|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||1/1/2004|
The Trickle-Down Effect
Since forming in 1980, Bad Religion have used their music as a platform to speak their minds on social issues, especially concerning politics and religion. Their new album, Empire Strikes First, follows in their long tradition of scathing guitars and intelligently rendered sentiments, and American audiences will have a chance to check the new songs out in a live setting when Bad Religion comes to the area with the 2004 Warped Tour. The Synthesis recently spoke with guitarist Greg Hetson and asked him about politics and education, and their history in punk rock.
So what did you do when you first heard Reagan was dead?
I got ready for the onslaught of all the funerals and propping up on how wonderful he was and you know, what’s it called…realizing that they would probably use it as some kind of political tool to prop up Bush with the election coming up soon.
So all the post-mortem fellatio, basically.
Exactly, yeah. I liked how his son made a little jab at it, made his comment on how he didn’t quite really think that was really cool, making a political statement out of it. He made some sort of sarcastic comment about it, which is pretty cool.
Can you explain why Reagan was the anti-Christ as far as punk rockers are concerned?
Well, a lot of it had to do with his policies. Like his Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, made available a lot of lands that were taboo for development and for drilling. This goes back to when [Reagan] was still the Governor of California, where he allowed offshore drilling off the coast of California. He just did a lot with environmental and a lack of awareness of social programs, school lunches. He made a pretty funny comment — they were asking him about school lunches, how they were lacking certain nutritious things. There were no vegetables in this one program he was touting as really good after school program and he said, “Well, ketchup’s a vegetable.”
Well, it’s tomatoes…
Yeah, yeah, but that’s a fruit…[laughs].
He was a big reason why a lot of punk bands started. Now that there’s no Reagan, are there still enough targets?
Bush is a great target. He’s very Reagan-esque in his economic ideas. Basically, you also have this idea taken from Reaganomics where you cut the taxes from the top and everything will trickle down. It didn’t work then and it’s not going to work now.
There’s this history teacher at my school who plays in a punk rock band. I believe he kinda takes a stance that it’s more effective to teach in a classroom than shout from a street corner. Where does the stage fit in with that dichotomy?
Our philosophy in the band is we’re there to give our opinion, we give our ideas. We want people to think but we’re not preaching, we’re just saying ‘this is what we think, take what you want from it. If you don’t take anything from it and you just like the music and you want to go crazy in the pit, so be it.’ You know what I mean? That’s kinda where we’ve always been at, kinda like think for yourself, here’s our ideas, take what you want from it. That’s about it.
So Empire Strikes First is Bad Religion’s 13th album. Are you superstitious at all?
No, I don’t even know how many records we have, I lose track. I’m not superstitious at all, no.
What’s your favorite song on Empire Strikes First?
It’s so new and we’ve only been starting to play those songs in the last couple of weeks that we did the European tour. I really haven’t been able to establish an absolute favorite, but I do like “All There Is,” that’s one of my favorites. We haven’t worked that one out live yet, but hopefully we’ll work it out and get it into the set. We’ve tried it a few times, it still needs a little refining to be able to perform it live and have it delivered the way we want it to.
What are you looking forward to about this year’s Warped Tour?
The camaraderie between the bands, all the friends of ours that are going to be on the tour. I can work on my sunburn every day, that’ll be nice [laughs]. Seeing some new music, hopefully, seeing what direction the underground / punk music is going. It’s always good to get a take on where things are headed.
At this point Bad Religion can be considered one of the elder statesmen of punk rock. How do you continue to remain relevant?
We hope we are. We try to keep up on current events and write what we feel, and just have fun with what we’re doing. We’ve kinda backed into being a full-time band, it was a part-time hobby thing for many years and it just eventually evolved into this career. Collectively we have a couple of songwriters that are talented and are able to write some relevant stuff. Obviously, over the years our delivery has matured, instead of just ‘I hate my school, people pick on me because I’m punk rock.’ We have different ways of expressing our anger, it’s not just ‘fuck the government’ — pardon my French dialect. There’s more personal stuff and philosophical stuff that’s crept into our music over the years.
What’s the secret of your band’s longevity?
I think that we’ve never made goals, we kinda just take it how it comes. We don’t really hang out all the time all together, I think that keeps us together, we don’t get on each other’s nerves. We come back after not seeing each other for a few months after a tour, and making a record, so it’s fresh again.
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