AMH’s Luke Bunworth caught up with Jay Bentley, bassist of legendary punk band Bad Religion. With 31 years under their belt, and on the back of 2010 album The Dissent of Man, the band are gearing up for their Australian visit as part of Soundwave 2012 next week.
What have you been up to today?
Not too much. We went to the baby doctor this morning. My girlfriend and I are pregnant – well, she’s pregnant and I’m just standing around watching [laughs].
Bad Religion were last here with NOFX and Pour Habit. How was that tour?
That was phenomenal. That might have been one of the best tours that we ever did. We and Fat Mike decided that we would spend the entire year together touring all over the place. That was a great year!
Since then, you released The Dissent of Man. It’s a ripper of an album. How did the writing and recording differ from previous albums?
Greg [Graffin, vocalist] had started teaching in Ithaca at Cornell so his ability to be open and work with the band were greatly diminished. We sort of got into studio, and learnt the songs on the fly. Brett [Gurewitz, guitarist] was first to kind of record everything that he could in five days and that is what we got. So in a sense, it was nice to just rush through it and not have that luxury of spending too much time on it. I think it came out fantastic.
How did you find the reception?
Eh, I think like most albums that we put out, the initial reaction is that it is not as good as ‘Suffer.’ Then you give it a couple of months, and people say ‘You know, this song is starting to grow on me.’ Give it a year, and they say ‘Man, I really like songs 1 through 8.’ Then after three years, people are like ‘Man, that is a really great album.’
You were meant to be touring late Australia last year but unfortunately that all fell through. Luckily, Bad Religion will be touring Australia once again at the end of the month for Soundwave 2012.
I was honestly really disappointed when that last tour got cancelled. I was excited to get back there, and the lineup seemed phenomenal and a lot of fun. I was really honoured when they came back and offered us Soundwave. The lineup looks great. I’m really excited.
The lineup is pretty diverse, there is something for everyone. What bands will you be checking out?
I think all of them. When I was looking at it, I was trying to figure out how many stages there are going to be and how far I’m going to have to get to to watch everybody!
I think a lot of the bands I know, I’m good friends with. That being said though, just because you’re friends, it doesn’t mean you have the opportunity to tour with them or spend some time with them. I’m always excited when we get to spend more than five minutes at a catering line in passing ‘Hey, how ‘s your day going?’ [laughs]
What can fans expect from the set?
I think some of the people coming to see us play might want to see us play something a bit older, so we will put some of those in there. Yet, we will probably be focusing on things from 2004 onwards because the last ten years on Epitaph has been some of Oz’s favourites. What I don’t know is how long we have on stage and that usually dictates our setlist as we can fit X amount of songs into X amounts of minutes.
Yeah, you guys are playing 55 mins (Timetables are now up – Check our SW mega page)
Yeah, that is what I was thinking. The great thing is most bands that play an hour setlist, they play 8 and when we do, we can play 18. [laughs].
With so many albums under your belt in your 31 years, how do you decide on how to put together a Bad Religion set?
We used to have this theory where we knew there were some songs that we were always going to play – about seven songs that would always be on the setlist no matter where we were and no matter what we were doing. Then we had the next group of songs would be off the latest album to state we’re still relevant, we’re still around. Then the next group would be stuff that we try to play for people who have seen us before to go ‘Wow, they really played that song!’
While here for Soundwave, you are also playing 2 killer punk sidewaves with support from Strung Out, Street Dogs and The Menzingers. What can fans expect from these shows compared to the festival sets?
Oh man, I am psyched for those shows! When we play a headlining show, we’ll play about an hour and a half and get really deep into it. I think from the reaction from some of our Australian friends, the couple shows we played in New York that were sort of historical, and the GV30 in Santa Monica that was a birthday party for a promoter here, fans seem to really like those sets. I was talking to Greg saying that maybe, we should focus on playing some cool really classic stuff.
Having toured Australia so many times, what do you plan to get up to on days off this time around?
