|Interview - Internet
|The Bad Religion Page (August 2010) (Germany)
|This interview was done just prior to Bad Religion's show in Dortmund, Germany. This was in fact the first ever interview about Anarchy Evolution. It was originally published in 2 parts.
Last Tuesday the website for Greg Graffin’s new book Anarchy Evolution was launched: www.anarchyevolution.com. On this website there’s a (growing) list of dates and places where Greg will be appearing to promote his book. Obviously, a lot of these dates will match with the Bad Religion tour dates. The website also contains a Q&A with Greg in which he tells about him signingall pre-ordered copies of his book. As most of you already know, you can also pre-order it in combination with Bad Religion’s new album The Dissent Of Man from Kingsroad Merch.
On that same day The Bad Religion Page was able to sit down with Greg in Dortmund, Germany to talk about his book. As we found out, this was actually the first ever interview about Anarchy Evolution.
When you hear that you're going to be interviewing Greg Graffin you immediately begin to get terrified. This is for two reasons: 1. You have no idea what this is going to be like and 2. It's Greg Graffin. You're excited and intimidated as hell! He's everything you expect him to be.
So right before the show we sat down in one of the dressing rooms for our exclusive interview.
GG: I’ve been so uninvolved in your website that I think for me to get involved now is pointless. There’s an inherent world out there that talks about me that I don’t pay attention to. And this is probably part of that. I have a philosophy and that’s why I don’t interact with you in general on the page. And I believe that there’s a Bad Religion of my own heart and there’s a Bad Religion of public consumption. I don’t control the public consumption. I can’t control it. People think what they want to think and they talk about it whether it’s accurate or not. They can fight about it. But there’s a certain barrier I want to keep up because it’s my life and any breaches into the privacy of my life would then be for public consumption.
TheBRPage: Has it always been this way for you?
GG: It has always been this way. There are people who are masterful at spin. These are people who are so obsessed with their own public persona that they have anything meticulously laid out. And I’m the opposite of that. I’ve never really paid attention to it. If people say nice things about me I don’t get involved in that either. Because it’s not necessarily based on anything real except their own perception of it. Your website is really good for allowing that to happen and if you take the time to get it right then I respect that even more.
Your website is really an archive of material.
Who did you take it from? Roger?
TheBRPage: There was indeed Roger Vulture, but he kind of disappeared a number of years ago. The last thing we heard is that he left for an island in the south pacific or something.
GG: Really? He disappeared? Who did he give it to?
TheBRPage: That would be Kristoffer from Sweden. He did a redesign of the site when he took over. Then, a couple of years ago the site wasn’t doing too well as it couldn’t be updated anymore. That’s when I [Marty] volunteered to do a complete redesign. And I think it’s doing better than ever.
GG: I hear it’s pretty good. No offense, I don’t spend much time looking at it
TheBRPage: Our main objective is basically to be an archive and right now also doing things like interviews and such.
GG: Like reporting. More journalistic.
TheBRPage: Exactly. And we’re trying to ask somewhat other questions than you’d normally see in interviews with, for example, music magazines. At least, we hope.
GG: You’re the first people really to talk about Anarchy Evolution so we’re in charge.
TheBRPage: The whole reason why we’re sitting here right now is that we came across some information on your publisher’s website. It’s a list of “talking points”, which is basically a summary of what your book is about. Maybe you wrote it, maybe someone else.
GG: Can I see it?
TheBRPage: So you’re familiar with the material?
GG: Yes, now I recognize it.
TheBRPage: So what we did was, we sent this list of talking points to some people on the site who we thought might be interested in the subject because of their studies and such. We asked them to come up questions for us to ask in this interview. All in all we ended up with almost 4 full pages of questions, of which some were extremely in depth and even included formulas.
GG: Ah, fuck them. I’m very non-mathematical in my approach.
TheBRPage: Before we came in you mentioned an announcement earlier today. What was that announcement exactly?
GG: The announcement is that if you pre-order the book you get a signed one. For people familiar with my dissertation that’s nothing new. That I’m doing it again for my book is surprising to most people because most major publishers don’t do that thing. They maybe have the author sign them after they’re done.
TheBRPage: Did you convince them to do it this way or was it the other way around?
GG: It was my idea. On the website www.anarchyevolution.com there’s a Q&A with me and one of the questions is why did I do it. Well, then you don’t have to wait in line [laughs]. A lot of people have to wait in these long lines when I’m doing an appearance. Now I can do an appearance and maybe talk about the books and people already have a signature. It’s just more interesting to talk about what’s in the book.
TheBRPage: So basically saving you time?
GG: Well not really, because I still have to sign them all [laughs].
TheBRPage: The initial release date for Anarchy Evolution was set to April 2010. What caused the delay of 6 months?
