Born on November 6, 1963, in Racine, Wisconsin, Greg Graffin is the frontman and co-founder of the punk band Bad Religion. The band's self-titled debut album and 1982 follow-up, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, were both well-received. Bad Religion briefly disbanded in 1984 but has gone on to release 16 studio albums. Graffin has recorded two solo albums, American Lesion and Cold as Clay. He holds a Ph.D. in zoology from Cornell University and has taught life sciences at both Cornell and UCLA.
Greg Graffin, punk rock’s professor emeritus, was born Gregory Walter Graffin III on November 6, 1963, in Racine, Wisconsin, and raised by parents Walter and Marcella. In 1976, his family moved to the San Fernando Valley, where the self-described "average Wisconsin kid" quickly found himself an outcast among the local mix of pot fumes and rock 'n' roll.
One Sunday night during his youth, Graffin got his first ear full of punk courtesy of the Los Angeles-based KROQ's "Rodney on the ROQ" show. The irreverent lyrics and stage-diving electricity captured Graffin’s imagination immediately, and at age 15, while attending El Camino Real High School, he helped form the punk band Bad Religion with friends Jay Bentley, Brett Gurewitz and Jay Ziskrout.
From the start, the young garage band showed a knack for self-reliance that stood out in the grass-roots punk scene flourishing around them. The teens fashioned together posters and flyers to promote their gigs, and with a $1,500 loan from Brett Gurewitz’s father, they rented studio time in an abandoned office building in Hollywood and recorded their first album. In 1980, Bad Religion was featured on KROQ, and it was Greg Graffin’s clear vocals and erudite lyrics that announced their arrival to Los Angeles' hardcore punk scene.
Bad Religion's self-titled debut EP sold out quickly, and their 1982 follow-up, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, was also well-received. Their third album, Into the Unknown, however, met with less success. The band had taken a different approach for the album: a 1970s progressive-rock style built around a Roland Juno 6 synthesizer. While Graffin felt that the new direction fell within Bad Religion's artistic values, their fans disagreed. Jay Bentley quit the band while recording the album and, in 1984, the group briefly split, reforming soon after with new members.
Bad Religion has released 16 studio albums over the years, and 1994's Stranger Than Fiction was a downright hit (with both fans and critics), spawning the singles "Infected" and the title track. The album sold a half million copies and brought Bad Religion to a legion of new fans.
Other activities and solo work
During his time away from the band, Graffin enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating with degrees in biology and geology. He went on to get a Ph.D. from Cornell University in zoology. Graffin has taught classes at both UCLA and Cornell.
Greg Graffin has recorded two solo albums, American Lesion (1997) and Cold as Clay (2006). He has also written two books: Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God (2011) and Population Wars: A New Perspective on Competition and Coexistence (2015).
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