Bad Religion

Process Of Belief Tour

Live At Cox Arena San Diego, California

March 28, 2002

Interview by Pat Sheehy

Although not really knowing what to expect from a live Bad Religion show, I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. I figured they’d play a majority of songs off the new album, The Process Of Belief, and fill in the gaps with songs off their old ones.Unexpectedly, though, BR started the set off with a classic–”Suffer.” About the same time the first chord was struck, massive amounts of people erupted in the pit and the crowd in the stands began rushing down toward the floor, overwhelming the security force–a South American-soccer-match-style riot broke out, and I was sure people would be crushed. It was too much for security to handle–people began flowing over the railings and spilling onto the floor, joining the massive pit that had simultaneously broken out.

You can tell how good a punk show is by how many people had to be carted out in stretchers. This show was no exception. With all the stampeding, they must’ve taken out at least a dozen bodies.–Eric Sentianin

So you guys give out a research fund?

Yeah, and I think we get like 300 submissions annually. You quickly sift through the crayon writings, beer, and surf wax. It’s like, “That one’s not going to fly–we aren’t going to handle that one, either.” Then you just start filtering through the other ones–things that have been done a lot, or ones there’s already enough research on.

Then you start finding the quirky ones. You look for something that’s just out there, where people have got something going, and in a very interesting way, you get to help someone finish their book. They have an idea–a reason why they think it’s happening that way, and you get to say, “Okay, go prove it. Let’s see it.” It’s a lot of fun. It’s a fascinating game we get to play. All we’ve been thinking about is how can we do more of it.

I can’t think of a single other band that does that.

I don’t know, maybe they do and people just don’t know about it. For us, this just became something people talked about. I don’t think we ever started it as something for people to talk about. We just did it because Greg is a geologist and a biologist, and spends tons of time out in the field, so it’s something that he understands very well. It’s not really much different than the fact that we’ve been together as a band for 22 years.

When you start out as a band, and I think everyone knows this, you’re struggling to buy a sixteen-dollar set of bass strings. I got to a point where Dean Markley–who are the coolest people in the world–started giving me free strings, and sometimes they give me way too many.

So you’re on the road with these bands that are starting out, and you remember that strings are sixteen bucks a pop, so you just walk over and give them a box. To me, it’s nothing more–like everything else, it’s just trickle down. We go, everyone goes, why not? That’s just the way we always thought it should be. It never has been like that, but we’ve always tried to maintain that with us.

So basically you guys are just making it happen.

Well, in whatever way possible ’cause that’s what I’d like to have happen to me. It’s a very simple philosophy–it’s as old as f–king dirt.

It’s cool to see someone doing it. I mean, if you have the means to fund somebody …

To be honest with you, there were times when we were out with Pearl Jam in ’95, there were times that I’d watch Ed sign checks to the Surfrider Foundation that you couldn’t even imagine. I wagoing, “F–k, that could buy my house.”

So yeah, people do it, you just don’t know it. This kind of became something that people grabbed onto. They thought, “These guys in Bad Religion are great.” I think when most bands get to a certain point, they start realizing that there are things they can do other than cocaine and broads.

What’s the fund that you guys have set up?

It’s a fundfor natural sciences, anything outside of laboratory. Basically, someone will submit a thesis about something they’re studying, and they get funds from everywhere–they just need to finish. Like what Greg was saying, you’d be amazed at what you can do with 800 dollars. These guys start out with 1,200 dollars and they run out of money. They just need another 800 for water so they can stay out in the field for an extra eight weeks and finish. The last guy we gave funds to just wanted boots and a gas mask. Who wouldn’t? That’s a reasonable request, why not? Sure.

Once you get to a level where you have the means to do stuff like that, is it sort of like civic duty? Or is it just being a good human being?

It’s probably just trying to be respectful of the fact that, especially in this business, I consider myself to be the luckiest person on the planet. Hard work aside, that’s all good and well, but there’s so much luck involved with everything that happens to a person like me that if you don’t respect that and you actually think that you deserve it, bad things will happen to you. That’s my belief. I just think there’re people who are much less fortunate than me.

