The official occasional newsletter of Bad Religion
ISSUE NUMBER 11, June 2001
* In this issue: What It Is
* BR Tours With Blink-182, May - July 2000
* BR, The New America Tour, July 2000 - March, 2001
* Songwriting With Brett and Greg
* Mr Brett Re-joins BR, BR Re-joins Epitaph
* Bobby Schayer's Shoulder
* Brooks Wackerman Joins Bad Religion
* The Process of Belief
* The Recording Sessions
* THE RELEASE DATE
* Bad Religion Research Fund Recipient
* From The Mailroom
* Contact BR
WHAT IT IS
Well, it has been a year of surprising changes in our camp since the last newsletter came out. The New America Tour finally ended in March of 2001 having played in more cities around the world than any other BR tour. During the last legs of that tour, we also witnessed the last legs of one of the great punk drummers, Bobby Schayer. As you might have read in the news wires, Bobby sustained a career-ending progressive injury to his shoulder that finally sidelined him for good a couple weeks ago. We all miss him, and we have received hundreds of emails and letters wishing him well and hoping that his life will still prosper despite the inability to play drums. Thanks to all of you who wished him well during this difficult time.
The tour was long and arduous, and since it went on for so long, we began writing the new album even before the New America campaign had ended. Let us just say that we are today a much different band than we were when that tour started. To better illustrate the current of events that transpired during the course of the last 9 months, I will now list them as sub-headings. Hopefully, it will give you some appreciation for our new complexion and new state of affairs.
BR TOURS WITH BLINK-182, May-July, 2000
I don't believe in mistakes except when you are playing chess, or reciting a musical piece.
In life there is just change. Change is neither good nor bad, it is simply categorized in my brain as "change". If you recognize and learn from the changes that have transpired in life, then THAT is a good thing.
If you fail to learn to recognize change, or if you fail to make something of the opportunities that come to be because of change, then THAT is a bad thing. There was a lot of good that came from our tour with Blink-182. In fact, it is hard for me to analyze the bad because I am so generally forward looking. While the tour was going on, I simply focused on the next leg of the tour which was to be our own shows playing for our own fans. This first leg of the New America tour was a warm-up for those important shows.
During this time there was no talk of a new album by BR. We were too busy, playing too many shows to think about the next album. We were just excited to get on with our own tour and play the new album for our fans.
BR, THE NEW AMERICA TOUR, July 2000 - March, 2001
We were very pleased with the way the shows went during this period. It was exhausting of course, we were playing between 4 and 6 shows a week, every week, but the Blink-182 tour gave us a good amount of practice on the new material so we were honed by the time we embarked. There were more people that came out to these shows than any other tour in our history and we want to thank you all for that! It was also great playing in some new cities for fans who had waited so long, but never got a chance to see us before, particularly memorable were Porto, Portugal, Buenos Aires, Argentina (it had been so many years since we were there), Murcia, Spain, Porto Alegre, Brazil, and those few out of the way places in the USA that hadn't gotten a glimpse of us since the old-school days, Ventura, California, Reno, Nevada, and Old Bridge, New Jersey (the closest we could get to the legendary lost venue of City Gardens). The people at these shows, and of course those at the 112 other cities we visited (our 'usual stops') made us feel so welcome and appreciated, we might not ever stop touring!
During this tour, we began to think about what kind of an album we wanted to make next. We were in a bit of limbo so to speak, because our label obligation to Atlantic and Sony Music were completed with the delivery of "The New America". That meant that we became free agents half-way through the tour.
I had been spending more time with my old friend Mr. Brett during this period, and he had come to see a couple of the New America shows. He was impressed by the great production and the sound quality, and as he told me these things, I siezed the opportunity to tell him what I really thought. I told him that I would love it if he would come back in the band because the timing was perfect and in fact I had been missing him for a couple of years now. Two years prior I had reminded him how when we were still teenagers he was so passionate about making the best album ever released. I said that I still felt it was possible, even now, so many years and so many albums later, and I thought we could do it together, because I wasn't sure that I could do it myself, and I thought that we make a better team than almost any other pair in music. The enthusiasm of that conversation was tempered however by the fact that we still owed Sony Music and Atlantic another record, and Brett was really busy with producing and running Epitaph. But during the New America tour, our obligations shifted. BR no longer owed our music to the major labels, and Brett's obligation to his own creative output began to swell. It became clear that maybe this dream of reunification could become a reality.
