|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||2/1/1996|
|Source:||Addicted To Noise, no. 2.02, February 1996 (United States)||With:||Bobby Schayer, Greg Hetson|
|Synopsis:||The Bassist and the Drummer sound off about the past, present and future of punk rock.
Greg Hetson and Bobby Schayer
by Roy Trakin
The Bassist and the Drummer sound off about the past, present and future of punk rock.
Addicted to Noise: Did having Ric Ocasek produce help in terms of song structure? He always seems to bring out the pop hooks in even the most forbidding avant-garde bands, like Suicide and Bad Brains.
Greg Hetson: He didn't really try to change any of the songs. It was just getting good performances out of us and good live energy.
ATN: The record was made very much live in the studio, with everyone playing in one room at one time.
GH: Did someone tell you that earlier?
ATN: Was that very different from past albums?
Bobby Schayer: When I first joined the band, the first record we made, Generator ('92), we recorded that way.
GH: No, because there weren't enough mics to play all at once.
ATN: In the past, you had to make a record like this because you couldn't afford to do it any other way. This time, it was an aesthetic decision.
GH: We were more prepared on this record, which means we rehearsed four or five times before we went into the studio.
BS: The year before, Brian [Baker] and I went up to New York maybe two months before the album was recorded and we rehearsed. At the same time, Greg [Graffin] and Brian came up with more songs for the record. I think the whole overall feel came out well. We were prepared when we went in.
ATN: What was the difference in recording with a major label budget as opposed to past sessions?
GH: [Laughs] We still do it the same way we always do... get in and get out. We took about a month from start to finish.
ATN: What was Ocasek like in the studio?
GH: The one thing that's completely different than we've done before is the drum sound. It's a lot larger than it ever was. The whole thing is just big and beefy. There were certain ways he'd suggest EQ'ing the guitar amps. He didn't do much to the board... just make sure we were using the right mics in the right places. He experimented that way without changing our basic sound.
BS: Basically, we used one big Black Beauty snare drum on the whole thing. He really brought the sound out. It was more of a relaxed atmosphere for us because he's a musician. It's the first time we had an actual musician produce us. He would give suggestions on stuff, but left it up to us to do what we do best and backed us up 100%.
GH: He did force us to do more takes than we thought were necessary. He kept telling us we could do it better and we'd go, "No, we can't," and then, of course, he was always right.
ATN: Greg, you participated in the recent Circle Jerks reunion. How come you chose to remain with Bad Religion instead of doing both?
GH: We gave it a shot with the Circle Jerks, but I didn't think things were going the right way, so I bowed out.
ATN: This whole punk revival has brought a lot of old bands out of the woodwork. What's it like for you to see this music get commercial acceptance after starting out some 15 years ago playing punk-rock?
GH: I don't know about massive commercial appeal. I can count on two fingers the number of platinum albums that were earned by punk bands over the last three years. Green Day and Offspring. We haven't reached that level. Nobody has and maybe nobody will. So I don't know what the big deal is about the punk revival. People may be more aware of what went on in 1980 and some of the newer punk bands have sold a few more records. But there's no trickle-down economics in this whole thing and I think that's what these major labels believe is going to happen. For trickle-down, there's an asterisk: "See George Bush"... And it didn't work.
ATN: In other words, Green Day and Offspring's coat-tails are not necessarily going to carry Bad Religion to the top of the charts.
GH: Or All or Pennywise or any of those bands.
ATN: Do you feel the pressure more to succeed after being signed to a major label? While your first Atlantic record seemed to bend over backwards to prove you could make an uncompromising record even though you were signed to a major label, on The Gray Race, you seem to do what you've done best in the past: two minute, hook-filled power-pop anthems.
GH: I don't know about pressure. We're happy the band has grown a certain percentage, sales-wise, with each album. Longevity is better than being a flash-in-the-pan, where you have your two years of glory and then you're bitter for the rest of your life.
ATN: For alot of people, this is almost like your second record, when you've been around for more than 15 years. Do you attach a special importance to this album in career development terms?
GH: We all think every record we make is good and we want it to do well. We put all of ourselves into it. But it's not like one is more important than another.
