Interview with Brooks from BAD RELIGION
By Brandon Evans
What are you up to right now man?
Well, right now I am watching my twin boys. I just became a father last year. I’m a full time father when I’m home and now I’m getting ready to go on tour next week! We are doing the RISE AGAINST tour for the next five weeks here in the states. We start rehearsals on Friday and as of right now we have been home for four months and I would have to say that collectively we are looking forward to this upcoming tour.
How would you say the last tour went in terms of the response that fans had for the new BAD RELIGION material?
Positive, you know? We’ll always get the type of fan that just wants to hear the first record and doesn’t want to get any of the stuff beyond that. Aside from that type of fan, it seems that everyone is really into the new songs that we’ve been playing. We’ve been incorporating about five or six songs a night and we are rotating between those. I think it is a nice diverse mix and after playing the same set for so long it’s refreshing to be out there playing some new songs. It keeps the spark alive.
This year marks ten years for you in BAD RELIGION right? I was doing some research and I think that this is the longest that there has been one constant group of guys in this band without any breaks. That’s pretty rad!
Yes, I am one third of the anniversary! (Laughs) Yeah well, I’m going to buy myself a cake tonight. (Laughs) I think we were talking about that and we didn’t realize it this year until I think Jay brought it up and it’s kinda funny to think about.
I know you have been involved in a number of other bands but as far as this one goes, summarize the ride so far and give us an idea about what it meant to get involved in this whole thing.
Well before I joined the band I was in SUICIDAL TENDENCIES for about seven years. I had a great run with them but towards the end I was ready to try something different. I instantly got a call from these guys like three months after I quit SUICIDAL to see if I was interested in doing this. I wasn’t sure at the time if I wanted to jump on board and be a band member but I was a huge fan and I always loved the songs so I knew there was no way I could pass this up. I went down there to audition but I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how it was going to go. We ended up hitting it off and the guys were great to me. Since my inception it has been a hell of a ride. I’ve developed amazing friendships with these guys and the fact that we are still able to make, in my opinion, quality music that still has fans buying our records and coming to our shows lets me know that we’re doing something right.
It’s been the best education for a musician. Working with Brett and Greg in the studio has definitely been an eye opening experience and they’ve turned me into a more musical drummer. I now have a better sense of how song arrangements go and what to play and what not to play. I’m a pretty technical drummer but I think now I know when to push and when to lay back so I think that’s where the musicality kinda comes in.
For whatever reason, I rarely get a chance to interview a drummer in what I do. When I do get the chance I get pretty excited because they always tend to offer up a different perspective on things. Most fans could tell you that a drummer is the one that sets the pace for any good punk song. If you could, tell us about the stylistic differences between The Dissent of Man and albums that you have worked on with BAD RELIGION since The Process of Belief.
Well I think that even though I am proud of The Process of Belief I don’t think that the record represented 100 percent of who I was as a drummer. I was still feeling out what I could get away with and what works so it was still a trial and error experience for me on that record. Songs like ‘Sorrow’ and ‘The Defense’ are still some of my favorite tracks on that record. I think that a lot of it had to do with joining a new band and trying to figure out the personalities. I am also younger than these guys so I think it took a little bit to learn who everyone was in that respect. I felt a little restrained in that respect but by the time that we got to The Empire Strikes First I had been in the band for about two and a half years and our bond grew stronger so I felt more like myself in the studio. I think once I hit that record I had the freedom that I was looking for as a musician. In New Maps of Hell I think that even more of my personality was on that record. On ‘The Dissent of Man’ I think it was more of a hybrid between the groove oriented songs and some pretentious playing too, but pretentious in hopefully a musical term.
When you guys were putting together new material for this album was there a particular lyric that was presented to you that made you do a double take? I mean, I do that as a fan when I get a new record. Sometimes a lyric will give me goose bumps and I’ll have to go back and listen to it a few more times right away. Was there anything on this record that evoked that type of feeling in you?
