Bad Religion is one of the first punk bands I ever listened to, and one of the most influential bands in music today. Their quick and catchy style of South California Hardcore has spanned a 17 year carreer; chronicled on 10 full length albums, and various 7"s. Members include: Greg G. (Vocals), Greg H. (Guitar), Bobby S. (Drums), Brian B. (Guitar). I interviewed Jay Bentley (Bass) at the Stone Pony, last September.
George (LIABungalo): The Gray Race seems a lot lighter then Stranger Than Fiction. Do you feel there were any differences in making this one; any less of a push from the record label?
Jay Bentley: Let's get the label out of the way. They don't have anything to do with what we do, and they don't give a shit. We told them flat out, we make records, and that's what we do for a living, so we'll make the record, and you sell it. They don't care what we put on it. As far as lighter; do you mean the sentiment? The sound?
George: It seemed almost fast and cheery. Stranger was pretty dark and brooding.
Jay: I don't know, I never thought of it that way. I don't think I care much for Stranger Than Fiction.
George: I kinda liked it.
Jay: I didn't hate it. I don't think this album is cheerier lyrically. I think it's probably a little more painful personally.
George: Should I ask why?
Jay: There's a lot of things going on in everybody's lives, and that usually dictates what you write about. You write about what you know. We've spend the better part of our career writing about how we perceive things. The last few years we've also been writing about how it affects us. So it's a combination of how we perceive things and how it affects us. On the Grey Race it was a lot more of how if affects us versus just a question.
George: Are you working on a new album yet?
George: How far into the project are you?
Jay: We've got a live album. How far are we?
Brian Baker: We're about half way.
Jay: We're mixing songs from live shows. We've been recording this whole tour. That's just a project though. It doesn't count as a new album. The next studio album will probably be late next year. We've got five or six songs for that right now.
George: How long have you been on tour for? Where have you been, and how many tours have you done for this album?
Jay: Five tours. We've basically been out since January. We've got Japan, Australia, and South America after this.
George: Is the writing any different on this album since Brett's not on it?
Jay: Very much so, Brett was a very big factor in the writing. Since he's not writing anything anymore, basically, Brian brought in about four and a half musical writings- some songs and some just parts, and Greg wrote the rest on his own. On one half, it would have been a problem if Greg was lacking in an area to write in, but he felt a lot more open about writing types of songs that he wasn't writing before, because Brett would write them. Brett wrote specific types of songs and Greg wrote specific types of songs. Greg gad a good time writing songs that he wouldn't normally deliver to the band, because he just believed that Brett would just write a specific type of song.
George: Political stuff?
Jay: No, Brett's not a very political writer. He's more into prose. Greg was always the political type of writer. So to write the prose kind of stuff... I don't think any of us want to go back to slick black car midnight crying lamp post type of shit. We were like, "What the hell are you saying?" I've been in this band saying that since day one. What does that mean? But I was always interested in trying to figure out "What are we getting at, what are we trying to say?" Brett got to the point where it was, not only do I not know what it means, but nobody knows what it means. A lot of the sentiments in the songs don't mean anything to anybody. It was just blabbering. On the whole, I feel that the Grey Race is a lot more complete. It sounds more like an album instead of a collection of weird songs.
George: I liked the last two albums.
Jay: I liked Recipe, but we really could have done without Stranger. It's an OK album, but not one of my favorites.
George: Recipe For Hate; I've seen it listed as an Atlantic album and as an Epitaph album. What label is it on?
Jay: Epitaph released the first 250,000 and then Atlantic bought it from Brett, and they have been releasing it since. Basically, the first pressing of it was Epitaph and everything subsequently has been Atlantic.
George: Is Atlantic treating you guys differently or better?
Jay: No, they treat us about the same as we treated ourselves. They leave us alone, basically, which is what we asked for. We said, look, we've been doing this on our own for a long time, and it's come to the point now, where it's either the band or the label. I don't want to sit behind a desk; I want to play music.
George: Were you all involved in Epitaph?
Jay: I worked there; Brett owned it, and that was his problem. He assumed he could do both, but in reality you could do both if the band you were in wasn't on the label you're in as well. Believe me, you don't want to have an argument between five band members and one guy stands up and says, "Well as the record label, I say you're doing this."
George: Were you under contract?
Jay: Of course we were.
George: How did that work?
Jay: Brett gave us a contract. It's really funny. People assume that we had this strange and free relationship, but we were under contract to a record label, just like any other band.
George: I just figured since you created it, you were free to do what you wanted.
Jay: You would figure that. So people are like, "Welle how could you leave." Well we walked into Atlantic with our contract, and said, "This is what we want you to give us."
George: What's your favorite album or song by Bad Religion? Does anyone like Into The Unknown?
Jay: Yeah, there's stuff on there that is OK.
George: My personal favorite is Chasing The Wild Goose.
Jay: I have no problem with anything off that. It could have done withoug the keyboards, I suppose.
George: You were in the band at the time?
Jay: I was in the band for half of the first song, and then walked out in the middle of it. I wasn't really interested in pursuing a progressive rock career. It's a good album by the wrong band.
George: What was going on between the years that the band disbanded and Suffer came out?
Jay: Into The Unknown came out in '84. In '86 there was Back To The Known, the EP. Not a whole helluva a lot. Greg was going back to school. I wasn't in the band, and Brett wasn't in the band. It was basically, Greg and Hetson, and whoever would play drums and bass. They would play four or five shows a year. There really wasn't anything happening. But there wasn't really anything happening in LA either. We had gotten to the point where everything went metal, and punk rock was basically shunned from the clubs. Since that was what Bad Religion was, and they all new it, we were weren't going to change our names and become a metal band like a lot of other bands did, or try to change our style, and try to accomodate ourselves into the clubs. We kind of just fell apart like everybody else.
