Although they have never cracked the pop market like their punk
offspring, Bad Religion has built a strong following through
provocative lyrics, an intense musical style and intriguing
By Kristin Fiore
Daily Bruin Contributor
hile politicians quibble over the degeneracy of today’s rock
music and their opponents’ sexual exploits, Bad Religion goes
not-so-quietly about the business of tackling society’s toughest
issues. Who says irony is dead?
For those who have followed Bad Religion’s 16-year career, this
should not come as a surprise. Since 1980, the band has held a
provocative mirror to its audience and forced them to see problems
in themselves and in society that they may prefer to ignore, all in
the unlikely guise of hard-edged punk rock.
"You can use the art platform to make people think, and I think
that political platforms don’t make people think. They do quite the
opposite. They have a way that is appropriate to behave and they
expect you to follow it," says Greg Graffin, singer and principal
songwriter for the band. "Good art can inspire people and motivate
people, and move them in a similar way."
Graffin takes this role quite seriously, asking tough questions
about dark and troubling subjects. Instead of the nihilism found in
many bands, however, Graffin hopes to spur arguments that may lead
to a light at the end of the postmodern tunnel.
"Bad Religion has traditionally talked about very obvious and
yet very terrible issues that are going on in the world. Not as a
hopeless cause, but in order to bring them to the surface, so that
there’s something … at least a platform we can talk about," says
In "The Gray Race," released today, Graffin explores the
dehumanizing consequences of ruthless capitalism, corruption and
commodification. Even though the population is skyrocketing to
dangerous levels, competition and technology leave people even more
isolated than before.
"I believe in telling people what I think and yet being
compassionate to their response … but I don’t believe in lying to
them just to save them from being hurt," says Graffin.
"’Pity the Dead’ is an example of that. The chorus says, ‘look
at all the living and then ask yourself, why do we pity the
dead?’… We should be fearing the life that’s around us. That is
what’s frightful. The way we treat other people is pitiful. Why do
we waste our pity on the dead?"
Graffin takes the anger and rebellion against the status quo
inherent in punk music and gives it a focus and a purpose – a fact
apparently lost on the media, who continually see punk as vacuous
"Maybe that’s what attracted me to it. I saw that there was
definitely a vacancy. People didn’t perceive (punk) as valuable,
and I like challenges … What better thing to do than use a style
of music that the media characterizes as all negative and use it
for something positive?" says Graffin.
"There has always been this problem because the media (have)
stigmatized punk from the earliest days. I think what they were
concentrating on was the fashion. When you say ‘punk’ people
automatically think of spiked hair and leather jackets and violent
people. And that has nothing to do with what I thought of it in the
early days, (which was) really thought-provoking music with a great
melody," says Graffin.
"And it’s funny, because those two things were never picked up
on. And it’s what Bad Religion’s done since I was 15 years old.
That was exactly what I loved about our music, about all the bands
that inspired us," says Graffin of Bad Religion and their early
influences – X, the Ramones and The Adolescents, among others.
Graffin took their mentors’ love of melody even farther, though,
adding layers of tight vocal harmonies that have become one of
"So we were part of this L.A. punk scene, but I always thought
that scene was terribly mischaracterized by the media because they
always thought of it as violent … delinquent kids, and I always
felt misunderstood," says Graffin.
This intolerance was unfortunately not limited to the media. In
the grand tradition of rock-and-roll misfits, Graffin, too, got
hassled in school for his musical tastes, his clothes and even his
"There were three people at my high school that were punkers. I
mean, I got beat up every day by long-haired people who listened to
Rush and would beat me up because I didn’t," says Graffin,
remembering his days at El Camino Real High when even dyed black
hair and leather boots were an open invitation to a beating.
But the American punk movement was never about pure fashion,
another common misconception among the media and "punkers"
"That we can blame on England," says Graffin, "because the
English movement was all about fashion … And when we all heard
‘punk is dead’ in the early ’80s, it came out of England. Their
fashion movement was dead. There were plenty of bands that were
considered punk … that did not die, that continued through the
heavy metal era, that continued through the grunge period, and
finally people started to really listen – a couple of years
Now, of course, punk is on MTV, and Billy Joe of Green Day is on
the closet doors of pre-pubescent suburban girls everywhere.
Bad Religion, while enjoying their own success, has helped to
pave the way for this new generation of punk bands who reap the
benefits of a more accustomed and open-minded audience.
"The pioneers of anything never get the benefits of the later
generations … I feel like we had a lot to do with the modern
success of a lot of bands," says Graffin.
Patriarchy is not without its rewards, however.
"Virtually every band that we ever come in contact with come up
and say how important we are to them … That’s better than
financial reward – to know that you’ve touched people and you’ve
motivated them to do better," says Graffin.
"It just feels good to me that the reason why it’s so popular
today, with Green Day and Offspring, is the same reason that I got
into it, and that is really catchy, melodic songs that talk about
something worthwhile. Now we can argue about how worthwhile Green
Day tunes are, getting high and masturbating …"
Maybe we’ll leave that topic for the next album.
Bad Religion band members (l-r) Bobby Schayer, Jay Bentley, Greg
Hetson, Greg Graffin and Brian Baker.
Check out these sites too:
Authorized Bad Religion Site…
Sony’s BR Site….
Bad Religion Info Central…
Comprehensive BR info…
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