Interview: Rise Against


by pete jacobs

I must admit than when I first was asked to do this interview I was a little reluctant. I had heard their CD and remember giving it a good review about six months ago, but to be completely honest it hadn’t found its way back into my car stereo. I did give them a good review and I love Fat Wreck Chords so I decided to do the interview with an open mind. I had gotten about 2 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours, so like any other person out there I was looking and feeling my best. I don’t know about anybody else but the only thing I could think about was having hardcore blasted into my ears and then asking the guys questions they’ve probably heard a million times. I did my homework though, and was determined not to ask themthough, and was determined not to ask them questions they’ve already answered in previous interviews. They’re also in the middle of a tour at the top of their lungs. I was very impressed with how quickly so I knew I wanted to keep it short and sweet and let these guys get back to sacrificing cats or whatever hardcore bands do while on tour.

The show was insane. I was sucked up front right away, partly because of the energy of the scene and partly because I needed to pave the way for Joanna, the photographer, to get up front and personal. The all ages venue was perfect for what seemed to be their home crowd. Although these guys are from Chicago, there was a pit for every song and the kiddies knew every word–even the little “Gwen” girls were screaming. Even though guitarist Dan and bassist Joe were formerly in 88 Fingers Louie, they have only been together for a couple of years and already have a following in the making that only promises that they will be around for a long time. The band consists of vocalist Tim, bassist Joe, guitarist Dan, and drummer Brandon. The interview took place right after the show in the parking lot and the guys still were a little giddy from their frantic performance.

How has the tour been going?
Tim: We’ve been gone for eight days. It’s been really good and it’s getting better and better.
Kevin: We’re touring with Lawrence Arms, they’re from Chicago so we see those guys around all the time and they’re a bunch of good guys. And we just signed to Fat, too, so we’re touring and we got a label that’s backing the tour and everything.

So where are you guys going after this?
Kevin: San Diego. This is our first of like 5 days in California.
Tim: Six.
Kevin: Six days in California?
Tim: I counted today. Bakersfield, La Jolla, San Francisco, Lake Elsinore, and UCLA I know we’re playing, not in that particular order though. We have no idea where we are until that day.

So this is mostly a West Coast tour?
Tim: We started in Little Rock, Arkansas and the St. Louis area.
Kevin: We did Dallas, Austin, Corpus Christi, so we did a little in Texas.

Have you guys played outside of the country yet?
Tim: No
Joe: Well, Canada I guess if you want to count that.
Tim: Me and Kevin went to Juarez. We didn’t do it on this tour and there was no show but we just went there.

So who was in 88 Fingers Louie?
Joe: Just me and our old guitar player.

Were you guys on a label?
Joe: Actually we did our first few 7 inch records on Fat and then we did 3 full lengths on Hopeless.

So you guys were pretty big as 88 Fingers.
Joe: Oh we did alright, we weren’t huge.

I’m just trying to compare your success now to where you were in 88 Fingers Louie.
Joe: The success of this band is definitely growing more rapidly. We’ve only been touring for eight months and it’s just been amazing. This is only our second time here. (This is impressive considering kids knew every word like it was a Bad Religion concert.)
Tim: Our record just came out in April last year, so it hasn’t even been out a year yet. We love shows where the kids interact with us. I don’t like kids just staring, I want them to be on stage with us just going off.
Kevin: Also it’s so weird to travel so far from home and have such a response like this. It’s like, how do they know about this?

The CD sounds really good and I think that’s a reflection of it. You know the kids hear you’re on Fat and they respect that, then they hear the CD and they’re like, “wow, these guys are really good” and they want to learn the lyrics. What I like about you guys was the music of course but I like the message that you guys like to get out there.
Kevin: This guy (points to Tim) writes all the lyrics.
Tim: I think kids latch onto it because this shit’s really heartfelt, you know. It’s not like some gangster gag or whatever.

You know it’s a little hard to make out every word you’re saying when you’re on stage but the feeling definitely is understood. If you guys had one message to tell the kids, as a band, what would it be?
Tim: I think for me, personally, it would be to think for yourself.

Brandon: Just be an individual and stand up for what you believe in. Don’t let people push you around.
Tim: It’s kind of cliché but really in the end if you don’t believe in yourself and stand up for yourself then what’s the use? And from there in a bigger spectrum if you want to make a change you can’t make one until you make one for yourself. I’m into personal politics before something global.

Are you guys a straight-edge band?
Everybody in unison: NO!
Tim: What it boils down to is really a positive message. We come from a city where a lot of bands like to sing about like how depressing the scene is, how depressing life is and how all these things can get you down.

