|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||5/15/2010|
|Source:||distortedmagazine.com (United Kingdom)||With:||Brooks Wackerman, Jay Bentley|
Bad Religion are iconic. It’s simple as that really. There are a number of lauded and important bands in the history of punk rock, but Bad Religion stand amongst an elite select few apart from the initial ground breakers who helped set punk rock on its way and who have flown the flag high since; embraced intelligent lyrical content and have progressed an entire genre of music. In 2010 they embrace their 30th anniversary.
At the recent Groezrock festival in Belgium, they headlined the event again and Distorted were fortunate enough to sit down with drummer Brooks Wackerman who says he plays the drums and trapset and bassist Jay Bentley who “plays the electric bass guitar in the standing position only” according to Jay. After the duo had sat through a long day of interviews we found the two grabbing a cup of tea in the large backstage area tent; polite but looking tired and understandably eager to finish the business side of being in a band for the day.
We apologise for any repeated questions but Jay and Brooks are in good spirits, Brooks the drier humoured and sarcastic one adding “just don’t ask what the name means”. “We do what we do” adds Jay. We mainly want to talk about 30 years being touted, the new album and discussing future tours to the UK and the band playing Rebellion festival later in the year, Jay on hearing the word, grins broadly.
Jay: God are we excited about that.
Brooks: It’s been way too long.
Jay: And are you kidding, have you seen the bill?
Brooks: Is that the uber punk rock festival?
Jay: Yeah yeah yeah.
Brooks: With blasts from the past… and us.
Jay: (Laughing) Yeah well when that came down the pipeline and the guys were like “what do you think of this festival?” I was like; “YES!” I called Brian (Baker) and said “dude you not going to believe what we are doing” and he is more excited than anybody; he and (Greg) Graffin are thrilled.
Brooks: (turns to his left and asks Jay) So which band are you most excited to see? (And turning to me) Sorry not to interview him for you.
Jay: Ya know I just want to…
Brooks: (Sensing a cop-out answer) Come on, is there just one band in particular where you just went “Wow”!
Jay: There are like five?
Steve: Which five or which one of those five stand out for you?
Jay: (Thinking about it) Well there is Cock Sparrer, right? And Sham 69, I will just take those two. That’s enough.
Steve: Cool yeah I managed to catch Cock Sparrer a few weeks ago and they were on form.
Jay: Nice. The last time I saw Sham 69 was years ago, like years ago here on the mainland and I was just so fucking blown away by that and afterwards we were in the bar having beers and they were like, right there and it’s so rare to be star struck and like I couldn’t talk to them.
Both Brooks and Jay are really good company and I suppose years of enduring interviews have enabled them to enjoy the process rather than treat it as a chore; mid tea sipping we turn the attention to the magical 30 years of Bad Religion and how they got involved with the seminal band.
Steve: So let’s talk about the band celebrating this 30 year milestone, and first maybe how you individually got involved or introduced to Bad Religion?
Brooks: Well since I’m not a founding member I joined about ten years ago, so I’m celebrating a decade of the 30 years.
Steve: That’s still a milestone.
Brooks: Well yeah thank you. So basically how I got into Bad Religion was through a band called The Vandals who introduced me. I had heard the name (Bad Religion) but never really studied the music and then “Stranger Than Fiction” came out and I listened to that record every day for like two months and that’s when I became a fan. So I actually got into the band later on in their career due to my age. How I got in was through mutual friends when the band was trying to find a drummer, I had recently quit my band and the rest is history.
Steve: And how excited were you when the call came through that you were in?
Brooks: Yeah very, definitely. It was a joyful day and good transition for my life at that time.
Steve: And you Jay, obviously you have been in a bit longer (they both crack up at dry humour).
Jay: Yeah it’s kinda summed up there, Greg kinda came to school and said let’s start a band and I said ok! (Laughing)
Steve: It’s a common question I ask, but is it still a friends first, band second situation for Bad Religion 30 years on.
Jay: It’s a little bit of everything. Its friends first but it’s also a lot of professional respect as well. Like Brooks has just had children and so with a lot of things we do, we do take that into consideration, like “are you ok doing this?”, “do you need another week?”, “can you fly here?”, “can you do that?”, “Do you have diaper change duties today?” Ya know. Can you stay in the studio an extra hour? I think that’s been one of the things that’s kept us together, is that we like playing as a band but we are good friends and we have individual respect for each other’s lives outside of the band.
Brooks: And as you know touring with a band that you don’t get along with is one the hardest jobs in the world so we are all on the same page with what we want to do and respect each other’s schedules and make it happen.
