|Article - Magazine
|Rolling Stone issue 670 (United States)
|Brett Gurewitz, Greg Graffin, Jay Bentley
|Short interview with Greg, Brett and Jay about parenting, changing to a major label and the band's longevity. Page 30.
Bad Religion have come a long way from their garage-rock roots
By Glenn Kenny
At a recent early afternoon taping of MTV's alternative rockfest 120 Minutes, a visitor to the studio might have thought that the network was subcontracting its lounge to a day-care center. Four toddlers were lolling and stomping about, tended by their moms and motley crew of goo-goo-ga-ga-ers. Down the hall, though, the kids' dads were pounding through some pretty fierce hardcore punk, songs with titles such as "American Jesus", "Kerosene" and "Struck a Nerve". Strange as it may seem, three of the angry teens who formed the California quitet Bad Religion back in 1980 are family men now.
"For me, raising this family represents just as much a commitment as I have to this band," lead singer Greg Graffin says later during lunch, and guitarist Brett Gurewitz and bassist Jay Bentley would seem to agree; the three arrange to have their wives and kids accompany them for two out of every six weeks they tour. But Brett allows that, for him at least, "parenting and writing punk-rock songs are mutually exclusive activities.
That hasn't put any brakes on Bad Religion's prodigious output (by Bentley's count, they got 108 songs in their book) or its quality; their latest record Recipe for Hate, is their best yet, coming closest to capturing on plastic the band's massive live guitar sound and take-no-prisoners rhythmic thrust. The elaborate vocal harmonies that first distinguished Bad Religion's sound from the hard-core legions remain in full force ("Pet Sounds has always been a favorite of mine," Gurewitz comments without even a hint of a smirk), and, as usual for this band, the music offers some other surprises: Steel guitar, not exactly a punk staple, turn up on "Man With a Mission." Punk came out of rock & roll, which came out of R&B and country music, so we don't see something like that as a stretch," Gurewitz says.
Bad Religion's current tour represents their first as a major-label bad; after more than a decade of staunch independence on the Gurewitz-owned Epitaph label, the band has hitched up with Atlantic. They've come a long way from their teenage garage-band roots: Santa Barbara's Bentley and Graffin teamed up with Gurewitz in 1980, and the band caught the attention of Los Angeles radio maverick Rodney Bingenheimer when Greg Hetson, then a member of the city's infamous Circle JErks, played a Bad Religion demo tape on Bingenheimer's show. The band threw everyone for a loop when it made 1983's Into The Unknown, a spacey, synthesizer disc. Personnel changes added to the confusion and kept the band in flux for a good part of the '80's, but somehow fan momentum continued building. "Once, when we played sold-out gigs two nights in a row at a 4,000-capacity club, we thought that was it, the biggest we could have gotten or wanted to get," says Bentley. "We ended up being a band more than 200,000 people wanted to hear."
Such seemingly rabid fans are no doubt one key of the band's longevity; another is its unflagging desire to communicate. Gurewitz credits his inspiration to a voracious reading jones; for Graffin it's more the warp and woof of day-to-day living. "Look at [James] Joyçe Ulysses, this novel that encompasses just one day in a man's life," he says. "There's always something to write about."
"It's having something to say that's kept us going and kept the audience interested," Bentley says. "You can only tell the same joke so many times before people get bored, and you can only tell people to fuck off so many times before they get fed up and stop coming back."
German transcript updated
English transcript added
English transcript added
Article added: Fracture #19
Interview image(s) added: Diplomatic Defense
Interview added: Diplomatic Defense
English transcript updated: Bad Religion, the ‘McCartney and Lennon of punk,’ to make Spokane debut
Interview added: Bad Religion, the ‘McCartney and Lennon of punk,’ to make Spokane debut
German transcript updated: Gähnend in die Punker-Rente