Bad Religion is an American punk rock band founded in Southern California in 1980 by Jay Bentley (bass), Greg Graffin (vocals), Brett Gurewitz (guitars) and Jay Ziskrout (drums). They are often credited for leading the revival of punk rock and inspiring several subsequent punk bands during the late 1980s, as well as influencing a large number of other punk and rock musicians throughout their career. In the 29 years since its inception, Bad Religion has had numerous lineup changes, and Graffin has been the only constant member, although the band currently features three of the original four members.
To date, Bad Religion has released fourteen studio albums, two EPs, three compilation albums, one live recording, and two DVDs. Their 1988 album Suffer has been regarded by some critics as one of the most important punk rock albums of all time, although it was not charted in Billboard. Bad Religion rose to fame with their 1993 album Recipe for Hate, which reached number 14 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, marking the highest initial charting album in the band's career. Their next album, Stranger Than Fiction, featuring the band's well-known hit singles "21st Century (Digital Boy)" and "Infected", was also highly successful and became the only Bad Religion album to obtain gold status in the US. Following Gurewitz's departure in 1994, Bad Religion declined in popularity and poor record sales continued until the release of The New America in 2000. Gurewitz returned to the fold in 2001, making Bad Religion a six-piece band, and contributed to their three most recent albums. The band has discussed the possibility of recording their next studio album, which is expected to be released in 2010, and will also mark the first time that a Bad Religion line-up had not changed in four consecutive studio recordings.
They are particularly known for their sophisticated use of style, metaphor, vocabulary, imagery, and vocal harmonies (which they refer to in their album liner notes as the "oozin aahs".) Lyrics are often reflective on matters of personal feelings or of personal or social responsibility.
Formation and early career (1980?1982)
Bad Religion was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1980 by high school students Greg Graffin (vocals, keyboards), Jay Bentley (bass), Jay Ziskrout (drums), and Brett Gurewitz, also known as "Mr. Brett" (guitar). James O'Hanlon from New York filled in on guitar briefly as well while Brett was in the hospital with a broken leg. The band's major influences stemmed from earlier punk acts such as The Ramones, The Adolescents, Black Flag, The Germs, and The Sex Pistols. Outside of the punk scene, their influences ranged from Elvis Costello, The Jam, and Nick Lowe to authors like Jack Kerouac. Greg Graffin called his influences "pop sounding rock tunes that were not necessarily commercial."
In 1981, the band released their eponymous debut EP on the newly-formed label, Epitaph Records, which was and continues to be managed and owned by Gurewitz. 1982 saw the release of their first full-length album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, gaining the band a sizable following. During the recording of How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Jay Ziskrout left the band and was replaced by Peter Finestone.
Into the Unknown, Back to the Known and hiatus (1983?1985)
In 1983, the band released Into the Unknown, a keyboard-driven progressive rock album that was enormously unpopular with the band's core fanbase. It is now officially out of print, after almost all of the 10,000 copies were surreptitiously sold out of the warehouse they were being stored in by Gurewitz's ex-girlfriend, Suzy Shaw (who currently runs Bomp Records).
The record has since become a collectors item, and has also gained acceptance from some fans. It can be seen going for more than $100 on eBay.
Also in 1983, the Mystic Records compilation album "The Sound Of Hollywood, Vol. 2" was released featuring two Bad Religion songs- "Every Day" and "Waiting For The Fire" which continued in the mellow acoustic/keyboard direction of the previous album. These songs are exclusive to this vinyl-only release which has been out of print for many years.
In 1984, Greg Hetson of Circle Jerks fame, who had played the guitar solo for "Part III" on How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, teamed up with Graffin on the song "Running Fast" for the soundtrack of the film Desperate Teenage Lovedolls. Originally credited to Greg Greg on the initial release, the 1997 CD reissue lists the artist as Greg Graffin and Greg Hetson. Soon after, Graffin reassembled Bad Religion with Hetson replacing Gurewitz, who had gone into rehab for his drug problem. Bad Religion returned to a somewhat mellower, rock and roll version of their original sound with the Back to the Known EP, but disbanded temporarily soon after.
In 1985, Brett Gurewitz released a 5-song EP on Epitaph Records under the name The Seeing Eye Gods. This psychedelic influenced record is long out of print and has never been released on CD.