If at the very least, I can do something that helps someone one step. Okay, I don’t wake up thinking, “What great boy scout deed can I do today?” That’s not really what I meant by that. I think it’s just an overall outlook on life.

One of the things we used to say was, “Why does everybody seem to fuck with everybody? Why don’t they just leave everybody alone? That would be a big help. If you want to help, it’s not money, time, or commitment–it’s nothing. Just stop fucking with people. That would be giant.

If everybody just left everybody alone, “Wow!,” that’d be brilliant. But there’s always someone meddling, interfering, blaming, or accusing. It just drives people crazy.

What’s it like knowing you’re a model for other bands? Not clone bands, but just knowing that you set the mold.

To be honest with you, of all the things that have happened to me, the thing that blew me away the most was the first time I ever saw a “musician wanted” ad in the Recycler that said influences: Bad Religion.

Regardless of everything else that’s ever happened to me, that was the first moment I felt like I was cool. I actually called the guy up and said that I was the bass player for Bad Religion. I told him that I couldn’t actually be in his band because I was too busy, but it was really cool of him to list Bad Religion as an influence. It’s just something like anything else–I didn’t think I could dream of this becoming what it is now. It’s great, and it’s overwhelming.

What bands do you find inspiring?

My favorite bands of all time are The Clash, The Jam, and Elvis Costello. Those three in that order are my favorite bands. Probably one of the reasons for me is that they’re musical, lyrical, and they are really outspoken outside of their music. They’re shitty and snarky, and I like that.

In new music, when people said that Oasis was the next big thing, I thought, “Throwing televisions out a hotel? That’s old.” There’s a guy in Vancouver, B.C. Canada–unfortunately, the band just broke up, but the name of the band was Matthew Good Band–and he’s like that. He’s just a guy who speaks his mind. Ninety-percent of the time, he says things that people wish they’d say, and ten percent of the time, he says things that he probably shouldn’t say. And he’s musical, that’s what I look for. I look for complete bands.

I guess that’s what you said we are. There’s more than this MTV-packaged band that does this stuff. You don’t really know anything about them, what the hell do they do, or who the hell they are. You never see them on anything, and when they’re being interviewed, they’re almost like sports guys. They don’t have an original thought, and they say, “Oh, my manager said not to step out and say anything personal because I might say something bad.” Yeah, cool.

Coming from a punk standpoint, none of that shit matters, right?

This is the music that tore down that glass wall between the band and the audience. When have a 1,000 people coming to a Bad Religion show, there are 1,005 people at a Bad Religion show, ’cause we are all together there. I don’t know what the hell it is, but it’s fucking fun. Then when we’re done, we say, “Okay, see you later when we all come back a year later and do it again.”

Back in the day, we’d be in the pit while the Adolescents were playing, and then we’d go on stage and play their gear. That’s how it all came about. It’s now reverting back to a high-production show where you don’t even look the band in the eye,

So what does your play list look like tonight?

Eight or nine songs from the new record because it’s the best thing on the planet, and 23 or 24 songs from everything else.

No, “In The Night”?

No! In 1989–I remember this so vividly–this guy would come to every show in California, and he’d always yell at us to play “In The Night.” Finally, we learned the song and played it just to shut him up. And the crowd went mild. After it was over, we said we’d never play that song again. It was like, “That was for you, now shut up.”

Why is it that you never ever play songs from Into The Unknown?

We do, they’re just rare.

Do you think you’re just going to keep doing this until it gets no fun? Because I don’t really see a time where there won’t be enough people wanting to see you play.

How many times have people said, “How long can this go on? How many times do you say, “Five more years,” until you realize, “Okay, I’ve been saying that for twenty years now.”

It’s really cool because you guys are total survivors.

It’s pretty much an hour by hour thing, one minute you’re playing a show and the next minute you’re not. You never know what’s going to happen, and whatever does happen is okay. If it’s a bad thing, you just deal with it. If it’s a good thing, you just accept it and move on, because tommorow that good thing is over and you are just back to zero again.

