Q: What does Bad Religion, Minor Threat & Dag Nasty Have In Common? A: Brian Baker

When I started listening to punk rock in the early eighties it was nowhere near the monster it is today. Bands didn't sell records in the hundred thousand range, bands didn't have buzz clips on MTV, and Bad Religion didn't play arenas. Last night I saw them open for Pearl Jam. A lot has changed.

I would argue that the mega-success of punk rock is something that no one could have foreseen but newly appointed Bad Religion guitarist Brian Baker doesn't think so. He argues over the phone from a hotel in San Francisco, "I think that there is some logic to it...also, let's realize that it's huge right now because it's really the flavor of the month...It's not going to stay this way." And if anyone would have a valid opinion concerning such matters it would be Baker.

He's basically a rock legend in his own time, having been a member of such influential bands as Minor Threat and Dag Nasty, and with a style kids are still ripping off today. Which is why seeing him play with Bad Religion was so cool. Baker takes riffs written by founding Bad Religion guitarist, Brett Gurewitz, and rewrites them Baker-style. That's why you don't need to see him so much as you do hear him to know that it's him. On the post-humous Dag Nasty release Four on the Floor he wasn't listed as the guitarist for legal reasons, but the thing was, you knew it was him. Baker claims it's because "I only know one solo. You could pretty much tell it was me because I play the same one every time. I'm not joking either! On every record I've ever played on, I know one."

I wonder some times, that because punk rock is so huge now, if it's weird for the old-schoolers to play the bigger arenas. I mean, to go from playing dingey little clubs, or small theaters at most, it must be weird. Baker agrees, "There's pros and cons to it, you know. I always thought that when people like Slash say, `We're taking it to the clubs, man', it means that nobody will go see them at those places anymore, but now that I've done a bunch of these, I really do see that it's not total bullshit when they say it kind of sucks not being able to get any energy off the audience or even basically see them. I really agree with that. In a perfect world I would rather play to two thousand people who want to see Bad Religion than play to twenty-five thousand people who think they've heard the name somewhere. But it's certainly nothing to complain about, it's really a great experience. It's neat because I've never done anything like it before, but as far as getting the artistic gratification, if there is any in this world, then it's definitely not to be found in that situation." And it's not like you could argue with him, especially knowing what kind of people you're bound to run into at the big, arena rock shows; namely, mustache sportin', 4x4 driving dolts who hang out at the beer garden "waiting for `Jeremy' ", as Baker put it.

But that's exactly who he feels "Are the perfect people to play these songs to". And it makes perfect sense when you think about the kind of band Bad Religion is and how it really is those people who need to be exposed to songs like "You are the Government" and "Stranger Than Fiction". Personally, I think it would be kind of frustrating playing to people who don't really give a fuck whether you're there or not, but Baker disagrees, "I don't think about that way at all...I care about the people who do give fuck, I don't need to rock the entire arena".

-Sean Schroeder