|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||6/3/2020|
|Source:||The Orange County Register (United States)||With:||Greg Graffin|
|Synopsis:||An interview with Graffin about the Do What You Want book.|
Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin talks about the band’s 40 years of punk rock
The singer also reveals a family secret about the group, which started in Woodland Hills in 1980.
By KELLI SKYE FADROSKI | firstname.lastname@example.org | Orange County Register
This was set to be a big year for Bad Religion.
The San Fernando Valley-based punk rock band had plans to commemorate its 40th anniversary, but the coronavirus global pandemic forced the cancellation of its 2020 global jaunt.
As well, this year marks anniversaries for three of Bad Religion’s biggest albums: Its 1990 album “Against the Grain” turns 30, 2000’s “The New America” turns 20 and 2010’s “The Dissent of Man” celebrates its 10th anniversary.
“We’ve always done something important in the years that end in zero,” vocalist Greg Graffin said during a phone interview in February. As well as music from those albums, the band had planned to perform songs off its most recent collection, 2019’s “The Age of Unreason,” along with fan favorites such as “Infected,” “No Control,” “American Jesus,” and “Los Angeles is Burning.”
“We really do look at [Bad Religion] as a lifetime together, and a lifetime as individuals who are committed to each other,” he said. “We’re committed to raising awareness and enlightening people through our music. We don’t want to get too hung up on the fact that it’s a 40th anniversary, though that is a huge milestone that we are very proud of. But we look at it as another opportunity to share music with people who may not have had a chance to see us and we believe we can play and sing as well now, if not better, than we did before. So it’s not just a nostalgic thing.”
Though playing live isn’t an option right now, a history of the band, “Do What You Want: The Story of Bad Religion” by author Jim Ruland, will be published on Aug. 18.
It’s a story that begins at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills in 1979 and moves on to the first time Graffin, guitarist Brett Gurewitz, bassist Jay Bentley and former drummer Jay Ziskrout got together to play at “The Hell Hole” (the nickname for Graffin’s mother Marcella’s garage in Canoga Park) in 1980.
“Jim [Ruland] did such a fantastic job fitting in thousands of hours of interviews into story form, because you have to remember when you’re as old as we are, it’s not just that memories fade,” said. “But people have different recollections of events.
“[Ruland] did a great job of streamlining those events and getting the actual facts. One of the funniest quotes in there is from an unexpected source: Peter [Finestone], our old drummer,” said Graffin. “Peter saying something like ‘Whenever Brett and Greg were in a room, there wasn’t much oxygen left for anything else.’ Reading that now, I’m like, I didn’t know I had that effect on Peter, but I love that honesty included in the book.”
Graffin said he’s the only member of Bad Religion, out of nearly a dozen others through the years, that at some point didn’t quit or walk out. Even as he embarked on archaeological digs, moved to the east coast to obtain his PhD in Zoology from Cornell University and simultaneously teach at UCLA, Graffin stayed the course with the band.
“I hope that’s an indication of my tenacity,” he said with a laugh. “I hope these [guys] I’m working with finally realize how tolerant I am. Every one of them has had enough but me. I never did throw a tanty, now did I?”
Having four decades of memories chronicled in one book has given the band a chance to pause and look back at some of its accomplishments.
Graffin recalled the first time legendary KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer played Bad Religion’s song “Politics” off its 1981 self-titled debut EP.
“It’s the hometown thrill and when I first heard myself on the radio, it was otherworldly,” he said. “You can’t believe it’s actually happening and then you start to hear it over and over through the decades and you hear your songs in strange places like the mall or someone is blasting it in their car on PCH.”
Though Bad Religion is a roaring punk rock band, Gurewitz and Graffin share some of their influences and inspirations behind certain songs: Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand” inspired the band’s song “Suffer,” and Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives” was on Gurewitz’s mind as he worked out “Anesthesia.” Gurewitz admits he initially rejected the band’s ’90s hit “21st Century (Digital Boy)” because he thought it sounded too much like the Alice Cooper song “Poison.”
While Graffin said his vocal style was influenced by a variety of punk rock singers, as well as Costello, Young and Todd Rundgren, he was teased for admitting that Jethro Tull had made an impact on him.
“Everyone poked fun at me for that,” he said.
In 40 years, Bad Religion — which currently consists of Graffin, Gurewitz, Bentley, former Minor Threat guitarist Brian Baker, guitarist Mike Dimkich and drummer Jamie Miller, the newest member who joined in 2016 — has released 17 albums and done countless tours around the world. It was the first band signed to Gurewitz’s now robust L.A.-based indie label, Epitaph Records, and they’ve gone on to influence a new generation of punks in bands like Rise Against, AFI, Authority Zero and many, many more.
Vocalist Greg Barnett of the punk rock band The Menzingers said Bad Religion was one of the reasons he wanted to start a group.
“They had such a huge impact on my life as a musician,” he said during a phone interview. “I got a hold of ‘Suffer’ in like 1999 or 2000 and it stopped me in my tracks. I was into Green Day, Blink-182 and Nirvana at the time, but when I heard that album it was all a minute or two-minute songs and it was fast, angry, smart. I connected with that and how intelligent the songs were. All of that stuck with me and it had a huge influence on the type of band we wanted to be. We wanted to be a band that mattered, that could sing about politics and actually feel like you’re doing something that mattered.”
Though Graffin said he doesn’t know if he can picture himself and the guys rockin’ out on stage when they’re as old as The Rolling Stones, he’s not ruling it out.
Things have come full circle from when they started, he noted. Forty years ago when Graffin took over his mother’s garage, he said her only real issue was when one of the guys would drink milk straight from the carton. But she put up with that and the band practices and the punk kids coming over to listen, and what was her reward?
“She got a song on the first album called ‘Latch Key Kids,’” Graffin laughed. “No parent is going to be super proud of that.”
“Looking back, we never could have done this without our families,” he said. “We never would have admitted that back in the day – that our parents did anything other than make us angry. The truth is, when you look back on it, that support and enthusiasm was important – and to this day my dad still won’t miss a Bad Religion show.
“It’s something that is both very humbling and a bit telling. Had my mom not donated the rehearsal space and had Brett’s dad not given us that $3,000 loan or whatever it was, there’d be no recording legacy for Bad Religion. That stuff is important to say now and make sure everyone understands that there are a lot of factors that go into making a successful band.”
Now that Graffin himself is in his 50s with children of his own, he’s getting a taste of his own medicine. His son formed a band and took over the basement for rehearsals. He also inherited a punk rock attitude from his father, as when Graffin recalls his son using a two-word expression that begins with the letter “f” and ends with the word “you” (and is the title of a song off the band’s “True North” album) during an argument.
“When those two words come out of your kids mouth,” he said with a laugh. “It just warms the heart.”
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