Bad Religion is a punk rock band that was originally formed in southern California in 1980 by Jay Bentley, Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz, and Jay Ziskrout. This band is often credited for leading the revival of punk rock during the late 1980s, as well as influencing a large number of other punk and rock musicians throughout their career.
They are known for their socially conscious lyrics and the ability to express their ideology with the use of metaphor, an advanced vocabulary and vocal harmonies known as the "oozin aahs". Bad Religion songs deal with matters of personal as well as political responsibility, and despite the band's moniker, deal more with freedom than atheism.
The band has gone through a large number of personnel changes throughout its history, singer/songwriter Greg Graffin being the sole consistent member. The lineup departure with the largest impact occurred when Brett Gurewitz, Bad Religion's other main songwriter, left in 1994. Gurewitz rejoined the band seven years later, invoking a return to form for the band, as the albums in his absence had not been as well received.
Bad Religion continues to record new material and tour for its fans around the world.
Early career and hiatus (1980-1982)Edit
Bad Religion was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1980 by high school students Greg Graffin, Jay Bentley, Jay Ziskrout, and Brett Gurewitz, also known as "Mr. Brett". The band's major influences stemmed from earlier punk acts such as the The Ramones, Black Flag, and The Clash. Outside of the punk scene, their influences ranged from the Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Todd Rundgren, The Jam and Nick Lowe to authors like Jack Kerouac. Greg Graffin called his influences "pop sounding rock tunes that were not necessarily commercial."
In 1981, the band released their self-titled debut EP on their own newly-formed label, Epitaph Records, which is managed and owned by Gurewitz. 1982 saw the release of their first full-length album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, gaining the band a sizeable following. During the recording of How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Jay Ziskrout left the band and was replaced by Peter Finestone.
Mainstream success (1995-1996)Edit
As tensions increased, Graffin would sing alternate lyrics during concerts such as "I want to know where Brett gets his crack" or "I want to know why Gurewitz cracked," on the song "Stranger Than Fiction". These barbs referred to Gurewitz's struggles with crack, heroin, and other addictions which plagued him for years. Brett discussed his drug use in an interview on the band's Suffer tour documentary, Along the Way, and is now clean and sober. In response, Gurewitz recorded a song with his new band The Daredevils entitled "Hate You", reportedly directed towards Jay Bentley.
Gurewitz was replaced as a guitarist by Brian Baker, a former member of bands such as Minor Threat and Dag Nasty. Since Greg Graffin and Gurewitz had split songwriting duties, Graffin was now Bad Religion's primary songwriter.
Post-Gurewitz period (1996-2001)Edit
For The New America, Todd Rundgren, an early musical inspiration for Graffin, was brought in to produce. "Todd was kind of an underground sensation back in 1974. Here's a guy who was making pop music but in a way that you wouldn't hear on the radio. So much of my early musical identity was wrapped up in the way he conducted himself." Unfortunately, the experience might not have been all that Greg and the rest of the band might have hoped. Interest in the band began to wane, due to Rundgren's poor attitude. Jay Bentley reflects on this by saying, "I didn't feel we were going anywhere and so did Greg. Todd didn't like Greg and that made Greg so mad! He met his idol and he was a jerk! I don't think Todd gave a shit about anything." Meanwhile, Bobby Schayer left the band following a serious shoulder injury and was replaced by Brooks Wackerman of Suicidal Tendencies.
As their popularity was not what it once was, Bad Religion departed from Atlantic Records in 2001 and returned to Epitaph.
Gurewitz rejoins (2002-present)Edit
Brett Gurewitz rejoined the band in time to record The Process Of Belief (2002). Graffin states, "there was a little bit of disappointment on my part when he left the band, but we never had any serious acrimony between the two of us. I can't say the same for the rest of the band. But he and I, being the songwriters from way back, we really wanted to try again."
Their next album, The Empire Strikes First, was released in June 2004. Both albums are widely regarded by fans and critics as a return to form for the band, as opposed to their time on Atlantic.
The band also re-released digitally-remastered versions of several of their early albums on Epitaph Records, including How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Suffer, No Control, Against the Grain, and Generator. The How Could Hell Be Any Worse? re-issue, titled 80-85, also contained all of their first EP, the Public Service EP (alternative versions of "Bad Religion", "Slaves", and "Drastic Actions" from the self titled EP) and Back To The Known.
