One of the most volatile and acclaimed bands to rise out of the Washington, D.C., hardcore punk scene in the early '80s, Bad Brains overcame novelty status (four men of color playing punk) by mixing blazing speed and virtuosity with reggae riddims and social consciousness. Fronted by the often unpredictable HR Hudson, the band has been more on again, off again than a light switch over the years. Today it appears the light is back on. We talked to HR, who's currently on tour with his reggae band, the Dubb Agents, about Bad Brains and his sometimes difficult nature.
Westword: In the beginning, Bad Brains played extremely fast punk rock, yet all the members were Rastafarians. Were you getting the Rasta message through?
HR: I didn't really think of the objective, because it was a candid situation and the spirit was just flowing. A lot of the songs were from living on the edge and having a very avant-garde approach. So it came through the cosmos, and all things being equal, the band image and moral ideal, that was all interpreted in a very simple way. I don't think it had to do with the length [of the song]. People had something to identify with. Ours was the intensity of the music, the speed and the energy. I think that's what defined us.
You've been labeled an erratic performer, full of peace and love one minute, aggression and anger the next. You've missed shows, hit audience members and fought with other musicians. How are things going these days?
Everything is going much more positively these days. As a youth, you know, you sometimes jump to conclusions. Emotions are running strong, and you do things you shouldn't. But today everything is much better. Thank you for caring, but I assure you, it is a comforting and positive vibe that flows now. We reconciled and made amends, and it is peace and love throughout the camp. We look forward to a very positive and productive year.
Your solo work is more dub- or reggae-related, in marked contrast to the early Bad Brains material. Do people still request the early material?
I like to save the outrageous for the Bad Brains. For my own material, I like to focus more on the groove factor, the comforting factor.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.