|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||1/1/2004|
Bad Religion interview with Jay Bentley - Ventura Warped Tour
by Chris Moriates
Jay Bentley, bass player for the seminal punk band Bad Religion, is pissed off. At first the sense is that he is just generally upset about most everything – a true punk rocker at heart – but if pressed to explain, Bentley will give you an ear-full. As the interview progressed Bentley began becoming animatedly angry, with his voice slowly becoming raspier and his face slightly more flushed as he moved the discussion into the realm of the current political condition.
How has the band evolved since "How Could Hell Be Any Worse" (1982)?
J: I think that we've matured. I probably believed that every one on the planet was a giant pile of shit when I was 14, but now I know that is only half of them. That's pretty good. That's a pretty good change.
Does Brian (Baker, guitarist) still talk to Minor Threat, his old band?
J: Everyday. He lives in D.C., so he sees Ian every day. And he sees everybody in Minor Threat at least once or twice a week.
There is always a lot of talk about Greg (Graffin, singer) obtaining his Ph.D., what exactly did he get his Ph.D. in?
J: He got his Ph.D. in Biology at Cornell and he got his Masters in Geology at UCLA.
Maybe it is because I went to UCLA and have read many articles relating to that, but it seems to me that every article that I read about Bad Religion feels the need to mention that as if education and punk rock are so diametrically opposed. Do you believe that they are?
J: It's not only education and punk rock. Just think about it as education and musicians in general. There aren't many professors out there singing or playing in a band, especially a punk rock band that has been together for 25 years and started its own label. There are a lot of things that have happened with this band that make good stories. And strangely enough it all started because we didn't have anything better to do. It wasn't because we wanted to change the world at all or anything. We were just a bunch of bored kids in the Valley that were pissed off… about… something.
Yeah, you're still not quite sure what it is you're pissed about, but you just might be getting closer as you age, right?
J: The more you educate yourself, the more questions that you have. It never stops. Just because you graduate high school doesn't mean that you're supposed to stop learning. You need to keep reading and learning and finding out about things. And I am more upset now than I have ever been in my life. This is the worst thing that I think has ever happened – I am talking specifically about the current political climate in America. It is enough to piss me off for 50 years. I will be a healthy, pissed off punk rocker for the rest of my life probably because of all this.
What exactly are you most upset about?
J: I grew up under what I thought was a bizarre nuclear umbrella of the Cold War. My dad when he grew up didn't have this threat of complete global annihilation. Now, my kids have been growing up post-Cold War, and I thought that they were going to live in a pretty good world – a global community. Well, not anymore, because my kids ask me if they are supposed to be afraid because everybody is telling them to be afraid all the time. And that pisses me off. They didn't need that.
What do you tell them?
J: I tell them that the government – and I don't mean it to be so vague, but they are only 10- and 13-years-old – is making bad decisions and you need to know that you don't always agree with what your government says because you are supposed to. Healthy dissent is what makes a healthy community. You can't have everybody agreeing on everything because that is just not possible. But if you take everybody that is speaking negatively about the current administration and consider them liberal, atheist kooks that are destroying the fabric of our country, that makes it hard. Not to mention the fact that I have to constantly teach my kids how to spell, because spelling has just gone to shit. When you look at the side of a truck and it says "Ched-r Cheez" and my kids ask if that is how you spell "cheddar cheese." As well as the fact, that the media just keeps repeating a thousand times that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda terrorists that flew into the World Trade Center, and my kids ask me, "Why did Saddam Hussein fly into the World Trade Center?" Which seems like a logical conclusion that a 10-year-old would get in his head.
How do you want to change the current situation?
J: Put a democrat in the office. It has been 50 years since we had a Republican House, Senate and sitting President. Why do you think that is? Because it sucks. OK, so we learned our lesson. You can say that there is no difference between Bush and Kerry, but that is fine because one is a democrat and answers to a different party. If a democratic President has to listen to his party and they say that we are going to veto this bill, he will do it. Republicans are just running rampant over everything. There are no checks-and-balances because it is just one party that has control. All because the people were pissed off at Bill Clinton for sleeping with a woman, so they decided that we are going to put in a Republican President, House and Senate to take care of him. What is really stupid is that he didn't even win the election, he just decided to put himself in the White House and then we had two years of laughing because he was choking on pretzels and mispronouncing the word "nuclear." And then he basically put us in the middle of a Holy War, because his entire administration has documents that they have been holding onto since Nixon about how to take over the Middle East and gain control. But people don't want to know that or admit that. So don't admit it and don't educate yourselves.
You mentioned that you feel that everybody has been labeling dissenters as "liberal, atheist kooks," do you find it hard to express your views right now in America?
J: My aunt calls me a terrorist. I laugh and tell her that "I hope you actually meet a real one. You think that I am bad and that I am pissed off. You have no idea. Go on over there and see how pissed off people really are at you. You are a Middle American fucking know-nothing, do-nothing, say-nothing monkey." It is sad. You don't want to be thought of as that. I don't want to be thought of as that. Right now Fat Mike (lead singer and bass-player, NOFX) and I both agree that the most important thing that you could possibly do is get George W. Bush out of office. How do you do that? You vote for Kerry because he is the only possible one that people not like me will ever possibly vote for. The people in Middle America are not going to vote for some "Green Party nutcase" – which is the way that they see them.
Changing gears a little, do you ever have any regrets about going on a major label?
J: No, not at all. We had to go somewhere with the band. Given the dynamics in the band and the fact that one of us owns a label and everything was moving so fast – it was so crazy at the time and we decided that we had to go somewhere and we had to do something. I learned a lot while I was there. It was good for me personally and I would say probably good for the band. I think that it was good for the band to learn that we are not the greatest thing since sliced bread. It is nice to get kicked around every now and then and I think if you ride the wave of being the kings of the underground, then you start to think that your shit doesn't smell. So it is nice to get beat down a little bit every once in a while.
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