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Bad Religion 'Strikes' Again

Veteran Los Angeles punk outfit Bad Religion will release a new studio album, “The Empire Strikes First” June 8 via Epitaph.

Like its predecessor, 2002’s “The Process of Belief,” the forthcoming disc was co-written and co-produced by guitarist Brett Gurewitz and frontman Greg Graffin.

“It’s not ready for public consumption yet, but it’s basically recorded and finished,” Graffin told Billboard.com. “We really put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the best album we could. ‘The Process of Belief’ is considered by many to be our comeback, since Brett and I started writing together again. After so many years doing this, we’re really only interested in making a record, writing the songs and producing if we know it will be really good.”

As for the implications of the album’s title, Graffin explained, “We’re not in the business of jumping on political events, but this is a particularly interesting time. So we just decided to write a couple of songs about the current administration. But in typical Bad Religion style, I think it’s general enough that in 10 years time, we won’t be embarrassed we wrote these songs. A lot of times people write about things that are too specific and they become dated pretty quickly. The title track just sort of talks about how we don’t want to be a part of it, and that’s something that is sure to reverberate for many generations.”

Graffin said another song, “Let Them Eat War” – a play on Marie Antoinette’s reputed comment “Let them eat cake” – is “based on the thought that the current administration puts so much money into this war while our own poor are struggling just to eat.”

Still, Graffin – who finished his Ph.D in biology last year – assures the band covers a range of topics on “The Empire Strikes First.”

“I’ve spent a lot of time writing about religion and how it interfaces with science,” he says. “So there are a few songs that delve into my thoughts on that. And for me, songwriting has always gone hand in hand with my academics.”

For Bad Religion fans, 2004 looks like a banner year, as the group will on April 6 release remixed and remastered versions of 1982’s “How Could Hell Be Any Worse,” 1987’s “Suffer,” 1989’s “No Control, 1990’s “Against the Grain,” and 1992’s “Generator.” The film “Along The Way,” which was shot on the band’s 1989 European tour, will also hit the shelves in DVD form the same day.

“When these recordings were originally converted from analog to digital for CD, the mastering technology was pretty primitive,” Graffin says of the reissues. “Now the mastering process is so much more sophisticated. So we wanted to put out a better sounding, better quality version of our records and the timing was right. Our catalog is still selling well, so we could justify doing it. And they really do sound killer. They sound very close to the analog versions. In fact when you compare them now, it’s very hard to tell the difference between the analog and digital.”

In addition to a previously announced appearance on the Vans Warped Tour, Graffin promises further U.S. dates to follow and more DVD product from his band.

“The Warped Tour is kind of the beginning of our touring for the year,” he says. “We’re going to be doing another major tour this year, probably in the fall. So we’re thinking of doing a live DVD and maybe shooting it at the end of this tour. It’s ridiculous how you can walk into a store and there’s a whole wall of music DVDs, yet nothing from Bad Religion.”

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