ATN: How has the band regrouped since Brett has left?
GH: We were a little concerned, but it brought us closer together, man. That's a cheesy sentiment, but it kinda did.
BS: It put a lot of emphasis on what we were doing. This was the first time we recorded outside of L.A. in New York City (at Electric Ladyland). There was just a lot of preparation for this record. When I first joined the band, I had to learn t he songs right in the studio. One time through. I actually learned the songs on guitar this time first, so I could know the verses and choruses.
ATN: How do you feel about Graffin's lyrical point of view? Do you agree with his political stance on things?
GH: It's not really political because it's not real preachy. That's not what we're about. There are other bands that do that and do it well. I agree with 98% or more... There have only been a few instances where we had to ask Greg, "What the he ll did you mean there?" because we didn't think we could back him up, but it was just our interpretation which was off.
ATN: What impact does it have on the band to have everyone living in different places? [Hetson is the only member who still lives in L.A., with Graffin in Ithaca, Bobby in Seattle, Brian in D.C. and Jay in Vancouver.]
BS: It actually keeps the band closer. It's like not seeing your family for a long time. It makes it more exciting to be together. If we were rehearsing like, seven days a week, I think, knowing our personalities, we would just go nuts after awh ile. It helps us focus more on the time we have together.
ATN: What do you do between albums and tours, Greg?
GH: I'm working with some bands, trying to produce and help them out. Play a little ice hockey.
ATN: Are you a California native?
GH: I was born in Brooklyn and moved here when I was two. I lived in Sheepshead Bay.
ATN: When does the tour start?
GH: We'll be starting at the end of February in Europe and should hit the States in March.
ATN: How does it feel to still be playing to kids who are 18 years old? Can you still identify with them?
GH: I think younger people are still more open to new ideas. There will be a time when we give it up because we don't want to embarrass ourselves like a lot of bands from the '70s are doing out there. I don't want to be playing some punk revival at Sid Caesar's Palace, no. Bad Religion at the John Davidson Theater in Branson, MO.
ATN: Is the live experience what ultimately defines Bad Religion? The songs seem written to be played in front of a rabid audience.
BS: It's a bit of both, probably. I like playing live, but I also like the recording part of it because it's like the rough draft, the model. You put it together and can see what the end result is. And then when we play them live, that's a test for us, too. It's a lot of fun.
ATN: How do you keep this three-chord punk fresh?
GH: We're not allowed the luxury of being progressive. This is the style I pretty much grew up playing on guitar.
ATN: How has the addition of Brian [Baker] affected the band?
GH: He's got a good sense of humor, which is always a plus. And he's a good player.
BS: Plus he's got a similar background to ours. So he understands the band. What we're about and where we came from.
GH: This is the type of music I play best. If I try to play a jazz standard, it still comes out like this. No matter what I play, this is what it sounds like.
ATN: Do you miss the camaraderie and community of the good old days of punk in the early '80s?
GH: The camaraderie of the bands was fun in those early days. The stuff that's overrated is all that glory days of punk. Playing places with no toilets and holes in the wall, police harrassing you. It was a good time, not only for the camarader ie between the punk bands, but the whole L.A. music scene that wasn't heavy metal. Where you could go and hang out... There was a musical community. It wasn't just punk... it was like, the Blasters, the Plimsouls, Los Lobos... Everyone hanging out toget her.
ATN: Greg sings about a world where everyone can realize their own potential, a world where everyone can feel they belong, they're part of something larger than themselves. But in "Come Join Us," he actually pokes fun of that urge in a way simil ar to Dylan saying, "Don't follow leaders, watch parking meters." So, on the one hand, you get a call for community, but on the other, a realization we're all individuals who must go back to our own lives after experiencing that kind of unity seeing the band for that hour or so in concert.
GH: But you should make the best of it while you're there all together and not fuck with each other.
ATN: But there is that element of cynicism, like "We Won't Get Fooled Again."
GH: Well, some people will take it and get something out of it and some people will sing it because it's catchy. That's just the reality. Some people want to drink the Kool-Aid, some people buy a Seven-Up.
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Article image(s) added: Metal Hammer February 2002