|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||2/21/2012|
|Source:||everguide.com.au (Australia)||With:||Brooks Wackerman|
Bad Religion's Brooks Wackerman
Bad Religion have been keeping the spirit of punk rock alive for over 30 years. Since emerging from Los Angeles in ’79, they’ve released 15 albums and garnered a legion of loyal fans along the way with their socially conscious lyrics, infectious vocal harmonies and blazing live shows. Their legacy has trickled down to influence many contemporary punk bands, who draw on the Bad Religion blueprint when writing their own music.
When we caught up with drummer Brooks Wackerman, he’s quick to point out how eager the band is to return to Australia following the cancellation of Soundwave Revolution last year. “We weren’t expecting to come back so soon after that tour got cancelled,” Wackerman explains from his home in Long Beach, California. “So, you know, it all works out”.
Wackerman is upbeat and chatty today. His thick American accent is punctuated with lots of 'you knows' and a blasé rock star attitude. After some brief chitchat, he opens up when the topic of Soundwave comes up.
Jack Pilven: A lot of the younger punk bands playing Soundwave really look up to you guys. Is it strange touring with bands that probably weren’t even born when you started playing music?
Brooks Wackerman: [laughs] No, I don’t think it’s weird. I mean, when you’re a musician or you do anything in the arts, you want people to hear and see what you do. You want results. You want people to like what you do. Even if a musician tells you 'no' they are lying because you want some type of recognition and encouragement. So when a young musician comes up to me and says he’s inspired by either me or my band, that just drives me even more to want to make better music and continue what I do, which is what I love to do.
JP: Exactly how long have you been playing drums for?
BW: Forever (laughs). I honestly can’t remember because once I started walking, according to my parents, they threw drumsticks in my hands. I come from a family of all drummers so it’s a blur because I’ve just always played drums and it’s just something that I’ve done all my life. I’m 35 now so let’s say 33 years.
JP: I understand that you joined Bad Religion in 2001. Do you still remember the day you joined the band?
BW: I do. Yeah, I remember the audition like it was yesterday. Brett Gurewitz (guitar) called me and asked if I was interested in coming down to their studio to play a few songs, so I did. It felt natural and luckily they were into my playing and felt that I could be a good addition to the band. Fast forward ten or eleven years later and we’re still doing it.
JP: At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to play music for a living?
BW: One memory that comes to mind is… I remember being in physical education in junior high school and I was like maybe 11- or 12-years-old. I had started playing in bands around that time and I was out on the field playing soccer or something and I realised I didn’t want to go to school anymore, I wanted to be in a band and touring. Fortunately, I started doing it three years later when I was 15. At that moment out on the P.E field was when I kind of came up with a game plan. I started practicing a lot and I realised I wanted to do this seriously.
JP: And your whole family was supportive?
BW: Yeah, my dad is a music educator and drummer so he couldn’t have been more supportive. He was back then and he still is now. My parents still come out to Bad Religion shows and my dad is 82-years-old, so yeah, I’m forever indebted to them. They used to drive me to drum lessons and take me to shows. I was exposed to music at a very early age and different styles of music, everything from jazz to heavy metal.
JP: Just getting back to Bad Religion now. I’ve heard that you guys are planning a new album for release some time this year.
BW: Yeah, we’re planning on going into the studio in August to track it so we’re in the process of putting together songs. So that’s what we’re doing in the next four months and hopefully it will be out by winter.
JP: And how is the new material shaping up?
BW: Since we’re in the early stages we haven’t even gotten together to play yet, so it remains a mystery to us right now. I know we want to do more of an aggressive record compared to The Dissent of Man, so I think it’s going to have more of a No Control kind of feel with faster tempos and overall aggression.
JP: When you say aggression, what’s fuelling that in terms of themes? Because I know in the past you were quite vocal about your opposition to the Bush administration when it was in government.
BW: I think we covered that era with the anti-Bush administration phase pretty well. I can’t speak for Brett (Gurewitz/guitar) and Greg (Graffin/vocals) because lyrically I don’t know where their heads are at right now until I start hearing what they’re writing about. As long as there’s news and government and deception in the world, I think there will always be a Bad Religion record. Musically, I think we’re going to take it up a few notches.
JP: Your last record, The Dissent of Man, is only two years old. Was there a rush to get back into the studio?
BW: We usually aim at releasing a record every year and a half to two years, so it’s about that time. After doing some long tours over the past two years I think we’re all ready to create some new music and to come up with a new record for our fans. It’s time to get that machine greased again.
JP: There’s a few rumours floating around that you guys are contemplating going on a hiatus at some point. Is there any truth to this?
DW: (long pause to think) No. That could be related to Greg Graffin teaching. He’s a professor of science so he dedicates a quarter of a semester a year to teaching. He may have made some references on stage like, “Oh, this might be our last record” or, “This might be our last tour down here”, but as far as there being any definitive truth to a hiatus going on, it’s not true. We’re going to do another record and we plan on doing more tours and records… unless there’s something you know that I don’t! (laughs)
JP: Nope, just don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. And more generally speaking, what do you think about the state of punk music these days?
DW: You know, honestly I haven’t heard - and it might be partially because I’m out of the loop with new bands that are coming out - but I haven’t heard a new punk band that has formed in the last few years that’s really blown my mind. But that’s not to say they’re not out there, I just haven’t heard one that has swept me off my feet. When it comes to punk I still listen to bands like Minor Threat, NOFX, the Ramones and other classic bands that I grew up listening to. But I would love to hear some modern punk music that would impress me - I just haven’t heard anything in the last few years.
JP: Do you have any advice for young punk bands trying to make it?
DW: Be persistent. There’s going to be a lot of roadblocks and a lot of adversity but at the end of the day, if you love what you’re doing and you love the style of punk, it’s as simple as don’t give up. Play as many shows as you can. With Bad Religion, that’s what they did and they went on so many tours before they actually got recognised. I think you just have to start with a very good work ethic and stick to it and not just say, “Oh, it’s not going to happen” when you’ve only been together for a year because I think that’s a cop out. I think you’ve got to put your heart and soul into it. Be influenced by other bands but don’t steal 100 per cent from them because the bands that are going to last are bands that have created their own style. I think that’s what differentiates some bands from others.
JP: Do you think that’s what’s kept Bad Religion together for 30 years?
DW: I think so. At this point people that hear us on the radio or see us live know straight away that they’re listening to a Bad Religion song, so it’s become a bit of a formula. I think you should draw inspiration from bands but just not blatantly rip them off.
JP: Do you listen to much Australian music?
DW: Yeah… what have I been listening to that’s Australian? I like Men at Work; I think they have some great songs. I still like the Living End. I remember touring with those guys in ’99 on the Warped Tour and I still think they produce some great music. But there’s probably a plethora of newer bands that I’m not familiar with that are out there.
JP: Maybe do some research when you come out for Soundwave?
DW: Yeah, one of the joys of doing these festivals is there’s a million bands that I always come home listening to and it’s often a new breed I wasn’t familiar with before.
Bad Religion play Soundwave Festival this February/March. For more information visit soundwavefestival.com.
- Jack Pilven
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