Gregory W Graffin was born in and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. his family eventually settled in Racine and when later on his parents got divorced his mom moved him to Milwaukee and in 1976 to San Fernando Valley in LA. Suddenly finding himself surrounded by a very different, much more hostile environment was a shock to him. The pot culture, the odious progressive rock and all the shit that went with the 70s was rife in the LA Unified School District and he just didn't fit in. He became friends with those few he could relate to and chose music as the means to express his confusion and reassert his individuality. In 1979 he discovered the radio program Rodney on the Roq (on KROQ) which played certain bands that were all part of an alternative musical community formed by people that were as bewildered as him. He immediately took to this emerging movement. By the following year he was dressing up as a punk, had met all the other band members, set up Bad Religion, and before the end of the year they had recorded their first EP and had had it played in their beloved program. The EP was called Bad Religion and to put it out the band formed their own record label, Epitaph. Brett was always the president of the label although back then Epitaph was nothing more than a logo and a PO box. The record was officially released in 1981 and it featured six straightforward punk rock songs. Punky lyrics, punky music. Bad vocals (courtesy of Greg), Bad drumming (Jay Ziskrout) and Bad guitars (Brett Gurewitz). The bassist Jay Bentley, who was born in Kansas but met Greg in El Camino High School, had painted his bass after buying it on second hand, but nobody warned him that painting the strings too would "somewhat" interfere with the sound of the instrument. Baaaad bass. The first partial transition from bad bass music to bad ass music came with the first LP How Could Hell Be Any Worse, produced by Jim Mankey (Concrete Blonde's guitarist). The album was released in 1982 thanks to a $1000 loan from Brett's father and it sold 10,000 copies in less than a year; far more than they ever expected. It had 14 songs which were similar to the EP tracks but the overall sound of the band had improved and the first signs of some musical talent were already there. They rehearsed in Greg's garage, which they called The Hellhole and it used to take them one day to write a song. Greg would write the lyrics and the band would put some kind of music to it. Yet despite the simplicity of the process and the typically punk approach to writing music, some gems were written for that record, such as We're Only Gonna Die (which has been covered by several bands) and Fuck Armageddon... This is Hell. The line-up at that time was Brett, Greg, Jay and Pete Finestone. They were 17 or 18 year- old kids that killed their time reading existentialist thinkers like Nietzsche, Spinoza, Sartre, Kant and Lao-Tzu.

Greg Hetson, who had previously helped with the first EP, also played a solo in the album and eventually joined the band. He was originally in Redd Kross at the time of birth of this band and of the LA punk rock scene, and was a member of The Circle Jerks when he joined Bad Religion (I believe he didn't quit the The Circle Jerks until 1995). Back then The Circle Jerks were one of Greg (Graffin)'s favourite bands, together with Black Flag, The Adolescents, The Chiefs, The Gears, Sham 69, Todd Rundgren, etc. ("all the bands that were melodic and hard").

The breakdown hit the following year. Brett bought Greg a Roland Juno 6 synthesizer and Greg showed him his gratitude by using it to write Into The Unknown, an album which most of the band hated with a passion. When it came out in 1983 Bad Religion lost all their following. They had lost a drummer and a bass player too (Jay quit the band, and was replaced by Paul Dedona, as soon as they started recording the fateful album). So what was so wrong with it? Well, it wasn't a punk rock record, and that's something Bad Religion couldn't afford to put out. The loud guitars were often second to Greg's fancy synthesizer and a couple of semi-ballads with acoustic guitars didn't help either. The songs were long and slow and that's the capital sin in punk orthodoxy. I personally think the album was better than the two previous. Time and Disregard lasts for more than 6 minutes and it could be a Bruce Springsteen song, but anyone unprejudiced enough to appreciate music for its quality rather than its punkness should like it. But that was that; they all quit. Jay joined Wasted Youth then TSOL, Pete moved to England to study English and Irish literature and Greg moved back to Wisconsin to for study purposes too. Greg got a Master's degree in geology in 1990 (at UCLA). Then he transferred to Cornell University for a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology. He got married in 1988 with a woman he met in a course called The Intellectual History of the US. But the Lord is mighty and in 1984 the two Gregs met and Mr. Hetson proposed the idea of putting the band together again. Pete was back too and together with bassist Tim Gallegos (and Brett producing) they released a new EP: Back to the Known. As its title suggests this was punk rock, and very good punk rock indeed. It included the song Along the Way which to date remains one of Bad Religion's most popular songs. The tracks were already pointing in the overall direction the band would eventually follow: short absorbing songs lead by very melodic and powerful vocals over a background of faster guitar power chords and very simple drumming keeping the speed and making the song appear faster or slower (in the case of Back to the known, pretty slow). Meanwhile Brett had decided to really have a go at the record industry and he saw Bad Religion as the most adequate means to launch his label Epitaph. Thus, 1986 saw Brett and then Jay rejoin the club. And that really was IT.