Brett decided at some point during the year 2000 that he wanted to spend more time writing music. When he made this decision, and we realized that we were now free agents without recording obligations to our major labels, the beacon of enlightenment guided us to the most wonderful and simplistic dialog: Greg: "Brett will you write and record the next BR album with us and come back to the band where you belong?" Brett: "Greg, will you and Bad Religion come back home to Epitaph where you belong?" We began preparations before we could even respond in the affirmative.
SONGWRITING WITH BRETT AND GREG
Even before any contracts were drawn up, or official press-releases were written, we began a series of writing sessions that lasted for weeks at a time. Brett and I both have Pro-Tools studios at our houses so we are able to record musical ideas, save them as computer files, and transfer them to the other's studio. When we were together for the writing sessions, much of the time was spent compiling these idea-files and adding to them in a way that was both sonically fulfilling and very efficient. It was clear from the outset that Brett's ideas were consonant with mine: we both had in mind a classic sounding Bad Religion album, one that the fans will have been waiting to hear! The last time Brett and I collaborated on an effort like this was the album "Stranger than Fiction". Because of this, we sort of set that record as our benchmark. We wanted to best that effort on every count. With that as our goal we figured we couldn't lose!
The songs came together really quite rapidly. Although some songs were a bit awkward at first, we bolstered each other's best tendencies. Brett let me know how much confidence he has when he writes songs for me to sing. I told him how his skills at production, arrangement, and guitar rhythms improve my songwriting. We were both more confident songwriters than we had been in years.
MR BRETT RE-JOINS BR, BR RE-JOINS EPITAPH
At family reunions it almost seems like no time at all has passed since the last gathering. This is a good way to describe the feeling of making this new album. It is like a big family reunion. It is as if we had all forgotten about whether any animosity even existed in the past at all. Much of the tension in the past was focused around fights between Jay and Brett. Whatever caused them are forgotten things of the past and it is like brothers in a family who fight about things when they're young that later seem so trivial. We have all grown a lot since those early days, and it is important to remember that we started out together when we were mere teenagers (I was 15, Jay was 16, Brett was 17 years old). Many of the dynamics of our relationships have changed simply because we have grown up and experienced the world as individuals. Today we are better at resolving disputes, more careful about stating our cases, and more focused on the really important thing, staying together as a team!
It was announced to the press in April, 2001, that we would be re-signing with Epitaph and that Brett had re-joined the band. Although the fast-spreading news created an outpouring of enthusiasm from our fans, we were finalizing the songwriting, and making plans to rehearse the new album, when some serious news came that threatened the whole scenario.
BOBBY SCHAYER'S SHOULDER
While the preparations for the new album were being finalized and the ink was drying on the new record contracts we found out that Bobby would have to end his career. We were getting ready for a two-week tour of Europe and we had all gathered in Los Angeles to rehearse, except Bobby, who said his doctor advised him to give up playing drums due to a chronic progressive shoulder injury that will not heal. We are still coping with this loss, he is a great friend of ours, and the fans will miss him on tour. It was a shocking realization how fragile all anticipation can be.
BROOKS WACKERMAN JOINS BAD RELIGION
The band decided that we should re-schedule the June, 2001 European shows immediately.
We had booked a few weeks of rehearsal studio time and we were all in LA together, without a drummer. Instead of using that studio time for rehearsals, it became an audition session. The fifth person to try-out for Bobby's position was Brooks Wackerman, who had been playing with Suicidal Tendencies, and the Vandals for a few years. His family is well-known in the percussion world, his brother Chad is one of only a few drummers to play with Frank Zappa's band. Brooks was so good, we only had to hear him play one or two songs before we knew that he was the best drummer we had ever heard! I asked him innocently: "do you WANT to be in Bad Religion, because we need a drummer for touring and recording and to be a part of this band, not just a temporary stand-in for Bobby?" When he answered YES! we all knew we had filled Bobby's position with a mind-blowing punk drummer. With our tour postponed, and studio time booked, we were ready to start rehearsing for the new album.