Steve: Well it seems to be working! There have been a lot of bands celebrating milestones recently, 10, 15, 20 years but not many reach 30 years. And with longevity and what you just spoke about there, it’s about being very open with each other, right?
Jay: Yeah you have to be otherwise it doesn’t work. And Graffin said something recently not that long ago, a month or so ago “compromise means no one is happy” and ya know nothing has ever run truer than that in the band sense. Sometimes you have to put aside your ego or wants and say “I’m willing to compromise for the band.” It really is what’s best for the band and the band isn’t a person it’s a strange globulous entity that doesn’t really exist but it does. So everyone makes compromises for the band.
Steve: But the 30 years tag this year; is that raising expectations from people?
Jay: I don’t think so, I mean a lot of people know us and they don’t expect anything spectacular but it is something to be proud of and we kinda go, why? It’s like having a job at the post office for 30 years (laughing).
Brooks: We have a better backdrop though.
Jay: Oh yeah we have a better backdrop.
Brooks: It’s awesome. That’s what we are giving our fans. (Forever sarcastic and under stated)
Steve: And a free and new album too.
Jay: Yeah that’s coming out May 18th and that’s cool, I think we have tried to make the set list all encompassing and we have always tried to do that, we have tried to make them part of everything and maybe this is more intent on trying to be part of everything.
Brooks: Well that we did expand upon, more rare songs like on this last tour we did at the House Of Blues on the west coast.
Steve: How did that go by the way?
Brooks: Great, we were bouncing around four different set lists which equals like what? Ten thousand songs? So we were busting out some gems that a lot of the diehards were appreciative of.
Steve: I imagine for a band like yourselves when you have one night in a city and you have to decide “what are we going to play for them?” That’s tough?
Jay: Yeah it’s tough.
Brooks: Sure but (with the HOB residency) it kept us on our toes too cos we were backstage listening to out iTunes and reliving songs from 20 years ago and it kept it fresh.
Jay: I think the biggest thing is that you have to accept there are always going to be people that are unhappy you didn’t play a specific song, always. That’s just the way it is ya know, sorry?
Steve: Sure unless you were given time to play forever and ever.
Jay: Well I can play for….
Brooks: (grinning) An hour and a half?
Jay: Haha, maybe an hour 40 minutes. After an hour and half we are playing 30 songs!
Brooks: And as our singer says; for a punk band that’s way too long!
Jay: It’s just the way we play songs. We don’t play one song and stop, we play like three in a row and we play in little blocks. (pausing reflecting on his own words) That’s a lot of fucking songs!
Steve: And what about those little band moments where somebody screws up on stage?
Jay: Never, we are perfect!
Steve: Haha and when plans go awry?
Brooks: Plans! Plans don’t exist!
Jay: Haha I think that’s an endearing part of any band. We have been a staunch advocate for not over rehearsing. Less rehearsal is more.
Brooks: And sometimes it shows (Jay laughing) depending on the tune.
Steve: This year you have announced plans for festivals in particular, do you think there will be time and space in the near future for more city-based shows rather than festival shows?
Jay: No there is stuff planned, but unfortunately there is a lot of stuff we just can’t announce right now. So they (management) lock us in on one thing but we are told we can talk about certain things, and we are like ok.
Steve: Is there a preference though from your side in playing festivals vs headline shows?
Brooks: Well yeah there are huge differences; you don’t have the 200 foot barricade between you and the audience. But there are some great moments too at a festival like this one, to have that many people know your lyrics on some songs, it’s a different energy.
Jay: Well it’s not possible but our preference would be to play a small club show for 200 thousand people.
(Brooks laughing)Brooks: Yeah just very narrow and long!
Jay: Yeah sadly you just can’t do it. Like Brooks was saying we did seven sold out shows in Anaheim and six sold out shows in Hollywood and that’s awesome but you can’t do that in every town on tour.
Brooks: We would never see our families again!
Jay: Right and sometimes when you get the offer to play a big show that’s what you do. We are going to play for as many people as we can cos we have one stop; one show in Belgium, at Groezrock festival.
Steve: Yeah I heard you going to Germany and then back again to LA after this.
Jay: Yeah, we got to go back to the studio. These shows were booked before we had studio time booked.
Steve: On studio time, we said the free download is due in May, and I don’t know what you can’t say about the new record?
Jay: There are only things we can’t say because they don’t exist.
Steve: OK, so hitting the studio, is that something you are excited about as individuals?