Reunion and Suffer (1986?1988)
Bad Religion slowly reformed in 1986 out of the Back to the Known lineup when Greg Graffin called Jay Bentley and asked him to return. Bentley's response was tentative, but after being assured that the setlist consisted mostly of tracks from How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, he agreed to return for one show, and ended up staying on because he had so much fun. A freshly rehabilitated Gurewitz was eventually convinced to come back aboard, and with Pete Finestone returning on drums and Greg Hetson on second guitar, Bad Religion was back.
The reunited band released their long-delayed third album Suffer in 1988, cementing their comeback in the punk community. Not only is this album often cited as one of their very best by fans, but it is credited with "saving" the Southern California punk rock scene by fans and Bad Religion's contemporaries alike.
No Control, Against the Grain and Generator (1989?1992)
During the Suffer tour in 1988, Bad Religion began writing "album's worth of material". In early 1989, while the band was on a brief break from their Suffer tour, they decided to commence work on their next album and entered the Westbeach Recorders studio in June of that year to record it. The resulting album, No Control, was released in November 1989, and ended up selling more than 50,000 copies. By the time it was released, the band had become one of the most critically-praised hardcore punk bands of the time, in spite of a lack of mainstream success.
Bad Religion's hardcore punk style continued with their next album, Against the Grain, which was released in 1990. While the album still did not break the band into mainstream audiences, it was the first 100,000 seller, and showed how quickly they were growing. "21st Century (Digital Boy)", one of the tracks off the album, is generally regarded the band's most well-known song, and has been played at almost every live show.
Drummer Pete Finestone left Bad Religion again in April 1991 to focus on his other band, The Fishermen, which had signed with a major label, and Bobby Schayer joined the band as his replacement. In May 1991, Bad Religion entered the Westbeach Recorders studio to begin recording material for their sixth studio album, Generator, which was not released until March 1992. The album was recorded almost live in the studio, because, at the time, Gurewitz had moved Westbeach to larger premises, and for the first time, the entire band could play in the studio at the same time. He stated that it was "time to change" and the band "did it in a different studio, but as far as the songwriting, it was a deliberate effort to try something different". To accompany the album, Bad Religion filmed their first music video "Atomic Garden", which was also their first song to be released as a single.
To coincide with the band's success, Bad Religion released a compilation album, 80-85, in 1991. It is a repackaging of their debut album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, their two EPs, Bad Religion and Back to the Known and the band's three track contributions to the Public Service EP. This compilation did not include Into the Unknown. 80-85 is now out of print and has been replaced by the 2004 re-issued version of How Could Hell Be Any Worse? with the same track listings.
Mainstream success and depature of Gurewitz (1993?1995)
With alternative rock and grunge breaking into the mainstream, Bad Religion decided to leave Epitaph for Atlantic Records in 1993 and quickly re-released their seventh full-length studio album Recipe for Hate on the label that same year. Despite receiving mixed reviews from music critics, the album finally broke Bad Religion into mainstream audiences and got their highest U.S. chart position to date, debuting at #14 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, with "American Jesus" and "Struck a Nerve" in particular becoming major rock radio hits at their time. Also in 1993, the band recorded the song "Leaders and Followers" (which later appeared as a bonus track on the Japanese version of their next album) for the soundtrack for the Kevin Smith film, Clerks.
Recipe for Hate was followed up by Bad Religion's eighth studio album Stranger Than Fiction. The album met high critical reception upon its release in September 1994, and subsequently became their most successful album, scoring hits with "Infected" and a re-recording of "21st Century (Digital Boy)", which was originally released on Against the Grain. The album was Bad Religion's first to enter the Billboard 200; the release peaked at number 87, and was awarded gold certification on March 4, 1998 for sales of over half a million copies. Before the release of Stranger Than Fiction, Gurewitz left the band. He officially cited the reason for his departure as the increasing amount of time he was needed at Epitaph as The Offspring (who had just released Smash to unexpected success and acclaim) became one of the biggest bands of the mid-1990s, but it was well known that his departure was not on good terms. Gurewitz, along with many fans, accused the band of selling out for leaving Epitaph to seek greater financial success despite the fact that Gurewitz was making millions off of The Offspring alone.
As tensions increased, Graffin would sing alternate lyrics during concerts such as "I want to know where Brett gets his crack" or "I want to know why Gurewitz cracked," on the song "Stranger Than Fiction". These barbs referred to Gurewitz's struggles with crack, heroin and other addictions which plagued him for years. Brett discussed his drug use in an interview on the band's Suffer tour documentary, Along the Way, and is now clean and sober. In response, Gurewitz recorded a song with his new band The Daredevils entitled "Hate You", reportedly directed towards Jay Bentley.
