Volume 95, Issue 88

Wednesday, March 20, 2002
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Bad Religion older than God and twice the punk

Funky rodent warms the Ice Age

Outside the Box

Not even Milla can save Resident Evil

Bad Religion older than God and twice the punk

By Dale Wyatt
Gazette Staff

"We might die onstage, you never know. I mean, we're already older than God," jokes Brian Baker, guitarist for the grandfathers of punk, Bad Religion.

While most bands come and go, Bad Religion – who sold out Toronto's Kool Haus on Saturday night – have managed mainstream and underground success for over 20 years, making them as old as punk itself.

Baker began his career playing for two of punk's other legendary bands, Dagnasty and Minor Threat, but he has built his reputation as a member of Bad Religion. "It's pretty weird [that] I have been in so many bands that are important to people. To me, it is all just one extended run. Hell, I might end up in Journey next week," he says.

Photo by Chapman Baehler

Throughout its lifespan, punk has had both ups and downs, all of which Baker witnessed firsthand.

"The worst thing that happened was when the dancing part became like professional wrestling, when it turned into some context war and it was no longer an expression of excitement for what you were listening to. People would go to shows no matter who was playing specifically to punch the shit out of each other.

"On the other hand, punk rock became so big that it owns its own bin in Tower Records. No one ever thought that it would mean as much as it does to millions of people. Better punk than more fuckin' White Lion and Quiet Riot," Baker says.

While punk was changing around them, a lot changed within the band as well – most recently is the re-introduction of original Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, whom Baker was initially hired to fill in for.

"I never really replaced him – I joined as a guitar player. I was never supposed to be the songwriter guy. I was supposed to be the hot shit guy who could play all the solos.

"Now I have [lead singer] Greg [Graffin] and Brett writing songs, which makes for better music. They use me to express what they want cause that's what I'm here for. And that's awesome, it's a great job and I love doing it. I was ecstatic when [Brett] came back. I was just glad they finally stopped fighting so they could get back to writing great music cause my favourite Bad Religion music has been written by Brett and Greg."

Unfortunately, Gurewitz is unable to tour regularly as he also runs the punk label Epitaph Records, but Baker is quick to insist his absence doesn't hinder the band.

"He has this business to run – the biggest independent label in the world – so he is limited in what he can do. We knew it going in. His absence doesn't really affect how we sound live. I wish he could come all the time, but I respect that someone has to be there minding the store. When he is not here, he is at Epitaph making sure Bad Religion records are everywhere," Baker explains.

With their wide influence, Bad Religion carefully avoids preaching.

"We are not going to lead anybody. I was never trying to overthrow the government from my mom's basement," Baker admits.

"However, there's nothing wrong with pulling someone in the right direction. Greg is very weary of being a preacher. He is very against dogmatic thinking, he doesn't like telling people what to do. Instead, he likes to urge people to check things out."

With the band members' ages rising, one question still remains: how long will they keep on going?

"We are going to keep doing this until it isn't any fun. I will do it as long as it is still relevant and what I am doing has value to me and other people. Bad Religion is something that is shared with tonnes of other people, but you gotta realize that it is still just us five guys doing it," he says.

"If I am not having fun doing it, I can't go out there and have it become a job – that wouldn't be punk."

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