|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||7/19/2002|
Bad Religion: The Process Of Labels
by Keith Carman
chartattack.com, July 19, 2002
Bad Religion almost died. You would never have known it, but the seminal punk outfit just about called it a day after their less-than-stellar album The New America. Frustrated with politics, major label bullshit and a general personal malaise for the way things were going, The New America came oh so close to killin' ?em. But troopers that they are, BR couldn't let it end like that. Regrouping and addressing the issues head on, they've recently released The Process Of Belief (Epitaph), an album that as bassist Jay Bentley candidly relates, sees many positive changes that will save them from fading away.
ChartAttack: With The Process Of Belief, you've moved back to Epitaph, a label Bad Religion basically created. Some people might see the move from a major back to an indie as a step in the wrong direction, even if it is your own label.
Jay Bentley: Greg Graffin and myself had many discussions about that. He was one of those people. His concept of being on a major was like baseball: being on a major label is like being in the major leagues where not being on one is like playing Triple A. I understood that, but when you're the Montreal Expos of the major leagues, going 0 for 300 and 10 people come to your games, what's the point of being there? Isn't it better to be the Triple A champion? I'd never really gotten along with the label people anyway. It was just a giant machine whose job was to push anything that would sell. Whether it was or wasn't creative, socially responsible or even viable. They didn't give a shit. If it was selling, they pushed.
How did it all finally end?
There was a horribly, ugly day where Atlantic were like, 'Any band not selling 50,000 units are dropped.' Jawbox, Samiam, The Melvins? gone. Thank God we sold 61,000, but my call to them was still 'Please throw us off too. I don't want to be a part of this anymore.' That isn't where bands thrive. It's a cutthroat place where bands have to assimilate. Either change your music to sell more records or get the fuck off. To be fair to them though, it's not my label and they're in business to stay in business. They not there to be buddies and shove tons of money into a guy banging on pots and pans.
Did you take home any other valuable lessons?
The value I got from being on Atlantic was how much I learned about being on Atlantic! What it takes to be an artist on a label. It scared them, 'cause we were coming off of Epitaph, a place with five employees. Brett and I were two of 'em! We walked into Atlantic, handed them our contract and said 'Match it or we're not gonna sign. Why would we leave our own label to sign with you and get less?'
So the ultimate reason for moving to a major was?
Everyday that we went to work, we spent 90 per cent of the time dealing with Bad Religion issues. One out of 10 phone calls was for stuff other than Bad Religion. We wanted to let someone else do the work, but it would be stupid to go to another indie. 'You're leaving Epitaph to go to Dischord?' But most importantly, it's about the music, not the icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the record. It's the people doing something that you genuinely enjoy.
I think you can sense that off someone. Whether they're doing something they love and believe in, or just for some superficial reason.
Sure, you should have caught me a couple of years ago! ?This is the best record we've ever made! Insert title here!' It was like I was reading it off the cue card.
You do seem more comfortable with The Process Of Belief.
For sure, ?cause it's a real record by a real band. (Sings) 'I got no strings to tie me down!' When we made The New America it was like, 'Fuck!' It was as if we'd gone to the end of the rainbow and there was just a pot of shit. I don't want to seem like a total asshole about the album and Greg really did spend a lot of time writing it so I can't blow him out of the water saying 'It's all your fault!' We had a long talk about it and I was like, 'You're not a monkey with a typewriter. I can't scream at you to go back in and write better music. If you're happy with it, I don't care.' We got a phone call saying we were working with Todd Rundgren. I was like, 'I don't like Todd Rundgren, I don't want to work with him, so I'm not thrilled with this. What? His studio's in Hawaii? When do we start?'
So you were pretty upset from start to finish.
The album came out and it was just OK. I was like, 'So this is it? The mighty Bad Religion goes out with this tiny whimper?' It wasn't as bad as Into The Unknown, but it was a Filet O' Fish. 'What is this? Well, it's got some wood particles in it. It only has to be 60 per cent fish. The rest is filler.'
Speaking with Greg at the time, he was totally excited to work with Todd Rundgren.
Totally, but for me, I thought it was the last record we were going to make as a band. No one was excited anymore and it all seemed like a bunch of shit. How many times can you throw up on yourself and it's the exact same corn? I didn't feel we were going anywhere and so did Greg. He thought that it was the last chance he might have to work with someone he really liked, so he called Todd Rundgren. Good for him. But you know what? Todd didn't like Greg and that made Greg so mad! He met his idol and he was a jerk! I don't think Todd gave a shit about anything. 'Give me all your fuckin' money and here's some beer and a bag of chips.'
I hear a big change in attitude on this album though.
I'm thrilled! Because The New America was a regurgitation process, we had written ourselves off. But this album was like going into the laboratory with a theory. Not only is the theory right, but it blows up in your face. It was awesome to be in the studio and no one had any idea what was going on, but was like, 'This is so cool!'
Is there a new lease on life for Bad Religion?
No, but the cool thing about it is that I don't care. If there's more that's great, but if not that's great too. I was so unhappy, ?cause of the concept of Bad Religion ending on The New America. God is that ugly! 'Hey, didn't you used to be in Bad Religion?' (whimpers) 'Yeah? want fries with that?' If it all ended tomorrow, I can be like, 'Well we farted into a paper bag a couple of times, but check out my last record!'
A new album?
There's the seed of discussion, but that's how it always starts. Greg called me to say he was thinking about the next album and I just laughed. If it seems like we're all excited, it'll happen.
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