|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||1/1/2012|
|Source:||Caught in the Mosh||With:||Brooks Wackerman|
|Synopsis:||Brooks talks about the creative process of Bad Religion, what goes into preparing to go out on tour, and what 2012 holds for Kidneys.|
Words: Andreas Heuer
Chatting from his home in Longbeach, California, Bad Religion drummer, Brooks Wackerman is in high spirits. Maybe it has something to do with the weather, happily exclaiming “It’s a lovely day out here”, or maybe it has something to do with Bad Religion returning to Australia to play the 2012 Soundwave Festival?
Regardless, Wackerman, who’s impressive drumming credentials include Infectious Grooves, The Vandals, Suicidal Tendencies and Tenacious D, has a lot going on. In addition to touring with Bad Religion, the band are in the infant stages of putting together new material for an album likely to commence recording this summer, plus Wackerman’s own project, Kidneys, have a new album slated for release this April.
Caught in the Mosh got chatting with Brooks, taking the opportunity to find out about Bad Religion’s creative process, along with what exactly goes into preparing to go out on tour. We also learn what 2012 holds for Kidneys, which by all accounts is quite a lot.
So what’s happening in the Bad Religion camp right now?
Well, we’re all getting ready to come to your country next week! We start rehearsals Monday; then we’re doing the Festival. After that it’s just a couple of one off shows in Canada.
In the summer we plan on tracking our new record - our 16th in the archives of Bad Religion, and from there we start the touring cycle again - hopefully we’ll come back down to Australia next year, if time permits.
With that touring thought in mind, how exactly do Bad Religion prepare for going out on tour?
Well, we’ll usually walk into the rehearsal hall, sit on a couch, and we’ll talk about the set list for the most of the rehearsal, then play one song and all drive home (laughs)…
But honestly, there’s a lot of thought that goes into the set list, mainly because we have such an extensive catalogue in music. We have like four of five thousand songs to choose from. We try - in every country we go to - to make sure we switch it up; make it different from the last time we were there. Once we have that blueprint in, then we just focus on songs we haven’t played in a while, rehearse, and try and get tight.
Which is clearly an important component to playing live.
Right! Yeah, exactly! (Laughs).
As far as a new album being in the works, what’s going on with that?
I think Greg has one song and Brett has one song - so, we have two songs for the record so far… there’s a lot of work ahead of us. We came up with the plan to go into the studio over summer, so over the next few months, well that’s where the songs can take formation. We’ll work out arrangements and make the songs evolve from there.
The majority of the songwriting really comes from Brett and Greg. It’s always been like that. I think those two together write the best Bad Religion records anyway. It starts there, after that, if anyone has thoughts or song ideas, then they’re submitted. From there we’ll see what works and what doesn’t. We’ll do pre-production for a week or two before tracking the record. It’s a pretty normal process as far as how it all comes together.
I understand that when Bad Religion first formed you were only two years old?
Yeah, I was still shitting in my pants! (laughs).
So when you joined, the band had already been established for twenty odd years. How was it for you joining at this juncture of the bands life?
To be honest I didn’t know what to expect. I was in the dark and I didn’t have any expectations. I knew the legend of the band and I was a fan of the music. You know though, I’d paid my dues in the punk rock community playing with Suicidal Tendencies and The Vandals, so I wasn’t green. But having never met anyone in the camp and just being called to come down and audition - without knowing their personalities - it was a rather nerve racking experience.
Meeting the guys properly after playing though, I knew it felt comfortable and it was exciting. It was also very invigorating for me. It was brand new at that point and I wanted to do something new musically, but you know, at the end of it, I was just honored to get the call and honored that I got to have the new drummer seat. I guess it would be likened to any job audition or if you’re an actor going out on an acting gig - it’s the same thing. I didn’t know anyone then, but you know, we’re friends now - then again, I think we’re friends...
Well, I’d hope there’d be friendship in there somewhere.
Yeah – I’d hope so too (laughs). You know, I’m going to send them an email today; “Are you guys my friends?”
What attitude did you adopt when you first took over drumming duties?
I think what they were looking for was not another Bobby Schayer, or not another Pete Finestone - who were the previous drummers to me. They did want a new sound, and with Brett coming back I think they just wanted a clean slate. I kept that in mind when I listened to the song I auditioned on. I tried to find a happy medium between respecting the original drum pattern, but also bringing in my two cents. Luckily they were receptive of how different I played comparatively to the previous drummers, so that opened up a whole new can of worms and then door openings arose creatively after that.
Punk rock music can become limiting, so one of the challenges is to try different approaches, but at the same time not straying away too far from the root of punk music.
I guess you’ve also got to think about keeping die hard fans who have grown with a certain legacy happy within a limited extent too?
Yeah - and there were plenty of people who were against the new drummer in the band thing - you know - sound wise because they were so used to Bobby or Peter before. After a few tours I finally felt comfortable and I think I found my voice. It was just a matter of time and people accepted me… better… I am still the new guy though - even after ten years - still the new guy (laughs).
Ten years is quite a while regardless of being the new guy or not. What are some highlights of your tenure so far with Bad Religion?
Yeah. You know, there are many moments. I think for us, there’s always some festivals we play at, or some bands that we play with that are memorable, but usually for me it’s when we go in to record an album - when we get the final mixes or mastered copy of the record back, then that’s always a great moment.
After all the hard work we did in the studio to hear the album in its entirety – well, it’s just fulfilling. Especially if it’s a good record too - if it’s a bad one maybe not so much (laughs), but if it turns out the way that you wanted it to, it can be a truly fulfilling moment.
Isn’t it a bit late once you receive the final mixes to realize you’ve made a dud record?
Right. I can’t go and call Brett up and say; “You know it’s mastered and everything, but can I just do this one song again?” No, that doesn’t happen, but you know, in any musicians life, once you’ve stuck with the songs for six months, or however long, and you finally listen to the final mix, your always you own worst critic. You go, Man, I should have done this or I should have done that; I could have played this better; we could have written, you know, a better part here. It’ll happen forever, but usually we have enough time to suss out all the parts.
I think back to when I first heard The Process of Belief, and I was like WOW! This is back when I first joined, and it was the first time Brett and Greg had written together after 8 years of not working together - having them together again as a combo definitely had a spark.
Just to sidestep from Bad Religion, what’s going on with your own band Kidneys right now?
There’s actually a lot going on. I just finished our new record and I’m releasing it as a digital album April 6th. The title of the record is Halter Fire, and there are ten brand new songs on it. We have just a couple of shows lined up in April - just on the coast here in California, but I hope to be touring more with it.
Is that something you’d likely bring to Australia?
I’d love to. We’d love to. Australia would be a fantastic market.
Within Kidneys, you’re the front man; singing and playing guitar. How does that dynamic differ the songwriting process compared to that with Bad Religion?
I write all the songs for Kidneys. It’s an outlet for me to write more - you know, I’ve always loved songwriting. I started playing the guitar when I was like 12 years old. But you know - I’m kind of the Trent Reznor in Kidneys; where I developed it, and I gave birth to Kidneys - even though that sounds anatomically interesting (laughs) - it’s a great release for me creatively.
I’ve really looked at my singing in the last few years too and I think I’ve become a better singer on the new record - hopefully people will think that as well, but yeah, when I’m not doing that (Kidneys), I’m always doing something musically.
Kidneys is always just something I’m always trying to develop on a bigger level.
So you keep all your best ideas to yourself and don’t give them off to Bad Religion then?
(Laughs) Yeah, that’s exactly what I'm doing!
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