|Category:||Interview - Magazine||Publish date:||1/1/2008|
|Source:||Abort #8 (2008) (Canada)||With:||Jay Bentley|
ABORT Magazine’s Grimm Culhane catches up with Jay Bentley of Bad Religion during their recent stop in Vancouver. In the alley behind the Commodore Ballroom the boys discuss twenty eight years in the music industry, whether punk is still relevant these days and knowing when to call it quits. All that and they’re only interrupted by a delivery guy once! Well done boys!
Grimm Culhane: Hey this is Grimm Culhane for ABORT Magazine…
Jay Bentley: I love ABORT Magazine! …What exactly is ABORT Magazine?
Grimm: ABORT Magazine is a Vancouver based counterculture magazine…
Jay: No wonder I love it!
Grimm: So we’re here with Jay Bentley of Bad Religion, how are you today Jay?
Jay: I’m ok.
Grimm: What have you guys been up to lately?
Jay: We did two shows in Germany, three in Brazil, this is the forth show on this continent so we’re maybe half way done the present tour. Tomorrow is a day off and then we continue across Canada.
Grimm: Then back down through the states?
Jay: Nope, all the way over to Halifax and then we fly from there back down to L.A. for one show.
Grimm: Any time to work on new material while you’re down there?
Jay: No. Our singer (Greg Graffin) teaches at U.C.L.A., a biology/life sciences 101 class, and they offered him a paleontology class, which pretty much doesn’t exist so he needs some time writing that course out because there’s no real books to go back on and say “here’s the course,” so he needs to make up the core structure. He and Brett and I talked about not having time to write music because he’s going to be writing this, but no big deal. He’ll teach and then maybe we can work on some stuff. We’re in no hurry.
Grimm: And you latest album, New Maps of Hell…
Jay: Oh it’s great; I mean we’re all happy with it. If we stopped right now I’d be totally ok. I’d get in my car and drive home.
Grimm: You guys initially broke through in the early 90’s…
Jay: It depends on what you mean by “broke through.”
Grimm: Well, it seemed about ‘91-‘92 when “alternative” music became mainstream, became something that the commercial radio stations started to play instead of just the college radio stations.
Jay: Yeah, well the palpable difference was Nevermind. When Nirvana put out Nevermind, that was the first time anybody we knew got that big. It was like wow, that’s crazy big! Up until that point we’d all sort of been bubbling under. Everybody maybe getting a song here or there, mostly on college radio, which was fantastic, but every now and then you’d get something on commercial rock radio and go like, “wow, that was weird.” But just for a minute and then it’d go away. I think between ’92 and ’95 was kind of the strange times. (laughs)
Grimm: Yeah it was quite an upheaval.
Jay: (Laughs) Yeah, strange times.
Grimm: The way the music business is now, with so many people downloading, getting music for absolutely nothing…
Jay: That business doesn’t exist anymore. The concept of that business is dead in the water. Nobody sells records. I mean you “do” sell records, but you sell a tenth of what you sold previously.
Grimm: How did that affect you guys?
Jay: It takes a third of your income away. (Laughs) Literally. It’s like cut in half and it’s something you just adapt to, because there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not like people making bootleg t-shirts. You can find them and stop them and say “hey, that’s not cool.” As far as internet downloading, you just have to accept that because there’s no stopping it. This is the end result of everything that lead up to that, which in all honesty, there was a ton of greed on the manufacturers’ end from record labels. The sad part is the bands are the one’s that suffer. Bands still get that attitude of “you guys are rich, fuck you” and its like no. They’re artists and you wouldn’t say that to a painter or a writer or a sculptor. You would never go “fuck you Dali, you dick, rich fag.” He’d be like “WHAT?” I don’t know why bands got thrown in with the recording industry and with all of that. Bands were just as guilty as everybody else, which I understand when you look back at how bands act. We tear up hotel rooms and we drive million dollar cars and date models, all that. That is excess and there’s nothing cool about that so I do see the “fuck you guys, you’ve got enough money.” For every one band that you see exposed and sold to the public there’s ten thousand bands that you’ve never heard of that are now not a band anymore because of this.
Grimm: I talk to a lot of bands who have nothing but problems getting across the border. Has that ever been a problem for Bad Religion?
Jay: Never, but you know, shit happens.
Grimm: Do you think there is a big enough difference between Canada and the United States to make the border crossing something that’s relevant?
Jay: Do you want all those guns up here?
Grimm: No, not really.
Jay: Ok, to me that’s a great reason. If there was ever one reason to stop every fucking car and every person it would just be to ask “do you have any guns? No? Ok, you can go through. Have any guns? Yeah? Ok put them in the trash can over there and then you can come in.”
