Few bands have reached the historical status of Bad Religion. Formed in Los Angeles, the band's founding frontman, Brett Gurewitz, started Epitaph Records, a label that is legendary for its ability to sign excessively high-quality punk, when no major label would sign his band. Building on quality, driving music and almost highbrow lyrics, the band built a massive following despite numerous shake ups and lineup changes. In the mid 1990s, BR found themselves on a major label. It was a deal that didn't work and in 2002 they came back to Epitaph and released The Process of Belief, easily their best album in years. The band is back on the road and, this week, will headline the impressive Edgefest, put on by the folks over at KEDJ 103.9 FM. Founding member Jay Bentley recently caught up with College Times from a hotel in Los Angeles.
College Times: What's your thoughts on the evolution of the rock, punk, popular music? Did you ever foresee, back in 1980, the commercialization of what could be categorized as "punk." Bands like The Used plastering the covers of glossy magazines. Bands like The Distillers heading off the major labels -- even your own band, for that matter?
Jay Bentley: I didn't think it was that out of reach, but I don't think anyone ever expected the numbers when Green Day and Offspring were doing 15 million (albums). But I didn't see (punk) being that far removed, especially those that were respected musicians.
In Phoenix you'll be playing with quite a few bands that are the heartthrobs of 15-year-old high school girls? You have fun playing those large line-up type gigs?
Considering that's the business that were in: playing music. That's who you end up playing with: new bands. We've seen every new and exicting band that's come up. It keeps things vibrant.
What's the response you get from younger fans?
We get a lot of that: "I know who you are. Maybe I don't have your album but generally we know who you are," and that's cool and its because you have tenacity. Suddenly you're like the old guys and long as its not that you're the "reunion guys" everything is cool. A lot of people have tried to put us on "reunion" tours and we I'm like, "No way." I don't really want to part of it.
How do you see yourself? What's your own self perception of Jay Bentley? Do you ever think: shit, I was a pioneer. We were pioneers. We helped start this?
You're not really allowed to let yourself think like that. Maybe you can in secret in some dark room. But really it's pompous and arrogant to think you've had impact some major impact on things. That makes you a person that I would not want to hang out with. Everything we did was out of necessity.
I'm guessing that over 20 or 23 years, there had to be times in the band when things just weren't going that well. When there were thoughts that it was all going to end ... Did you ever have a fear of failure?
In the band, the biggest thing that we ever did that brought on a fear of failure was Into the Unknown. It's a progressive rock album and it wasn't really my thing. We were producing with Todd Rundgren ... It had its purpose, which was the backlash against punk rock, but in the studio, we were still getting done with the first song and I felt that this album was going to be a failure and I quit, just because it just seemed like something I didn't want to stick with.