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MUSIC : Bad Religion, the Band With Own Label, Rides Into Town : Group will play at Red Dog Saloon in Santa Barbara. They have been releasing their own records since 1980.

January 06, 1994|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The West will take a turn for the wild when Bad Religion takes the stage at the Red Dog Saloon in Santa Barbara Sunday night. The heels of any misinformed members of the pointy shoe crowd will be pointing toward the door quicker than Gary Cooper could mumble "nope" once the set begins, for it contains no slow ones and, least of all, no twang. The "wahoos" will turn to groans as finheads, skaters and punks, powered by the exuberance and chemistry of youth, dance like Lurch all over the place.

Bad Religion, unlike most bands that stress seriously trying to get signed, instead has been releasing its own records on its own label, Epitaph, since 1980. The new one, "Recipe For Hate," is, in fact, the recipe for cash, as it was picked up by Atlantic Records.

In addition to having big label support, the band also has friends. Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blond and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam guest on the new album.

Besides a deal and fans, the band even has brains. Frontman Greg Gaffin is working toward his Ph.D. at Cornell. The other members not working for a doctorate include: Brett Gurewitz and Greg Hetson on guitars, Jay Bentley on bass and Bobby Schayer on drums. Bentley discussed the good, the bad and the loud during a recent phone interview.

Bad Religion has played Santa Barbara before?

Yeah, we played the Anaconda Theater before. About 10 years ago we played at the Goleta Valley Community Center. That was the happening venue up there, which really put Santa Barbara on the map as far as hardcore shows go. That's how Golden Voice got started. I don't know if you know how big they are in L.A., but Golden Voice is up there with Avalon Attractions now, with about 50 full-time employees and the rights to the Palladium.

Most bands spend an inordinate amount of time sniveling about how they can't get signed. But you guys started your own company, Epitaph. What's up with that?

In the '80s, no one wanted to deal with you if you were in a punk band. There were only a couple of labels: SST, Alternative Tentacles and Taang! We didn't want to be on a label outside of where we lived, so we pretty much just put out our own stuff, and Epitaph is just the name we chose.

Your singer is studying evolutionary biology at Cornell. Will we see a lot of evolutionary biology on the dance floor at the gig?

Yeah, there will be a lot of protoplasm in action there, and those cowboys are going to see some primordial ooze on the dance floor. Greg's studying for his Ph.D. and he fell behind in his research, so he dropped his student teaching for this year so he can spend more time in the boonies catching little fish. That's what he does. We'll probably still do 90 to 110 shows this year. We can pretty much play anywhere we want these days.

Will anyone be killed on the dance floor during your show?

When I play, I try to watch what's going on out there in the pit. If one guy is going off, or if three guys are beating up one guy, I'll stop the show and go out there and put a stop to it.

What became of all the bald people who dance like Lurch and who once went to your gigs?

Things have changed to the point where you don't have to be a punk rocker anymore to go to a punk rock show. We get punkers, but also skaters, surfers, bikers and college geeks. Now, it's a lot better for everyone.

One of your more notorious gigs was a riot at a Hollywood theater. What happened?

Oh geez. We were booked to play in a real movie theater with seats and an official capacity of 900. Well there were about 1,200 people in there when the fire marshal came and told everyone to take a seat before the show could go on. You can imagine what happened with 300 extra people with no seats. They started ripping the seats off the ground and winging them onto the stage. We knew it was going to be like that.

Any other strange ones?

On our last tour, we played a death metal festival in Finland. All of the people wore black and hadn't been in the sun for a long time. There was a British band sort of like the Dickies, us, and 10 death metal bands. When we played, everyone just sort of sat there and stared. We didn't look like the other bands, but we were loud. I think they booked us solely on our decibel level.

Has your music changed much over the years?

It hasn't changed much. We're expanding upon a three chord thing, which is up to, maybe, five or seven chords now. Some people complain that our stuff all sounds the same, and that one of our records was only 28 minutes long. What's wrong with that? I can't believe those bands that put out 70-minute CDs. I don't think anyone could stand to hear any band for 70 minutes. When we play live, we do a little over an hour, and I can see everyone is just worn out by the time we're done. I don't think they could take much more of us.

What appeal did Bad Religion have to Atlantic Records that you didn't have, say, five years ago?

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