An interview with Jay Bentley, of Bad Religion fame.
by B Thornton- Harwood
This is an interview conducted in December 2012, with Jay Bentley the bassist and co-founder of punk rockers BAD RELIGION. It was featured in FRONT magazine issue 177.
Tell us a bit about True North?
Well it’s the 16th record, and we decided to make a more aggressive punk rock album like we used to, just writing what we wanted to do forever. The concept is- if you’re not gonna make the album that you want to make, and the best record of your career then why are you making it?
This is the 5th album back with Epitaph and back with Brett (Gurewitz, Bad Religion guitarist and songwriter, and founder of Epitaph records,) has that brought you guys closer?
I think so. Every record we make together is better as a band, and this one as a band everyone is comfortable with each other, and this is the longest lasting formation of Bad religion EVER. I think it shows.
33 years into your career as a rock star, is the lifestyle taking its toll?
It took it’s toll and I had to stop doing it for a while about 10 years ago I thought to myself, I just cant do this any more. But this year we didn’t play much and I started thinking “I miss this.”
Still got the same motivation and drive?
I think I’ve physically tried to be less motivated! I blew my knee out so I have to say to myself “I won’t jump around tonight” but then a few hours later; “oh shit, I’m jumping around, I’m hurting my knee, I don’t give a shit.” I try to rein it in but I can’t.
Still as anti establishment as ever?
When you’re 15 you’re this angry fifteen year old, I don’t have that same anger now, I’m more focused now. I know what I’m angry about. I was speaking to my mom last night on her 73rd birthday, and she said “for the first time in my life I’m pissed off with politics, these people are all fuckers” and I said “Mom, you should start a punk rock band.”
Has the concept of rebellion left music?
It’s still there. I think the genre has switched- a guy like Frank Turner is way more punk rock than most of the “punk rock” bands coming out. The bands that are coming out now just want to be wildly popular. Punk rock was never meant to be a commercial success and when it became that it changed the people who got involved and wanted to make this music. I noticed that shift a few years ago on Warped Tour when every other band was like “YEAH MAN PARTY TIME, LOOK AT MY BOOBS!”
Did you ever think as a band you guys would become as iconic as you have done?
No. Hahaha! No, at the time we started out being a punk rocker in the San Fernando Valley wasn’t cool and people would literally stop their car, get out and beat the shit out of you. Punk rock was just a way to vent frustration, hide and be a part of something that was really small.
Is that why you became so successful?
Success is such a hard idea to determine. If I knew why we were successful then I’d write a book as to why we were successful and be a multi millionaire. It’s completely subjective. We just stayed around long enough for people to find us. Bands get together but get tired of playing in front of five people so they give up, we just never gave up.
In the 30 odd years you’ve been around the biggest change has probably been the switch to digital. Thoughts?
It’s just progress. It can’t be good or bad it just is. If you have an opinion on it you just become Lars Ulrich. You can’t be like: “digital’s fucked it’s killing music!” FUCK YOU MAN! No one cares what you think!
The record comes out, we tour the states in March, come to Europe to June, back to Europe in August, we’re working on UK shows right now. After that Greg goes back to teaching at Cornell, so the end of the year patters downs to one offs, weekends, parties, backyard BBQs that sort of thing.
Will you ever call it a day?
Sometimes Greg will say: “Thanks for 30 great years, this might be the last time you ever see us.” And I always smile ‘cos we’re just day-by-day-ing it now. It’s nice to have that freedom. We’re not gonna drag it all out, it’s just gonna be over and that’s it. Done. Thanks a lot. See you later. Or not.