On par with only a select few rock bands, the BAD BRAINS influenced numerous artists over the years – covering a wide range of styles. This is understandable, as the BAD BRAINS themselves offered up a variety of sounds since forming in the late ’70s (punk, hardcore, reggae, metal, funk, etc.), and in the process, penned some of rock’s all-time great tunes (“Pay to Cum,” “Sailin’ On,” “Re-Ignition,” “Sacred Love”) and classic albums (‘Bad Brains,’ ‘Rock for Light,’ ‘I Against I,’ ‘Quickness’). But somehow, someway, the BAD BRAINS never managed to truly break through to the mainstream – while many of the bands they influenced (BEASTIE BOYS Boys, LIVING COLOUR, NIRVANA) did.
At last, there is now a book that tells the story of the band, ‘Punk! Hardcore! Reggae! PMA! Bad Brains!’ Written by journalist/author Greg Prato, the book is part traditional biography and part oral history. Interviews include Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Max Cavalera (Soulfly/ex-Sepultura), Chad Channing (Nirvana), Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed), Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets), Mitts (Madball), Chuck Mosley (ex-Faith No More/ex-Bad Brains), Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan), Travis Stever (Coheed and Cambria), Tesco Vee (Meatmen), and Tim Williams (Vision of Disorder), among many others.
Prato is a Long Island, New York-based journalist, who has written for Rolling Stone, and has authored such books as ‘Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music,’ ‘The Faith No More & Mr. Bungle Companion,’ ‘Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets,’ and ‘MTV Ruled the World: The Early Years of Music Video.’ ‘Punk! Hardcore! Reggae! PMA! Bad Brains!’ is his fourteenth book overall. He is also a long-time fan of the Bad Brains – having interviewed most of the band’s members over the years (of which excerpts from these interviews are included in this book), and having witnessed quite a few Bad Brains performances over the years.
Available as both a paperback version [$14.99], a Kindle download [$9.99], and a Nook download [$9.99], ‘Punk! Hardcore! Reggae! PMA! Bad Brains!’ helps put it all into perspective.
Punk & Hardcore:
MIKE DEAN [Corrosion of Conformity singer/bassist]: On one hand, it was perhaps easier than now to just start from nothing, and go play, because you had an honest-to-God word of mouth, organic, enthusiastic, hardcore scene, where this is an entirely new thing that people were jumping on of their own accord – you didn’t have to force-feed it to them – and they would go see a band out of town that they’d never heard, simply because they were told it was a hardcore band. If anybody had heard it at all and it was good, everybody was there, because it was an enthusiastic, youthful scene, based on, “I need more of this.” It was like a new trip. So there was that – you could start from nothing and there was an audience. But at the same time, still not a great deal of money in that pursuit, so the level of nutrition and accommodation might include eating at the gas station and sleeping in the van.
Or if you did find a place to stay, you’d be subjected to people that just wanted to party, so getting the rest that even a young person would require was not always on the agenda. And then looking like weirdos could get you harassed. It got us harassed in different places and pulled out of the van and searched. Now, I would imagine adding African skin to that equation would probably make that happen tenfold. It was more than enough to make me paranoid. So yeah, you’re going to suffer a little for your art if you’re in that situation. It was both tough, and in some ways, surprisingly easier than today, simply because the audience was just so motivated for something new to go crazy. Whereas now, it just seems like everybody’s seen it all. To some extent, it’s all been done. You can add a little bit more, but then people might not even know that you pulled off something revolutionary, because they’re playing a game on their phone or some shit. They’re too busy filming something great to actually experience something great.
KEITH MORRIS [Circle Jerks singer]: [The Circle Jerks] played with them a couple of times. Out here in Southern California, we had to follow them, which…that didn’t work. That was a wrong choice. That would have been the equivalent to…I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the black and white footage that was filmed at the Santa Monica Civic, ‘The TAMI Show,’ where James Brown comes out and just fuckin’ annihilates the place. And then the Rolling Stones have to come out and play after him. I mean, the Rolling Stones were great, but not even on the same planet as James Brown. That’s the Bad Brains.
GREG PUCIATO [Dillinger Escape Plan singer]: I think their attitude definitely was [an influence on Dillinger Escape Plan]. I don’t really know – to be honest with you – how much of a Bad Brains fan Ben [Weinman, guitarist] was, but I know that he’s a fan of Dr. Know. I know that he’s a fan of his guitar playing and kind of using a lot of free-jazz elements in his playing, and things that Vernon Reid later expounded on in Living Colour. I can’t speak for everybody. But I know that we watched a gazillion live videos of theirs and were all just like, “Fuck. This is incredible.” But as far as being a mega-fan, I don’t think everybody else is as much of a geek about it as I am. I mean, I only have one band tattoo, and it’s a Bad Brains tattoo.
I have a tattoo on my arm of the Capitol Building being struck by lightning, and it says “Attitude” underneath of it. We were on tour maybe a few years ago, and I was in Dallas at Oliver Peck’s shop. And Oliver Peck is a huge Bad Brains fan, too, so he was like, “Hey man, if you’ve got any time today, let’s do some tats.” So everybody in the band went down to Oliver’s shop and got just random little things that he can knock out in like, 20 minutes. The one commonality that both he and I have is that we’re turbo Bad Brains fans, so I was like, “Fuck, if there’s any band that I would get a tattoo of, it would be the Bad Brains, and if there’s any guy who understands my level of geekdom, it’s you.” So it just made sense. Yeah, I think we did! [In response to being asked if they listened to Bad Brains music while getting the tattoo] I think it was his call, too. He was like, “Let’s make this the full thing.”
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