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Bad Religion celebrates 40th anniversary virtually, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Friday, December 11, 2020

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Bad Religion isn't letting its 40th anniversary go un-celebrated -- even if the pandemic kept the iconic punk rock band from doing it on the road.

Instead the troupe, which formed during 1980 in Los Angeles, set up camp at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood for a series of four "Decades" shows, each one focusing on, as the title indicates, a specific decade of the band's history. The endeavor offers a deep dig into a 17-album studio career that started with "How Could Hell Be Any Worse?" in 1982 and has continued amidst solo and side projects -- as well as guitarist Brett Gurewitz's shepherding of Epitaph Records and frontman Greg Graffin's academic pursuits, including a Ph. D in zoology from Cornell University, where he also teaches.

The group's most reason album explored the "Age of Unreason" in 2019, but Bad Religion clearly has every reason to celebrate an uncommon career landmark...

Graffin, 56, began eyeballing some sort of virtual avenue for Bad Religion "the minute that tours were canceled" earlier this year. "I just knew the only outreach we had was going to be online, so you could say I started thinking about it immediately. But the logistics of it...was a sticky point. You don't want to do something like this if it's going to be poor quality in any way. You don't want to compromise. I think over the years we've always set a high bar for what we give our fans, so you can't expect them to check in with you on something that really isn't up to your standards."

Bad Religion had planned to commemorate its 40th during this year's touring, but Graffin says the silver lining of the online series is that it allows for a more comprehensive celebration. "It dawned on us that we could actually turn this seeming detour into a net positive, because instead of jamming as much as we can into an 80- or 90-minute show we could do a more thorough overview of our entire catalog. We could never have pulled this off on a regular world tour. We can't do a four-night stand in every city -- it's not impossible, but it's not easy. I think what we're doing is a perfect platform to give the fans and anyone else who's interested an opportunity to check out our work over any given decade."

The four episodes will also give viewers a chance to look behind the scenes with Bad Religion, Graffin promises. "There's a whole other element, because with everyone at home on their screens and doing another damn Zoom call all the time, it's a big ask to get people to look at they're screen even more. So we have another element here. People hardly ever get to see us backstage or joking around. So the way the editors have put these concerts together, the (performance) is interspersed with a lot of the banter and backstage stuff and antics. It more personal and takes you somewhere other than just absorbing information."

Graffin says he feels as good about Bad Religion at 40 as he has at any other point of the band's career. "The most important thing is I don't think we've lost a step. Despite the aging process, you continue to improve your craft -- to me, that's the sign of a master. And my goal, and everybody in the band's goal, is to show that despite aging we continue to improve and grow. We've only gotten better, and I know I can state that, with confidence, I'm a much more capable singer now than I was 40 years ago. I honestly believe our best work is ahead of us, so we have to keep moving forward."

Graffin -- who's working on a new book as well as more Bad Religion music -- acknowledges the "wonderful coincidence" that the band started during the Ronald Reagan presidency and now finds even its earlier songs to be relevant during Donald Trump's reign. "When we started conservatism was right and you had televangelism and all the Reagan nonsense. And what we've learned is conservatism is never going to go away, it seems. The songs during the Reagan era were a little more tongue-in-cheek, but throughout our body of work we've always made comments on the human condition and always denounce the close-mindedness that conservatism demands. It feels great, even though it surprises me, that I can sing 'Politics,' one of the first songs I wrote for bad religion, and not be completely embarrassed because I was only 16 years old at the time. It's a testimony to this great genre we call punk, and it speaks to a sort of human condition that is really with us forever, I think."

Bad Religion begins a virtual residency from the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 focusing on its music from the 1980s. Subsequent episodes stream Dec. 19 and 26 and Jan. 2. Tickets are $15 per show, $40 for the package, via Badreligion.nocapshows.com.

Web Site: www.badreligiion.nocapshows.com

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