|Category:||Interview - Newspaper||Publish date:||10/27/2000|
|Source:||Orlando Sentinel, October 27, 2000, p. 8 (United States)||With:||Brian Baker|
Has it finally happened? Have the controversial punk rockers of Bad Religion finally mellowed?
Probably not. However, the members of the group -- known for their dark, cynical messages -- say their approach to lyrics is different on their latest release, The New America.
"There is optimism in the album," said guitarist Brian Baker, who will perform with the rest of Bad Religion tonight at House of Blues. "You reach a point where it's hard to write negative when you're in a happy place in life. These lyrics are more about trying to share the fact that there is opportunity to change instead of simply describing the problem. We're provoking thought in a forward motion instead of illuminating the errors of the past."
Bad Religion doesn't dwell on its past either -- including substance abuse and several lineup changes. Nearly two decades after lead singer Greg Graffin guitarist Brett Gurewitz started Bad Religion in Los Angeles, only Graffin and bassist Jay Bentley remain.
And although the music has grown through the years, it has withstood the lineup alterations, and the Bad Religion sound has remained intact.
"Just like any 20-year project, one hopes you get better at it," Baker said. "If you listen to all of the records in succession, the quality of songwriting, recording and the work we do as musicians is better. With a lot of practice, you just get better. It still sounds like Bad Religion, but we're constantly re-examining what we're doing and trying to improve it."
"We're definitely more lyrically sophisticated at 35 years old than at 16," he said. "That's why we're stuck with a stupid name like Bad Religion. If sounds like an unfrozen, caveman group."
As one of the bands that led the '80s punk revolution, Bad Religion helped pave the way for such groups as Blink 182 and Fenix TX. This year, as fate would have it, Bad Religion found itself opening for these groups and introducing younger audiences to an older punk sound.
The New America, Bad Religion's 16th release, reunited original members Graffin and Gurewitz on one cut. The two hadn't recorded together since 1994's Stranger Than Fiction. The single, "Believe It," was co-written by the two former bandmates and features a guitar solo by Gurewitz.
"Most of my favorite Bad Religion tunes are ones he [Gurewitz] wrote or co-wrote," Baker said. "I'm always excited about any contribution he wants to make."
The New America was recorded in a barn on an old sugar plantation on a remote Hawaiian island. Although most of the natives took kindly to the punk visitors, there was a vacationing tourist who didn't want to be disturbed by the sounds of Bobby Schayer's drums.
"We confronted the guy," Baker said. "We told him there was no way it was going to stop and that anything that we were doing was more important than what he was doing. We're pretty scary when you mess with us."
At one point, the tourist drove a mower around the barn, covering the band's equipment with dust.
"That's OK, we got satisfaction from the fact that he was on vacation and had to go back to his low-level job," Baker said.
Bad Religion will continue to tour throughout the year and hopes to begin recording next summer.
"The reason we still do this is because it's really fun," Baker said. "As long as what we are doing is viable and reaching people in a positive way, we will continue.
"Plus, we are totally unemployable," he said, chuckling. "This is the only thing we know how to do."
- Jamie J. Anderson
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