October 29, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

”A few years ago, signing with a major label like this probablywould have been a suicidal move,” says Greg Graffin, 29, lead singerfor the formerly underground hardcore band Bad Religion. But oh, howtimes change. This past August, the five-man outfit, noted for itsmelodic and intelligent brand of thrash, signed with AtlanticRecords, thus ending 13 years as a critically acclaimed indie act onits self-owned Epitaph label. And in September, Atlantic re-releasedthe band’s Recipe for Hate, a hit by indie standards (150,000 copiessold), featuring the single ”American Jesus”-guest-starring one EddieVedder on backing vocals.Vedder and other like-minded, mainstream-loathing rockers havebeen getting Religion since the early ’80s, when the punk act waslaunched out of a suburban garage in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. ButGraffin and the band were wary of moving into the land of corporaterock until recent breakthroughs by other alternative acts likeNirvana, Jane’s Addiction, and Soul Asylum made major-label watersless alienating. ”Thanks to those bands, the majors are moresophisticated about this type of music, so there’s less of a chanceof us destroying our careers,” says Graffin.Religion will do five albums for Atlantic, but don’t expect anydetours from their high-volume, low-maintenance sound when thequintet returns to the studio next spring. Recipe for Hate wasrecorded in a brisk three weeks for a puny $50,000. This time ”thebudget will be bigger,” says Graffin. ”But they can’t make us useit.” And if this foray into the major leagues doesn’t work? ”We canalways go back to Epitaph, so it’s not so big a risk.” Maybe not, butGraffin will play it safe and continue to work toward his doctoratein vertebrate paleontology (read: dinosaurs) at Cornell University.

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