THE LEGENDARY STARBOLT, MR. BRETT: EPITAPH RECORDS FOUNDER BRETT GUREWITZ

20130115-badreligion-x306-1358796420 (1)Brett W. Gurewitz (born May 12, 1962), nicknamed Mr. Brett, is the guitarist and a songwriter of Bad Religion. He is also the owner of the music label Epitaph Records (which has handled many Bad Religion releases) and sister-labels ANTI-, Burning Heart Records, Fat Possum Records, and Hellcat Records. He has produced albums for Bad Religion as well as Epitaph Records labelmates NOFX, Rancid, and Pennywise, among others. Gurewitz also had a project called Error, which also featured Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, and Greg Puciato.

Gurewitz joined Bad Religion in 1979 at the age of 17, when he, Greg Graffin, Jay Bentley and Jay Ziskrout agreed to form a band. After releasing two albums and one EP, Gurewitz left Bad Religion in 1983, but rejoined three years later when the How Could Hell Be Any Worse? line-up (adding guitarist Greg Hetson as the second guitarist) was reuniting, and recorded five more albums with the band before they signed to Atlantic Records in 1993. Their Atlantic debut, Stranger Than Fiction (1994), was a breakthrough success, scoring their biggest hits “21st Century (Digital Boy)” and “Infected”. However, he was overwhelmed by Epitaph’s new popularity (including the unexpected success of the label’s then-current acts The Offspring and Rancid) and decided to quit Bad Religion once again in 1994. Gurewitz continued working at Epitaph after his departure from Bad Religion, and released the “Hate You” single in 1996 with his one-off project Daredevils. During that time, he entered a period of drug addiction. By 1999, Gurewitz had successfully completed drug rehabilitation and reconciled with Graffin to co-write a song “Believe It”, which appears on Bad Religion’s 2000 album The New America. He eventually rejoined the band in 2001 to write and record the album The Process of Belief (2002). He remains with the band today, but only occasionally joins them live, such as when they are performing near his hometown or for televised appearances. Bad Religion has since released four more albums: The Empire Strikes First (2004), New Maps of Hell (2007), The Dissent of Man (2010), and True North (2013).

YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT by BAD RELIGION

 

In the past, Brett has engineered several albums using the pseudonym “The Legendary Starbolt”.

Then-17 year old Brett Gurewitz formed Bad Religion in Woodland Hills in 1979[4] with Greg Graffin (vocals), Jay Ziskrout (drums) and Jay Bentley (bass). All four attended El Camino Real High School. Soon after, they began writing songs and played their first ever concert, as warm-up for Social Distortion. In 1981, Bad Religion recorded a six-song self-titled EP, which was initially released in a 7″ format, and soon afterward re-issued as a 12″. Compact cassettes were also produced, but they are rare.

photo_lineup1Bad Religion’s first full-length album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, was released in 1982. When recording sessions commenced, Ziskrout soon left the band and was replaced by Pete Finestone. Cited as one of Bad Religion’s most important works, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? was financed by a $1,000 loan from Gurewitz’s father. Its success surprised the band when it sold 10,000 copies in under a year. The sound of the record was vastly improved from the self-titled EP. Although not yet credited as a member of the band, Greg Hetson (of Circle Jerks fame) did a guitar solo on “Part III”.

Bad Religion released their second full-length, Into the Unknown, in 1983, but were less successful, due to the album’s poor production. It was a major change from their previous style, delving into progressive rock heavy in keyboards. While recording one song, Bentley and Finestone left the band and were replaced by Paul Dedona on bass and Davy Goldman on drums. The album, Into the Unknown is out of print, but is included in their 30th anniversary box set.

AMERICAN JESUS by BAD RELIGION

 

After the release of Into the Unknown, Bad Religion broke up, but reformed (without Gurewitz) to produce the 1985 EP Back to the Known. The EP features the return of the band’s punk rock roots, although also reflecting influences of then current acts such as Hüsker Dü and The Descendents. Soon after, Bad Religion went on hiatus again.

After the How Could Hell Be Any Worse? line-up (also including Hetson) reunited in 1986, Bad Religion released their highly acclaimed album Suffer in 1988. The album was a comeback for Bad Religion as well as a watershed for the Southern California punk sound popularized by their label Epitaph Records, owned by Gurewitz. The reunion line-up recorded two more highly acclaimed albums, No Control (1989) and Against the Grain (1990), before Finestone left the group in early 1991.

Bad-Religion-2013-Photo-e1384539714140Bad Religion replaced Finestone with Bobby Schayer, then recorded their next album, Generator, which was already completed in the spring of 1991, but was forced to delay its release until a year later. For the album, Bad Religion also filmed their first music video “Atomic Garden”, which was also their first song to be released as a single. In 1993, the band left their original label Epitaph Records and signed to Atlantic Records, who released their next album Recipe for Hate. While moderately successful, this was the first Bad Religion album to reach any Billboard charts and two videos for the album, “American Jesus” and “Struck a Nerve”, were made.

Bad Religion rose to fame with their next album, 1994’s Stranger Than Fiction, including their well-known hits “Infected” and “21st Century (Digital Boy)”, which are also often considered concert staples. After the album was completed, Gurewitz soon left Bad Religion to concentrate on the future of Epitaph, citing the increasing amount of time he was spending at Epitaph’s offices as The Offspring became one of the biggest bands of the mid-1990s. Gurewitz was replaced by Brian Baker during the Stranger Than Fiction tour and Bad Religion recorded two albums without him.

21ST CENTURY DIGITAL BOY by BAD RELIGION

 

In 1999, after a five year hiatus from the band, Gurewitz reunited with Graffin and co-wrote the song “Believe It”, which appeared on Bad Religion’s 11th album The New America (2000). Two years later, after parting ways with Atlantic Records, Gurewitz was officially back in the band and Bad Religion resigned to Epitaph. Schayer also left the band during the time and was replaced by current drummer Brooks Wackerman. Now as a six piece, Bad Religion recorded and released the albums The Process of Belief (2002), The Empire Strikes First (2004), New Maps of Hell (2007), The Dissent of Man (2010), and True North (2013).

0bb124c8-d4cb-4949-960e-c0a236d68d63In 2003, Gurewitz was recruited by 12 Rounds member and Nine Inch Nails collaborator Atticus Ross and his younger brother Leopold to play guitar and bass in an electro-hardcore project called Error. Their only release to date is a self-titled EP, which was in 2004. Following the release of the EP, Error was reported to be looking for a full-time vocalist for touring and a full-length debut; however, the future of the project has been a topic for discussion on many internet message boards. In 2005, Error recorded one new song, “Wild World”, that appears on a tribute album to The Birthday Party called Release the Bats: The Birthday Party as Heard Through the Meat Grinder of Three One G, which was released on April 4, 2006. Error has been on hiatus since and it is unclear whether the project will return anytime in the future.