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Monday, October 8, 2007

Punk Rock, Parenting and Politics. A Conversation with Bad Religion’s Jay Bentley

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2007 at 1:25 PM

Politico-punk vets Bad Religion visit the Agora Ballroom (5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-6911) Thursday, October 11. Check out this week’s Scene for a show preview, and read on for part one of a bonus interview with bassist Jay Bentley. Matt Gorey -- self-proclaimed biggest BR fan in Ohio -- almost succeeded in summoning all of his will power to avoid bombarding Bentley with nerdy questions during this interview, like “Remember when you made Suffer? That was awesome.” PART I: PUNK Age, fatherhood and outside commitments haven’t slowed Bad Religion. The legendary So Cal punk group sounds more energized than ever on its latest New Maps of Hell. Guitarist Brett Gurewitz runs a little record label called Epitaph, singer Greg Graffin teaches at UCLA and bassist Jay Bentley is the committed parent of two teenage sons. But New Maps of Hell is an extremely focused affair. How has New Maps of Hell been received? It’s been really positive. We got a couple of weeks on the Warped Tour in before it came out so we kind of got to watch people starting to sing the songs and getting to know the songs as the tour went on. Everybody says it’s one of the best records we’ve done in a while. What were some of the band’s goals? Just to get it done! (Laughs). In a strange way we have a pretty good idea of what we are as a band and I think that we try to expand that idea, not necessarily jump out of the box and become a David Bowie figure where we’re changing every record. A lot of it kind of focuses on what Brooks is able to do as a drummer, he’s so phenomenal. And the other part of it is that Brett is always trying to find different ways to turn phrases and turn hooks and it’s the same with Greg. One of the goals we have with every song and every record we do is to see how far we can push this and still be comfortable. What’s your take on the lyrical content this time around? The Empire Strikes First was really us being as political as we’ve ever been -- putting our money where our mouth is -- and making a political statement for the times. Now with this record it’s sort of back to business as usual for Bad Religion, which is basically a sociopolitical viewpoint in saying, ‘Alright, here we are as human beings on this planet —what’s it like for us and what are we going to do now?’ Is there a secret to Bad Religion’s longevity? You’ve had your ups and downs throughout 27 years. (Laughs heartily). We have. I think the secret is to overcome your downs. We’ve all quit at certain times, some of us longer than others. In retrospect it’s all about putting your ego in your pocket and really realizing that this is something you like to do. It’s fun and as long as you don’t take it too seriously and make it overwhelmingly important or make yourself overwhelmingly important than you can all get along. Can you see yourself doing Bad Religion into your 50s? Greg and I have talked about this and I don’t really see a reason for us to stop making music. I don’t know about the touring schedule, but we like getting together in the studio, we like making records and I consider the guys in the band my family, so getting together with them is always enjoyable. It’s kind of like family at Christmas time (laughs). It’s amazing that Bad Religion has been able to keep that fire, that anger for so long? Do you see that same fire in other bands today? I don’t. There are a few bands that are doing it. But I think the political angle got dangerous for people because it put them in a position where they had to have some kind of opinion and they didn’t want to have opinions. I remember a couple of bands who I won’t name really shying away from political discussion — serious punk rock bands -- and it was almost like they had some sort of management meeting where they said just don’t say anything about politics. It was almost like they said ‘you’re just gonna go up there and sing about your girlfriend and how you don’t like rich people.’ Okay, that’s cool (sarcastically). -- Matt Gorey Visit C-Notes tomorrow for part II.

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