I hope to get to the beach but I have heard it has been raining a lot.
Yeah, it has been raining on and off. It’s been a weird summer, that’s for sure.
It would be nice to get some surf and go see things. I’m going to bring my dad down as one of his bucket list things is going to Australia. He says ‘Aw, I’ve never been and I’m never going to go’ so ‘Alright, go with me.’ Maybe by the time the tour is all said and done, he’ll be Marilyn Manson’s new best friend. [laughs]
You mentioned plans of recording sometime early this year. Is that still on the agenda?
I think what we are really hoping for is to get some drum tracks out in July, which would allow us to get almost everything done probably within the first week of August and then have it mixed. This is all fingers crossed of course if everything works out fine. We are hoping to be done by the end of August.
Do you have much new material under your belt?
I talked to Brett the other night at a Grammy function and he said he had 2+ songs that he really liked. That is always a good indication to me because that means he is on some kind of writing roll. Sometimes he will go ‘I have seven songs written and I don’t like any of them!’ [laughs]
But yeah, this time he has 2+ songs that he really likes which is really good. Greg is actually in the process of moving so he says all of his guitars, everything he has to write with, are packed up in a storage unit, but last time I talked to him, he said he was working on getting them unpacked first so he’ll start writing pretty soon as well.
Bad Religion have left quite a legacy so far. What are you most proud of?
I think the fact that we are still relevant. Waking up every day and thinking ‘You know, we’re not on some revival tour.’ We still put out albums, we still tour. I think that makes me feel proud of what we have done. So many people in 1980 said that you will never amount to shit, so ‘Ok, good for us.’ [laughs]
You have definitely showed them. [laughs] What do you contribute to the band’s longevity?
Probably making enough mistakes early on and being willing to learn from them. Being able to be somewhat grown up, that when you have these creative differences that break up so many bands, you can go ‘Hey, maybe we’re not all on the same page here’ and being able to work around that.
Realistically, it is also the fact that we have gotten to a point where the band is not the most important thing in any of our lives. It is something that we do and we really have fun doing it, but it certainly doesn’t make or break the individual.
Over time, you would have seen the music industry change quite a bit. What is your opinion of where the music industry is at right now?
God, it is in trouble, isn’t it? It’s hard to really wrap your head around what I would do if I were in that position with a label. If you sold a million records, that was considered okay. Now, if you sell 500,000 records, then it’s a hit. Little indie labels are back down to ‘Hey, if you sell 8000 units, that’s really good.’ To me, that is still amazing, but to have that moment where everyone was selling more than they ever had, it’s a big different scene.
Do you think the DIY ethic is still alive in music?
Oh absolutely, I don’t think that will ever change. I would argue moreso what with home recording and the internet. The only part that seems different to me is the recording home industry is great, but there doesn’t seem to be that drive to get out there and do it raw and live. That is the part that I see missing, that community of playing it live. Everyone can record the greatest album ever heard on their laptop but I just don’t see a whole lot of people doing it live.
What else can we expect from Bad Religion for 2012?
Not a whole lot. It just seems that we spent the last two years touring a lot on The Dissent of Man. Our drummer has been playing a little bit with Tenacious D so he is happy doing that. Greg is teaching at Cornell and he is happy doing that. Everyone is sort of relaxing from what we did on the last record, so we’ll start focusing more on the next record and see where we go from there. We have got this Australian tour, a handful of shows here and then, and then working on the record come July. That would probably take up if not the rest of the year, most up until the last quarter of it.
Do we ever see you guys winding things up or will you be doing it for as long as you can?
I don’t see us really stopping unless it stops being – I guess I would use the term ‘fun.’ We all really enjoy this, and I think if this became just a labour, ‘Why are we doing? We just don’t care, it’s not fun anymore’ then I could see us packing it in. As long as I see us feeling relevant and doing something worthwhile, I can see us doing records and playing shows for a long time.
Anything else you would like to add?
No, thank you. See you guys soon. Bring the sun! [laughs]