If you punch around enough local FM, you’ll eventually hear a Bad Religion tune or a band that’s been influenced by the SoCal sound Bad Religion helped pioneer, from the classic “rock block” pop-punk of Nirvana to the proto-“emocore” of Weezer. To name-check the heavy- rotation list on KROQ and other “modern rock”–format stations: Green Day, Blink-182, the Offspring. For many teens and preteens, anything’s better than radio’s current roster of “angry nu-metal” simps and designer rock-rap show bands; for many kids, SoCal pop-punk is a preferable alternative to bloodless navel-swiveling teen chickadee singers and inane all-boy song-and-dance troupes.
Bad Religion alone has sold more than 3 million records for Epitaph. Each release automatically does about 180,000 to 200,000. Yet such sales figures have been dwarfed by other bands influenced by its sound, who have sold millions of records for the label.
Now in their mid-to-late 30s, Bad Religion’s co-founding core members are three former students from El Camino Real High in Woodland Hills: bass player Jay Bentley, lead singer–songwriter Greg Graffin and guitarist-songwriter Brett Gurewitz. The Bad Religion–Epitaph Records saga is a complex beneath-the-mainstream-radar success story about Gurewitz and Graffin, the former an addict-in-recovery record producer and label CEO, the latter a zoology Ph.D. candidate and singer-philosopher. The other band members are a former surfer on bass, a Circle Jerk from Hawthorne on rhythm guitar, a founding member of the iconic East Coast hardcore band Minor Threat on lead guitar, and a child-prodigy musician who recently played drums in Spinal Tap.
As the final mixes were being done on TheProcess of Belief, I talked to the members of Bad Religion about their past, their future and the state of the industry.