Get to Know The Punk Professor: Greg Graffin
As the frontman of the veteran punk rock group Bad Religion, Greg Graffin is a punk rock image that is quite different from his peers. He did not display the image of “stupid really have fun” which is the mentality of most circa 90s punk units. In fact, Graffin is a smart person. Behind the name, is a Ph.D. in biology. His intelligence doesn’t play around, and that spills over into his music – exploring social and political issues sharply, with strong intensity. Apart from Bad Religion, Graffin also has a number of solo works, opening up space for songs that are personal rather than political.
Growing up in Wisconsin and then in Milwaukee, Graffin took his luggage to L.A. with his mother at the age of 11 years after his parents divorced. Music has been his passion since childhood, he was a fan of pop radio broadcasts when he was growing up. Moving to L.A., he was exposed to culture shock because of freer and more diverse city life. As for little Graffin surrounded by wild teenagers who have listened to rock music since living in the San Fernando Valley, L.A.
At that time, the punk/hardcore scene in L.A. was just starting to take shape, providing an alternative space for him. Soon, Graffin began to explore the world and culture of punk, he knew him from the music of the Adolescents, Black Flag, and the Circle Jerks. Arriving in 1980, Graffin decided to sing, and from him, formed Bad Religion. He brought in guitarist Brett Gurewitz and bassist Jay Bentley and was followed by a number of non-permanent backing musicians. Bad Religion’s music began to appear, but Graffun didn’t want to wait long to be signed by a record label. They decided to form their own label, a well-known label that is still active, namely Epitaph Records.
Their self-titled six-track EP was released from it in 1981. A year later, the full album How Could Hell Be Any Worse came, followed by Into The Unknown in 1983. The mid-’80s confronted Bad Religion with a lineup reshuffle, leaving Graffin as the lead. the only founding member of the group. Gurewitz left due to personal problems and was replaced by Greg Hetson of Circle Jerks, and he stayed with Bad Religion when Gurewitz returned to his lineup.
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For many fans of Bad Religion, their best material came in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Releases like Suffer in 1988, No Control in 1989, and Against the Grain in 1990 make for solid Bad Religion works. Establishing Bad Religion’s status as a big name in the punk scene in those days, Graffin still had time to complete his master’s degree at UCLA in 1987 (geology), and three years later, earned his Ph. D at Cornell (biology).
In those golden days, Graffin and Bad Religion also had time to enjoy commercial success, especially since The Offspring as Epitaph’s roster, also reaped success and fame. At that time, Bad Religion moved and signed to a major label like Atlantic.
Apart from his busy life with Bad Religion and his studies, Graffin is also known as a producer for other bands. Included in his CV are Bottom 12 (Songs for the Disgruntled Postman, 1996) and Unwritten Law (Oz Factor, 1996). Not only that, he had released a solo album through the moniker American Lesion in 1997, was a guest musician on NOFX and Joan Jett’s releases, and wrote articles for a number of well-known music publications. Graffin returned with solo work in 2006, but dropped the American Lesion moniker and used his real name. Titled Cold as the Clay, through the album he presented a minimalist folk sound. Furthermore, his third solo album, Millport, landed in 2017. He also involved his colleague in Bad Religion, Gurewitz in its production. Graffin’s latest is to launch a re-issue of his American Lesion in 2020.