|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||10/31/2005|
Good to be Bad Religion, 25 years later
by Canwest News Service
canada.com, October 31, 2005
There shouldn't be a Bad Religion, but there is. Not only that, but the group is getting stronger. When most contemporaries have bitten the dust and much current punk rock seems trivial, the California-based band's new album has vitality and relevance.
VANCOUVER -- There shouldn't be a Bad Religion, but there is.
Not only that, but the group is getting stronger, better and has grown more sure of itself.
When most of their contemporaries from 1980 have bitten the dust and much current punk rock seems trivial, the California-based band's new album, The Empire Strikes First, has vitality and relevance.
The group has never forgotten why it got together in the first place.
"What maintains us as a band is the knowledge that it's a privilege to make music," figures bassist Jay Bentley, one of the co-founders along with singer Greg Graffin and guitarist Brad Gurewitz, before two shows in Vancouver this week.
The group is filled out by guitarists Greg Hetson and Brian Barker and the aptly named drummer, Brooks Wackerman.
"It's really enjoyable. And we're good."
Over the years, the members have come to appreciate each other and they've allowed growth, which has been returned to the band in enthusiasm. Gurewitz created Epitaph, which has become a hugely successful and influential punk label, Hetson lives in New York state, Bentley is a resident of West Vancouver. All these experiences have provided perspective. Yet, Bad Religion still thinks of itself as a California band and still guides itself in punk terms.
"I think our convictions and beliefs don't come from flying a singular flag," Bentley explains.
He confesses that music might be dictated by the same few chords but that they constantly try to new ways to express them. The ascendency of U.S. President George W. Bush and the Christian right have given Bad Religion renewed incentive but Bentley knows, too, that although rock thrives in adversity, it's easily bumped out of the way by fluffy pop.
"Folk or punk gets swept under the rug by the Pat Boone mentality. All you need is some cute girls singing a pop song. I understand. Who wants to sing a serious song all the time? People would rather dance.
"We talk a little before we write," he continues. "But we talk more when the album is nearing completion. We ask ourselves, 'What are we trying to say? What do we mean?' These are things we do talk about."
There was a little talking before The Empire Strikes First, but being the group's 13th album the talk centred on how it could take a fresh approach.
"It was a lot of thinking, 'Oops, we've been there, we've done that.' " Bentley says. "We have a new drummer, let's utilize him. We have a great guitar player, let's utilize him. In the past, we might have had two tracks for background vocals, but now we can do 90 voices. Let's try that."
In this way, Bad Religion continues to develop, bringing its believers with them, and, in a way, making the non-believers reconsider. Just by persevering, the group has shut them up. Sort of California's D.O.A. Music keeps both going but it's the power of music as a cultural tool that can make a difference that inspires.
The group has transcended punk dogma, and, with Epitaph, faced down accusations of selling out. Now its early albums are being re-released and reappraised, while onetime punk pundit Warren Kinsella sings the group's praises in his book Fury's Hour, and includes The Empire Strikes First among his 10 essential punk albums -- citing it for the first important punk statement to come out of the George W. Bush era.
"What you learn is that you can't make everybody happy," volunteers Bentley. "So you stop trying... and that's when everybody is happy."
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