Since the New America tours, that ended in March of 2001, went on for so long, Bad Religion began writing their new album even before the New America campaign had ended.
During this tour, they began to think about what kind of an album they wanted to make next. They were in a bit of limbo so to speak, because their label obligation to Atlantic and Sony Music were completed with the delivery of The New America. That meant that they became free agents half-way through the tour.
Greg Graffin: "I had been spending more time with my old friend Mr. Brett during this period, and he had come to see a couple of the New America shows. He was impressed by the great production and the sound quality, and as he told me these things, I siezed the opportunity to tell him what I really thought. I told him that I would love it if he would come back in the band because the timing was perfect and in fact I had been missing him for a couple of years now. Two years prior I had reminded him how when we were still teenagers he was so passionate about making the best album ever released. I said that I still felt it was possible, even now, so many years and so many albums later, and I thought we could do it together, because I wasn't sure that I could do it myself, and I thought that we make a better team than almost any other pair in music. The enthusiasm of that conversation was tempered however by the fact that we still owed Sony Music and Atlantic another record, and Brett was really busy with producing and running Epitaph. But during the New America tour, our obligations shifted. BR no longer owed our music to the major labels, and Brett's obligation to his own creative output began to swell. It became clear that maybe this dream of reunification could become a reality."
Greg Graffin: "Brett decided at some point during the year 2000 that he wanted to spend more time writing music. When he made this decision, and we realized that we were now free agents without recording obligations to our major labels, the beacon of enlightenment guided us to the most wonderful and simplistic dialog: Greg: "Brett will you write and record the next BR album with us and come back to the band where you belong?" Brett: "Greg, will you and Bad Religion come back home to Epitaph where you belong?" We began preparations before we could even respond in the affirmative."
Brett Gurewitz: "I didn’t know if I could write a whole record, because I hadn’t really written much music for five years. But it turns out it’s just like riding a bike. Making this album was about relationship mending more than anything else for me."
Greg Graffin: "I always knew I was better as a collaborator, so when Brett decided he was ready to rejoin the band, I knew I had found my true collaboration partner."
Even before any contracts were drawn up, or official press-releases were written, Greg and Brett began a series of writing sessions that lasted for weeks at a time. Both of them have Pro-Tools studios at their houses so they're are able to record musical ideas, save them as computer files, and transfer them to the other's studio. When they were together for the writing sessions, much of the time was spent compiling these idea-files and adding to them in a way that was both sonically fulfilling and very efficient. It was clear from the outset that Brett's ideas were consonant with Greg's: they both had in mind a classic sounding Bad Religion album, one that the fans will have been waiting to hear! The last time Brett and Greg collaborated on an effort like this was the album "Stranger than Fiction".
Greg Graffin: "Because of this, we sort of set that record as our benchmark. We wanted to best that effort on every count. With that as our goal we figured we couldn't lose!"
Greg Graffin: "The songs came together really quite rapidly. Although some songs were a bit awkward at first, we bolstered each other's best tendencies. Brett let me know how much confidence he has when he writes songs for me to sing. I told him how his skills at production, arrangement, and guitar rhythms improve my songwriting. We were both more confident songwriters than we had been in years."
Recording started in June, 2001. The band hadn't had such high anticipation for making a record in many, many years. It is produced by Brett and Greg, and mixed mostly by Brett, with some songs done by Jerry Finn.
Greg Graffin: "The last year has been a great period of growth, and a great period of songwriting, an exercise of Bad Religion's human nature! That is why we decided to call the new album 'The Process of Belief'". It comes from the song 'Materialist: "The process of belief is an elixir when you're weak. I must confess at times I indulge on the sneak. But generally my outlook's not so bleak. And I'm not meek. I'm materialist!"
The Process Of Belief was originally planned to be in stores the third week of October, 2001, but in the end it wasn't until January 22, 2002 before it was actually released in Europe/Worldwide and the next day in the US. The Australian and New Zealand version, distributed by Shock Records, includes the extra track Shattered Faith.
It was the first record with Brett back in the band since 1994's Stranger Than Fiction. The success of The Process Of Belief showed that it was the right decision to start co-writing the songs again. Yet, Brett still had his duties at Epitaph, so touring with the band didn’t seem very realistic. He stayed as band member, but only played the shows in the Southern California region
Brett called it "the ultimate Bad Religion album." At the time of its release, Greg's favorite Brett song was The Defense, and Brett's favorite Greg song was Epiphany.
Brett: "There is no keyboard on Supersonic, just some fuzz guitars. The sound in Sorrow is a sample of an explosion. There is no scratching in The Defense but rather some nifty noises generated by an analog filter bank. You can also hear some sitar in the intro of The Defense. Those interested in sound will find that The Defense on Punk-O-Rama 7 is a different mix than the one on POB."
Brett: "Who We Are is an out-take from TPOB. In a last minute decision I decided (with the group's consent) to leave it off the album because I wasn't satisfied with the mix and couldn't get it quite right no matter how hard I tried. I hope it will be released in the future, either after a remix of the current version or perhaps BR will re-record it sometime. It's odd that of all the out-takes the group had done this is the only one that (so far) has not leaked out somehow..."
Brett: "Greg wrote 'Shattered Faith' and I wrote 'Who We Are' and there was a good deal of creative collaboration on both as was the case on all songs from TPOB."
Meanwhile, both Who We Are and Shattered Faith have been released on Punk-O-Rama 8 (2003).
The background color of the cover is half black and half white, with religion on the one side and science on the other. It shows the duality of the rational-materialistic and the spiritual-religious.
The artwork was done by Mackie Osborne.
Brett: "Besides 'The Process of Belief' being an amazing album, the CD sleeve layout and artwork is very unique and unlike anything else I've ever seen. (...) Mackie Osborne is an old friend of ours and we just asked her to see what she could come up with. We gave her a copy of the music and in general terms told her the kind of CD packaging we've been into lately. She then brought us some elaborately worked out mock ups and they blew us away. From that point it was a series of small revisions and aesthetic decisions until we ended up with the final version."
Brett: "I've always enjoyed kicking back with a new record, perusing the artwork and lyrics while listening to the music. When I was a kid I used to do this and imagine the artwork held a secret key that could unlock some hidden level of meaning in music. Sometimes it did. Surely sometimes I only imagined it did but then, that's just as good. Either way, the design contributed to my experience of the recording. On the "Process Of Belief" we wanted to get that kind of integration between the material and sonic aspects of the project, to make the experience of owning the record a little bit deeper."
The figure on the front cover is part of Art of Transmitting Electrical Energy through the Natural Mediums, filed on May 16, 1900 by Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943). Tesla was an inventor, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer who obtained around 300 patents worldwide. He was an important contributor to the birth of commercial electricity, and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism. Graffin: "He [Tesla] was a tragic figure in many ways, because Edison stole many of his ideas and received the patents from our government, when Tesla should have been aknowledged as the inventor."
The image on the back of the album is an 18th century engraving of a Celtic Wicker Man, a means for human sacrifice. The Celts built them out of sticks and placed living men inside, then set them on fire. This particular way of sacrifice was only described by Caesar in 'De Bello Gallico': "Others have figures of vast size, the limbs of which formed of osiers they fill with living men, which being set on fire, the men perish enveloped in the flames." (6.16).
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