Throwback Thursday to an interview with Bad Religion’s Jay Bentley! We took a look through the archives of San Diego Punk to bring you throwback interviews and reviews from our history. Today we picked an interview with Bad Religion’s Jay Bentley from November 2004.
Original interview by Matt Pierce
Jay: We just got here from Vegas, that place sucks the life out of you.
San Diego Punk: So did you and the guys from Rise Against party non stop up there?
Jay Bentley: The guys from Rise Against don’t really party.
San Diego Punk: Would you consider yourselves the life of the party?
Jay: I don’t care what anyone says. They are always saying ‘You guys are old,’ but we party harder than anyone else.
San Diego Punk: How about on Warped Tour, is everything pretty crazy there?
Jay: It’s usually NOFX, Vandals, and us that cause the most trouble. Everyone knows it. If the motocross guys aren’t out there, then we are the ones causing the most trouble.
San Diego Punk: Well what kind of trouble do you guys cause?
Jay: Drinking and breaking everything, and lighting fires. Stealing motorcycles. Shooting fireworks at each other. That’s a big no-no on the Warped Tour. It’s just a rule, so we shoot fireworks.
San Diego Punk: I talked to Jay (the singer of the Suicide Machines) who were on Warped Tour two years ago. He said that he didn’t like it very much and that the bands were really divided.
Jay: It’s always like that. We actually park our busses in a circle and have a two foot gap in-between two of the busses and if you don’t know us you can’t come in.
San Diego Punk: Don’t you think that is a little bit elitist?
Jay: Totally. I have nothing to say to anyone. If they want to ask a question that’s totally cool. If they want to have a drink that’s totally cool. If they want to sit around and talk shit, then I will fight them. It’s mostly because I don’t want fucking Good Charlotte near me. I don’t want those fuckers anywhere near me.
San Diego Punk: Well just this last year it was Story of the Year, and…
Jay: Whatever, that guy was dancing around in dolphin shorts listening to Michael Jackson. I don’t care what he does, just don’t do it near me.
San Diego Punk: Anything in particular about Good Charlotte that caused this?
Jay: I don’t like them. I don’t like a lot of people. It’s not just Good Charlotte; I can say flat out I hate almost anybody. That’s my job.
San Diego Punk: Would you say that’s in the job description of being in a punk rock band these days?
Jay: No, I think these days punk rock is being cute and trying to figure out a way to get into Hot Topic. And writing songs about breaking up with your girlfriend. Which pisses me off even more. Hating everyone is part of growing up as a human, because people suck. They will always disappoint you, and they will always do the wrong thing. Given the opportunity, they will do the wrong thing.
San Diego Punk: I remember the last time I was in Hot Topic I saw one of your shirts in there.
Jay: I don’t care. I didn’t try to make it happen. This is the concept of selling out which everyone is so worried about. Selling out means changing something that you do in order to have more popularity. I haven’t changed shit. I have been doing the same thing for 25 years and now people are like, “Oh you are cool!” I say I am not cool; I am the same asshole that I was 10 years ago. If my stuff ends up in Hot Topic now, whatever, it means nothing to me. It’s not great, it’s not bad, it just is. I am not a man that goes out to have the maximum rock ‘n roll theory of punk rock and fight every bit of success that is given to you. Why bother, that is just a waste of time. Why fight popularity, that is not a reasonable fight. The goal of it is to not embrace it and not let your head swell up so you can’t get outside.
San Diego Punk: So what about Bad Religion being on the radio?
Jay: It doesn’t bother me, we don’t write singles. If they want to play a song that is on a record, then great. If they don’t, then great. But we can’t sit in the studio and think that anything we write is ever going to be a single. We are Bad Religion. We are not Hootie and the Blowfish, or, I can’t think of another singles machine. Phil Collins. That’s what they do, they just write hits. We write albums, and if one of the songs happens to catch someone’s ear, and they play it, then that’s great. I was more blown away that they played the entire “Empire Strikes First” song in the 3rd game of the ALCS, Yankees and Boston. That was kick ass. I am a huge Yankees fan. I am watching this and they are playing Bad Religion, and I am just going, this is not happening! This is the coolest thing ever.