THE PROCESS OF BELIEF
This year was one that would have been hard to believe if someone would have prophesied it. But I lived it so I believe it!
Many of the songs that Brett and I had written pertain to the issue of belief. In fact, that is really a traditional theme that we have written about for two decades now!
Belief is a part of human nature, it is a biological process. Even without culture we would have belief. For instance, we would believe that the sun would come up each morning, even if we had no clue how or why it rose on the horizon. This form of belief is a kind of biologically programmed anticipation that we use to live our lives. It is a part of the natural history of all mammals, most highly developed in the "higher" mammals like dolphins and apes (which includes us by the way).
Culturally programmed belief is a sibling of this biologically programmed belief. It is the kind of belief that deals with people obeying the rules of society. For our cultural development we must be taught how to believe. Knowing how we will react in social situations and learning how society will react to us is a part of this process. But often times this kind of belief seems arbitrary and contrived, with very little relevance to our biological needs.
The last year has been a great period of growth, and a great period of songwriting, an exercise of Bad Religion's human nature! That is why we decided to call the new album "The Process of Belief". It comes from a lyric on the album: "The process of belief is an elixir when you're weak. I must confess at times I indulge on the sneak. But generally my outlook's not so bleak. And I'm not meek. I'm materialist!"
THE RECORDING SESSIONS
We begin recording next week, so there is nothing to report yet. But one thing is certain. We haven't had such high anticipation for making a record in many, many years. It is going to be produced by Brett and Greg, and mixed mostly by Mr. Brett, with some songs going to our friend Jerry Finn for his excellent mixing touches.
THE RELEASE DATE
"The Process of Belief" will be in stores the third week of October, 2001.
BAD RELIGION RESEARCH FUND RECIPIENT
Because of drastically changed schedule of priorities this year, we must postpone the announcement of this years award. We received a number of excellent proposals this year, but we won't have a chance to read them until after the album is finished. That means that an announcement can be expected no earlier than the Fall. We are sorry, but we had to prioritize our efforts, and we felt that a new album would have to take precedent.
We are in the process also of initiating a program whereby companies and individuals can make tax-deductible contributions to the research fund. When this is initiated we hope to be able to raise enough money to fund more than one proposal, perhaps as many as five proposals each year.
This administration will probably not happen until late Summer/early Fall. We will update the webpage as soon as details become available.
FROM THE MAILROOM
A couple themes have developed lately in the mail we have been receiving. I thought it might be instructive to devote this issue's mail section exclusively to them. The themes center around the "Crossbuster logo of Bad Religion" and "Pernicious Administration in America's Schools".Our letters tell a story of intolerance in society, and serious misapplication of the guidance and mentoring skills that administrators and teachers are supposed to have. Maybe there is a serious problem brewing. As illustrated in these letters, the teachers and administrators are not only stupid, but mean also.
Dear Bad Religion,
My name is Melissa, I'm 16 and in the 10th grade at some small farmer school. About a month ago our principal had to leave and go have surgery for his cancer. So they brought in some new guy from channel 24 news to be our principal. He's a real jerk. He's constantly telling girls not to kiss their boyfriends in front of him because it makes him jealous. The other day I was walking down the hall and Mr. Channel 24 stops me. He asks me where I am headed blah blah blah. I had my lyrics notebook in my hand. It has a Bad Religion sticker with a crossbuster on it. He asked me what it was so I told him it was a Bad Religion sticker. Then he said I would have to cover it up because it was disrespectful. Then I asked him why people can wear shirts that say "jesus rules" or "I love jesus" but I'm not allowed to have this sticker. His answer was "because I said so". When I told him that I wasn't going to cover it up he took my notebook. It was my lyrics notebook that I never let anyone read and he started reading through it. He said he was going to have to keep it and show it to some people. He said there wasn't a chance of me getting it back. Then he gave me a month of detentions... I just want to know why it is okay for people to wear "I love Jesus" shirts but I am not allowed to have a Bad Religion sticker on my notebook. No one else will answer me, so I figured you would be the one to ask.
