Bad Religion's Brian Baker: "Rage Is a Powerful Tool"
It's not uncommon for punk bands to live by the credo that it's better to burn out than fade away. Naturally, neither option has ever suited Bad Religion. After 16 albums over three decades spent toting the genre's banner across the globe, it doesn't appear as though the ultimate Southern California punks have any intention of surrendering the stage anytime soon.
Brian Baker, left, with Bad Religion
To hear guitarist Brian Baker tell it, they may not have a choice in the matter. If not to the House of Blues on Wednesday, where else would these guys even go?
"I started touring when I was 15 years old in Minor Threat," Baker says. "My entire life has been part of this particular scene, playing and listening to this kind of music. It's not even an attraction; it just seems to be in my DNA.
"I really can't help it," he says, laughing.
A lifetime of music out of Baker and his bandmates has kept fans coming back for more, year after year and album after album. In fact, Bad Religion may enjoy more fan support now than ever before: Their new record, True North, became Bad Religion's first to crack the Billboard Top 20. Not bad for a speedy little hostile punk album without a single song lasting three minutes.
Predictably, Bad Religion seems to be taking its success in stride.
"I'm certainly pleased, but I'm not really sure what any of it means anymore," says Baker of the album's chart position. "I think perhaps that part of the reason this still works is not overanalyzing it. To mistakenly believe you're in some sort of exalted position just because you've been throwing bricks at the same wall for 33 years, I think, would be a mistake.
"We take care in what we do, but let's not take ourselves too seriously," he adds, chuckling. "I mean, you've seen us live, haven't you?"
If you haven't, you've probably never been punk. Bad Religion has crisscrossed the country more times than can be counted. They may strive not to take themselves too seriously, but they're plenty serious about taking their music to the people.
But whether you've seen them a dozen times or you're a Bad Religion virgin, don't fret about paying a nostalgia act to pump out the classics. Taking pains to keep the live experience fresh has proved key to the band's continuing relevance.
"Choosing a set list is kind of daunting now with so many songs to choose from, but you want to have a good representation of the new record, because otherwise you're just a heritage act," Baker says. "Part of our longevity is continuing to try to keep the quality of the songwriting up, so an album's not just an excuse to go back out on tour.
"So you have to really represent a new record, and then you look at previous tours and say, 'What songs haven't we played in a long time?' he adds. "It's very important to keep things fresh, not only for the audience, but for us."