Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Process of Belief

As I've said before, when I started writing for IN, I had a short list of bands I wanted to interview. Bad Religion was near the top. My first chance to talk to them came in advance of  the Warped Tour in 2009. Of course, I had hoped to get singer (and book writer) Greg Graffin. Instead, I got the only guy in the band I didn't want to talk to, drummer Brooks Wackerman. Not only is he the new guy (he joined the band back in 2000), but his former side project, Hot Potty, was possibly the worst band I'd ever seen live. 

As it turned out, Brooks was great to talk to. So good, in fact, that I take back all the bad things I have said about him in the past. 

Goodwill aside, I was pretty excited when I heard that was going to get to talk to founding member, bassist Jay Bentley this time around. Jay is the big, smiling face of the band. On the phone, he was just as charismatic and full of laughter as I had hoped. 

I asked him the usual questions about band longevity, influences, etc. But I really wanted to ask him about faith.

Bad Religion was formed by a bunch of high school kids in the Reagan era. They chose the band name (and the "cross busters" logo) as a response to the televangelism of the '80s, and of course, to piss people off. It would seem, though, that as they grew up, their black and white anti-religion sentiment would become more gray. Alas, nay. It is is still a constant lyrical topic for Graffin and the whole thesis of his book hinges on the lack of God. 

I wanted to see if that stance was shared by the rest of the guys. I didn't get a real straight answer but I did enjoy these two responses: 
It’s been a long time since you guys decided to call yourselves Bad Religion. What would happen if you walked into the room today and said, “Hey guys, I’m a born again Christian! I converted last night.”

[Big laugh] There is no hard/fast rule about anything. I’m sure if [guitarist] Brian [Baker] came in and said, ‘Guys, I’ve never told you, but I’m a Republican,’ we’d all have a laugh, point fingers, giggle, and get back to work.

There’s one thing about this band that I can honestly say that we’ve learned--each and every member has their own individual ideas and purposes. We’re not a team, not a unit, not a gang. We don’t all wear the same clothes and we don’t fly a flag. We are all separate people who have learned to make room for all of our ideologies.

There is more faith in this band than you might know. It has never been a problem. It is something we always talk about--how can you have this type of belief--those are the long discussions we have on 10 hour drives. There’s room for everybody here.

Are there a lot of religious Bad Religion fans out there?

I’ve met more people than you can imagine--whether they are parents or kids--who have a faith or an organized religion that they belong to. One of the things that we’ve always said is, ‘There’s nothing wrong with religion, it’s what people do with it.’ When it seems selfish or egocentric, that’s when there’s a problem.

Everyone deserves to be happy. And whatever makes people happy is completely awesome. But there seems to be people in the world who can’t leave well enough alone, [and say] ”I’m happy, but I need more. I want others to believe what I believe and if they don’t, they’re automatically considered an enemy.” I can’t agree with philosophy ever.
Good conversation, good interview. I'm bummed I wasn't able to make the show.

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