Melissa (via email)
There is really no excuse for an administrator to confiscate lyrics, or poems, or anything classified as art, and keep it for themselves. They might try to defend themselves by hiding under a pile of legal codes that say you can't call something art if it is encouraging violence or something like that. But that is just a cheap way of justifying their feeble-minded power exercise. This was a display of weakness by this administrator, and he was betraying good administrators everywhere by his behavior. If he can't allow freedom of expression in his school, maybe he should be a prison guard instead of a principal, there he can't interfere with the development of young people's minds. I hope you get your lyrics back, I understand how painful it is to lose notebooks containing words and ideas. Tell him I will gladly vouch for you, and I will explain to him personally the lack of threat inherent in the crossbuster if he wants to call me.
There is a Grass Roots Christian organization at my school. They were able to pass out bibles at my school. I asked them if they got permission first and they said yes, there is actually some paper work that you can get from the school district office that allows you to get a permit to pass out literature to students on campus. I filled out the paper work and I got a permit to pass out a pamphlet on "differing views of the Judeo Christian philosophy". I and several friends put together a tasteful leaflet of quotes from various authors (Nietschze, Emerson, Kafka, etc..) And our submissions about our views on Christianity. Well, after about 20 mins of passing out our leaflets they filtered back to some of the teachers at the school. Lets just say that I now have 5 weeks of Saturday school (which I am appealing), for passing out "incendiary and prejudicial" materials. Some of the teachers at my school wanted me to be expelled because I was "disriminating" against my fellow Christian classmates. Just lettin you know that it is not just a one time occurrence, but there is a systematic prejudice against non Christians who practice their beliefs.
Daniel from Seattle (via email)
This administration is utter nonsense! The school sounds like it has good intentions by approving a permit for you to pass out leaflets, and then harshly reprimands you for going through with the act. I think your teachers and administrators were threatened because your choice of authors was more intellectual than they could handle.
Schools should NOT be institutions of Christian indoctrinization. They should be introductions to the methods of reasoning and understanding that you will explore later in college and/or life in general. If they can't fulfil even the slightest hint of this, they should close up shop. Teachers who think that opposing views constitute "discrimination" are idiots. They need to go back to college and quit picking on people who are trying to get there.
Dear Bad Religion,
I have some advice I need to ask of you... today at my school I was pulled out of class and sent to the dean. He asked me to take off the Bad Religion flag (the "crossbuster" one) that I had on the back of my suit and give it to him. Then he said that my Crass shirt also depicted an "anti-flag", and I said it wasn't, so he told me it looked like one and that is all that mattered. Then he told me "Religion has no place in school", well thats funny I thought to myself, half the school staff and a lot of kids pray every morning around the flag pole... He called my mom and said "things of this manner are not tolerated here, we don't want to have any controversy at school", and he kept my flag. I left the office really pissed off and I had to wear a sweatshirt for the rest of the day. My friend Jason wrote a petition. It basically said that anarchy is a political idea, and that atheists should be treated the same as Christians, so if we can't wear anarchy and Bad Religion symbols, then no more democratic shirts, or Christian shirts etc... Anyway, we got like 100 people to sign it at lunch! I'm just curious if this is even worth fighting for. My parents are Christian, but only out of fear, and they tried to ground me for wearing my suit, which is fuckin stupid, and so they told me to give it up and it's not worth fighting for, and a lot of my peers seem to agree with them, so what do you think?
Travis from Florida (via email)
I always think it is definitely worth fighting for something you believe in! The degree to which you want to fight is another question and that has to be carefully gauged by you, taking into account the opinions of all those you respect.
You are experiencing one of the most frustrating things about our society: If you have a difference of opinion, you will be seen as a "troublemaker". Why couldn't we instead have a society where a unique view is applauded? Where people are seen as "wimps" or "followers" if they go along with the party line just to alleviate controversy? Controversy is GOOD! It isn't violent, or dangerous, it is a process of coming to terms and understanding other people. If controversy leads to war, then that is wrong and it should be avoided by diplomacy. I hope you can find a way to raise your voice without jeopardizing your status. It is a difficult task I know.... I have been doing it since grade school.
