"You should listen to what they have to say and use it."
Bad Religion Means Good Music
Many musical acts can say that they were inspired by a genre or an era. Few can do as Bad Religion does and claim that they were the ones who influenced a genre or era. The band, with almost three decades of music and several line-ups behind them, has certainly gone through its fair share of changes in the music scene. Time, troubles and tensions, however, are yet to keep this musical institution from the punk rock stage.
El Camino Real High School in Los Angeles, California has the claim of seeing the birth of the band. Brett Gurewitz, Greg Graffin, Jay Bentley and Jay Ziskrout were all students there, and in 1980 picked up lead guitar, keyboards, bass and drums respectively to form Bad Religion. By 1981, they were able to release a self-titled EP under Epitaph Records, an infant label started by Gurewitz, who himself was just 19 at the time.
Bad Religion is Born
A full-length studio album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse, followed in 1982, which was a major factor in establishing the band’s fan base. Ziskrout left the band while their first album was being recorded; Peter Finestone picked up his drumsticks as replacement, only to leave shortly after the album was released.
Into the Unknown, the band's sophomore effort, was released in 1983 and was extremely unpopular with the fans then. A hiatus for the band followed, with Gurewitz in rehab for a drug problem and Graffin pursuing his own projects. The latter, though, pulled the band back together in 1984 to produce a much mellower sound for Back to the Known, an EP.
Thanks to a series of events that started with Graffin calling Bentley to ask the latter’s return, Bad Religion officially made a comeback in 1986. Graffin, Bentley, Gurewitz, Finestone and Greg Hetson all signed back on to release Suffer in 1988. It was a huge hit not just because the band was back together, but also because it’s credited as a saving force for the punk rock scene of SoCal.
Bad Religion: Reborn
Writing for the next album started while the band was still touring to promote Suffer. By 1988, the band was able to record the new album, No Control, and then release it by November of that year. Although none of their albums had become bestsellers yet, they were then a recognizable name on the punk scene. Commercial success came later, with the likes of Against the Grain, the 1990 album that sold 100,000 units and carried 21st Century (Digital Boy), one of the band's signature songs.
Pete Finestone left the drummer's seat in 1991 to give more time for his other band, which had then just signed with a major label. Bobby Schayer, who got training from Lucky Lehrer of Circle Jerks, filled in for Finestone, and the band began recording Generator in a month. The sixth album, however, didn't see a release date until March of 1992.
Bad Religion: Coming and Going
The early and mid-90's saw the mainstream markets giving grunge a little more attention. That helped form the decision for Bad Religion to switch labels to Atlantic Records from Epitaph in 1993. Even more mainstream success followed with Recipe for Hate which, though not critically acclaimed, brought the band into the public spotlight.
Stranger Than Fiction - the band's first certified gold album - followed in 1994, and was the start of their troubles. Right before the new album's release, Gurewitz left the band, accusing them of selling out for commercial success. Brian Baker stepped in to fill in for Gurewitz on the guitar, leaving Graffin to write songs alone. That was the line-up for The Gray Race in 1996, No Substance in 1998 and The New America in 2000; all three albums were received poorly. In 2001, the band moved back to Epitaph.
That same year, Gurewitz came back on board, with Graffin stating that it was a mutual agreement. The Gurewitz-Graffin combo proved to be the band's recipe for success, as both The Process of Belief in 2002 and The Empire Strikes First of 2004 were received well by critics and fans alike.
Although the individual members had begun pursuing their own side projects, the group was still going strong when they released New Maps of Hell in 2007. As of 2008, the fifteenth Bad Religion album was said to be in the works, with the released tentatively slated for 2010.
Did you know that...
- ...No Control was an impromptu album? In between touring gigs for Suffer, the band went into the studio in 1989 and recorded all the new songs.
- ...Graffin and Gurewitz usually write their lyrics alone? This is despite the fact that their best albums were produced when both were in the band.
- ...the band has a political stance? The Empire Strikes First, in particular, was even dedicated against President George W. Bush.