Since being in the band, one of the things that I get off on is Brett and Greg’s lyrics. Not one lyric in particular but each record gives me a new vocabulary…literally! There are moments like that though that you gravitate towards. Whenever I listen to The Dissent of Man the songs ‘Pride and the Pallor’ and the song ‘Cyanide’ are songs that I love. There are certain choruses and parts that make me wish I wrote the song and leave me wondering why the song is so good! Brett and Greg just write phenomenal lyrics so it’s always inspiring to hear that. When we are in pre production and I hear the melody and the lyrics I play off of that too. There are accents that Greg is hitting and as a drummer I’ll try to compliment that. I may not be singing but there is a way to be lyrical as a drummer to compliment the song in that respect. So to answer your question, there are definitely moments like that for me!
RISE AGAINST lists BAD RELIGION as an influence. That has got to be pretty awesome to work along side guys like that on this upcoming tour. You mentioned that you were younger than the guys in BAD RELIGION and I know that RISE AGAINST released their first album right around the time that you joined the band. As a matter of fact, I think that most of the guys in RISE AGAINST are right around your age. When they first started releasing material did you listen to any of that early work?
They were a band for a couple of years when they opened up for us on ‘The Empire Strikes First Tour.’ That was my first introduction to RISE AGAINST. There are always some bands that are o.k. that open up for you and then there are good bands and RISE AGAINST really stuck out as one of those! That was a great tour for us because our fan base related to RISE AGAINST because of the aggression in the music and because Tim writes some really great lyrics. That was my first time seeing them and I was blown away. I knew from that point that these guys were going to be around for a while and now we’re playing before them. How did that happen? (Laughs)
There is no doubt in my mind that when you guys embark on this new tour that you are going to earn some new fans along the way. I think it would be safe to say that this is a win, win situation for all of the bands involved. Not only do you get to perform in front of your own fans but also fans of both of the other band’s fans as well. Now in and of itself that concept is nothing revolutionary. The difference here is, back in 2004 when RISE AGAINST went on tour supporting BAD RELIGION they had the opportunity to showcase their music in front of a predominately BAD RELIGION fan base. This time around you guys are going to be given the chance to show your chops, and give fans of RISE AGAINST and FOUR YEAR STRONG (that don’t already know) a taste of what BAD RELIGION has been all about for the past 30 years. What’s that feel like to have the roles reversed so to speak? I know that that feeling probably exists within an environment like the Warped Tour but what is it like to have it exist in a smaller tour environment?
I think that it’s always great to involve a new generation of fans! There are probably RISE AGAINST fans that like us because the band lists us as an influence and even though they may have never seen us live they like us because they think its what they should do. I’m excited to play for them because I think hearing us live is going to be a great discovery for them. It is really a lot like the Warped Tour because there are probably people out there that have heard of our band but have never heard our music. Something like this is a great opportunity because like the Warped Tour they can finally get a chance to listen to our music and see what we are all about. There are really not that many bands that we would go on tour with where we would go on as a middle act but RISE AGAINST is definitely on the top 10 list of bands that we would do that for. A fan of BAD RELIGION usually likes RISE AGAINST and hopefully we can expose our music to a new fan that may otherwise have never heard us before!
What RISE AGAINST cover song would you like BAD RELIGION to play if you had the opportunity on the tour?
Let’s go with ‘Prayer of the Refugee.’ I think we could tackle that one. I would love to hear Greg sing as Tim. Tim had actually come out on our song ‘Let Them Eat War’ and sung the Sage Francis part of that song every night when we were on tour with them before. I think it would be interesting for Greg to come out and return the favor one of these nights! (Laughs)
Here’s my last question and it’s a bit off the wall but it should be fun so bear with me:
Let’s say that you go on stage and your drum set is electrified and it won’t let you play any BAD RELIGION songs but it will let you play something from GENESIS or QUEEN. Do you make the band switch things up and play songs from one of those bands or do you risk electrocution and play songs from BAD RELIGION?
(Laughs) Now if I was to choose GENESIS do I get to play with a headset mic?
Sure, whatever you want. (Laughs)
Well then I’m going to go with GENESIS with the stipulation that I get a headset mic because if Phil Collins could get a headset mic I would hope that I could participate with a headset mic! I don’t want to be electrocuted because I am only 34 right now so…we’ll take GENESIS! You know man, that is a great question and I honestly say that I will never be asked that again for as long as I live! (Laughs)