|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||11/28/1994|
|Source:||dailybruin.com (United States)||With:||Greg Graffin|
Against the grain
by Robert Stevens
dailybruin.com, November 28, 1994
Against the grain
Sure, Bad Religion's lead singer Greg Graffin (above center) has been blasting angry, loud and socially relevant music for 14 years for any punk fan that much is obvious. But did you know that he TA'd UCLA evolution classes? Graffin speaks to The Bruin about his not-so-different punk and Ph.D. lives.
By Robert Stevens
Daily Bruin Senior Staff
It's pretty safe to say that UCLA has never seen a more punk TA than Bad Religion's lead vocalist Greg Graffin.
And if you asked the students who took his comparative anatomy, evolution, paleontology and physiology discussion sections about it, they probably wouldn't even care.
"The day I walked onto campus the band was pretty well known. I always kept it separate though," Graffin says. "My students who knew about the band were relatively few and even so, they weren't that impressed because they're at UCLA to learn, thankfully, and they aren't there to talk about slam-dancing."
Graffin, who is currently earning a doctorate in biology at Cornell University, and from 1984-90 received his undergraduate and graduate education at UCLA, will be playing with his veteran punk band of 14 years at the first night of KROQ's Acoustic Christmas and for two nights at the Santa Monica Civic Center.
Probably not a surprise to most people, conversing with Graffin, even over the phone, is a lot like going to a professor's office hours. Articulate, well-spoken and simply put, smart. Graffin knows a lot about a lot and loves to speak about his work, his life, and even his alma mater.
All things considered, it makes sense that Bad Religion would amount to more than your typical punk band.
Conceived in 1980, Bad Religion, whose name was inspired by the rise of Reaganism and the "700 Club," has spent nearly a decade and a half intentionally provoking thought in its listeners' minds and unintentionally inspiring bands like Offspring and Green Day to make punk music what it is today a mainstream success story.
All this and homework too it didn't make for an easy ride.
While a student at UCLA, Graffin was forced to take a third job. During his stay in Westwood, the punk frontman remained behind the scenes as the staff sound engineer mixing sound for concerts that came to the Cooperage, Kerckhoff and Royce Hall.
"Well, back then Bad Religion wasn't nearly as lucrative as it is today," Graffin says. "I'd play shows on the weekends occasionally and make some spending cash but yeah, I definitely needed a job because I'm still paying off my student loans."
Seven albums and one major label deal later, Bad Religion has ascended to heights that the small local band with the cult-following never could have imagined. "I never thought that I'd be making more money than any professor in the country by playing music, that's for sure," Graffin says.
And has Graffin spent his newfound funds on a Ferrari and mansion in Beverly Hills?
"I don't have a muscle car like every punker in L.A. that's a little cliche. I drive family vehicles. I have a GMC Suburban and a Pontiac Bonneville," he says.
"I have a sticker on one that says, 'School's open, drive carefully.' My wife's a teacher."
"That's punk, isn't it?" Graffin continues. "When it started, punk was all about individuality, not being able to predict what someone did based on their actions or their fashion, and I've sort of devoted my life to it."
"What could be more punk than living in a beautiful house in upstate New York driving a GMC Suburban that says, 'School's open' and being able to pay for all of that with albums that say, 'Fuck Armageddon, this is hell?'"
And to look at it from that paradigm, nothing could be more punk than Graffin's most recent and important work at Cornell University, his doctoral thesis about the evolution of bone tissue
After finally completing the necessary course load, the Bad Religion vocalist still needs nine months of consecutive studying to prepare for oral exams and the final presentation of his thesis.
While teaching, Graffin's favorite part of Cornell's requirements, ended for him last year, he still takes pride in educating through Bad Religion's lyrics.
"I love teaching," he says. "It's not much different from singing in a punk band. You get to share ideas with people and you get to hear feedback on those ideas."
"I believe that if people were more educated there wouldn't be half the problems because people would be more content with their lives, they'd think of themselves as having some value, they'd better be able to put themselves in a global perspective, which very few people can do," Graffin says. "Most people can't even see outside the little 10-square-block area they live in."
But as Graffin gets swept away into the world radio popularity, lyrical education and vertebrate evolution, does he ever think about his old school? "Oh, hell yeah! You always feel a sentiment to your alma mater. And some of my greatest advisers went to UCLA," he says.
Not to mention the fact that some of Graffin's greatest meals were eaten here too. "What did I particularly like? Oh the burritos at the Cooperage were good. And they're still pretty good because I went back there not too long ago," he says.
"And say 'hi' to the Bombshelter for me (too)," Graffin says. "If that same old bitter woman works there tell her to 'fuck off.' I saw her everyday at lunch for six years."
Eating at the Bombshelter what could be more punk?
CONCERT: Bad Religion at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium Dec. 16 and 17. For tickets call Ticketmaster (213) 480-3232. Also appearing at KROQ's sold out Acoustic Christmas on Dec. 10.
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