Dear Mr. Graffin,
Recently in my Ecological Anthropology class we were discussing ways to improve the general public's lack of knowledge about how evolution works. One of the students commented that improving the situation was hopeless because "no one listens to anything that isn't on a CD." I responded that even if that was true, it didn't mean things were hopeless. I then mentioned that the front man for Bad Religion was a graduate student in an evolutionary biology program. This sparked considerable interest as over half the class had heard of Bad Religion, and several students were already aware of your interests in evolutionary biology. There was a general consensus that future BR songs could contribute to the solution of ecological problems through increasing understanding, or at least awareness, of evolutionary concepts, or perhaps correcting certain misunderstandings.... So on behalf of ANTH 341 "Ecological Anthropology" at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, please consider including as many evolutionary concepts in your future songs as possible.
Department of Anthropology,
University of Colorado
Thanks for the encouragement! Well, the students will be glad to know that there are a number of evolutionary issues on our new album which is being released October 23rd, 2001. I am always motivated to write about evolution in our songs, 1. Because I have been trained in evolution and it is one thing I know well, and its premises sound cool in songs. 2. Because I believe that if people had a better understanding of evolution, they would avoid fallacious reasoning that sees humankind as superior and apart from nature, a foolish mistake, that if corrected would lead to less ecological destruction. Since there is so much to write and sing about, there is no worry that BR will run out of material for a long time!
Dear Bad Religion,
Can you help me? I was in Art Class and they told us to draw symbols that represent ourselves. I was drawing Punk and SKA bands that I like and I drew the "crossbuster". Then the teacher pulled me out of class and told me to get rid of it because we were supposed to be drawing positive symbols. I told her that it was a positive symbol and she kept saying that it couldn't be a positive symbol so I told her it was a band symbol and she said she didn't want any negative bands on the paper. Can you explain what the symbol stands for so I can finally shut her up?
Henry (via email)
I went to the store the other day wearing one of your crossbuster shirts, very proud of it I might add. A random woman started whispering to her husband about it. I overheard her and just glared at her. I hate to be stared at. Well, I know that she thought it was very offensive, as lots of people do. I'm a nice person though. I am constantly getting talked about, even having people say "Oh, do you worship the devil or something?" I really don't know what to say to these people. I'm always having to say "Dude-chill, it's a band I like" but I don't feel like that is explaining the meaning behind your logo. So if you get a chance, let me know.
Princess Adelia (via email)
Dear Bad Religion,
Cleary the most obvious interpretation of the "crossbuster" logo is an attack on the Christian religion. Is it supposed to symbolize an attack on Christianity, or religion in general? I was just wondering if you are against religion in general, and simply attack Christianity because it is the easiest target, or if your stance is specifically against Christianity.
"Psych" (via email)
Dear Bad Religion,
Hi, I've been a fan for about 12 years and would like to hear your thoughts on something. I've had several discussions with people about the meaning behind calling yourselves Bad Religion. I've heard many different thoughts and have my own, but I'd like to hear it in your words. It's a wonderful name because it has stirred up so much conversation around it - it's made people dig for deeper meanings.
Noelle from Canada (via email)
To everyone who has problems similar to these last few letters,
The crossbuster is a logo that has been a part of Bad Religion since the time of the debut EP of the band in 1980. It means something different to every person that wears it or draws it. That is why it is so popular, because it finds a way to say something about the life of the people who are attracted to it. To those who are repulsed by it, or fearful of its intentions, it seems like an attack, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
The crossbuster is NOT an anti-Christian campaign, it is NOT an anti-religion campaign. The crossbuster is a statement that you will not find religious moralizing, theological reasoning, or deist principles within the songs of Bad Religion. Just like the "No Parking" sign means that you won't find a free space here, but you are free to park somewhere else. We don't fight against people who want to believe in religious doctrines, but we don't feel like we have a responsibility to maintain religious tenets since we don't agree with all of them. Bad Religion believes that morality does not have to be dictated by the stories in the bible. There are many paths to a moral life, and Bad Religion has always tried to illustrate this in our songs.
