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Bad Religion Interview

In support of their new album The Empire Strikes First, Bad Religion is touring on the Warped Tour. We were thus given a chance to sit down for an interview with Jay Bentley (bass) of Bad Religion at the Cleveland stop.

Bad Religion Interview

Would you say that your band being in existence today is having more of an impact than it has in the past?

We are just here right now. We are a lot angrier now than we have been in the past because of current events. I think people might be looking for that more. It seemed like after 9/11 the funny cute band thing got pushed to the side and a more serious and relevant style of music seemed to be more prevalent. That being said, the attention span of the typical American seems to be about .08 seconds so that kind of reality check got quickly replaced by some party atmosphere. We were right back to where we were before. Our lovely and wonderful leader decided to take us into a war for no reason and everybody sat idly by and stuck their heads in the sand. We are just here, have been for 25 years. Even if we weren’t a band I am sure we would have as individuals, we all would have been doing something. We just happen to be doing it collectively.

Have you seen Fahrenheit 9/11?

Greg saw it, but I haven’t seen it yet. Greg saw it but I haven’t seen it. The funniest quote that I’ve got so far is that someone said to me, “It changed my opinion of George Bush” and I said, “What, I’m going to like him now?” It’s not going to change my opinion of him. The people that need to see the movie are the people that like him. Supporters of George Bush need to go see that movie and understand that maybe the guy you think he isn’t who he is. Maybe he is this pretzel-choking moron who is being controlled by Cheney and Wolfowitz and everyone else in that administration that has been around since Nixon waiting for the right stooge to say, “we need the middle east.” I don’t know why it’s not apparent to everyone else. It’s totally bizarre to me.

There was recently a story published about the demographic that is going to see the movie. The interesting thing was that after the initial pro-Dem group, more and more conservatives are going to see it.

That’s good. I suppose it is much like the religious outcry against The Passion of The Christ. Churches are buying them in bulk to show them to kids. “This is how it happened.” I haven’t seen that movie either. Movies are movies. They are entertainment. I don’t care if they are documentaries or what; they are one-sided forms of entertainment. That is Michael Moore’s opinion of George W. Bush. Granted there is a lot of support for his opinion, but in order to have a qualified objective, you need to read it all, and see it all. You can’t just read Dude Where is My Country and see Fahrenheit 9/11 and go to the polls. That’s not extremely fair. I like that concept, but it’s no different than people that say that if you are a right wing conservative you are wearing blinders. Well you can be liberal and wearing blinders too.

When did the ideas for “The Empire Strikes First” begin?

On Greg’s part, I think when he was writing his thesis for his PhD. That thesis was titled, “Religion and It’s Effect on the Evolution of Mankind.” I think that is where Greg started writing his material for the songs. I think for Brett it started after he got out of the studio with Rancid and everyone was just pissed off about the war. I don’t like using the term “war.” A war seems like somebody has done something to you and you react. This was a preemptive strike for no reason. Apparently there was a Winnebago with a death-ray driving around Iraq. Anything you find now was planted. Now the last great thing was they were talking about “we are going to step up our efforts to save America against biological weapons,” but we gave them those biological weapons. People don’t remember that. In the fight against the Ayatollah, he used to be the bad guy. It’s a joke. The anger at George Bush giving the world the middle finger was what lead Brett to write his political sided songs like “Let them Eat War, “Empire Strikes First,” and then there is always a Brett type of song where he will write all there is, which is just his insatiable questioning for an answer.

Would you say this ADD-styled society has a lot to do with this? (The incident is straight out of 1984 when they would change sides in a fight and the society would happily follow them)?

I think it’s just that people don’t care. It’s easier not to care. It doesn’t hurt. You can’t lose. You don’t feel bad. “I don’t do politics. However I do have saran wrap on my doors and window and am finding it hard to breath.” You start to realize that when this current administration is speaking, they are speaking in a way that is almost hypnotic. It’s almost McDonalds-esque. “How can I sell this to the masses. How can I sell this fear to everyone to just doesn’t really care enough to look into it but will listen to me.” I have an 11 and a 13-year old son. My 11-year old sees that. He asked me, “Why did Saddam Hussein fly the plane into the World Trade Center.” “Exactly.” That’s what he is getting out of it. He lets me know what is going on. He sees what news tells him. My job right now is to completely fix all of the shit he sees all day long...which is a drag. It’s hard. As a parent it’s my job. I get to be the ultimate censor that corrects all the wrongs. You can’t be born and form an opinion in a void.

Do you pay attention to the news?

I watch a lot of different news programs, because they all have a different slant. If you take the 1/8th an ounce of truth out of the 50 pounds of shit, you might actually get something. Everyone has a little bit of truth. That’s the one rule about the great liars. If you put a little bit of truth in it, its the best lie ever. You have to work at it. You have to watch 50 programs and watch 3 programs a day. Its easier to be bored and not care.

Obviously there were a lot of topics that could have been brought up. How did you as a band decide what to talk about?

I think most of Greg’s songs came from his PhD work. Historically, most of Greg’s lyrics come from his educational background. Whether it is a book he’s reading or a class he’s taking or teaching. That seems to be a common thread in his work is wherever he is at philisophically in his studies, it generally goes into his lyrics. Brett is a “wear-his-heart-on-his-sleeve” romantic who likes to write like Thomas Woolf in a very romantic science fiction way. On the other hand, what I know about Greg is that he is a straight-up aethist “prove it, I’m a scientist,” where Brett is always looking for a reason to believe. That is Bretts biggest dilemma. Which is brilliant. I get to watch him struggle with it. He writes it down on paper. That makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. That is what we all go through as humans, that desperate search for an answer. Brett seems to be able to do that in a non scientific way whereas Greg does it very scientifically. You’ve got a professional and an amateur in the area of questioning. It’s always like that. The lyrics for this album or any other.

You have been together quite a while. Do you see any differences with fans today aside from age?

There are more people, but I think this music style has grown out of the swamp and has become an acceptable form of music. It is not just an underground secret culture. It is now mainstream. Were we play, you see people who have liked us for years, you get people who have maybe heard our song on the radio anywhere from 13 to 40. We are a weird band like that. We don’t have a specific genre.

What music do you listen to?

When I’m at home my son listens to Blink and System of a Down. Every room is just blazing something different. My wife listens to opera. I just listen to whatever they are playing.

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