|Category:||Article - Magazine||Publish date:||11/1/1994|
|Source:||Guitar World, November 1994 (United States)||With:||Greg Hetson|
Bad Religion: Priests Of Punk
by Alan Diperna
Guitar World, November 1994
His angular features dwarfed by a large baseball cap, Bad Religion's Greg Hetson digs into a nice bowl of lentil soup at a hip deli along a newly fashionable stretch of Hollywood's Franklin Avenue. "We concentrated a lot more on the guitar sounds on this record," he says between slurps. "Because we used an outside producer for the first time ever."
Hetson is speaking, of course, about Stranger Than Fiction, Bad Religion's newest album. And he's certainly right about the guitars. Over the years, Hetson and Brett Gurewitz have honed the fine art of two-guitar buzzsaw punk down to something splendid and frightening. The two of them set up a massive, cacophonous wall of guitar noise that buttresses Bad Religion's ripping melodies and wise-guy philosophizing. Produced by alt-rock vet Andy Wallace (Nirbana, Sonic Youth, Rollins Band), Stranger Than Fiction is the eighth album of Bad Religion's 14-year career. It marks a turning point for the band in many ways. For one, it's probably the last album they'll make with Gurewitz, who, along with playing the guitar for Bad Religion, has always been one of the band's chief songwriters. Gurewitz's Epitaph record label has become so successful with The Offspring that he'll be concentrating solely on that in the future. His replacement in Bad Religion is Brian Baker (formerly of hardcore stalwarts Minor Threat and Dag Nasty), who even turned down a job touring with R.E.M. to become a member of Bad Religion.
"It's official -- Brett is out of the band," Greg confirms. "We've been rehearsing with Brian and we're doing our first gig with him at a festival in Germany. Epitaph's getting really huge, so it's been kinda hard for Brett."
The guys in Bad Religion are no strangers to extracurricular activities. Singer Greg Graffin has been pursuing a PH.D in biology on the side, and Hetson has also played guitar for the Circle Jerks throughout his tenure with Bad Religion. He stared out as a member of the original Redd Kross lineup and was there at the birth of the seminal Los Angeles hardcore scene.
"It was when the first batch of suburban kids started getting into the punk rock underground scene, or whatever they called it back then," Hetson recalls. "That started in about 1979. Before that, the people in the scene were a little bit older and kind of arty -- artists and college types. When I started with Redd Kross, we were the youngest band in the whole scene. Our bass player was 12 and I was 17."
Part of Hetson's stoic outlook stems from the fact that he's seen hardcore fade from public recognition in the mid-Eighties, only to re-erupt in the Nineties. "I think what turned people off to the hardcore and punk stuff around the mid-Eighties was all the negative press coverage," he says. "You know -- punk rock riots, violence, people being stabbed. That pretty much killed it for five years or so. Now it doesn't seem so much of a threat anymore. People are taking it as a legitimate way to express music, not just a bunch of freaks with mohawks and safety pins in their noses beating each other up. Which was never what it was about, anyway. It's strange to see punk bands in the Billboard Top 20 14 years later. That's what we dreamed of when we were growing up: 'Wouldn't it be great if bands like us were on the radio?'"
Hetson says that Bad Religion goes over with present-day 15-year-olds as well as it does with the original hardcore crowd: "We're still pissed off, but we just express it in different ways. Instead of just saying, 'We hate the government' or 'Reagan sucks,' we tend to work on a more broad, global scale now."
So does Bad Religion have a political agenda?
"Not really," Greg answers. "Our only message is, 'Think for yourself.'" - Alan Diperna
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