Grimm: Yeah, ok.
Jay: The way I look at it is; for mathematical purposes let’s say America is one hundred years older than Canada. It’s not true, but let’s just use that as an example. Canada gets the benefit of watching America fuck up and say we’re not going to make those same mistakes. So in a sense Canada has a much better shot at being what America wants to be, but is far beyond that repair. So even though people get into power and say we really need to get a hold on guns, drugs and violent crime, whatever, blah, blah, blah. No, you’re so far beyond that now you might as well shoot criminals into space and that’s not going to happen so let’s admit it’s not going to happen.
Grimm: Ok, (laughs), fair enough.
Delivery Guy: (Pulls up in a truck) Hey, is this the back door of the Commodore?
Jay: (to Delivery Guy) Yep, (pointing) that’s it right there.
Delivery Guy: I have a delivery of a guitar…
Jay: (to Delivery Guy) Shut ‘er down and knock on the door. (to Grimm) That’s good for the interview isn’t it?
Grimm: (Laughs) A delivery? Sure.
Jay: That’s what happens in the middle of interviews… the delivery of a guitar.
Grimm: Any side projects for yourself Jay?
Jay: I play in a band up here every now and then. Some friends of mine Kevin Rose and Sean Mowinnie and we don’t have a name but we’re a damn good rock band, (laughs).
Grimm: And it is “rock” per se?
Jay: Yeah, it is definitely rock.
Grimm: So punk rock in its purest form, I consider Bad Religion to be puritans of punk, do you think it’s as relevant as it once was? Does it still have that rebelliousness to it?
Jay: It can be. I don’t think that the majority of bands using that catch phrase are. I think the word punk sort of became a marketing slogan. “We’re punk.” What does that mean? “Well, we’re against… things.” Like what?
Grimm: So is Bad Religion a punk band?
Jay: We’re just a band. It’s impossible to define what you are and you let critics define what you are, say what they want about you, whatever. We’re just guys. We just write songs and if you want to call us punks it was probably correct in 1980 because that’s the people we hung out with. That was our crew. Those were the shows we played. Opening for the Circle Jerks was a punk rock show. Ok, fair enough. 2008? I mean if you’re opening for Avril Lavigne are you punk? You could be construed as such because she’s quote unquote “punk.”
Grimm: So, thirty years. Almost thirty years doing this…
Jay: Twenty-eight, yeah.
Grimm: Any end in sight? Is there going to be a day when Jay says ok, Bad Religion, let’s put that down?
Jay: The end in sight has been seen a long time previous. I don’t know exactly when it is, but we know “what” it is and that’s something that we have discussed. We said we know exactly “what” it will be and we’re determined to make sure that we don’t become a parody of ourselves and that we’re out trying to be something that we’re just not. We’re happy with ourselves. When we’re in the studio making records, this last record in particular, when we’re at the last moment and listening to the record through and we look at each other and go yeah. I’ve made records were, at that moment, I’ve gone “this record just sucks,” but we’ve got to put it out. We’re contractually obliged, fuck it, put this record out. Let’s just throw it out into the market and we’ll paint on a smile and say this is the best thing we’ve ever done. I hated that, so I said at that point if we ever get back to that, which I hope to God we don’t, that’s the day we just hang it up and everybody knows that. When we become disillusioned with ourselves and we’re trying to make something and it’s not happening… park the car.
Grimm: Out of those ten thousand bands that haven’t made it yet, anyone we should know about from your perspective?
Jay: There’s so many. Last night in Seattle a friend of ours, Poo, he’s the drummer from The Briggs and they’re a great band, he’s talking to me about how it’s just tough. They’re getting a hundred dollars a night to go on tour, they can’t make it anymore and thinking about parking it and I said hey listen, I see so many bands out there and if they came to me and said “hey what do you think?” I want to say to them you need to stop. You’re great and all and if you’re really having a good time that’s great, keep doing it, but if you are doing it to be successful, you’re going through the motions and I can see you have the right clothes and your hair looks good, but there’s no art, there’s no love, there’s no passion, it’s just a vehicle for chicks, and that’s just bad. So, I was telling Poo, I said that you guys are really good and you just have to give yourself enough time for a true audience to find you. They are looking for you, but they don’t know that and you don’t know that. One day they’ll find you and everyone will be happy.
Grimm: Well Jay, I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.
Jay: Absolutely, anytime.
Interview image(s) added: Diplomatic Defense
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English transcript updated: Bad Religion Reflect on 40 Years Together
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Article added: Hartbeat #10
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Review added: The Genius Of... The Process Of Belief By Bad Religion