Dr. Know (real name Gary Miller) formed Bad Brains (named after the Ramones track, Bad Brain) in 1979, inspired by both the amateurish rage of the Sex Pistols and the political reggae of Bob Marley. Realising that the lines between punk and reggae were already blurred in the UK, with the likes of the Clash, the Ruts and the Specials morphing the two genres, he set out to replicate that situation in the USA. Recruiting several similarly minded musicians – vocalist Paul D Hudson (going under the stage name H.R., apparently standing for Human Rights), his drummer brother, Earl Hudson, and bassist Darryl Aaron Jenifer, Dr. Know set out to prove his point.
Such diversity in their influences combined with strong musicianship made Bad Brains one of the most popular punk bands on the East Coast; they were well-respected among their peers, and their live performances in tiny clubs throughout their hometown of Washington DC quickly became the stuff of legend, due in part to the relative novelty of an entirely African-American band playing punk rock, but also due to their high-energy performances. Bad Brains’ emphasis on extreme speed – most notably evident in Dr. Know’s machine-gun guitar playing and H.R.’s brutal vocal delivery – is widely regarded as establishing the template for hardcore punk.
H.R. was a muscular and unpredictable stage performer with a very wide vocal range, who often leapt into the audience or onto amplifiers. In 1979, Bad Brains found themselves the subject of an unofficial ban among many venues, clubs and hotels in Washington DC after a riot nearly erupted during one show. In response, Bad Brains recorded the tongue-in-cheek Banned in DC and set their sights on bigger and better gigs. the band subsequently relocated to New York City, where the likes of the Ramones, Television and Patti Smith were setting the punk flag alight.
In 2006, Bad Brains reunited for a few shows at legendary New York club CBGB’s, after the venue was threatened with closure. the shows quickly sold out. with a resurging interest in the band, in early 2007, the original line-up returned to the studio for the first time in over a decade. Under the supervision of producer, and long-time Bad Brains fan Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys (the Beastie Boys claim to have chosen a name with the initials BB as a homage to Bad Brains), the band recorded and released ‘Build A Nation’, an inspired attempt at returning to the band’s hardcore roots.