Jay: Yeah sometimes people ask if we get nervous before going on stage. My answer is I get nervous about what those guys are going to do (suggesting the band). In that sense I’m really excited about going into the studio with Brooks because every record he has been getting more and more comfortable and happy to play like; monster. You can’t plan for these things, like we’re saying earlier, when you have somebody with Brooks’ talent and the red light goes on in the studio and its (drumming noise) Go! It was like; “that’s incredible”.
Steve: Is it a bit of organised chaos?
Jay: I hope so; if it’s not then we are doing some wrong. If we worked out things to the minute detail then we failed. I don’t want to know what I’m doing until I’m in the middle of fucking doing it. Like “do that again”…. um I can’t.
Brooks: And usually the songs that are under a microscope never turn out the way that they should. My favourite songs are always one takes and you can hear it. You can hear why that take was spontaneous, creative, and special.
Steve: We were recently talking to Hepcat and they were saying something similar about those eureka moments.
Jay: Yeah it’s the magic, no matter how many times you demo a song; you are never going to get that moment again. It just happens and hopefully you can recognise when that happens and stop. We have got 28 days in the studio. 28 days to make a record and were like that’s nothing, that’s enough time. We always make a sign that we hang on the wall, every time we go in the studio we take a sharpie and a piece of paper and write “it’s good enough” and hang it up. We always look at that and say “let’s move on”.
Steve: Is there an end sight, a due date for the record?
Jay: Well definitely maybe (laughing). That’s the goal and I think we can do that.
Steve: Do you think you will have new material before then you can play at shows?
Jay: Well we have one song now we could play, we probably won’t. We were playing it earlier.
Brooks: You can find it at your local YouTube station.
Jay: Yeah, maybe, it depends on what the shows are, once again having 300 songs, do you really want to play a brand new song when you have 22 to play?
Brooks: The new song can be a customer’s way to use it as an intermission to go to the bathroom.
Jay: Yeah like “you people that have to pee, we are going to play a new song now.”
Steve: You mentioned earlier about being star struck and events like Rebellion, but does the jaded aspect ever hit you, the touring and responsibilities that come with being in the band?
Brooks: It depends on what stage of the tour?
Jay: Yeah you know, sometimes? Well we had this time on one European tour when I got so addicted to Grand Theft Auto 3. I would fucking sit there and play and play and play and they would come and grab me and I walked on stage and play and walk off and carry on playing.
Brooks: The only thing on his mind was what is my next move going to be? During the shows, it’s like should I kill that guy, or shoot that prostitute?
Jay: Haha yeah so it does happen and it’s never intentional. Jaded and the negative connotation with that is starting to think, don’t touch me, don’t talk to me, I don’t give a shout about that but my mind just goes somewhere else. Like I could be on stage playing and suddenly think “fuck this shirt stinks” and I’m not in the song at that moment. I’m thinking how bad I smell.
Brooks: Yeah especially at the end of the tour, that happens more.
Steve: And after the tour, do you all live in Los Angeles?
Jay: Half the band does, the other half is east coast.
Steve: And do you also find it’s healthier that way to separate for a while after tour?
Jay: Yeah we have always been that way, spending time away from each other was always very important for the band; to be individuals. We hung out a lot together but we did shit without each other. We all did our own thing. We look at it like a football or a hockey team; we get together and do this thing and we go apart and we do our own thing. And we might all run into each other and go to another show, like “hey we are going to go see Black Flag, meet my friends at Canters”.
Steve: And you as a new dad Brooks, is it tough being away from your family at the moment?
Brooks: Yes because we are coming here four times it’s nice that each one is not getting longer as opposed to like six weeks we are doing in July, but I did the video Skype for the first time last night and that really helped. I can actually get a visual on the family, it’s like anyone in this band it’s always hard being away from your loved ones and it is hard but ya know it’s what we signed up for so our ladies know what they got into before they made the commitment.
Steve: Fair enough, and did your families go to the shows you did in Anaheim?
Brooks: Oh yeah, I had the biggest guest lists every night.
Jay: I was waiting for the babies but they never came. I was highly disappointed.
Brooks: Yeah I wanted to but I was afraid Baker was going to plug in and they were going to be like a foot away so I have got to get them the big headphones. So yeah as soon as I get those and cross buster ear muffs they can come to the next LA show!
We all crack up laughing, and sensing their tiredness I decide to wrap things up.
Steve: Anything you want to say to potential readers, maybe in the UK?
Jay: We are coming, trust me!
Brooks: Even though it’s only been five years we promise.
German transcript updated
English transcript added
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