Since 1979 Graffin has been the singer and primary songwriter of one of the greatest punk bands ever to exist, Bad Religion. Needless to say, he’s been around the block a few times over the past 33 years. “You don’t have to get so worried about whether an album is going to be a commercial success, or crossing over, or growing your audience. Our fans have been very loyal and enthusiastic and we’ve been able to put out albums pretty consistently.”
Bad Religion will release their new album True North through long-time label Epitaph on January 25. “It feels a bit more exciting than the last album. It’s not as if it’s routine now, it doesn’t feel routine at all. There’s something special about each new creation and each new opportunity to share that with an audience, some who have been there all along and some who it will be their first Bad Religion experience. I don’t get as nervous anymore though, I don’t worry about the feedback or the chart position and all that crap. There’s never any game plan – if there was I wouldn’t be able to write very well. Our writing is very natural and spontaneous. When we feel like being creative we put together some songs. If there’s enough for an album then that’s great.”
Graffin turned 48 this year, a year and a half younger than guitarist and co-writer Brett Gurewitz. “It does get harder as we get older,” says Graffin. “The goal is not to fool people, it’s to perform within the limits of your ability. I’ve never felt like the age has hampered me though, but if it doesn’t feel natural I’m not going to perform it. All of us in the band have kids who are now at the age that we were or a little bit older than we were when we started the band. I was surprised to see what came up when I started to write songs about it, it’s kind of like you were re-living and re-examining the challenges of life as you see your kids go through it. It kind of proved to me that you never really escape the challenges of life”.
We can all pretend that as we get older we’ve got it all figured out but if you’re still alive and taking life seriously then you’ve got challenges and they aren’t easy. That’s the thing we first started recognising when we were teenagers and we decided we were going to go against the grain – be anti-authoritarian. If any adult is honest with themselves they will say that the challenges we faced when we were young haven’t gone away, they’re still there. If you’re going to pursue truth and happiness there are always going to be challenges – True North is kind of a metaphor for this – experiencing life on its own terms. You have to embrace the changing tide if you really want to live life to the full. You may not know what it’s going to be like, you might be swept away by it, but you have to embrace it and not run away.”
These challenges are not just personal, but global, and Graffin, life-long activist, believes we have a tendency to bury our heads in the sand all too often. “You see it in a lot of the developed world. The evidence can be so blatant and so obvious, the most simple conclusions can be drawn from it, and yet we don’t want to acknowledge it. Instead we lie to ourselves and spend so much time arguing about it. If we just acknowledged the facts we could be a much more peaceful society. I see it in the war between evolution and religion, I see it on the political front between the gun owners and those who want gun control. The obvious fact is that assault rifles kill people and they should only be in the hands of the most qualified operators. There’s nothing which should be controversial when it’s so obvious, and yet people will argue until they’re blue in the face. If they would just accept that fact then society would be a better place. But it’s almost like the argument has become their favourite pastime. It’s no longer about facts, it’s about who can put up the biggest fight. It’s happening all over the world, it’s a symptom of our changing times.”