Gurewitz was replaced as a guitarist by Brian Baker, a former member of bands such as Minor Threat and Dag Nasty. Since Greg Graffin and Gurewitz had split songwriting duties, Graffin was now Bad Religion's primary songwriter.
Post-Gurewitz period (1996?2000)
Bad Religion continued touring and recording without Brett Gurewitz and released three more albums for Atlantic, starting with The Gray Race (1996), produced by former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek. Despite never garnering the amount of attention that Stranger Than Fiction received, it would score Bad Religion a minor U.S. radio hit with the song "A Walk" as well as the European release of "Punk Rock Song" (sung in both English and German). The band would find its greatest success in Europe, where the album would reach the German music charts at #6 and score the band their first European gold record for sales in Scandinavia alone.
Brian Baker (left) with Bad Religion, live in the Netherlands, 1995.
Their next album, No Substance (1998), was not as well received by the critics or fans. For The New America (2000), Todd Rundgren, an early musical inspiration for Graffin, was brought in to produce. "Todd was kind of an underground sensation back in 1974. Here's a guy who was making pop music but in a way that you wouldn't hear on the radio. So much of my early musical identity was wrapped up in the way he conducted himself." In the summer of 1999 they set out on a three month US arena tour opening for Blink 182. Unfortunately, the experience might not have been all that Greg and the rest of the band might have hoped. Interest in recording the record waned, due to Rundgren's poor attitude. Jay Bentley reflects on this by saying, "I didn't feel we were going anywhere and so did Greg. Todd didn't like Greg and that made Greg so mad! He met his idol and he was a jerk! I don't think Todd gave a shit about anything." Meanwhile, Bobby Schayer left the band following a serious shoulder injury and was replaced by Brooks Wackerman (Suicidal Tendencies).
Bad Religion departed from Atlantic Records in 2001 and returned to Epitaph.
Reunion with Gurewitz (2001?2004)
In 2001, Brett Gurewitz rejoined the band in time to record The Process of Belief (2002). Graffin states, "there was a little bit of disappointment on my part when he left the band, but we never had any serious acrimony between the two of us. I can't say the same for the rest of the band. But he and I, being the songwriters from way back, we really wanted to try again."
Their next album, The Empire Strikes First, was released in June 2004. Like The Process of Belief, it is widely regarded by fans and critics as a return to form for the band, as opposed to their time on Atlantic.
The band also re-released digitally-remastered versions of several of their early albums on Epitaph Records, including How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Suffer, No Control, Against the Grain, and Generator. The How Could Hell Be Any Worse? re-issue, though reclaiming the original title of the band's debut LP, contained all of the same material as the previously issued 80-85 compilation, including their first EP, the Public Service EP (with different versions of the songs Bad Religion, Slaves, and Drastic Actions than the self-titled EP) and the "Back To The Known" EP.
New Maps of Hell and beyond (2005?present)
Bentley (left) and Graffin (right) with Bad Religion, live in the House of Blues, 2005.
On March 7, 2006, a live DVD, Live at the Palladium was released. This DVD featured a live show performed in late 2004 at the Hollywood Palladium, as well as extensive interviews, several music videos, and a photo gallery. During one of the interview segments, guitarist Brett Gurewitz said the band's next album would be a double length release, but this turned out not to be the case.
Greg Graffin released his second solo album, Cold as the Clay, on July 11, 2006.
Bad Religion's fourteenth (and most recent) studio album, New Maps of Hell, was released on July 10, 2007. On June 29 of that year (Greg Hetson's 46th birthday), Epitaph Records started selling New Maps of Hell at the Warped Tour in Pomona, California. The album was a commercial success and spawned two hit singles "Honest Goodbye" and "New Dark Ages", and as a result, New Maps of Hell reached number 35 on the Billboard 200, marking Bad Religion's highest ever chart position. Bad Religion also joined the 2007 Warped Tour to support the album.
Hetson formed a supergroup band called Black President, consisting of Charlie Paulson (from Goldfinger), Jason Christopher, Wade Youman (both from Unwritten Law) and Christian Martucci (from Dee Dee Ramone).
In early March 2008, Bad Religion played several-night residences at House of Blues venues in Southern California as well as Las Vegas. They also played at the KROQ Weenie Roast (y Fiesta) on May 17 along such bands as Flobots, Metallica, The Offspring, Pennywise, Rise Against and Scars on Broadway. Following that, they performed four European festival appearances in May and June.