San Diego Punk: How long do you think you will be able to put out records? Is it getting harder for you or easier for you to write records?
Jay: Exactly the same.
San Diego Punk: So you are going to go on as long as it is fun for you guys?
Jay: As long as it is fun and as long as it is relevant. There seems to be a reason to do it other than a contractual obligation. I don’t know about the touring aspect of it, because that is getting harder. It’s time consuming to be on the road. We have been on the road for 8 months out of this year. Not that that is a big deal, but you start thinking about, time to get a job. Time to grow up, because this is a really bitchin’ life, but it is very Peter Pan. The reality of it is just not of the real world. It’s easy to let yourself fall into ideology that the rest of your life is going to be like this. On tour you have someone running around going, do you need a towel, do you need some water? At home we don’t have that. You are on your own. So the reality is, everyone in this band needs to start thinking about the second half of their life. This is not going to be screaming, “Fuck Armageddon this is hell” on the microphone.
San Diego Punk: It just seems so much fun to do that!
Jay: It is, I am certainly not saying it’s not. I am not allowed to complain about this, this is the job everyone wishes they had. I have had shitty jobs. I never thought I would be able to rely on this band as a means of income. I have always had a job, because that’s what you are supposed to do, and now I can’t have a job because we tour so much. I can’t go, hey boss I will be back in 8 months, they would be like, “You are fired.”
San Diego Punk: What was your last job?
Jay: My last job was at Epitaph. I was the production manager, it was just me and Brett. Every record that was made, I made it. Every record that was shipped, I shipped it. That was the running joke, back when we used to make vinyl, I would tell someone, If you go out and buy a No Control vinyl, my thumbprint will be on it. I touched every record that went out of that warehouse.
San Diego Punk: That’s cool, I actually work with Epitaph, that was the only way for me to get this interview, and…
Jay: I am very open person and I will walk around on the street and I know people want to go through the right channels to get interviews. Generally they get doors slammed in their faces. But I can’t tell you how many times people come up to me and ask me for an interview. I say, “We are standing right here, press play and record and let’s go. We are talking, what do you want to know?” Then it goes from having a cool conversation to, “How did you come up with the band name?” Read maximum rock n Roll 1988. Volume 64. All your answers are there. They need something new, like where Bad Religion is at now and where we are going. What we are talking about right now.
San Diego Punk: Yeah that’s true. It’s hard interviewing bands, especially bands at your status.
Jay: Yeah exactly and what are you going to ask that someone hasn’t asked before? Part of that falls onto me as well as to help you to do your job, because you have a job to do to try and promote whatever you are a part of. I have to be apathetic to you and try to help you as well. Most bands don’t want to do that, they just have one word answers.
San Diego Punk: Well I was going to ask you about your opinion about pop bands turning political.
Jay: That’s fine, better than political bands turning pop. I just don’t want people bailing out and say, “Fuck it, we are going for the gold!” I think a lot of it was a little too late in the game to be jumping on the political bandwagon. But it was for a good cause. I think that most people have given up on whatever concept they had on politics now that the election is over. But he is still there, that doesn’t change anything. To be honest with you, the only band I have ever had any kind of irritation with was the Dixie Chicks.
San Diego Punk: Really, why?
Jay: Because they spoke their mind then re-canned it, because they thought their record sales would suffer, then a month out they start Bush bashing again.
San Diego Punk: So bands like Green Day turning political doesn’t bother you as much?
Jay: I don’t care. We aren’t political as say Anti-Flag or Propagandhi. We are a social-political band, we talk about what it’s like to be a human being, not what its like to be an American. I think this latest record is our most political record by far. It has a sense of speaking directly of America’s bullying in the Middle East. Maybe Suffer we had more un-American lyrics. I think what we did with Suffer is explain, this isn’t the land of milk and honey like everyone thinks it is. It wasn’t really a political record, it was more a statement of the side of America that no one wants to talk about.
