Influential hardcore punk band Bad Brains, which formed in Washington, D.C., in 1977 and reunited its original lineup in 1994, have experienced quite a few incarnations and lived on several record labels (including Epic and Maverick). But the foundation-innovative hardcore infused with reggae and rock-remains. The group's most recent (and eighth) album, Build a Nation, was produced by late Beastie Boys member Adam "MCA" Yauch and arrived in mid-2007 pegged to the band's 30th anniversary through Megaforce Records. It bowed at No. 100 on the Billboard 200 with 8,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and has sold 40,000 to date. Five years later, the band has readied its follow-up, Into the Future, which will arrive Nov. 19 also on Megaforce.
"When you get to be O.G. status you go back to the beginning where you're like, 'We're making music, so what's the rush?'" says bassist Darryl Jenifer from his home near Woodstock, N.Y. "It's not like we're in the game to try to be chart-toppers or anything like that. We just feel like we're out here to continue our music and our brotherhood and our quest to do what we do."
The band started on the album more than a year ago, electing to work on the songs slowly to let them evolve over time. The group-Jenifer, vocalist H.R., guitarist Dr. Know and drummer Earl Hudson-produced the album and recorded in several studios around Woodstock, including Applehead, Dreamland and Soldier Studio. It was a different approach from the one- to two-week sprint that the band traditionally pursues.
"When we decide to make a record it just gets in the wind," Jenifer says. "It's not a contrived decision. We could all be doing other things and then suddenly it's like, 'You know, we should make another record.' Once we establish that we know we want to present what we're known for doing, but at the same rate we want to be inventive with our style. After all these years it's no real mystery."
From the business angle there's no real mystery either. Although Megaforce has worked to promote the disc, Anthony Courtney, the band's manager since 1982, says a marketing plan simply never happens on the band side. "Basically, from my point of view as manager, the band tells me that they've got some ideas and they want to get in the studio," Courtney says. "Then I look for a label or start speaking with the label that we have the previous album out with and just see if I can arrange for it to happen. There's no such thing as coming up with a marketing plan. It would make my life easier if there was."
However, there is an aim to introduce the band's music to new fans, which is often achieved with touring. Bad Brains no longer go on full tours, but rather embark on what Courtney refers to as "blocks" of dates: four or five shows during a weekend with several weeks off in between. The group also becomes more active in the springtime when the focus shifts to European festivals. As of now, only a few West Coast dates have been announced in support of Into the Future, but Courtney says he expects the act to play out "quite a bit" in the coming months.
"The band's had a following since the beginning," he says. "Since the time I came across them they were filling rooms. But it's kind of an insular world. I think always what we want is people who haven't heard it before to hear it .Â .Â . When an album comes it really creates its own creative process. So now the band is in motion. The more people in the world who get involved in it the more excited and active they become."••••