George: What do you listen to?
Jay: Mostly Celtic. Folk music. I like the new SamIam album, I hope it comes out on some label. Just weird shit. I don't listen to music the same way I used to. I used to listen to it passionately, now my ears just can't take any more music. If that makes any sense. It's really kind of sad, 'cause it used to be such a big part of my life- just sitting back and listening to music, and just getting into an idea of whatever this song was... seeing this video in your head. MTV kind of ruined that for everybody, by giving you their idea instead of creating your own. At this point I just listened to so many different styles of music, but nothing really in particular.
George: How did you come up with the 21st Century video? I always thought that was neat.
Jay: The director's idea was to somehow get us on a television screen, but to have us appear in a 3 dimensional way. So we filled up a plastic swimming pool, like a 5,000 gallon swimming pool with water, green food dye, formaldehyde, and some toxic emulsifier. We had a friend of ours from Heal The Bay come down and look at he told us that he wouldn't get in that water, but we did anyway. It was just this thick green liquid and we painted ourselves blue. The idea was we were all going to be static, like the background is. And the reason for us being blue and the water being green, is that when we would feed the picture into the computer it could differentiate between us and the water. So that way we could give ourselves some definition. When the second edit came in with the the static in the back with us blue, we liked it so much we just left us blue.
George: Are those apples in the background of the video?
Jay: Those are ping-pong balls. I still can't figure that out. We were in the middle of shooting, and like someone yelled, "Oh yeah, throw in the ping-pong balls." They like poured in a thousand orange ping-pong balls. I was like what the fuck is that for. I still don't know the meaning behind that.
George: The song Operation Rescue, you don't seem to be playing it much lately...
Jay: We've been playing it.
Brian: We've been playing it for the past couple of nights...
Jay: We won't be playing it tonight, but we;ve been doing it lately. A lot of that has to do with still teaching Brian... he needs to learn 160 songs. So it's like tonight. What did we teach him tonight? Quality or Quantity. I think there comes a time for a band, I don't know about every band, shit we've been together for seventeen years. We've played those songs thousands of times, and I know a lot of people still want to here them, but I know a lot of people that come and see us every year and all we do is the same songs plus five or six new ones. Greg and I have been talking, and I would like to play a lot of songs that we haven't played before. People are like I want to hear Along The Way, well no, we want to play God Song.
George: Last time youplayed here (Stone Pony) you seemed to be playing only the stuff off of All Ages and the last three albums...
Jay: Well unfortunately the greatest hits album is basically just that. The All Ages album was Brett and Greg picking their favorite songs, that they each wrote, but there is no getting around the fact that those are the songs that we basically play live and those are the songs that everyone wants to hear.
George: So you did have a say in All Ages? I thought it was just a squeeze to make money on whatever you guys still had left at Epitaph.
Jay: I don't know what was happening at Epitaph at that point, I will say what I was told, and that was that Brett had nothing to do with it, and it was Andie Caulkin's (?) idea to do this whole thing, and I don't know any different then that. I don't know why it came out. I didn't really want it to come out, but it's out. I don't care. There's not much I can do about it. It could have come out with or with out our approval. That's the being under contract part.
George: Back to Operation Rescue, is that pro or anti-abortion?
Jay: It's about neither one. It's about Terry Randall or Randall Terry. I don't know what the hell. Whatever the fuck his name is. It's just a song about people who actually believe that they have a say in other people's life.
George: Do you believe that they should or shouldn't?
Jay: I think that they should just shut the fuck up. Everybody should shut up. Those who are pro-abortion should shut up; those people who are anit-abortion should shut up, and just leave the people who have to deal with a real troublesome issue in their lives to the fuck alone. It's not an easy decision for someone to make, and it really pisses me off when men think that their going to make decisions for women. That's really funny. You think men would allow women to make decisions on if men should have vasectomies. Fuck no. Never. That's the joke about it. Who has the right to say anything about what someone else does? That's the problem.
George: What's you stand point on all the reunion shows going on? Does it bother you that you've been working all these years and all these bands are just getting back together to cash in on waht you helped make.
Jay: No, not at all. We don't give a shit. On one side of the coin it's great for the kids who have never had a chance to see these guys play, whether it's Kiss or the Sex Pistols or Fear. On the other hand, some of these bands believe that they're just going to get back together again and make a million dollars on a tour... Kiss will. I don't care.
George: Have you guys gotten burnt out at all from all the touring, have you reached a point where you're just tired?
Jay: I think the touring, which is the driving and waiting around is tiring. But the playing I never get tired of. It's like anything else, I like doing it. So sitting around for twenty-three and a half hours a day is tiring. You play for a half an hour, and then cut, you're into the next day already.
George: Are you guys married...have kids?
Jay: The majority of us are married. Three out of five are married, and two out of five have kids. There are four kids, so the ratio would is almost one to one, but we'll call it .095. Let's just do that.
George: Is there any where you want to go to go to in the future?
Jay: Home, I want to go home, and I want to go to the moon. Those are the two places that I want to go.
English transcript updated: Flipside #25 (August 1981)
English transcript updated: Bad Religion's 'True North' Q&A: 'We're Still Creating Our Legacy'
English transcript added: True North
English transcript added: Christmas Songs
English transcript added: True North
English transcript added: True North
English transcript updated: True North
English transcript added: The Dissent Of Man
English transcript added: 30 Years Live
English transcript added: New Maps Of Hell
English transcript added: The Empire Strikes First
English transcript added: The Process Of Belief