BAD RELIGION
Into the Unknown
PHOTO: ED COLVER
Bad Religion formed in 1980 in the San Fernando Valley, just north of Los Angeles, CA, as the early Hollywood punk scene was fading and the new hardcore sound was exploding out of the suburbs. Recent high school dropout Brett Gurewitz recruited drummer Jay Ziskraut, bassist Jay Bentley, and singer Greg Graffin. The latter two were both 15 and still attending Brett's old school: El Camino Real High. From the beginning Bad Religion stood out from their SoCal peers. They eschewed both the violent nihilism of Black Flag and TSOL and the "party band" humor of the Circle Jerks. Although fast like other hardcore bands, their sound was rooted in Graffin's literary, Darby Crash-inspired lyrics and almost Beatlesque vocal harmonies that soared over the straightforward hardcore riffs. Taking his cue from Greg Ginn and SST, Gurewitz put out the band's first single to begin his own Epitaph label. 1981's Bad Religion EP was six songs of raw, midtempo hardcore. Again following the lead of the Germs and the Flag, the sleeve featured an eye catching, easy-to-spray paint logo: the now infamous crossed-out cross. The band would later assign to it the idea of not subscribing to any dogma, religious or otherwise.

The following year, Epitaph released the How Could Hell be any Worse? LP, a completely raging full length showcasing a much more intense, refined Bad Religion with Pete Finestone on drums. The LP was financed by a loan from Brett's dad, but soon sold more than 10,000 copies. It was only 1982, and already it looked like nothing could stop Bad Religion, who had just added Circle Jerk Greg Hetson to their ranks. Hetson had been rocking the SoCal scene since his early teens in Red Kross, and had been an early supporter of the band. Then Greg Graffin got a synthesizer as a present from Brett. He soon ditched his trademark leather jacket and started to talk about breaking free from the confines of punk rock. When he brought his new synth-composed songs to the band, Pete quit and Jay left to play with Wasted Youth. With the help of Paul Dedona Bad Religion recorded the now suppressed Into the Unknown LP. For some reason this space odyssey, replete with 6-minute synth clunkers and acoustic slow jams, didn't go over well with fans of "We're Only Gonna Die" and "Fuck Armageddon, This is Hell." The experiment failed, the band fell apart, and Greg returned to his native Wisconsin for school with his tail between his legs. The album has since been shoved down the memory hole by the band, with most surviving copies in the dirty hands of collector scum.

Early Bad Religion
PHOTO: GARY LEONARD

In 1984 Greg Hetson instigated a reformation of BR with Graffin, Finestone, and Wasted Youth bassist Tim Gallegos. Brett didn't rejoin yet, but showed up to produce the Back to the Known EP, five songs that attempted to wipe out any doubts about Bad Religion's punk stature. That task was really accomplished four years later, after the band took time off while Greg studied and Brett turned Epitaph into a more formal business venture. In 1988 the two returned to the table with the monumental Suffer LP, quickly followed by No Control. While some lambasted the records as too pop or outright sell-outs, it was really Bad Religion taking their formula of "melodic hardcore" and refining it to a science. Suffer was reportedly hailed as "album of the year" by both Flipside and MRR. More verbose than ever, Graffin's lyrics came to be known as "thesaurus core," with lines like "the anechoic nebula rotating in my brain is persuading me, contritely, to persist."

Mr. Dictionary Bad Religion entered the '90's with the excellent Against the Grain LP, and maintained a steady string of releases for the next few years until signing to major label Atlantic Records in 1994. Brett left the band for a while to tend to his duties as Epitaph's CEO. The label and his recording studio have made him a very rich man thanks to punk's newfound commodity value. Ironically, it was the Offspring, who started out as a second rate BR clone, that made him such a tycoon. Graffin has continued with his schooling and uses his BioChem degree to teach college when he's not rocking out or doing solo records. Bad Religion recruited Doggy Style's Brian Baker to fill Brett's shoes, and now that he's back they play with three guitar players. They've also switched back to Epitaph after failing to break much ground as major label rock stars (although, thanks to publishing and distribution deals with Sony, Epitaph is basically a mini-major with a regressive indie image). Whether or not it's sad to see them opening up for inferior prefab bands like Blink 182 is your call, but Bad Religion keep on putting out records with remarkable consistency. Never ones to follow any dogma (or logic), Bad Religion are one of punk's most prolific and influential bands. All of their records except for that one are still in print, and the early stuff is compiled on the amazing 80-85 CD.
DISCOGRAPHY

Releases

BAD RELIGION EP (Epitaph, 1981)

HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? LP (Epitaph, 1982)

INTO THE UNKNOWN LP (Epitaph, 1983)

BACK TO THE KNOWN EP (Epitaph, 1984)

SUFFER LP (Epitaph, 1988)

NO CONTROL LP (Epitaph, 1989)

AGAINST THE GRAIN LP (Epitaph, 1990)

ATOMIC GARDEN 7" (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1992)

GENERATOR LP (Epitaph, 1992)

AMERICAN JESUS 7" (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1993)

RECIPE FOR HATE LP (Epitaph, 1993)

STRANGER THAN FICTION CD (Atlantic, 1994)

ALL AGES CD (Epitaph, 1995)

THE GREY RACE CD (Atlantic, 1996)

TESTED CD (Epic, 1997)

NO SUBSTANCE CD (Epic, 1998)

THE NEW AMERICA CD (Columbia, 2000)


Reissues

80-85 (Epitaph - has everything from this period except "Into the Unknown")


Compilations

PUBLIC SERVICE LP (Smoke Seven, 1981) "Bad Religion", "Slaves", "Drastic Actions"

SOMEONE GOT THEIR HEAD KICKED IN LP (BYO, 1982) "In the Night"

AMERICAN YOUTH REPORT LP (Bomp, 1982) "Only Gonna Die"

THE SOUND OF HOLLYWOOD #2: DESTROY L.A. LP (Mystic, 1983) "Waiting for the Fire", "Every Day"

BURIED ALIVE LP (Smoke Seven, 1983) "Bad Religion", "Drastic Actions"


INFO

Interview from We Got Power #4
A short, less-than-serious interview in this zine from LA.

Official Bad Religion Website
Although this site has articles on and photos of Bad Religion, I think by far the most interesting thing here is the writing by Greg Graffin. He has written, among other things, a "Punk Manifesto," and also has responded to a number of emails people have sent. If you're interested in whether Bad Religion has "sold out" (although there are much more important things to worry about, I think the question is a valid one to some degree...), then check out what Bad Religion has to say here.

The Bad Religion Page Fan Website
Here's the best Bad Religion fan page out there. A good history and discography, interviews, and tons of other shit.



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