San Diego Punk: So many people look up to you as a great political punk band. You were young when you wrote, How Could Hell be Any Worse? who did you look up to when you wrote that album? You guys came out around kind of the same time as DK and other LA punk bands, which are all bands people look up to, how was it to start that movement?
Jay: I think for us, the political side of it was just; we sat down and said we don’t want to be another punk band that says fuck the cops. We want to have more substance, we want to have more meaning. So we talked about it, and thought about what kind of band we want to be. Lyrically I think we just opened our eyes and strayed away from what was currently thought of as punk rock. Our melodies and harmonies were everything from Neil Young to the Adolescents. Just taking things that didn’t seem to make sense, and singing versus screaming.
San Diego Punk: Did you ever write any of the lyrics with Greg or was it mainly him that wrote them?
Jay: It was him and Brett, they both write their own songs. Greg doesn’t write all the lyrics. I wrote a handful of songs 20 years ago. Pretty much when someone comes in with a song, whether it is Brett or Greg, if its one of those songs that are making a pretty sharp statement, we will talk about it. In 20 something years I can only remember two songs that I was like, no way.
San Diego Punk: Are those two songs on a Bad Religion record?
San Diego Punk: So every song on every Bad Religion record you are 100% behind?
Jay: No, but I am not 100% opposed to. A perfect example is Brett wrote “Hooray for Me and Fuck You” on Stranger than Fiction. I laughed about that sentiment. I don’t subscribe to that. I don’t feel hooray for me and fuck you. But that’s cool; I can’t say I am not going to play that song because I am opposed to it! If someone comes in and says hail Satan and I would be like okay, stop right there, because that is just, you know. If someone has a personal idea about how they want to live their life that’s fine, but if you are attacking someone else, that’s when we have to say lets talk about it.
San Diego Punk: Going back to some political questions, you said earlier that even though Bush is still in office, people don’t really do much anymore, so I was wondering what is there to do?
Jay: About what?
San Diego Punk: Do we keep protesting, what do we do to get Bush out of office.
Jay: No one is going to get Bush out of office. There is no democratic Kenneth Star. He is an idiot and a puppet. Dick Cheney and all them are running this show. They aren’t going to let anyone get near him. What’s going to happen is what people voted for. Everyone has to suck it up and figure out how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I think the Democratic Party has just thrown out a mini republican. You need a man that is the complete opposite and say I don’t like a fucking thing he is doing one bit. Maybe there is a third party. Maybe there’s time to put something together. Realistically I would say people that don’t like the religious right are a hoot. Because the baby boomers are coming in and they aren’t going to take any of our shit. They aren’t going to like any of our homo, commie lovin’ mother fuckers at all. Realistically I don’t see how another party can have any kind of an impact unless they are unbelievably good looking. That seems to be the winning secret.
San Diego Punk: So you would agree that both the Democratic and Republican party are evil?
Jay: Uh, yeah because I think if you are a career politician you are a liar because that is your job. Your job is to tell the American people what they want to hear, which is bullshit. Telling them that America is all cool and groovy and that we kick ass. The reason to put Kerry in office in this election is because he belongs to a separate party than the parties that are running the house and Senate right now. You can’t have Republicans across the board in DC. You gotta have checks and balances. The wise Americans decide to put three more republicans in the seats. So now they are six away from being able to block any filibuster, which will be to a point where they will own DC, which will just be insane. So putting Kerry in office would stop some of that.
San Diego Punk: Since you guys were on the Punkvoter CD, which was pretty much directed at getting Kerry into office…
Jay: It was directed at getting Bush out of office.
San Diego Punk: I agree, but to do that you had to vote for Kerry. At all the Punkvoter shows and promos Fat Mike would always say, don’t vote for Nader.
Jay: Exactly because Nader wouldn’t get Bush out of office. The point was to get Bush out.
San Diego Punk: Yeah I was just saying, there is a whole other side of that, both Republicans and Democrats are bad, we should vote for Green or independent because that’s the party that closest represents us.
