An Interview with Greg Hetson of the Circle Jerks & Bad Religion

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Bad Religion's Greg Hetson + Wife Take Legal Action

Greg Hetson has been a member of two of the most influential Punk Rock bands ever to take the stage. With both the Circle Jerks and Bad Religion, he’s given us some of the greatest Punk Rock licks, one that will forever echo off of kid’s bedrooms walls or their parent’s basements.

Today, I’ve got great here for a quick chat. We talk about his early days, forming the Circle Jerks, joining Bad Religion, and more. If you’d like to learn more about the Circle Jerks, head of to their site here. Cheers.

Andrew:
Greg, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. It’s been such an odd time. How are you holding up during this seemingly ever raging dumpster fire?

 Greg:
I am…living the dream!

Andrew:
Let’s talk about your background, your musical origins, so to speak? How did it all begin for you?

Greg:
I started just as a fan of music, buying records. Then at some point, my parents said to be a well-rounded person, “you should learn an instrument.” So, I was in the car on the way to school and heard the riff to “Up Around the Bend” by Creedence and asked my Dad what instrument that was. So, I took some lessons at around 10-11 years old and, after a few months, quit and put the guitar under my bed until I was 16.

Andrew:
Let’s start at the very beginning with Redd Kross. Tell me about that group. Why did you ultimately leave to form the Circle Jerks?

Greg:
I guess I thought they weren’t serious enough. We had just got a new drummer, Lucky, who ended up in the Circle Jerks. For reasons unknown, until years later, Jeff and Steve made excuses for not practicing. It turned out that they were intimidated because he was a” real” musician! Ha.

I Rock Photos — Greg Hetson of Bad Religion. ...

Andrew:
The early Circle Jerks albums such as Group Sex, Wild in the Streets, and Golden Shower of Hits were influential. Looking back, what are your thoughts on those records? Do they hold up for you? What’s the legacy?

Greg:
I think they hold up. I’ve been told they do. LOL. We were trying to do our own thing, play faster and with more dynamics than anyone else. Hopefully, we succeeded.

Andrew:
The Circle Jerks were a huge part of the first wave of American Hardcore Punk. Do you feel the band gets its due?

Greg:
I think so. I have no complaints.

Andrew:
On the subject of getting its due, let’s talk about Punk Rock guitar. From the outside looking in, guitarists within Punk are largely ignored by all of the people “in the know.” Why do you think that is?  

Greg:
I guess…ignorance. There are some excellent technical Punk guitarists, But it goes by fast to the untrained ear. And to me, the feel and intention are sometimes more important than being technical or clean. Or maybe That is my excuse for being sloppy at times.

Greg Hetson - Wikipedia

Andrew:
As things began to go into flux with the Circle Jerks, you joined Bad Religion in the mid-80s. How did that come about?

Greg:
The Circle Jerks were imploding while Bad Religion was taking off, so I got lucky with that.

Andrew:
Unfortunately for all us Punk fans, you left Bad Religion in 2013/2014, right? What happened there. Ultimately, why did your time with Bad Religion end?

Greg:
They kicked me out. The short story is my side, so I am not sure what they would say, but I had a problem with prescription drug abuse and alcohol. So, they came to me and said, “get sober, we love you, we got your back.” I did and have been sober ever since, but they kicked me out anyway.

Andrew:
Circling back to the Circle Jerks, you guys haven’t put out a record since 1995, but you’ve toured on and off since then. What is the current status of the band? 

Greg:
We have reformed and will tour as soon as the zombie apocalypse is over.

Circle Jerks celebrate 40th anniversary by teasing 2020 reunion

Andrew:
All of that aside, we’ve all had a ton of downtime this past year, seeing as COVID has arrested us. Are you working on any new projects?

Greg:
Not really. I am a slacker!

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the idea of “being punk.” You’re about as OG as it gets, so what does Punk mean to you? Is it a genre? A way of life or an aesthetic?

Greg:
If you have to ask, you’ll never know. LOL. I think Miles Davis said that about jazz. I guess…it’s an attitude. Be skeptical, question the mainstream, do your homework, don’t conform, takeover from within to change the system.

Andrew:
Shifting gears here. One disturbing fact I’ve learned recently is that streaming services don’t pay or don’t pay nearly enough. What are your thoughts on that? What can we as fans do to help support the artists we love better?

Greg:
Yeah, it’s pretty criminal, but the record companies sold the artists out when they made the deals with streaming services. It is getting better, though, thanks to the mega platinum-selling artists making a stink, so I thank them.

Greg Hetson | Boringest Blog

Andrew:
As an artist, who are some of your biggest influences? Who are the obvious ones, and maybe some not-so-obvious ones?

Greg:
For me, it was CCR, Ramones, Black Flag, The Clash, Queen, Stiff Little Fingers, and ZZ Top.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? Or are you all digital? Regardless of format, where do you like to shop for music? 

Greg:
I still buy an occasional CD or vinyl album.

Andrew:
What are some of your favorite albums, and why?  

Greg:
The Ramones, Leave Home was the first Punk album I heard. Aerosmith, Rocks is a dark and gritty-sounding album. Germs, GI is the first LA Punk album released and has great energy and songwriting. Queen, Sheer Heart Attack…Nobody was doing anything like that. It had a totally original sound and diverse musical concepts, from the crazy harmonies to straight-ahead Hard Rock. CCR, Cosmo’s Factory, was the first full-length I bought, or should I say my parents bought it for me; it definitely has that Punk attitude in the lyrical content.

Flickriver: JolietDeltaTango-0505's photos tagged with negativeapproach

Andrew:
These days, we are more or less dominated by social media. How has this affected music as an art form? Is an artist’s ability to get their music out there hindered by all this, or helped?

Greg:
It definitely helped music become more accessible for more people. However, I don’t get it. I use it sometimes, but it’s a different world. My daughter finds all kinds of good stuff, but I would not know where to look.

Andrew:
Outside of music, what are some of your greatest passions?

Greg:
Hockey and dog rescue, basset hounds in particular.

Andrew:
Last question: You’ve been at it for over 40 years. You’ve been a member of several amazing Punk Rock bands. So, as a veteran of the “scene,” what would be your advice for bands/artists who have just decided to take the plunge?

Greg:
Use your instincts. Stay true to your original concepts and play anywhere and everywhere, even if it has to be the opening band, for the opening band. Pay your dues and don’t have an attitude.

Greg Hetson: «No importa lo que ocurra en el mundo, la música debe seguir»

Interested in learning more about the work of the Circle Jerks? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing 5,000 albums, Andrew knew it was time to finally follow his dream, and thus, Vinyl Writer Music was born. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie, and Kevin. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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