Some have said "why do you use the cross as the symbol instead of other religious icons"? The reason we use the cross is because we come from a Christian country, and we are most familiar with people who call themselves Christian. So in a sense we are criticizing a way of life that we ourselves have to deal with every day, American society. If we were to use a symbol from other, more foreign religions, it would promote far more confusion and we would find ourselves defending a symbol that criticized a group of people we have very little experience with. It would be a less credible position, a less effective logo, and we would be a less interesting band.
The name Bad Religion is a provocative one. The most important thing to acknowledge is that we use the word "Religion" as a metaphor for any prescriptive, codified system that restricts one's freedom and behavior...and we think this is bad. At first this might seem like we are suggesting anarchy, but that is not really our goal. We do believe in moral behavior, we just don't think that the traditional religions are the only place that we learn our morals. In fact at least one of us (your author, Graffin) believes that there are better sources of morality than the traditional religions. This doesn't mean that we don't like religion, it just means that we acknowledge its limitations and problems and would like to explore other avenues to improve our lives and the world.
Many things can be bad religions, such as economic systems, political systems, penal systems, basically anything that people blindly subscribe to without understanding or caring about it's implications.
The name also implies, in a more subtle secondary way, that the band itself represents an example of a bad religion, meaning that believing in us as your saviors won't make your life complete. Obviously, most people don't have a problem with this meaning, but the first one (above) is a bit more controversial. Many people in our society cannot accept our suggestion that there might be better ways to live than a religious way of life. These are the same people who assume we are out to destroy the world, whereas we think they are doing an adequate job of it themselves! They couldn't be more wrong.
In my senior year of high school, after decades of not allowing questionable ideas on clothing, the local schoolboard banned ALL clothing that was deemed theistic, atheistic, and non-theistic in nature. Now, being disgustingly open-minded, I hold no particular spiritual views (too busy reading), but I would much rather Fear God shirts BE allowed in school alongside Dead Kennedy "In God We Trust Inc." logos. In our disgusting quest to defend our freedom to not be insulted, something EVERY institution and minority in our society seem to be participating in at times, we are threatening to descend into an anti-intellectual Fahrenheit 451 type world. Punk is very instrumental in fighting this, as it is punk music and culture that has give people, like myself, that much needed shove into intellectualism. Thanks for the music and the words.
Craig (via email)
And thanks to Craig as well, for recognizing the importance of allowing people to express themselves without hindrance. When ignorant people are free to express themselves, they are just advertising that they need more education!
Here is one from a MOM in Florida:
To whom it may concern,
I am returning this shirt to you. The picture on the internet was not clear enough to see the child holding a gun. I am sorry to see you promoting violence to teens. I don't think the cause needs any help. I hope to receive a full refund in the near future.
Joanne, Jacksonville, FL
Obviously, her son or daughter ordered a shirt from us off the website and when Mom got a look at it she freaked! The image she panicked about is the one with the kids pledging allegiance to the flag, while holding their right hands over their hearts and their guns in the left hand (satirizing the two things Americans hold most dear, the flag and the gun; see Bad Times 10, pg 1 for this image in full color). The image does not promote high school violence any more than a war movie like "Full Metal Jacket"promotes war. In both instances the depictions of the reality are disgusting, and non-glorifying. The fact that school kids carry their parents guns is a sick problem in America. It won't go away by censoring. It should be depicted on clothing, because those who wear it can be asked their views on it, and the issue will be out in the open, not some scary taboo that can't be discussed. I think most Americans want to sweep reality under the carpet. They don't want to acknowledge the ugliness in the world, and they get angry if artists show them any interpretation of reality.
We gladly refunded her money.
And finally, in this next letter BR goes from first to worst in a few short sentences:
Dear Bad Religion,
You guys are by far one of the greatest bands around, or should I say were one of the greatest. Why no, no, I know why but how could you go and do a stupid thing like selling out? But the worst part is that you're exploting all of the good bands on Epitath, not just your selves. #1 you and NOFX are just pumping the albums now #2 you toured with blink 182 for christ sake #3 warped tour was straight cheese ball this year. And whats with all the gay ass new bands your signing? Man, you know what fuck you cause your ruining our life taking our sub-cualture mainstream you asshouls, Fuck You!
From Suz (via email)
Being angry and under the influence has its charm doesn't it?
11601 Wilshire Blvd. Suite #2300
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Ithaca, NY 14852