Bad Religion’s Brian Baker: 10 Albums That Changed My Life
Child guitarist prodigy who had already played on stage with Santana, Brian Baker joined Minor Threat in 1980 at the age of just 15.
The Washington DC band already had a guitarist in Lyle Preslar, so the teenager stuck to bass, later switching to guitar when the band became a quintet in 1983. out of phase album. Despite all of their celebrated discography being under 48 minutes, Minor Threat remain notable as hardcore pioneers alongside Bad Brains and Black Flag.
After their split in 1983, Baker worked with The Meatmen (notoriously transgressive punks from Tesco Vee), Glenn Danzig’s Samhain, Doggy Style, Government Issue, Dag Nasty and major-label hard rock band Junkyard before turning down the guitarist’s offer to tour with REM in favor of joining Bad Religion in 1994 following the departure of founding guitarist Brett Gurewitz. He has now recorded 10 albums with Bad Religion in 28 years with the band.
More recently, the guitarist recorded the first album rat beat with his neighbors in the Asbury Park beach community who make up the 80s retro punk side project Beach Rats: Ari Katz of Lifetime on vocals, Danny Windas of Let It Burn on drums and Bouncing Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf and bassist Bryan Keinlen.
The Ruts – The Crack (1979)
“I didn’t realize it until maybe 1980 when I became a punk. I heard it in the context of a lot of those early bands that appealed to me – like The Damned and American bands like Black Flag and Circle Jerks. But there was something about The Ruts that was so precise, the performances were so strong.
“At the time, I didn’t really know that [guitarist] Paul Fox was kind of doing Mick Ronson because I didn’t really know who Mick Ronson was. That style of guitar playing and the fact that it was a punk band, but they didn’t sound really punk. Segs and Ruffy had this jazz-based technicality in their playing, but it’s still a punk band because of [vocalist] Malcolm Owen. He just hit all the buttons for me.”
The Damned – Machine Gun Tag (1979)
“Because it’s the first Damned album that I own. It’s so different from the first and second discs. Captain Sensible is such a different guitarist than Brian James or even the second album with Lu Edmonds and Brian James.
“It’s so much more theatrical. The songs were incredibly developed and there’s so much guitar on them. No offense to The Clash, but Captain Sensible was all the guitarists who [Joe] Strummer and [Mick] Jones were – and more. Captain Sensible was my man.
“It’s their best album. It was my introduction to rock guitar soloing. I started playing guitar when I was eight in 1973, but I didn’t really start getting serious until around 1978 and that’s when Powerful appeared. So that was my first exposure to AC/DC, and then I became a fan of everything else after that.
“It’s just the right record. It’s the right Bon Scott. There’s a certain roughness to it – it sounds like it was recorded in a living room. There’s a lot of mistakes in it, it’s just a real record It still gives me chills when That’s how I learned to play guitar solos – a bit of George Harrison and a lot of Angus Young!
“But Malcolm Young is the real gem. When you become an AC/DC nut, you discover how important Malcolm is on the sonic spectrum and in Powerful you can clearly hear it. Because the guitars are so separated – you can really hear what he does and his tone.”
ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973)
“It’s crazy like that: I didn’t really know who High ZZ were. I had a Stevie Ray Vaughan record in 1983 – Flood in Texas – and thanks to that, I went back and discovered ZZ Top. And it was through ZZ Top that I found Elmore James. And Son House. And Albert King. It was this huge Stevie Ray Vaughan lifeline. It’s like an Offspring kid who then discovers Bad Religion. And then discover Yes and Utopia and the Sex Pistols! It’s the same cycle of going back further to find influence.
“ZZ Top and Billy Gibbons came late in my development, but luckily just in time for the Junkyard band. So when I joined a bluesy/AC/DC/Motörhead/ZZ Top band, I was ready because I knew how to play Touches.”
Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)
“You have to understand the impact of Van Halen. It wasn’t about metal or hair metal, it didn’t look like anything else. It was a miracle. And it was scary.
“I wasn’t a fan of all of Van Halen’s work – I just liked this record. Really shocking, dry, guitar on one side, bass on one side. It was just a groundbreaking stripped down sound, and guitar gymnastics was something that had never been heard before We all learned to play Eruption – badly – and the best of us decided never to put our right hands on the sidelines again. At the time, it was incredibly influential.”
Motörhead – Ace of Spades (1980)
“It was my first experience with Motörhead. That’s it. It’s rock ‘n’ roll sped up by people at speed. The sound is monstrous, the bass distorted, Lemmy’s vocals…everything which makes Motörhead so important in every conversation we have about rock music.