Or girls, right?
Tim: Or girls, girls, they’re tricky and how there’s so much despair in the Chicago scene you know, and for me, when this band started, it was like so long since I’d seen a band that goes out there and fucking puts out a positive message that the kids enjoy and can sing along to. I want people to come away from our shows feeling good about everything in general. It’s like I want to see that band.

You’re trying to be the band that you want to go see.
Tim: Yeah, I think that’s what we always try to do. I mean we’re all kids that just go to shows–that’s all we are. So we know what we want to see when we go to a show, you know, when we pay our five bucks and go see a bunch of kids on stage rocking around. So there’s where that comes from and Chicago was a big inspiration.

So are all of your shows at all-ages venues?
Tim: Yeah. We played one age restricted show and that was with NOFX on a NOFX tour. If it was up to us we would rather play all-ages shows. Nothing against kids over 21 but I think all-ages is where it’s at.

I read that you guys are really into the underground hardcore scene, I was just wondering how far you want to take Rise Against as a band. How big do you want to get?
Tim: I think we’re definitely still reeling from the success we received in the last year. For me it’s been overwhelming. Coming here for only the second time and all these kids sing along–I’m still floored by that. I’m just really happy and really grateful for where we’re at right now.

Would you guys ever compromise your musical style for millions of dollars?
Tim: No, there’s no point to.

What if a major label offered you millions of dollars?
Tim: To play a Limp Bizkit song?

No, maybe just to make your music a little more radio friendly?
Tim: I would be miserable doing that. I would not feel right. I can’t do that–it would be a lie.
Joe: Yeah, it would be hard to fake that.
Tim: I think that the four of us here make up something that won’t compromise.

Where do you guys want to be when you’re 40?
Tim: I’d like to live in Ojai and have a nice little house and a couple dogs.

Maybe play a couple reunion tours?
Kevin: I won’t live till I’m 40.
Joe: I want to live with my friend Neil.
Brandon: That’s a tough one to answer, I just want to be happy whatever I’m doing. I like juggling and knowing how to ride a unicycle.
Tim: I want to play music unit I’m an old man. You know I’m still thinking about your getting big question because I get weird about trying to satisfy kids. I wonder if every kid is having a good time. So as long as every kid who comes out to see us has a good time and feels like they walk away with something that they care about, then whatever, we’ll get as big as, you know… But as long as everyone’s enjoying themselves–it’s very vague, I know.

Cool. So do you guys have anything planned after this mid west tour?
Brandon: Yeah, actually we’re doing a midwest tour but we’re only going as far as Colorado with the Agnostic Front tour–it’s called the Unity Fest. T.S.O.L is on part of it. I know we’re doing the Strife Tour at the end of March. That starts in Phoenix and goes to Florida and up the East Coast.

I hear you guys are getting pretty popular out in Europe. Have you played out there or is it just from Fat pushing you guys out there?
Tim: It’s pretty much from Fat. Their promotion worldwide is great, but we definitely need to be on tour in Europe. We really want to get out there.

(All of a sudden bombs are bursting in the air and Rise Against looks to the skies of Anaheim for an answer.)

Disneyland, every night at 9:35…fireworks.
Tim: Oh, what are we doing here?

So how do you think the hardcore scene is now compared to like 5, 6, or 7 years ago? Has it changed much?
Kevin: It’s weird because, when I started going to shows that long ago our bands wanted to be like Fugazi and Trickwater and then at some point old style hardcore came back with like Ten Yard Fight. It seems like people wanted to go back to the ’80s style of hardcore and now it’s going back to metal. It just keeps recycling.
Tim: In terms of popularity, it goes in waves.

How about in terms of crowd response? I’ve noticed nowadays–not tonight, but in general, it seems like kids aren’t moving around as much.
Kevin: The bands that I grew up going to see that I moved around for are fewer and fewer–bands like A.F.I., Sick of It All, F-Minus are just fewer and fewer. It just seems like there’s not as many exciting bands right now. It’s getting better, but for a while there was a lull. Its seems like I used to go to shows and see more kids going off and now I go to shows and sort of stand and watch. I’m not moved as much as I used to be to participate in the show.
Tim: There’s a new band called Strike Anywhere and it seems they have the same message that we try and convey and going to see them gets me really pumped up because they’re really energetic.
Joe: Throwdown is a really good example of a band I just saw where kids really go off and seem to have a good time. I had a good time. Hi.

Do you guys want to say thanks to anybody, any sponsors?
Tim: We really want to thank our friend Cory who books us.
Joe: I really want to thank my friend Mitch.
Tim: Thanks to you. And thanks to everyone reading this magazine right now, we appreciate it. Thanks to this whole area of California, Anaheim, and San Diego.