IT was the unbelievable convergence of the most talented songwriters in the world (Greg and Brett) in a single band, which since 1988 has been putting out an album each year. Suffer (88), No Control (89), Against the Grain (90), Bad Religion 80-85 (a compilation of the earlier, worse stuff described above -except for Into The Unknown- 91), Generator (92), Recipe for Hate (93), Stranger than Fiction (94), All Ages (a "best of" from How Could Hell... to Generator -95), The Gray Race (96) and Tested (a live album with only three new tracks -97). Each of them a collection of mind-blowing songs. These 10 albums have consistently been the best album of the year the world over for the last 10 years. Other bands may be harder, may have better instrumentalists and may easily be cooler, punker or more "in" than Bad Religion, but nobody writes songs like Greg and Brett do. Musically they have always been so unique they shouldn't even be thought of as a punk rock band. They are in a musical genre of their own: the perfect synthesis between folk music and punk rock. Greg loves American folk and traditional music and that is clearly reflected in the song's amazing melodies and harmonies. He is known to have said on several occasions that Bad Religion is actually a folk band (then again, he normally calls his music punk rock). Furthermore, Brett's favourite band is The Beatles and he has said that his goal in life is to write the perfect pop song. And indeed, his songs are as much pop as anything else; and anyone who's prepared to flame Bad Religion for sounding "too poppy" is missing the whole point. In Jay's own words "from the beginning of this thing, the idea wasn't to fit into categories". Take away the speed and the distortion and Bad Religion writes such beautifully-crafted songs they could sell like The Cranberries. And they SHOULD sell like The Cranberries, like Green Day (who used to open for Bad Religion in 1990) and like The Offspring. Why they don't is beyond me. Some will say it's because other bands have more user-friendly lyrics. That may be true of the English-speaking world, but where I come from nobody knows what the fuck any of these bands go on about and Dookie still sold better than All Ages. Some will say it's due to poorer marketing campaigns. Whatever. Lyrically they are just as unique. Far from writing your typical well-worn pissed-off anti-everything not-too-clever punk song their lyrics are their very personal, intelligent, insightful and eloquent reflections upon the whys and wherefores of the Earth's tragedies. Greg has mentioned that "Bad Religion's goal is to make good catchy songs that are infectious but that make you think". One of Greg's foremost messages over the years has been that the Earth's ecological problems are going to put an end to the world as we know it. And this is unavoidable (extinction is the natural outcome of every species' evolution) and it is going to happen pretty soon, so you may as well make the most of your life while there is life -in his own words, "there's just no time to parade around sulking; I would rather laugh than cry". Brett's lyrics were always much more metaphorical and vague. But the general philosophy of the group has always been to place a high regard on independent thought (hence the band's name, in which "religion" stands for any kind of social group that prescribes a certain way of thinking), although that's hardly an Earth-shattering stand at a time when every song in the dance charts is entitled Be Yourself. Suffer had been named album of the year by both Flipside and Maximum Rock and Roll; when the following year they released No Control their fame jumped quite suddenly, despite a poor reception from East Coast audiences during the Suffer tour. Except for Greg Hetson who very wisely has never been interested in a job outside his bands, all the rest of the members were still working at the time. In 1990 they released what many consider their masterpiece, Against the Grain. This is the epitome of Bad Religion's work: 17 fast, short songs replete with melodies and harmonies; the result is such an intense record it is virtually impossible to stop it once you've pressed play. Like Suffer, this is a rollercoaster ride of a lifetime. After Against the Grain, Pete left the band as he chose to cast his lot with The Fishermen, whom he played with while in Bad Religion, and later joined FiFi. Pete was replaced by Bobby Schayer, primarily a session drummer.

Generator was a slower, darker and more cleanly-produced album, but musically every bit as impressive as Against the Grain. Once more, Recipe for Hate was different but equally superb. Here some songs were even slower and had very commercial melodies and choruses. One of them was American Jesus, which is considered by many fans to be their best song (along with Do What You Want and Along the Way, probably). It is also one of the two songs Greg and Brett ever wrote together (99% of Bad Religion's songs are either "music and lyrics by Greg" or "music and lyrics by Brett"). Greg explained that he was sick of hearing that Bad Religion lacks originality and called Recipe for Hate "an experimental approach to sound differently and to shut up the critics". After Recipe for Hate, Bad Religion moved from Epitaph to Atlantic (with Brett's approval). Therefore Stranger than Fiction and The Gray Race were both released by this major label, to the dismay of many a fan. The truth is that Stranger than Fiction sounds rawer than its two predecessors. After the recording of Stranger than Fiction, Brett quit the band to concentrate on Epitaph, which as you might know became the biggest indie label in the world with the success of The Offspring's Smash. As a matter of fact Epitaph was just an excuse for the press: Brett left the band because there was bad blood between him and certain members of the band. And more specifically because of an argument with Jay. He has now formed a new band called The Daredevils, and their first single "Hate You" is thought to be about Jay. Brian Baker, who had been in Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Junkyard, Meatmen, Government Issue and Samhain was offered Brett's replacement and he declined a job touring with R.E.M. for two years to join Bad Religion (or as he puts it, "that's me in the corner, choosing bad religion"). With Brett out of the picture, nowadays Bad Religion might as well be called "Greg Graffin and the boys". For The Gray Race he wrote 23 songs on his own (Brian helped with 4 or 5 guitar solos) and recorded the demos for the album playing all instruments by himself. And (surprise surprise) the album is a work of art. Greg is the only big talent and the biggest brain behind Bad Religion. And Bad Religion is the biggest talent and the biggest brain in the music industry. This is the story so far. Greg has no intentions of experimenting with new musical styles, which is fine by me; and, as he put it in a Philadelphia concert earlier on this year "this is about half over...not the show, our career. We've been around for 16 years and we plan on being around for 16 more!".
If you haven't converted yet, get some bad religious tunes, get into Gregorian chant and you'll see the light.