On July 8, 2008, Bad Religion released their first-ever deluxe edition CD, a reissue of 2007's New Maps of Hell. The deluxe version includes the original 16 song CD, along with seven new acoustic tracks recorded by Graffin (vocals) and Gurewitz (guitars/back vocals). Three of the acoustic songs are new, written specifically for this release; the other four tracks are new acoustic versions of BR songs. The release also includes a DVD with an hour-long live performance, music videos and behind-the-scenes footage.
In June 2008, Jay Bentley said in an interview at the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Netherlands that Gurewitz had already begun writing new material for the next Bad Religion album. Bentley stated that the band was planning to return to the studio after Graffin teaches UCLA to start work on the follow-up to New Maps of Hell planned for a June 2009 release. However, according to a December 2008 report on the fan site The Bad Religion Page, Bentley revealed that due to Bad Religion's upcoming touring commitments for 2009, the band would not have a chance to record their new album until around the end of the year, for an expected 2010 release date.
"21st Century (Digital Boy)" was released as DLC on the Warped Tour 01 Pack for Rock Band and Rock Band 2
In August of 2009, guitarist Brett Gurewitz sent an email to a fan site mentioning he was writing new material for the next Bad Religion album.
Lyrics and ideology
The majority of Bad Religion's lyrics are written by either Greg Graffin or Brett Gurewitz. Only on rare occasions will they co-write a song. Other band members, such as Jay Bentley, also contribute songs, but these constitute only a small percentage of the Bad Religion catalog.
Brett Gurewitz acknowledges attempting to emulate The Germs singer Darby Crash early on in Bad Religion's lyrical style. "He wrote some intelligent stuff, and didn't shy away from the vocabulary, which I thought was cool." In addition to their use of unusually sophisticated vocabulary for a punk band, Bad Religion is also known for their frequent use of vocal harmonies. They took their cues from The Adolescents, in the way that they used three-part harmonies. Bassist Jay Bentley says, "Seeing The Adolescents live, it was so brilliant. So, in a way, the Adolescents influenced us into saying we can do it too, because look, they're doing it."
Social and political issues
Many of Bad Religion's songs are about different social ills, although they try not to ascribe the causes of these ills to any single person or group. Greg Graffin believes that the current political situation in the United States can make it difficult to voice these concerns, as he doesn't want to feed the polarization of viewpoints.
The band doesn't always restrict political commentary exclusively to metaphor. Brett Gurewitz pulled no punches when he attributed his anger towards former U.S. president George W. Bush as the major inspiration for The Empire Strikes First. "Our whole album is dedicated to getting Bush out of office. I'm not a presidential scholar but I don't think you'll find a worse president in the history of the United States. He's probably one of the worst leaders in the history of world leaders. I just hate the guy."
Faith in your partner, your fellow men, your friends, is very important, because without it there's no mutual component to your relationship, and relationships are important. So faith plays an important role, but faith in people you don't know, faith in religious or political leaders or even people on stages, people who are popular in the public eye, you shouldn't have faith in those people. You should listen to what they have to say and use it.
? Greg Graffin
Despite the name of the band, the members do not consider themselves antitheist. Singer Greg Graffin states that more often than not, the band prefers to use religion as a metaphor for anything that doesn't allow for an individual's freedom to think or express themselves as they choose. In this way, their songs are more about anti-religion. Greg Graffin himself is an atheist who co-authored the book 'Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?' The band's bassist Jay Bentley has stated that he has spiritual beliefs. Brett Gurewitz is a "provisional deist."
In the media and legacy
Bad Religion has appeared once on The David Letterman Show in 1994, twice on The Jon Stewart Show in 1994 and 1995, twice on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn in 2000 and 2002 and Late Night with Conan O'Brien five times in 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002 and 2007. In the early days, Bad Religion appeared twice on the New Wave Theatre in 1981 and 1982. During the 90's, Bad Religion appeared a lot on MTV which sponsored their The Gray Race Tour. They were considered a "classic" band on MTV's 120 Minutes, appearing a number of times live on that show. They also appeared on MTV's Most Wanted in 1995. Frontman Greg Graffin appeared three times on Politically Incorrect in 1994, 1996 and 2000.