“They looked badass. They were punk but they didn’t have short hair. It was just this crazy combination of things that appealed to me, of rage and noise. But underneath there was Jerry Lee Lewis. And Elvis. It’s crazy what Motörhead did.
“And it was the best logo in the world. I mean, just the writing was so cool! The punks who didn’t even listen to Motörhead had Motörhead with the Sex Pistols on their jackets. Because it was a great logo.
“Motörhead was responsible for countless later bands of all sizes.”
The Beatles – Gun (1966)
“My first exposure to music came from my parents. I also went to a Montessori school when I was very young and there was a lot of music in that program. I’m not really a student of that idea of teaching but my parents were kind of hippies and it was the 70s in the USA, man!
“Revolver that’s when I started to take a more serious interest in the guitar. The first riff I played was Collector, the first time I knew not to play a chord. The Collector solo – which was apparently played by Paul – I always do that! This aggressive and discordant intro which moves. I’ll do it tonight on a Bad Religion show. It just comes from me. It’s imbued.
“Were my parents musicians? No, but there was music in the house all the time. They had weekend parties, which now, in retrospect, I can imagine everyone was wasted and tripping. They would throw Hendrix and the police would come and tell them to refuse. My parents looked cool. They were doing their cool thing. But now that I’m much older than them when they had me, I wouldn’t care. of them. Yeah, Tame Impala rules…take off your fur coat, asshole. That’s how it works…”
Discharge – Realities of War EP (1980)
“Isn’t it an album? But it is! Realities of War account because it’s the first discharge I’ve ever heard. In the US, we didn’t have the same kind of Discharge – we had compilations.
“For me, it was the cover – the jacket. But the sounds…it was low-fi mayhem. It was about to fall apart any moment. It was so much rawer and more destructive than Black Flag, which scared me. It was the first time I heard something like this and it immediately appealed to me.
“I like the simplicity of the language. A sentence would be an entire song. Just the sound – all that Clay Records stuff. This mess, this beautiful mess. I had never heard anything like it and from that moment I’ve been a Discharge fan all my life. I always get a Never again tattoo. I carry a picture of her in my phone.
Black Flag – Nervous Breakdown EP (1979)
“A lot of these records, it was Henry Rollins who would have given them to Michael Hampton (guitarist of The Faith and member of Rollins’ band in State of Alert) who was my childhood best friend. That’s how I discovered them, through Michael, from Rollins That’s how the whole little DC timeline worked together.
“This is by far my favorite Black Flag record. Jealous again 12″ is there for me too. It’s so low-fi and scary and it was punk that wasn’t fast. I associated punk with tempo, but it was just slow and mean and I loved it that.
“Greg Ginn created his own sound and he made his own gear. I don’t think there was any intention of being punk. Black Flag came from that era of LA punk where everything that was out there and experimental could play the same way. It wasn’t like a hardcore scene where every band sounded the same. It was this crazy guy with a soldering iron speaking this crazy way. Completely unique and immediately identifiable.
U2 – Boy (1980)
“I only got into it in 1983 – because it was guitar pedals. I had never been interested in music with that electronic addition, reverbs and delay. It was so spatial: U2 sounded huge. I didn’t understand the production at that time. I didn’t know why things sounded the way they did. U2 looked like this huge thing made by four guys.
“I was still very influenced by The Edge when I started Dag Nasty. I started playing pedal with Dag Nasty and if you listen to the first two albums (can i say and Wig Out at Denko) you really hear a lot of Edge stuff. It was just a revolutionary thing for me. The songs and melodies were so awesome. And I finally understood what choirs did as a musician. With the Beatles, you’d think I’d get it, but I guess that didn’t apply to my playing in any way.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for U2. I did not follow them. I think by The unforgettable fire I didn’t really follow them, but you can’t deny the influence that Boy had on my game.
“Did we all want to develop the sound of Minor Threat to be more melodic, but Ian MacKaye didn’t? Yes, Ian was right, and we were wrong. What Ian was doing was not not just a band, Ian was building a community. He was so ahead of his time and thinking about the idea of Dischord and multiple bands and having that kind of reciprocal relationship with other artists. He had a view of together so big. But I was like, ‘I want to play bigger shows, I want Minor Threat is a great little punk band, but have you heard the Boy album…?’
“I was stupid! And he wasn’t. So luckily Minor Threat stopped exactly when he did. In retrospect, that’s part of his beauty. We didn’t stay together long enough to making real shitty music. That’s good, because now the history is accurately preserved.”
bad religion play Rebellion festival on August 4th. The Beach Rats’ debut album rat beat released on Epitaph on July 29.