Jay: That would be nice if there were enough of us to make that worth while. The problem is that there aren’t enough of us to make that work. There is a Green Party in Canada, that is trying really hard, and they have been a lot more effective than our Green Party. They are still having a really hard time. Ideally I would like our Green Party to grow. They have 4 years, but it’s not going to happen. It’s just like McDonalds. People don’t like to venture out. So they go get their two cheeseburgers at McDonalds rather then going out to a mom and pop store that might have better quality food.
San Diego Punk: I am just blown away that the people elected Bush. Before, since he didn’t win, he got a lot more criticism, but now that he has the will of the people, it makes the whole situation even crazier.
Jay: Yeah, its hard to believe that anyone with free will and the ability to educate themselves would still think that what is happening right now is right, and correct. And therefore vote for Bush as a legit candidate. It’s obviously just a vote against what they thought was going to happen.
San Diego Punk: Which is?
Jay: That gay terrorists are going to take over the US. (Laughter)
San Diego Punk: I was going to ask you about the lyrics to one of your old songs. I know that the song “Frogger” is like a metaphor for life, but I was wondering if you guys played any video games or watched TV. I know the common view in punk rock is that the media sucks and we shouldn’t have any part to do with it.
Jay: Yeah, I think that the news media is fucked up, and most television is fucked up. I think shows like South Park are fucking brilliant. I mainly just watch South Park and Sports. I watch sports because I know what’s happening. I can watch and know that I am not being told a bunch of shit. I play games every now and then. I play Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and I want to play the new Doom game. I don’t really have time for that, but I can see anything within moderation. I have two kids that are 13 and 11. I let them watch things that other parents wouldn’t. But I will sit there and watch a show with them and say, you know that’s not real, right? And we will just talk about it. I am the censor at the house. I turn the channel or turn the TV off and say let’s go to bed. That’s the job of the parent. Most of it is just shit, but that’s why there are 3,000 channels to choose from.
San Diego Punk: When you tour, is it harder wear and tear on your body or harder to leave your family behind?
San Diego Punk: Do you feel like you should stay home and end Bad Religion at all?
Jay: There has been a bit of that but I think for the last 10 years, it is just what we do. It doesn’t seem like something you should stop doing. My kids were born into this; it isn’t ab-normal for me to do this. They just say Dad is going on tour; Dad is back and so on.
San Diego Punk: Do their friends know that you play in Bad Religion?
Jay: Yeah, which is a plus for them, because they have a cool dad. (Laughter)
San Diego Punk: My final question is about religion. Do you think there is a God and he is a bad God or do you believe there is no God at all?
Jay: I believe there is a God and I don’t believe he is a bad God. I don’t think that spirituality or religion is the culprit. It is what man does with it that is the problem.
San Diego Punk: So it’s the people that takes advantage of the religion?
Jay: I will pose this to you, why couldn’t you walk along on this Earth thinking that there was a power larger than yourself that loves you unconditionally? Sounds pretty cool right? So at what point do you pick up a stick and hit someone that believes differently? That seems to be the problem.
San Diego Punk: That does seem to be the problem. Ironically I am religious and…
Jay: I am religious too except that I don’t belong to any religion. Because that’s my problem. My problem seems to stem from the fucking high school mentality that my religion is better than your religion. Fuck that. If you believe in something bigger than yourself, and you can humble yourself before that and believe that you have every opportunity in that life to become a better human being, why not take it?
San Diego Punk: It’s weird because everyone is saying how horrible religion is and all the scandals, yet at my church we donate so much and help out our community so much, I just don’t see those problems.
Jay: Like anything else on this planet, human beings are corruptible. They will always be like that. Human beings are vulnerable. We are social creatures. We like to hold hands and think that together we can go through this life and serve a better purpose. And that’s fine.
San Diego Punk: Is this the common thought of the other members of Bad Religion?
Jay: Not at all. Greg is an atheist. He is a scientist, he doesn’t believe in anything.
San Diego Punk: Do you agree with his thesis for his Cornell project?
Jay: I haven’t read it. The concept of it I understand, we talked about it briefly. He said it involves the evolution of mankind in its quest to fulfill the spiritual prophecy. He is saying that mankind has evolved in such a way that it is different in any way where it would have evolved without religion.
