|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||5/21/2010|
Interview with Jay
by Rob Sleigh
roomthirteen.com, May 21, 2010
This year, it is the 30th Anniversary of the legendary and hugely influential punk rock group Bad Religion. To celebrate the occasion, the band have chosen to give their new live album ’30 Years Live’ away for free. On 18th May, the album’s release date, Room Thirteen spoke to bass player and co-founding member Jay Bentley about the thirty-year history of Bad Religion, their forthcoming new studio album and this summer’s UK tour dates.
R13: Thanks for my copy of the new live album, which I downloaded earlier today. Why did you decide to give this album away for free?
JB: We had all these shows in the House of Blues in Los Angeles and Santiago and we were thinking about live streaming some of the shows. The work that went into that was a little more than we wanted to do, so we were like: “F**k that, that’s too much work. We could just stick microphones in front of everything and record it.” [Laughs] So we thought we’d make a record and give it away, as it’s thirty years.
R13: Bad Religion is thirty years old this year. How does it feel to have made it this far?
JB: I don’t know, I’m gonna have to stop and look back. I can look at the calendar and go: “Yeah OK, that’s real”, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. It hasn’t been long and arduous, it’s been a lot of fun.
R13: What’s been the main motivation that’s kept the band going all this time?
JB: Well, mostly, it’s because we really enjoy playing with each other, and I don’t mean that in a weird way. All of us have played in other bands and done other things, and all of us have said that none of it sounds as good as Bad Religion. When we get together and play, just in a little rehearsal room, there’s something that happens that’s fun for all of us. It’s electrical, you can just feel it. In a strange way, it’s addictive. I quit for a couple years and I couldn’t get away from it. I was like: “God, I miss that so much.”
R13: Can you remember why you and the other guys first decided to form the band thirty years ago?
JB: Brett [Gurewitz, guitarist] and the original drummer Jay Ziskrout were in a band called The Quartz, which was more New Wave than punk. Brett wanted to start a more punk rock band, so they left that band and met Greg Graffin at a party. Me and Greg were friends at school. This was probably late ’79 and we had our hair cut and died black and we wore cut-off sleeve shirts, so we were the only two punks at the school. It was like: “Let’s start this punk rock band”. [Laughs] That’s kind of what we wanted to do. That way we don’t have to stand around and get beat up at school. We can just go to Greg Graffin’s garage after school and write songs.
R13: Do you still feel the same way about punk rock as you did back then?
JB: I do, but I don’t think the rest of the world does. I’m brutally aware that there’s no more fascination or fear involved with punk rock, it’s just kind of pointing and laughing. But I think the overall ideology and message is still there, it’s not so much of a fashion thing. It was sort of an anti-ideology. Typical rock and roll rebels taking it to the extreme. If you can apply that into your life, that’s what I got out of it. Not just making it something that you do on Friday and Saturday night.
R13: Bad Religion have often been credited with inventing the melodic punk sound. Would you agree with that?
JB: [Laughs] I deny that entirely. Bad Religion should be credited with borrowing the melodic hardcore sound. There were plenty of bands in Southern California that were doing the sound, they just didn’t stay together long enough or make a record. It wasn’t until far, far later: ’87, ’88, ’89, that any of it made any kind of difference.
R13: Do you recognise the influence of Bad Religion in other people’s music?
JB: Sometimes. I think that there was a brief period where there were far more bands that I would hear and go: “God, that sounds just like us.” That’s kind of come and gone. There are still a few bands that have that same early Eighties, Southern California hardcore sound, but not too many.
R13: Bad Religion have been around almost as long as punk rock itself. What do you think of the way the music has changed over the years?
JB: You can still find punk rock bands that sound like they did in ’78, but they’re just not the most popular bands, so I think that the music itself is still there. I just think that the idea of what it is and the popularity of bands that use the word “punk” have changed people’s ideas of it. It’s still there and it’s a vibrant scene. It’s still really active, it’s just not what most people think of as ’77 punk rock. I have kids that are eighteen and sixteen, and when I say punk rock to them, their minds don’t flash to 1977 and The Clash. Mine does. They probably think Blink-182.
R13: Do you think Bad Religion’s music has changed a lot over that time as well?
JB: I hope so. In the sense of us maturing as players. Back then, at fifteen, I was pretty ham-fisted and just like: “Play as fast as you can.” We’re making a new record that’s really fast, but I hope I’m playing a little better and the songwriting has gotten better and the lyrical composition has matured. From “f**k the first lady” to something a little more appropriate. [Laughs]
R13: What was the high point of being in Bad Religion?
