|Interview - Internet
|29-95.com (United States)
Greg Graffin, the smartest man in punk rock
Greg Graffin isn't your average punk-rock frontman. Graffin is an accomplished author, a professor at UCLA, an awarding winning lecturer and the lead singer of Bad Religion. Graffin is celebrating Bad Religion's 30th anniversary- an amazing feat for any band- with the band's new record, The Dissent of Man, and his latest book, Anarchy Evolution .
While early punk bands were about nihilism, Bad Religion was on an intellectual level far ahead of its peers with an expansive message and an even bigger vocabulary. Bad Religion brings its empowering punk rock to town Friday night at Warehouse Live.
29:95: How does it feel to be in a band – a successful and relevant one – for 30 years?
GRAFFIN: So much of my life has been wrapped up in Bad Religion (and) it is a part of life – my life. Some people get all wrapped up and emotional about personal milestones, and I don’t really get wrapped up in that. What is a big deal to me is that we still have an audience to play to and there is a punk scene and we are viable after 30 years. To me, that is pretty remarkable. It shows that punk is an important mainstay in American culture, and as you probably know, rarely does it get appreciated as such.
29:95:: Can you explain the difference between Greg Graffin behind the podium as a professor and Greg Graffin behind the microphone on stage with Bad Religion?
GRAFFIN: It is not very different. It is two acceptable modes of “music.” One is my punk rock songs and the other kind is another type of “music”, and that is the expression and language of the lecturer. With both I’m trying to provoke people to get them to think and trying to hopefully inspire them that thinking is a good thing. Even though they both might seem like different theaters, to me, the goal is the same and the style is different.
29:95: How do you juggle your touring schedule with teaching classes?
GRAFFIN: This year we’ve been on a big tour so that has stopped me from being at the university as much. I balance that by staying active in academia and putting out this book, Anarchy Evolution, and that is my academic interest. I’ve been doing book talks in various cities in afternoons and playing a show later that night.
29:95: Tell us about Anarchy Evolution.
GRAFFIN: The book was released the same day as our album, The Dissent of Man, and it is kind of just a biographical memoir in part of my life over the past 30 years, and also has a point to it. The two worlds of punk rock and academic science that paired nicely in my life and most people don’t understand how it can create a coherent world view. It shows there is an important element that drives both of those streams of consciousness. What I think it is, is this underlying notion of challenging authority and I think that is important in what has maintained the punk scene over the last 30 years. That is the thread that has run through the punk scene that is to challenge authority that is inherent in the music and all the attitudes and all the people who call themselves punkers. And interestingly, it is also found in science, because science doesn’t progress unless you challenge and test the theories and the evidence that is currently known. If you don’t challenge them there is never any turnover or progress in science and I think that all goes back to evolutionary science.
29:95: The new record seems to expand more on worldly issues like the human condition. What are some of the album’s other themes?
GRAFFIN: We chose (the title) The Dissent of Man, because it typifies what we are going for. Charles Darwin wrote about evolution and his most famous book was the Descent of Man and he spelled it d-e-s-c-e-n-t , descent. You can also spell it d-i-s-s-e-n-t, and that is kind of what Bad Religion- and not just us, but the whole punk scene- has been about for the last 30 years. We thought it was a really good way to exemplify Bad Religion’s evolution over the last 30 years and also to put a play on words with some famous, evolutionary literature.
The themes, where have we come in the past 30 years? It is not a concept album, and it is important to remember that. It is an album where we tried to address some of our ideas where we appreciate and acknowledge our place in the punk scene being “elder statesman.”. Songs like Wrong Way Kids is kind of sentimental about how we understand how groups of punk rockers feel that they are in that group of “wrong way kids” and we were there too. A song like Avalon almost sounds like fatherly advice from a punk rock father to his son.
29:95: The song Only Rain is another track that seems to engage the listener through the lyrics and the harmonies, and seems to capture what Bad Religion and the album is all about.
GRAFFIN: It is a piece of art, so don’t forget a piece of art should always be interpreted by the observer. I’d say your interpretation is just as valid (as mine). Some of the themes we are touching on in that song are, again, the idea of material evidence versus infusing science with value and infusing things from the material world with stories that protect society.
- Mike Damante
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