Bad Religion is not about rules and record labels

September 12, 1996|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

"There's all these rules about being punk now," says Bad Religion guitarist Brian Baker. "Which I think is kind of interesting. Because those of us who -- oh, I don't know -- STARTED the thing, we didn't really have that."

He laughs, and rightly so. Baker may be a recent addition to Bad Religion, but he's no newcomer to punk rock. In fact, by the time Bad Religion released its first album, in 1982, Baker already had a presence on the D.C. hardcore scene, having moved from Government Issue to Minor Threat; since then, he's also put in time as a member of both Dag Nasty and the Meatmen. Clearly, the guy is no Johnny (Rotten)-come-lately.

Maybe that's why he seems so bemused by those punk purists who complain that Bad Religion has "sold out." After all, carp these critics, the band not only left the independently owned Epitaph label for Atlantic Records, but split with Epitaph owner (and former Bad Religion guitarist) Brett Gurewitz. Obviously, the band is therefore a slave to corporate rock, right?

Wrong. "The label has absolutely nothing to do with the creative output of Bad Religion," says Baker. "The only thing the label has to do with our band is the name on the back of the record, and the fact that you can go into a Kmart in Nome, Alaska, and buy it.

"To me, anybody who is upset about what label the band is on is, I think, a lot bigger fan of whatever label, you know? A bigger Epitaph fan than a Bad Religion fan."

That's not the case in Europe, where Bad Religion's latest album, "The Gray Race," has been a significant success. "Whatever people perceive us to be over in Europe, I don't think that it's 'punk' first and then content second," he says. "We're not really very niche-specific there. It actually seems to be a bit more of an open-minded situation."

Perhaps the greatest irony for Baker, though, is that the politics of major labels vs. minor labels weren't even an issue when he first became a fan.

"When I think about my formative years listening to this music, I did not know that the Clash were on Epic, and I did not know that the Jam were on Polydor," he says. "Didn't even occur to me. I wanted to buy the Clash record because I like the music that was it.

"The reason I've been involved in this kind of music all of this time, through all of the bands that I've been in, is because I like the music. I've really never been a big proponent of living in a squat and overthrowing the government with my friends. I'd never been attracted to that.

"As this music has continued and grown larger over the last decade and a half, there are all these new factions," he adds. "I've never had anything to do with them, so I'm a little ignorant of their motivations. It's real easy to be judge and jury for the pop police when you're living in your mom's basement, but I'm not going to be that way."

Bad Religion

When: Tonight at 7: 30

Where: Hammerjacks

Tickets: $15 in advance/$16 at the door

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 659-7625

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Bad Religion's new release, "The Gray Race," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the code 6137. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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