Q&A: Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains

October 22, 2010 by Aaron Fowler

Q&A: Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains

One of founding members of D.C. hardcore punk pioneers BAD BRAINS, bassist DARRYL JENIFER has been breaking musical boundaries since he was a teenager, and three decades after Bad Brains formed, he’s at it again. Next week, Jenifer releases his first solo album, In Search Of Black Judas, on Bad Brains’ first label, Reach Out International. In his first interview about the album, the legend reveals his new direction, why the album is still under the Bad Brains family and why musicians in today’s scene have it made.

How long has the solo project been in the making?
I’ve been working on this album for about a year-and-a-half now, but I’ve been compiling a wealth of dubs, instrumentals and all sorts of music for at least 10 years.

What can we expect from your solo album?
It is sort of an experimental take on dub, Rub-A-Dub and reggae, but it  brings in some “quiet storm” jazz elements. I also love punk rock, so I’m bringing in some of those elements. It’s just an experiment on smoothed-out dub styles. I spent a lot of years smashing and bashing with the punk and hardcore, so I figured I’d let people know there’s a soft side to the situation.

What drew you back to Reach Out International Records, the home of the first Bad Brains album?
Next year is going to be the 30th anniversary of our relationship. Our first ROIR cassette came out in 1982, so when I went to release these dubs and instrumentals, I thought what better place than my old family home?

Were you aiming for traces of Bad Brains on the solo project or did you want to take it in a new direction?
Well, being one of the primary composers of Bad Brains, this is just an extension of the band. You can call it a solo album, but really it’s all under one banner. That’s why, even with the artwork, I try to keep it known that it’s in the Bad Brains family.

Do you feel any pressure to live up to the Bad Brains legacy with this?
No, there’s no real pressure but I’m just hoping people will like it. It’s like a thunderstorm. Sometimes there’s lightning and sometimes the breeze is blowing. The music is the same way. It’s elemental. My record is smooth—it starts out a little rocky, but that’s just to let people know that this is the [Bad] Brains. But then it settles into a story of smooth and experimental sounds. So, no, I’m not under any pressure. The pressure is over in my career. [Laughs.]

What is the origin of the album title, In Search Of Black Judas?
The [title] song started out as an inspiration to betrayal. You know someone would do something for his or her own good, you know for money—just like the story about Judas in the Bible. But in a sense, when I say black Judas, I’m not speaking in a racial sense, but speaking to mankind about betrayal. It’s like when you hear some blues guy singing, “I lost my baby.” This is the same thing but with dub. It’s not like I’m pointing any fingers or anything. I just felt like I had a story I wanted to tell through music about betrayal. But, for the most part, it’s a love piece through bass.

Is the solo gig something you want to pursue or is it more of a project to do on the downtime between Bad Brains records?
I really wanted to break loose. I really want to make volumes of this on bass. I want to see how much of a story I can tell through basslines in progressive styles. It’s like a quest. The album is best listened to when you’re doing something else. It’s not a record you want to sit down and listen to for its single or anything like that.

Do you plan on touring after the release of the album?
Yeah, there’s this thing I have called Play-J. What I do is I come out and DJ Rub-A-Dub styles, and then I play my record. Finally, I come out and play along on my bass—like the way [Blink-182’s] Travis Barker plays drums with a DJ. I do it the same way but with the bass.

Do you think bands have it easier nowadays to really break into a scene?
Yeah, when were coming up, I had to jump in a van and travel all around the United States passing out 45-inch records just for people to know who we were. Now you just click a button and the whole world knows who you are. Everything is just so connected. I think that’s a positive thing. It will be so oversaturated that the good shit will come to the top.

How do you feel about the state of music today?
Even when I was a teenager starting in Bad Brains, there’s always a kid out there going against the [mainstream] grain. When we were coming up, we used to say, “disco sucks.” I used to break records. But I don’t really listen to much new music. I stay on my own thing. The music world is kind of flat right now. It’s kind of watered down. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t talent out there. It’s about to come. You’ve got to have faith in music. alt