As Bad Religion’s latest adrenaline-packed release, Process of Belief, continues to fuel the masses, the band members themselves are surfing the wave of success on the road.
Bad Religion’s lead guitarist Brian Baker is a long-time D.C. local and former GW student. In sitting with Baker, all pathways were open as conversation ranged from his present views on his first group, Minor Threat, all the way to his current involvement with Bad Religion.
Back when D.C.’s famous punk phenomenon Minor Threat first appeared in 1980, many considered it the creation of the straight-edge scene.
As Baker puts it, “I don’t think Minor Threat created straight edge by any means; the movement was already in progress. Minor Threat was just a local D.C. band that got recognized. It just so happened that we got popular.”
But he admits that the band did promote the alternative lifestyle that people in the straight-edge scene could relate to.
“Minor Threat was about an alternate way of living that didn’t require the socially accepted norms of smoking and drinking to have a good time,” Baker said. “It was about an individual preference, not about forcing others to accept those values.”
After Minor Threat, Baker went to GW to major in music but said something was missing. To fill the void, Baker left to go on tour.
“I took my junior year’s semester money from my father and ran off to buy a van and tour with (punk band) Dag Nasty,” Baker said. “Of course, now that I’ve been successful with my music career, I can tell my dad that I stole 14 grand from him and he’s all like, ‘well that’s great son, good for you.'”
Baker replaced Bad Religion lead guitarist Brett Gurewitz.
With Sept. 11 and the sudden rise in American patriotism, one cannot help but wonder if Bad Religion, a group identified with its cynical commentary on government and society, have come under fire with the group’s new album.
“Bad Religion and the new album have actually received no negative feedback, rather we’ve gotten quite a bit of positive feedback,” Baker said. “I think it’s important to note that Bad Religion has never been a militant or nihilistic band, but we have always posed the question ‘why’ to a lot of socially accepted norms and expectations. With the recent tragedies that have taken place, I think it’s a good time to spark some independent thought.”
Baker said he doesn’t identify as closely with the punk scene as much as he did when he started.
“I personally don’t even consider myself to be a punk anymore. I mean back when I did, I fucking meant it and was serious when I said it,” Baker said. “I’m not into the inner workings of the scene like I used to be. So it’s really about me respecting those guys out there who do consider themselves punks and are out there going to the local shows and making the scene work.”
Baker continued, saying “a lot of people are concerned about what the punk scene is and what it means to be a punk. My personal take on it is that if you have to ask, you quite simply don’t know.”
Baker is a man without regret, happy with his decisions and his role within the contemporary punk rock scene.
“Largely, this is something I can really be proud of, the fact that here I am doing what I’ve dreamed of doing, being a musician and making a living out of it,” Baker said. “That’s a big difference than most people when you can step back and honestly say that you’re proud of what you’re out there accomplishing.”