On March 7, 2006, a live DVD, Live at the Palladium, was released. This DVD featured a live show performed in late 2004 at the Hollywood Palladium, as well as extensive interviews, several music videos, and a photo gallery. During one of the interview segments, guitarist Brett Gurewitz says the band's next album might be a double length release.
Greg Graffin released his second solo album, Cold as the Clay, on July 11, 2006.
On September 11, 2006, drummer Brooks Wackerman posted an update on the MySpace bulletin board stating that the band will begin to demo the songs for the upcoming album, New Maps of Hell:
- "I talked to Brett a few hours ago and we're getting together this week to demo some newbies......Greg is also hard at work at his home studio,sweating out his jams.... We basically always demo the tunes at brett or greg's place then the whole bands meets for some serious mind blowing energy......I know alot of you are inquiring about this-so there you go."
On November 21, 2006, the band confirmed they would be part of the 2007 Warped Tour.
Guitarist Greg Hetson formed a supergroup band called Black President, consisting of Charlie Paulson (from Goldfinger), Jason Christopher, Wade Youman (both from Unwritten Law) and Christian Black (from Dee Dee Ramone).
Lyrics and ideologyEdit
The majority of Bad Religion's lyrics are written by either Greg Graffin or Brett Gurewitz. Only on rare occasions will they co-write a song together. Other band members, such as Jay Bentley, also contribute songs, but these constitute only a small percentage of the Bad Religion catalog.
Brett Gurewitz acknowledges attempting to emulate The Germs singer Darby Crash early on in Bad Religion's lyrical style. "He wrote some intelligent stuff, and didn't shy away from the vocabulary, which I thought was cool." In addition to their use of atypically complicated vocabulary for a punk band, Bad Religion is also known for their frequent use of vocal harmonies, which they refer to in their album liner notes as the "oozin aahs". They took their cues from The Adolescents, in the way that they used three-part harmonies. Bassist Jay Bentley says, "Seeing The Adolescents live, it was so brilliant. So, in a way, the Adolescents influenced us into saying we can do it too, because look, they're doing it."
Social and political issuesEdit
Many of Bad Religion's songs are about different social ills, although they make attempts not to ascribe the causes of these ills to any single person or group. Greg Graffin believes that the current political situation in the United States can make it difficult to voice these concerns, as he doesn't want to feed the polarization of viewpoints.
The band doesn't always restrict political commentary exclusively to metaphor. Brett Gurewitz pulled no punches when he attributed his anger towards US President George W. Bush as the major inspiration for The Empire Strikes First. "Our whole album is dedicated to getting Bush out of office. I'm not a presidential scholar but I don't think you'll find a worse president in the history of the United States. He's probably one of the worst leaders in the history of world leaders. I just hate the guy."
- "Faith in your partner, your fellow men, your friends, is very important, because without it there's no mutual component to your relationship, and relationships are important. So faith plays an important role, but faith in people you don't know, faith in religious or political leaders or even people on stages, people who are popular in the public eye, you shouldn't have faith in those people. You should listen to what they have to say and use it." - Greg Graffin
Despite the name of the band, the members do not consider themselves antitheist. Singer Greg Graffin states that more often than not, the band prefers to use religion as a metaphor for anything that doesn't allow for an individual's freedom to think or express themselves as they choose. In this way, their songs are more about anti-conformity than anti-religion.
|1980-1981||Greg Graffin||Mr. Brett||Jay Bentley||Jay Ziskrout||Bad Religion (EP), 80-85 (compilation)|
|1981-1982||Greg Graffin||Mr. Brett||Jay Bentley||Pete Finestone||How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, 80-85 (compilation), All Ages (compilation)|
|1995-2001||Greg Graffin||Brian Baker,|
|Jay Bentley||Bobby Schayer||The Gray Race, No Substance, The New America, Tested (live), Punk Rock Songs (compilation)|
|2001-present||Greg Graffin||Brian Baker,|
|Jay Bentley||Brooks Wackerman||The Process of Belief, The Empire Strikes First, New Maps of Hell|
Date of release Title Record label January 19, 1982 How Could Hell Be Any Worse? Epitaph Records February 27, 1996 The Gray Race Atlantic Records May 5, 1998 No Substance Atlantic Records May 9, 2000 The New America Atlantic Records January 22, 2002 The Process of Belief Epitaph Records June 8, 2004 The Empire Strikes First Epitaph Records To be released sometime in late spring2007 New Maps of Hell Epitaph Records