San Diego Punk: Does it feel weird with your band singing a song like “Atheist Peace” at a show, and knowing that those lyrics don’t represent you at all?
Jay: No because I am not picking up a stick and hitting someone for their beliefs.
San Diego Punk: Okay but when the lyrics are an atheist’s words, people will think all of Bad Religion are atheists, does that feel weird?
Jay: Well people think we are all Satan worshipers. There is not a lot of thought about what we are. I mean with a name of Bad Religion, with a cross buster logo, we can’t get away from that. And I don’t really care about displaying myself to someone, but if someone asks, I tell them. We are Bad Religion, we are just a fucking band. This band is not salvation, it’s a hobby.
San Diego Punk: What about when the band changed labels, a lot of crap was given because it seemed like a capitalist move.
Jay: I don’t care.
San Diego Punk: Then why don’t you play any of the songs off those CDs live?
Jay: Mainly because I think No Substance and New America I think they sucked. I really think they are terrible. I think there may be three good songs off those two albums.
San Diego Punk: Do all the members of Bad Religion think this way?
Jay: Pretty much (Laughter).
San Diego Punk: So the label had nothing to do with that?
Jay: Nope, I think Stranger than Fiction was a fucking great record and same with the Grey Race. The problem with the Grey Race is Graffin wrote most of those songs in a high register for him to sing. So it makes it hard for us to play those songs live because it tears his throat apart. Atlantic dropped us thank God. They were smart and got rid of us.
San Diego Punk: So for anyone thinking about going to a major label…
Jay: Whatever, a label is a label. It is a small icon in the bottom half of the back of your CD. Unless someone is in there saying you need horns and background singers, and we brought this songwriter for you! If you do something against your will, for the sake of success, that is selling out. We had to leave Epitaph, we didn’t have a choice.
San Diego Punk: Why?
Jay: Because Brett and I were both working at Epitaph and Bad Religion was growing so huge, Epitaph was growing so huge for an indie label, the weight of both of those things was just unbearable. It couldn’t stay together. It was insane. So Brett and I talked about Bad Religion going to another indie. Which would be really uncool, because why would we leave Epitaph to go to Dischord? That’s not cool at all.
San Diego Punk: Did Brian Baker have any say…
Jay: Ha, no I was just saying…So the logical conclusion was let’s go see what’s out there. We found an honest manager and said this is the guy who can help us. It worked out well for the first year. Then it just slid downhill, because Danny left, Brett left, Atlantic wasn’t really the place we wanted to be anymore. A lot of shit happened that just kind of made things more difficult. At the same time, when we got back together with Brett and we were recording the Process of Belief I remember sitting next to him going, if everything hadn’t happened the way it did, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I want to be sitting here right now, so I am quite happy.
San Diego Punk: Okay that’s all I got.
San Diego Punk (Garrett friend of Matt’s asks a question): I had a question with the eye patch.
Jay: Oh man I got a fucking gnarly eye infection. Really bad. I don’t even know how I got it. I don’t have any cool story. I want to say some guy peed in my eye, but the doctor was like fuck I don’t know what happened. I started wearing it because there is literally so much shit flying out of my eye it goes all over the place.
San Diego Punk: It’s kinda cool.
Jay: Yeah but I would trade the infection for a regular eye right now! I was at Disneyland with my wife, and some guy stepped on her foot and broke her toe, so she got a wheelchair. I guess if you have a person with a wheelchair, you get to go to the front of the line. My kids were like yay I want wheel chairs. I said don’t say stuff like that. Be careful what you want. Don’t think that this is some great advantage. Because some people can’t get out of those chairs, and they would give anything to stand up and wait in a 3 hour line to get on the ride. My kids got that.
San Diego Punk: When you are at Disneyland, are you at the status where people recognize you and bother you?
Jay: A couple, not many. The last guy, it was funny. He said to me, you look just like the bass player from Bad Religion. He was like, NO WAY!
San Diego Punk: Awesome, well thank you very much for talking to us.
Jay: Yeah no problem.
This interview also appears on Epitaph.com…