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So there was the millionaire punk tycoon sleeping in a bunk bed in the den. I was freezing all night, but I didnt want to ask for another blanket, because I thought this old couple was looking askance at me, like I was the coarse ruffian with tattoos invading their world.
The next day, we wake up and the old guy has converted his garage into a little rumpus room with some tables and a chalkboard. And the Fishbuster just starts lecturing, basically asking trick questions like, How does a bishop move? And we would answer, Diagonally. And he would say, Wrong! A bishop exerts a field of force in all diagonal directions, creating a star. He lectured all day and we didnt play one game. Brett shakes his head. It was quite the opposite of what I had imagined.
But the next day, they actually got to play. We wake up and the old guy has built a giant chessboard outside in the dirt, using that white lye they use for football fields. And hes made these giant chess pieces, figurines on top of three-foot wood sticks. We were supposed to divide into teams and move the giant pieces around, discussing each move. I told them I wasnt feeling well and went back to my bunk bed.
The rest of the band emerges for a break. A discussion ensues about the strange foods our respective fathers eat, and the notion that when one reaches a certain advanced age, things that once seemed repulsive might suddenly become appetizing. His curiosity piqued, Brett sends out for a quart of buttermilk to test the theory. Twenty minutes later, were all sipping surprisingly refreshing glasses of the curious dairy product.
The members of Bad Religion are feeding at a Hollywood noodle house. Everyone is laughing about a story from back when I was in the band and skateboard legend Tony Alva, on a bill with us playing bass in the Skoundrelz, submerged a stingy concert promoter upside down in a Lake Tahoe snow bank. I offer that touring is probably not so volatile at this stage in the bands career, and Greg shakes his head. At a recent show in San Sebastian in Spain, he says, The entire floor collapsed. During the first song, everyone was jumping up and down simultaneously, and this huge hole opened up, and 900 people fell down a 20-foot drop into a parking garage underneath. Ambulances came for six hours carrying people away. The floor just caved in right before my eyes, people screaming and trying to hold on to the side. Thankfully, no one died. Everyone nods solemnly. And in Amsterdam, he says, an armless thalidomide baby did a stage dive.
I stand corrected.
Brett and I are driving through Hollywood after the band has taped a performance for The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. A crowd of sunbaked tourists had cheered as the band walked out and blasted through a new song. They had played well, but Brett admits he was slightly nervous. It all feels a bit new for him. We talk about how rare it is for bands to remain vital for any length of time these days, and Brett laments that perhaps its just hard to be an adult and play in a rock band. I mention some veteran artists who are still popular, and he says, Yeah, but you know, theyre all really still teenagers.
Just then, we pass an enormous billboard featuring the airbrushed faces of multiplatinum-selling corporate shills Aerosmith. I groan. Brett is silent.
I joined Bad Religion in 1984, when the band had hit an all-time low. There was a sudden vacancy in the rhythm section, and Greg had heard that I was a drummer. That was only somewhat true. In reality, I merely owned some drums. Nevertheless, when he asked me to join I said yes, then went home with a tape of songs and practiced for five weeks until our first actual rehearsal. Punk rock is not jazz fusion. I carried it off, barely, and continued to improve as we went along. With only one original member in the band, Greg, it felt much like being in one of those oldies groups you see touring the state fairs, or, I suppose, the latest version of Guns N Roses.
My first live performance was in San Francisco at a graffiti-covered punk landmark called On Broadway. I had been nursing a respectable drug habit off and on for years, and the night of my illustrious debut I soothed both my stage jitters and my withdrawal symptoms by downing handfuls of red pills. My memory is a bit mushy, but I do recall an enormous skinhead perched behind me for the entire set, leaning in and screaming encouragement from an inch away, so other than an earful of beer spit, I believe the evening was a success.