|Interview - Internet
|Creative Loafing Atlanta (clatl.com)
Greg Graffin of Bad Religion
by Tony Ware
Creative Loafing Atlanta, March 6, 2002
Despite Bad Religion's long association with Southern California punk, lead singer/songwriter Greg Graffin has lived in New York state for eight years. That's just one of the facts Graffin reveals while discussing The Process of Belief. The album is also Bad Religion's first since 1994 to feature original guitarist Brett Gurewitz and to be released on Epitaph, the label Gurewitz established for the band in the early '80s.
Over two decades, Bad Religion have weathered personnel changes and personal demons. They established the blueprint for harmony-laden hardcore and unwavering loyalty to punk's rallying cry, even though Graffin revealed Epitaph's name was inspired by (gasp) King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Drug problems and prog-rock now a thing of the past, it's easy to believe that Bad Religion are stronger than ever.
Creative Loafing: So, Bad Religion has been together over 20 years, and you guys have had your fair share of great "Behind The Music" commercial-break cliffhangers: "And when we return, Bad Religion break up."
Greg Graffin: Actually, it's "and when we return, tragedy strikes Bad Religion." Because it's always the personal stories of drug addiction and interpersonal relations. That's what they really want to talk about. They just shroud it with interband politics.
With The Process of Belief, whose beliefs are we talking about? The band's being renewed? Renewing fans' beliefs?
I think you identified two of the dimensions the title could be referring to. But it's also interesting that we've spent 21 years being critical of religion, and one of the fundamental requirements of religion is belief. So it's finally an acknowledgment by Bad Religion that belief shouldn't necessarily be an instructive code, but it's a part of biological humanness. In that respect it offers a nice round wholeness to our philosophy, since our philosophical foundations have really been what made Bad Religion unique.
Speaking of beliefs, did you believe throughout the '90s that one day Brett [Gurewitz] would return to the band and your songwriting partnership?
Yeah. I wasn't sure if Brett would come back to Bad Religion, but I did believe that we had a creative future.
With his return, you've got three guitarists. How does that change the dynamic of performance, recording and songwriting? Very unpunk bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd have had three guitarists.
I would use the Iron Maiden analogy. If you listen to a Bad Religion record, there's always way more than three guitar parts, so bringing a third guitarist in on stage gives us more ability to segregate the guitar parts and have each guitarist playing parts more akin to the album recording. Brett is more of what he calls a "stylist." He's not a virtuoso. Brian is a virtuoso, and Greg Hetson adds the grungy element.
With the return of songwriting by the two of you, what aspects of one another do you and Brett complement?
Basically, there's a chemistry between us that makes us better songwriters. When I'm not with him in my writing, though I may achieve great things, it takes a tremendous amount of work. I've always been good at knowing what's great for Bad Religion, but I can tend to be a little tunnel visioned. That's my element, I give it the signature Bad Religion sound, but when he comes in we can break out of that sound.
How do you think the place and role of the band has changed throughout the years, and has the audience changed as well?
I think the core audience hasn't changed that much. We're still shooting for the outcast kids who are nerdy and questioning of their peer group and society. It just happens that our music sounds cool and it's a kind of music that's very popular, that's why a larger demographic might be interested. But when we write songs we're still doing it for the subgenre.
Bad Religion plays Thurs., March 7, at the Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St. Hot Water Music and Less Than Jake open. 8 p.m. $20. 404-659-9022. www.atlantaconcerts.com.
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