Bad Religion's Greg Graffin Challenges Authority Through Science
For more than 30 years, Bad Religion has carved out a niche as the thinking man's punk-rock band. When BR formed in Los Angeles in 1980, the inspiration for lyrics came from the topic of corporate greed and the conflicts between philosophy, science and religion. Bad Religion's sixteenth full-length album True North -- released in January of this year -- continues the band's lifelong exploration of these topics.
Corporate greed is explored on our favorite track from the new album, "Robin Hood In Reverse." The song is a rousing punk rocker full of shout-alongs recapping the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court case that bars the U.S. government from restricting political expenditures by corporations. We spoke with vocalist Greg Graffin, who has a zoology PhD from Cornell University, about this and other topics.
"It is interesting that the concept was just as viable in 1980 as it is now," Graffin says. "There are universal truths we talk about on all of our albums. Me and [band co-founder and co-lyricist] Brett Gurewitz were nerdy teenage kids that were interested in science and philosophy. We wanted to incorporate metaphors from those fields into songs at a very young age. It became a trademark of the band."
Those sources of inspiration have helped the punk rockers remain relevant for over three decades, he goes on. "Those are things that you can talk about into your old age. They will always be relevant. Ultimately, we are a punk-rock band interested in entertainment. But entertainment can also be inspiring and eye-opening. It's not hard for me to say that music is my life. But we've always desired for something more out of life than just punk rock."
Graffin's desire for something more led to forays into academia; since getting his PhD he's taught classes in life science and evolution at UCLA and Cornell, and has authored several books on those topics -- most recently 2010's Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science and Bad Religion in a World Without God. He says his work in academia parallels his pursuit of punk rock as a teenager.