Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley is generally a pretty easy-going guy. Interviewing him is usually like sitting through a comedy routine where any and all taboos are duly mocked.
On this occasion, though, Bentley isn’t so laidback – and you can hardly blame him. He’s consumed by the problems within America’s political climate. Fearing the ever-looming November 2 U.S. Presidential Election date (which takes place the day Bad Religion play in Montreal), Bentley doesn’t really want to talk about anything else.
“My job right now isn’t to play music,” he grunts. “It’s to get a new president in office. Half of the album [The Empire Strikes First] is dedicated to the idea that this [political climate] is wrong. It’s all fine and dandy that people like the record but we’ve got bigger problems right now. The record has a bigger purpose than being entertaining and my brain is set on that cause. It’s frightening that people still think [George W. Bush] is doing the right thing.”
Bentley and the rest of the Bad Religion crew (singer Greg Graffin, guitarists Greg Hetson, Mr. Brett and Brian Baker and drummer Brooks Wackerman) don’t really care that so many bands have taken up the No W. cause. Always a step ahead of the pack, they rightfully look past the comfort of unity and stay focused on the real threat: Bush sympathizers.
“People think that it’s great having so many bands linking together for the ‘cause,” Bentley says. “Well, we can all join together to say that this isn’t the America we want but there are people who want this America. It’s good to be part of half of something but it doesn’t make me feel secure. I can’t remember a time in my life when it’s been this serious. This is different; something where it’s not just Bush. It’s his administration and ideology that he’s bringing into office. We need to sway those voters somehow.”
But can they be swayed? Bentley is unsure. He thinks it would take a miracle and with so many citizens refusing to take charge of their own lives coupled with a decidedly un-punk majority in America, he’s just hoping for the best.
“People in America don’t want to spend time educating themselves,” he says. They want to be told what to do because they can’t be bothered. We do need to turn the tide but we can’t do it with bands just screaming at you. We have to think of another approach. You can’t be screamed at for two hours and go, ‘I feel much better! Thanks for that liberating experience. I’m gonna go home and drink now.’ All we can do now is wait and hope.”