When a band past its prime reunites, what usually follows is a steady stream of hot trash. They're either washed up, bored, or broke. Lately we've been up to our ears in this soggy garbage; the Stooges recording The Weirdness, the Pixies touring despite hating each other, and Queen daring to play without Freddie Mercury.
But the seminal Bad Brains are one of the few, very rare exceptions to the rule. And as bassist Darryl Jenifer puts it, you can't even call it a comeback. "For us to be gone, come back, be gone, come back, that's just the way we roll," Jenifer says. "It's not a nostalgia tip for us. It's a mission. It's the life we're living. In terms of money, in terms of records, you know it's not about that. This is all God's work to us." And so the Brains, with their original lineup of Dr. Know, H.R., Earl Hudson, and Jenifer, continue their lifelong commitments to music and Rastafari.
"Some people got to worry about their success and monetary things, these seemingly important things," explains Jenifer. "But when you're a spiritual cat or a great spirit respecting youth, all things are not what they seem."
In this way Jenifer and his band mates avoid the pitfalls that have plagued so many other bands—they just don't force it. Whatever happens, happens. And when and if the forces come together, the Bad Brains move.
The most recent wave blew in two years ago. Jenifer and Doc started working on some riffs, they called in Beastie Boy Adam Yauch to produce, and the Brains' new album, Build a Nation, which drops in June, was born.
"I thought Yauch brought a really real, positive thing to our production. I think it's one of our better records, to tell you the truth," says Jenifer.
Indeed, Build a Nation is not the Bad Brains' Weirdness. The compositions, energy, and style of the new album are every bit as tight and raw as their classic I Against I. After spending time in the studio, the band is anxious to get back on the stage, where they expertly blend the maximum chaos of hardcore with ghostly dub reggae, one allowing the other to breathe, and in turn, accentuating the other's mania.
The two Portland shows are the Brains' first since a three-night stand which marked the closing of New York's CBGB's in the fall of 2006, and the only scheduled club dates before the band joins the summer festival circuit. It's quite a lucky break for our city, especially considering what happened to the Brains here back in 1995.
"Someone broke into our tour bus and stole family photos, pictures of our sons together when they had diapers on," says Jenifer. "We don't care, we don't want to know who you are, but if those pictures are there, please return them." But the incident hasn't soured the Brains' on Portland. Says Jenifer, "One rat don't spoil the situation." Thank God.