In either 1979 or 1980, at the age of 15, Greg Graffin and a few high school classmates formed Bad Religion in Southern California's San Fernando Valley. After making a name for themselves in the Los Angeles punk scene, releasing two EPs and two full-length albums, they disbanded around 1985. However, Bad Religion reformed in 1986 with a new line-up, consisting of Graffin on vocals, Brett Gurewitz and Greg Hetson on guitars, Jay Bentley on bass, and Pete Finestone on drums. In 1988, they released Suffer, which was a comeback for Bad Religion as well as a watershed for the Southern California punk sound popularized by guitarist Gurewitz's Epitaph Records. The reunion line-up made two more records before Finestone left the band in 1991.
Bad Religion has been known for its articulate and often politically charged lyrics as well as its fast-paced harmony, melody and counterpoint. Graffin and Gurewitz are the band's two main songwriters, though Graffin wrote the bulk of the material on his own for a three-album period in the late 1990s. Gurewitz had left the band in 1994 to concentrate on the future of Epitaph.
After a stint with major label Atlantic Records ended in the early 2000s, Bad Religion re-signed with Epitaph and Gurewitz rejoined. They have since continued to co-write songs and recorded five records: The Process of Belief (2001), The Empire Strikes First (2004), New Maps of Hell (2007), The Dissent of Man (2010) and the latest, True North (2013).
Graffin recorded a solo album in 1997, called American Lesion, which consisted of softer, more pop-oriented folk songs. Most of this album was written during the breakup of his marriage, and the songs reflect this in lyrics and style.
In 2005, Graffin recorded his second solo album Cold as the Clay. The album is an amalgamation of new songs by Graffin and 18th- and 19th-century American folk songs. It was produced by Brett Gurewitz and released on ANTI- Records on July 10, 2006.
In a September 2015 interview, Graffin revealed that he has been working on his third solo album, which will continue the folk style of his previous album Cold as the Clay. His latest record, "Millport" was released on March 10, 2017. It was co-written and produced by Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion and features members of Social Distortion as backing musicians.
Graffin attended El Camino Real High School, then double-majored in anthropology and geology as an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He went on to earn a master's degree in geology from UCLA and received his PhD from Cornell University. The PhD dissertation was officially a zoology PhD, supervised by William B. Provine at Cornell. The title of his dissertation is "Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology".
Greg Graffin returned to UCLA where he taught Life Science 1. In a June 2008 interview with Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley, he mentioned that Graffin would be teaching there from January to March 2009. In April 2011, Graffin revealed that he would return to Cornell University that fall to co-teach a course in evolution for 14 weeks.
In his book Anarchy Evolution Graffin writes that he is an atheist: "I’ve never believed in God, which technically makes me an atheist". Although Graffin is not religious, he prefers to identify as a naturalist rather than as an atheist. "Naturalism is a belief system. A lot of scientists bristle at that. We all have to believe we can find the truth. Evidence is my guide. I rely on observation, experimentation and verification."
Greg Graffin received the Rushdie Award for Cultural Humanism from the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy in 2008.
Throughout 2003, Graffin was engaged in an ongoing email discussion with Preston Jones, a historian at the Christian John Brown University in Arkansas and fan of Bad Religion. The informal philosophical debate that resulted was published as a book titled Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? A Professor and Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity in 2006.
In 2009 Graffin announced that he had co-written a book with American author Steve Olson entitled Anarchy Evolution, released on September 28, 2010 (the same day his band Bad Religion released their 15th album The Dissent of Man).
In 2009, Graffin filmed and co-produced a television pilot called Punk Professor. In 2010, he commented on the project, "It's sitting on someone's shelf waiting to be developed. I'm not actually pursuing it. I said, yeah, I'll shoot the pilot, then it's out of my hands."
On March 24, 2012, Bad Religion headlined the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., where Graffin performed the U.S. national anthem.
Another book, entitled The Population Wars, was released in September 2015. It had been in works since at least April 2011 and Graffin spoke about it to be "a bit more in depth about the process of evolution". In a November 2015 interview with PopMatters journalist J.C. Maçek III for Graffin's book Population Wars, Graffin stated "I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but you can’t dwell on mistakes because life is about an adventure. It’s about discovery. And you learn from your mistakes so unless you’re completely shut down to improving your life, I believe you can continue learning until you’re very, very old. You have to look at those past missteps as learning experiences."For his recordings with Bad Religion, see Bad Religion discography
American Lesion (1997)
Cold as the Clay (2006)