GG: When I signed the contract for the book, they always like to say “when are you delivering it by?” I knew that April 2010 was not realistic, because I was teaching paleontology when I should have been writing this book. I was teaching in UCLA last year and while I was teaching I couldn’t start writing. So I started writing during the Warped tour last year. Then I did a serious amount of writing in the Fall of 2009. And the final revisions weren’t going to be done until March of 2010.
They need 9 months or something. We pushed it up a little bit so we could get it out around the same time as the Bad Religion album.
TheBRPage: Which is, of course, a great opportunity for you.
GG: The nice thing about the way that it all worked out - this is also why I subconsciously dragged my feet a little bit in 2009 - consciously I simply didn’t have the time. Maybe subconsciously I was thinking that 2010 was going to be a better year for the kind of things I’m talking about in here.
This is the first time I’ve ever talked about the development of my own life as the singer of Bad Religion. And what better place to talk about it then the 30 year anniversary. So I think it’s a perfect literary supplement to the celebration of 30 years.
One thing you’ll know about me is that I’ve never really paid much attention to merchandizing and sales. Those are things that other guys deal with. And I’m not a big conniver. I don’t think in terms of marketing. I’m not very good at it. All you have to do is read my Twitter and you’ll see [laughs]. Some guys are experts at timing.
TheBRPage: It all sounds so perfect still. First there’s the new Bad Religion album, then a couple of days later there’s your book, followed by a tour to promote both the album and the book.
GG: Well, you can thank Harper Collins, Epitaph Records and the publicist for that because that’s what they’re paid for. And they’re very good at it! So I’m lucky to be involved with those two. And also, Epitaph Records and Harper Collins get along very well. They seem to be very helpful in all of this.
TheBRPage: Apart from the “Talking points”, the site where we found the info on Anarchy Evolution also contains the following: “Graffin is committed to doing whatever it takes to sell the book.”
GG: It’s really also because I’m cheap. I’m kind of a cheapskate [laughs]. The thing is, if they send you on a luxury tour and you live it up and everything, you’ll never ever see a penny from your book sales because they’re going to recoup it from the sales. What I said is: Don’t worry about funding my tour. I’m already on tour with the band. I’ll be on stage at night time and during the day I’ll go to some bookstore in town and hopefully people will show up for it. So we’re really doing it as way to make best use of my time. This year I don’t have to write. Last time I spent time writing before the shows when I’m on tour. Or when I’m traveling I write on the airplane or what not. This time I have nothing to write right now. So I might as well use that time to go and meet people and talk about the book.
Having more time plays into my favor because I really have to develop a new book on the heels of this one.
Here’s something I haven’t told anybody really. I’m looking at this release kind of in the same way as Suffer was the beginning of the release of a series of Bad Religion albums and productivity and my song writing. I want to start to develop more books. As I get older I feel very comfortable sharing ideas with people and it gives you the same satisfaction to be able to talk about these ideas . Maybe in a quieter setting than a punk show. I want this to be a starting point.
GG: I was having a hard time getting the ideas on paper. The ideas were there, but when I read them it made sense as a complicated jumble that my life is. I’m constantly juggling academics and music. And I’ve always respected Steve because he’s such a great science writer for streamlining the narrative. And then one morning I woke up and I said to my wife: “What if Steve Olson was my co-author?” Because I really thought Steve would do it even before I called him. And she said: “Bingo. That’s a great idea.” And when I called him he took a little bit of convincing. He said: “I knew you would be calling me, Greg. But I thought you were going to call to ask for some advice. But the more I think about the idea of co-authoring, the more I think it sounds like a great idea.” After 5 minutes he said: “The more I think about it, I think this could really be a good book.” And certainly if you think it’s easy reading it’s because he’s so great at streamlining. And while I was doing the process, it got me thinking; I’ve always been a collaborator in everything I do. Whether it’s my science, whether it’s my best albums in Bad Religion or even now in writing books. I’m a collaborator. That doesn’t take away one bit of my ideas. The ideas that I have are unique. And I feel good about them, but I always do my best work when it’s a team situation. And I think that’s an important learning theme that I went through when I did this book.
TheBRPage: Is your book about Greg Graffin or is it also a science book by Steve Olson?
GG: You’ll see when you read it that it’s my voice. And Steve didn’t want to take any of that away. It’s my voice, it’s my story and it’s my worldview. Or in German: Weltanschauung. If you ask Steve he’ll say that this is Greg’s book. But I wanted to give Steve co-author because he’s so important to me as a collaborator. And a lot of his expertise in science is in things I’m very interested in: human history, human evolution. And what he brought to this project was not only knowledge of human evolution and understanding of how we’re all related, but also the science writing aspect of it. The streamlining. The best thing now you can do to find the difference between the collaborative effort and my own style of writing is just read the rerelease of my dissertation that’s coming out. I don’t know if you saw that?
