Talking Tone With Bad Religion’s Brian Baker
By Elysse Miller
I feel fortunate to have grown up during the punk and industrial heyday. One of the pillars of punk, Bad Religion, recently embarked on a new tour that started in Ventura, California. I watched in admiration as these legends played for hours, spanning their entire catalog and hitting their fans with the biting energy they are known for.
Knowing many who consider this band influential in their lives, I was humbled to have some one-on-one time with Brian Baker. Brian started out his career as a founding member of Minor Threat and joined Bad Religion in 1994.
30 Years Live was recently issued on vinyl after originally being a download release in 2010. Are you much of a vinyl guy? What do you make of the vinyl revival?
I was but my wife is the collector of the family now. Unfortunately, all my great, old records were sold over the years for rent, food etc. We have a small collection at the house but I’m not a serious collector anymore.
The vinyl revival is fantastic. For me, records sound better, period. People are now realizing the “budget” turntables and stereo receivers our parents had are vastly superior to all but the highest-end digital systems. Plus, playing an LP gives you a cover to hold onto and digest while you listen!
Do you have any ‘secret weapon’ gear in the studio that you won’t risk on the live stage?
I do! I have a great Marshall I pulled off the road because I was afraid to ruin it. It’s a white 20th Anniversary 2203 JCM 800, 100 watt from ’82. There’s something about the head that is intangible. It has real ghost mojo.
I’ve an early 90’s Japanese Gretsch Duo Jet that I’ve used on every Bad Religion Record. It’s just a great guitar and fits in perfectly between conventional humbuckers and single coils. I also have a 1960 Epiphone Coronet that has a weak neck joint, so it’s not super stable. It only weighs around five pounds! It wouldn’t work on tour, but it records so well it’s scary.
You seem to favor P90s and heavy strings which don’t lend themselves to subtlety! Are you tough on your guitars?
I certainly don’t baby my guitars but I do respect them. I go through frets pretty quickly but overall I’d say I’m an average abuser.
Do you set your guitars up differently for live performance compared to recording?
Yeah, I always play 11’s live. In the studio, if I play humbuckers, then I play 10’s.
How do you guys work as a guitar team? Do you consciously coordinate your gear and tones to complement each other or does it happen pretty organically by this point?
We do play as a team but it’s every man for himself as far as gear goes. I came into Bad Religion playing Les Pauls with high gain humbuckers. When our new guitarist, Mike Dimkitch, came in a few years back with P90 Juniors, I liked his sound so much that I bought one myself! Now we are both playing P90s through Marshalls, and letting our sound guy worry about tonal variation from stage left to right. He hates us!
Are you a guitar collector? Do you own anything unique that might surprise people?
I am a collector, but don’t have anything super rare. I’m into iconic instruments that my favorite guitarists played. I’ve got a few Les Paul Customs (Steve Jones), a White Falcon (Marco Pirroni), a Johnny Marr Jag, some old Juniors (Guy Days, Mick Jones, Thunders) and of course a pile of SGs (Angus) plus a few acoustics to keep me honest.
Anything you want to mention to your fans about the tour?
Bad Religion is playing near you this year and we’d love to see you!
See Bad Religion’s tour dates here.