JB: That’s a tough one. Everything that’s happened has just been so humbling. I couldn’t really think of one specific thing that has been the high point. In my mind, I think if there is a high point, then what the hell am I doing here? There should be a high point tomorrow. I’m always thinking that the greatest things are yet to come. Otherwise, you’re in a perpetual state of falling away from the best moment of your life.
R13: Was there ever a low point?
JB: Probably 2000. In that year, we really kind of bounced off the bottom. We got dropped off of our label, our drummer left and I think that we were as close to packing it in as we’ve ever gotten. It was like: “This just isn’t happening anymore.”
R13: How did you recover from that?
JB: Surprisingly, it was a phone call from Brett Gurewitz. [Laughs] He hadn’t been in the band since 1994 and he called me and said: “You guys need to make a really good record.” I burst out laughing and said: “Yeah, that’s so easy to say and hard to do.” Then he asked me if I remembered what the Ramones’ thirteenth studio album was, I said “no” and he said: “Yeah, me neither and I’m a huge Ramones fan.” I got his point. The reality was that we didn’t have a drummer and we didn’t have a label, so the way that worked out was that we ended up back on Epitaph with Brett and Brooks Wackerman [current drummer]. It was sort of a new beginning for the band and that’s how we recovered from it.
R13: Do you have a favourite Bad Religion album?
JB: I think I have a few. Obviously, I have a soft spot for ‘Suffer’ because of how it was made, why it was made and when it was made. I really enjoyed making the last three records, just because the band works really well together now. We’re all having fun in the studio, there’s no real pressure to perform or make the best record ever. We’re making music that we love. We think it’s the best stuff we’ve ever done and that’s good enough.
R13: You’re currently working on a new album. How is that going?
JB: Really good. We’re probably just about at the halfway point. In a typical Bad Religion way, the songs are coming together. We’re throwing around album titles and visual ideas. It’s kind of how we’ve been making things for thirty years. Probably at the very last minute, we’ll come up with an album title and some photograph, sequence the record and it will come out. [Laughs]
R13: What can people expect from the album?
JB: Right now, one of the things that I can tell you is it’s f**king fast. [Laughs] I’m not saying it’s all fast, but the fast songs are some of the fastest we’ve ever done. It’s like: “This is fun.”
R13: How would you compare it to the stuff you’ve done in the past?
JB: In a weird way, I’ve heard Greg and Brett both saying that if our last three records were the ‘Suffer’, ‘No Control’ and ‘Against the Grain’ of the 2000s, then this would be ‘Recipe for Hate’. I said, “You’re leaving ‘Generator’ out” and Brett said, “Yeah but that’s intentional.” Then, listening to the material, it sort of is ‘Generator’ mixed in with ‘Recipe for Hate’. There’s gonna be a lot of stuff that’s gonna surprise people on this record.
R13: Bad Religion will be playing some shows in the UK this August. Is the setlist likely to cover the entire thirty-year history of the band?
JB: I’m hoping. At the festivals, we won’t have the amount of time that we had [in the US] doing Thirty Songs for Thirty Years, because that would take about an hour and a half. I always try to make the setlist all encompassing, but I usually miss an album or two. Generally, there’s always going to be someone saying: “You didn’t play this song.” We have two-hundred and eighty songs, we can’t play them all. [Laughs]
R13: Which festivals will you be playing here?
JB: The exciting one is the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. Then we have a bunch of headlining shows around the country, which is super-exciting. I don’t think we’ve been there for a while.
R13: Will you be playing some new songs as well?
JB: Maybe. We were playing a couple of new songs [in the US] when we were having our anniversary shows. We’ll see. It’s just so early yet. We won’t really know until we get there.
R13: Do you think we will be celebrating Bad Religion’s 40th Anniversary in 2020?
JB: [Laughs] No. Yes. I don’t know. I can’t see why not, but we’ve always told ourselves that the minute we’re no longer having fun and the minute we’re no longer relevant, we’re finished and it’s not going to be some long, drawn out farewell. It’s just going to be: “That’s it, we’re done.” All I know right now is, on a day-to-day basis, we’re still having fun, we’re still playing music that we love and we don’t feel like we really have to do anything. It’s all stuff that we want to do. We haven’t really been in a better place mentally, but, physically, I don’t know. Ten more years? [Laughs] Fat Mike [of NOFX] has been going around saying that when we break up, they get to play for five more years because they’re five years younger than us. So we’re not going to break up until they break up. [Laughs]
German transcript updated
English transcript added
English transcript added
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Interview added: Bad Religion, the ‘McCartney and Lennon of punk,’ to make Spokane debut
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