TheBRPage: It’s already ordered.
GG: You did? Thanks! [laughs] I’ll give you one also, but thanks for ordering it. It’s not signed but I’ll make an exception for you guys. [At the end of the interview we totally forgot about this, so we're empty-handed - e.d.]
I wrote an afterword for that. And you can read the introduction and read that thing and compare it to Anarchy Evolution. You’ll see that my style is a lot more academic. I think it’s just as informative, but Steve has a knack - because he’s a science writer in a magazine – he has a knack to know what’s going too far towards the academics and losing the general audience. In this book I really wanted to focus on the general audience because it says important things about evolution, it says important things about how we value science in our society. And those things have to reach the average person. It shouldn’t just be talked about in the ivory tower.
TheBRPage: Who’s the target group of Anarchy Evolution?
GG: The target group is anyone from the ages of 15, 14 year old when you're starting to get interested in big picture concepts. How the world works. All the way to first and undergraduate college students who haven’t decided what their major should be yet. So it’s really geared towards the general audience, the literary audience who is focused on some of these big picture questions.
I think it would be a little bit hard for teenagers to read, but undergraduate college students are going to find a lot of it interesting.
TheBRPage: Can a comparison be made between your book and the books by, for example, Richard Dawkins?
GG: Well, my editors would like there to be a connection – because he’s so popular and sold many books. But my connection to him is only on the issue of whether or not naturalists, of which he and I are both, should bill ourselves as atheists or as naturalists. I think it’s a much richer conversation we can have if we say we’re naturalists. He obviously has made a career out of saying that it is more important to call yourself an atheist.
TheBRPage: Talking about atheism, what’s worse? A convinced theist or an atheist (or naturalist) who hasn’t done any research to account for his position?
GG: Aren’t they both the same? If someone is a convinced theist they might have done a lot of research. So the question is: What’s worse? Someone who does no research and has blind faith or someone who does a lot of research and believes anything? I think I would take the guy who does the research and believes in almost anything. As long as they have grounds for their believes. That to me is what’s important. So it’s my belief in fact that if someone has done a lot of research and they’re still a convinced theist, that they haven’t done enough research. But at least they’re interested in doing research! That’s very important. Whereas the guy who just doesn’t do anything – the lazy atheist – to me that person needs to study a little bit more. But only if they’re going to try to express their worldview as a coherent picture of the world. If somebody just says “I don’t really care and there is no God”, then we’re not really talking about a social conversation anyway. I’m not going to judge the person. You know, most people are lazy and most people don’t do research. And we don’t have to have those conversations. I still value them the same as a human being.
TheBRPage: If you’re sitting at a table with someone you don’t know yet, are you immediately interested in their believes?
GG: That’s a good question! No, not about God. I couldn’t care less about what someone thinks. Yes I’m interested in what they do. That’s because I’m a curious person. You know, what do you do for a living? But usually I don’t start talking about someone’s deeply held convictions.
TheBRPage: So it’s never you who starts a conversation about religion?
GG: What a boring conversation that would be.
TheBRPage: It’s still something people would expect from you. Maybe even what you’re “famous” for.
GG: I don’t know what I’m famous for. That’s your guys’ job [laughs]. What I’m committed to – I don’t know if it made me famous or not – is not shying away if someone asks me those questions. So if someone wants to be provocative with me, that’s fine. I’ll gladly welcome that. And then we’re in the discussion and can talk about what it means.
TheBRPage: Do you find it difficult not to become preachy about these topics?
GG: The way to do it is to use “I” statements. I believe this. It’s based on these bits of evidence. You can check it yourself and verify it for yourself if you want to. It’s not being preachy. It’s just saying: As the book says, here’s my view and here’s why I believe this. And I think that’s the most powerful way to make a point. Not using words like “you should” and not saying words like “you’re wrong” and “this is what you ought to do”. A lot of people misconstrue provocation. Asking tough questions is not provocation. I’m not provoking people; I’m raising tough questions.
TheBRPage: One last question: If you had to choose one or more Bad Religion songs for the soundtrack of the audiobook of Anarchy Evolution, which songs would that be?
GG: Oh man, that would have to be a triad. Germs of Perfection, God’s Love obviously and We’re Only Gonna Die [laughs]. That’s a good blend.
A big thanks goes out to Greg for sharing a few precious minutes of his time with us. But also to Cathy (Bad Religion's tour manager) and Kathryn from HarperCollins Publishers.
And last but not least: BrandonSideleau, simian, susu.exp and noparadigm for giving their input for this interview.
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