We’ve often thought about the time when it’s not going to be good fun anymore. Like when Bob walked out, it was kind of at that point. We were down in South America, and Bob and I were sitting in a room like this. Bob just looked at me and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” That was it and he was gone.

I sat there for a while and thought, “Okay, that’s it. It’s over.” I was just sitting there in a curtained locker room in South America and it was over just like that. And now I’m going to go home and that’s it, no one will ever see us again–that’s the end of the band. I think that kind of fucked me up.

Then Brett called and said,ame of the band was Matthew Good Band–and he’s like that. He’s just a guy who speaks his mind. Ninety-percent of the time, he says things that people wish they’d say, and ten percent of the time, he says things that he probably shouldn’t say. And he’s musical, that’s what I look for. I look for complete bands.

I guess that’s what you said we are. There’s more than this MTV-packaged band that does this stuff. You don’t really know anything about them, what the hell do they do, or who the hell they are. You never see them on anything, and when they’re being interviewed, they’re almost like sports guys. They don’t have an original thought, and they say, “Oh, my manager said not to step out and say anything personal because I might say something bad.” Yeah, cool.

Coming from a punk standpoint, none of that shit matters, right?

This is the music that tore down that glass wall between the band and the audience. When have a 1,000 people coming to a Bad Religion show, there are 1,005 people at a Bad Religion show, ’cause we are all together there. I don’t know what the hell it is, but it’s fucking fun. Then when we’re done, we say, “Okay, see you later when we all come back a year later and do it again.”

Back in the day, we’d be in the pit while the Adolescents were playing, and then we’d go on stage and play their gear. That’s how it all came about. It’s now reverting back to a high-production show where you don’t even look the band in the eye,

So what does your play list look like tonight?

Eight or nine songs from the new record because it’s the best thing on the planet, and 23 or 24 songs from everything else.

No, “In The Night”?

No! In 1989–I remember this so vividly–this guy would come to every show in California, and he’d always yell at us to play “In The Night.” Finally, we learned the song and played it just to shut him up. And the crowd went mild. After it was over, we said we’d never play that song again. It was like, “That was for you, now shut up.”

Why is it that you never ever play songs from Into The Unknown?

We do, they’re just rare.

Do you think you’re just going to keep doing this until it gets no fun? Because I don’t really see a time where there won’t be enough people wanting to see you play.

How many times have people said, “How long can this go on? How many times do you say, “Five more years,” until you realize, “Okay, I’ve been saying that for twenty years now.”

It’s really cool because you guys are total survivors.

It’s pretty much an hour by hour thing, one minute you’re playing a show and the next minute you’re not. You never know what’s going to happen, and whatever does happen is okay. If it’s a bad thing, you just deal with it. If it’s a good thing, you just accept it and move on, because tommorow that good thing is over and you are just back to zero again.

We’ve often thought about the time when it’s not going to be good fun anymore. Like when Bob walked out, it was kind of at that point. We were down in South America, and Bob and I were sitting in a room like this. Bob just looked at me and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” That was it and he was gone.

I sat there for a while and thought, “Okay, that’s it. It’s over.” I was just sitting there in a curtained locker room in South America and it was over just like that. And now I’m going to go home and that’s it, no one will ever see us again–that’s the end of the band. I think that kind of fucked me up.

Then Brett called and said, “Do you remember the Ramones thirteenth album?”

I said no.

He said, “Neither do I. I’m a big Ramones fan, and I can’t remember it.”

I said, “What are you getting at?”

“I think we should make another album, a really good album,” he said.

It all built to where we are now. All it took was just a couple of calls–it was like turning the key to a car and starting it up again. Who knows, though. We’re booked solid through October, we’re doing the Warped Tour. But until you’re standing there playing, you just never know.

aid, “Do you remember the Ramones thirteenth album?”

I said no.

He said, “Neither do I. I’m a big Ramones fan, and I can’t remember it.”

I said, “What are you getting at?”

“I think we should make another album, a really good album,” he said.

It all built to where we are now. All it took was just a couple of calls–it was like turning the key to a car and starting it up again. Who knows, though. We’re booked solid through October, we’re doing the Warped Tour. But until you’re standing there playing, you just never know.