot on describing social situations (Do The Paranoid Style, Chaos Fron Within, etc) but you are also able to explain the current moment through more personal perspectives and result of the ways of living the reality of a single individual, as is the case with My Sanity. Do you do this somewhat intentionally, trying to capture the environment globally but also how it affects individuals?
(Brian) Absolutely not (laughs). Nothing in Bad Religion is done on purpose, when you hear the songs you can see how Greg and / or Brett think about something, so there is no plan, unfortunately (laughs).
(Jay) There was a time during the years of 'Suffer' and 'No Control' in which we thought we could not walk around angry all the time, you just can not. What people think of the band based on our music does not necessarily reflect the personalities of its members. The truth is that it was a relief to be able to say: "All right, we do not have to burn a flag or keep this apocalyptic attitude 24 hours a day."

This is your seventeenth album ...
(Jay) Sorry, we only have three more left (laughs).

... and of course it keeps your characteristic sound, but you have included some songs that go a little bit out of the formula, like 'Lose Your Head' and above all 'Big Black Dog', which has even a danceable point.
(Brian) We're like the Rolling Stones! Does not it sound a bit like the Stones?
(Jay) It would be great to have the financial security that they have ...
(Brian) I'm asking to be Keith, please!
(Jay) I also want to be Keith (laughs).
(Brian) Now seriously, these songs are really fun to play, we're supposed to include them to make me have a good time. I love playing, recording and all imaginable types of music, so we always try to put more "weird" songs on all the albums. And I love them.
(Jay) Centuries ago we made this album in which we went completely out of what is Bad Religion and we learned the lesson: this is not about doing something completely different, but about "making the biggest box" and trying to redefine itself in all the discs Always knowing what Bad Religion is and in a way that you can continue to expand your ability to be creative.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Priesterseminar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/06/2019 at 06:53
This record is the first one that you have recorded with Jamie Miller as drummer, who replaced Brooks Wackerman in 2015, and with Mike Dimkich on guitars instead of Greg Hetson. What have you both contributed and how have they adapted to the sound and routines of the band?
(Brian) Surprisingly I'll tell you that ... Brooks is very good and Jamie is too. I do not want to sound like what they do is not important, but it sounds the same to me. It shows in small changes, like Jamie is more traditional, and I like more how he plays old songs, but Brooks was also pure magic. The truth is that we are very lucky to be able to play alongside people as good as them. I tell you the same for Mike: he is an excellent guitarist. One of the things that most excited me when we included him in the band is that I would not have to play that much (laughs). Having that certainty of knowing "Oh, this part is going to make Mike" relaxes me a lot because I know he can do exactly the same as me, and I sincerely believe that expanding the responsibility of the band on stage has made us better. It is a total win-win situation for everyone, and a pleasure to play with them, besides hilarious.

Both the pace and the production that you have infused to the record remind me a bit of your records of the nineties, I do not know if you also see it that way.
(Brian) Yes, I agree, and I think it's a good thing, but it's not something we've planned either, it just happens that way.


During the nineties, you were responsible for "popularizing" punk rock by making it more accessible in some way. But, in contrast to this, another one of your great peculiarities is that you have never given up using a more technical and complex language than most bands of the genre use. How important is it for you to address the political and social aspects with the right words so that the message is understood?
(Brian) The reason we use that kind of language is very simple: it's the way Greg and Brett think. It is not that they are continually trying to find those complex words, they are two very intelligent bastards who know how to express themselves perfectly. Still, you can see the difference: Brett is a bit more romantic in his lyrics, but in the end ... they are both scientists in a punk band, and Bad Religion is the result of bringing both together.
(Jay) Brett once commented that for him the most complicated part of composing is trying to include the emotions of a lifetime in a three minute song, and this is the reason for his way of writing his lyrics: having the ability to condense all that emotion in words that mean something that goes far beyond the mere meaning of the word. In the end we spent a lot of time "decoding" or simply translating your lyrics until you realize the depth of that particular word. Both he and Greg have that ability to express a lot with very little.
(Brian) That's why the language evolves ... and besides, it's great for me because I always learn new words (laughs).