In movies, Bad Religion's "Crossbuster" logo has appeared in Juno, SLC Punk! and 8mm. Posters for The Empire Strikes First appear in Superbad, Strange Wilderness, Fifty Pills and Special. A Bad Religion sticker appears in The Ring; it is worth noting that Gore Verbinski, director of The Ring, directed several Bad Religion music videos early in his career. A Bad Religion poster appears in PCU. Bad Religion music has appeared in movies such as Clerks, The Chase, Glory Daze, The Hammer and Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator. Two Bad Religion songs appear in the 2000 short movie entitled "What to Do?". In TV, Bad Religion's song "New America" appeared in the final episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 and "Portrait of Authority" was in an episode of Lizzie McGuire. A Bad Religion poster appears in an episode of Weird Science. During the 2000 MTV Movie Awards, a guitar riff from "New America" was played before it cut to commercials. A sample of "Infected" was played during a commercial for Vans Warped Tour 2009. In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a group of kids play with a gun. One of them gets shot. In the moment he is shot he wears a Bad Religion t-shirt.
In video games, Bad Religion songs made it into Crazy Taxi, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Tony Hawk Underground, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, Tony Hawk's Project 8, NCAA Football 2006, Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller and NHL 2K9. Bad Religion's song "Infected" (from Stranger Than Fiction) is in Guitar Hero and downloadable for Guitar Hero 2. However, these are covers not the actual song. The song "21st Century (Digital Boy)" (from Against the Grain) is downloadable for Guitar Hero: World Tour, however the date of the song in the game claims the song was made in 2004 (possibly referring to Against the Grain's remastered date) even though it was made in 1990. The songs "Sorrow" (from The Process of Belief) and "21st Century (Digital Boy)" (from Against the Grain) appear as downloadable songs for both Rock Band and Rock Band 2. On an episode of ScrewAttack's Video Game Vault, they review Crazy Taxi and the reviewer mentions the soundtrack and makes a comment about Bad Religion and shows a picture of their "Crossbuster" and also their songs "Hear It" and "Them and Us" can be heard for brief seconds in the review. They also got another mention on ScrewAttack's Video Game Vault on , 2009, during a review of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2.
As of 2007, the famous Los Angeles modern rock radio station KROQ has listed Bad Religion at #39 in the "top 106.7 biggest KROQ bands of all time" memorial for the past six years in a row. Bad Religion has played at all three of KROQ's festivals several times; they played at the Weenie Roast four times in 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2008, four times at the Almost Acoustic Christmas in 1993, 1994, 2001 and 2007, and once at the L.A. Invasion in 2002.
Main article: List of Bad Religion concert tours
Early Shows (1980?1987)
Suffer Tour (1988?1989)
No Control Tour (1990)
Against the Grain Tour (1991)
Generator Tour (1992?1993)
Recipe for Hate Tour (1993?1994)
Stranger Than Fiction Tour (1994?1995)
The Gray Race Tour (1996?1997)
No Substance Tour (1998?1999)
The New America Tour (2000?2001)
The Process of Belief Tour (2002 - 2003)
The Empire Strikes First Tour (2004 - 2005)
New Maps of Hell Tour (2007?2008)
For more details on this topic, see List of Bad Religion band members.
Although Greg Graffin is the only constant member of the band's line-up, the band currently features two other original members, Brett Gurewitz and Jay Bentley.
Greg Graffin ? lead vocals, piano, synthesizer, acoustic guitar, main songwriter (1980 ? present)
Brett Gurewitz ? lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals, main songwriter (1980 ? 1983, 1986 ? 1994, 2001 ? present)
Jay Bentley ? bass guitar, backing vocals (1980 ? 1982, 1986 ? present)
Greg Hetson ? rhythm guitar (1984 ? present)
Brian Baker ? lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1994 ? present)
Brooks Wackerman ? drums, percussion (2001 ? present)
All Bad Religion lyrics
- ... You Give Up
- 10 In 2010
- 1000 Memories
- 1000 More Fools
- 21st Century
- 21st Century Digital Boy
- 52 Seconds
- A Streetkid Named Desire
- A Walk
- A World Without Melody
- Against The Grain
- All Fantastic Images
- All Good Soldiers
- All There Is
- Along The Way
- American Dream
- American Jesus
- At The Mercy Of Imbeciles
- Atheist Peace
- Atomic Garden
- Automatic Man
- Bad Religion
- Bad Religion (Theme Song)
- Before You Die
- Believe It
- Best For You
- Better Off Dead
- Beyond Electric Dreams
- Big Bang
- Billy Gnosis
- Boot Stamping On A Human Face Forever
- Bored And Extremely Dangerous
- Bored & Extremely Dangerous
- Can�t Stop It
- Change Of Ideas
- Chasing The Wild Goose
- Come Join Us
- Damned To Be Free
- Dearly Beloved
- Delerium Of Disorder
- Delirium Of Disorder
- Destined For Nothing
All lyrics are property of their respective owners and are strictly for non-commercial use only.