Do you think that nowadays politics is not represented in music, especially in punk-rock bands? It seems that there are a lot of groups that do not care at all and prefer to write about other topics.
(Jay) I think there's more now than there was at the beginning of the century, where there was a boom of bands that responded much more to the "boy-band" model than to anything else but they wore those haircuts that made them Look like punk-rock. It was crap and they did not have any kind of voice. At that time, the only person you saw who had a real political motivation on stage was Fat Mike, the rest of the bands were singing about their girlfriends and things like that. And I understand, once you're in the music industry, your manager can come and recommend that you not talk about your political preferences because you're going to lose fans ... and that's fine, it's your choice and it's what you want to do with your art. We grew up in a time when bands like The Clash made a difference.
(Brian) It's interesting, because I think punk-rock is much more political nowadays than it has ever been before, but I'm talking about true punk-rock, not things like the Warped Tour. I speak of the scene that moves in the basements and of all this deeply underground movement that has always been there and where there is brutal aggression and frustration. Especially I think there are a lot of bands with women who surely think "we're sick of being treated like trash" and this is fantastic. Right now I think of War On Women, which I love, and there are many other smaller bands that maybe people do not know too much about and that they are being tremendously political. Where I think the problem is is that the mainstream has become completely non-political, it has become background music.

But there was a time when it was ...
(Brian) Sure, look at Pearl Jam! It was not so long ago, and it was important for the bands to express their position with respect to society. Even Green Day, who have made their transition from being a punk band to something much more popular, but still good.
(Jay) And they still have that political message. I think that right now society is not listening to any negative message of this kind through music ... I guess it's not "cool" to be angry anymore. As we talked before, the only news that comes to you is exclusively those that you choose on your television, and you make your timeline so that this is all you want to read, without anything new or different. Come and see Bad Religion, we can fix you! (laughs)

Speaking about mass audiences ... Jay published yesterday on his Instagram a photo in front of the pavilion where you are going to play tonight in Madrid and that at that moment was about to host a Backstreet Boys concert ...
(Brian) No, no, they played where WE are going to play, not the other way around ... (laughs).
(Jay) The truth is that I do not think too much about these things, every day we have a concert and this can be in a place where five hundred people fit, the next day be in another for five thousand, even play a festival for fifty thousand. We changed the setlist so much to keep us motivated and happy on stage, but I do not think that motivation changes depending on the number of people there is, in the end the exchange of ideas is the most important thing for us, and that is what we really want to achieve.
(Brian) If I could have the option, I would play for five hundred every day, I like it better, I like to see people and the environment, but it's not always the case, so I just try to do the best I can whatever the context . I am so grateful that people care the least that it is amazing to me that after so long we have managed to be important to some people.
(Jay) If you are playing for fifty thousand people and only one of them connects with your message you have already done something, it has already been worth it. In the end you always have to take your chance, go anywhere and share your story.
(Brian) Also, that out of fifty thousand there must be at least five thousand pending of you ... (laughs).

Both are very active in your social networks and you use them very often, how useful are you when telling people your way of seeing life?
(Jay) Yes, I think we both use Instagram as a kind of visual relief and mainly for fun, and Twitter is a much more political platform.
(Brian) I use Instagram to share with people what I see, while with Twitter I share what I think.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Priesterseminar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/06/2019 at 06:54
As a last question, we go back a bit to the beginning of the interview to ask you, do you know what's coming next for the group?
(Brian) Oh, yes, I know. We are going to play many, many concerts everywhere because we have so many songs that I think we will never be without them. It's so fun to play and it's such a privilege to be able to visit the world doing this, that I intend to continue doing it as long as I can.
(Jay) We live in a time when things change very fast, so we have certain certainties, like the following shows that we are going to give, and other things that we have no idea about, such as which is going to be the next one social network. Another thing we wanted to do is start documenting our history as a band, because as we move away from the core and how Bad Religion started our memories will become increasingly blurred ...
(Brian) So it's time to write it down already, yes (laughs).
(Jay) Next year is our 40th anniversary and I still do not know if we'll do something to celebrate ...
(Brian) (Whispering) Let's celebrate, sure.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Warstub Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/06/2019 at 22:02
Originally posted by Priesterseminar Priesterseminar wrote:

As a last question, we go back a bit to the beginning of the interview to ask you, do you know what's coming next for the group?
(Brian) Oh, yes, I know. We are going to play many, many concerts everywhere because ...
Oh, yes, I forgot. But not New Zealand.
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