When did Rise Against make it big?
RISE AGAINST - At full volume towards justice
Animal welfare, the Iraq war, homophobia and bullying - even after almost 14 years of band history, RISE AGAINST have not gotten tired of dismissing the cathartically emptied concert-goer with an increased moral awareness and a do-gooding attitude. Starting in the basement rooms of the Chicago hardcore scene, the socially and politically committed gentlemen in this country toodel over radio stations like 1Live and perform totally on Stefan Raab's TV. Has the band lost themselves and their ideals? - no! In the interview, frontman and songwriter Tim McIlrath chats about the new old album "RPM10", the advantages of being a Top 40 band, the course of history, and why he has become such a screamer.
“Oh, all the long time? (laughs) I have to think about it, where do I start? So much has changed. Change is one of our main themes anyway, in many areas. In general, I would say that a lot has happened in that time and that we are extremely grateful to have gotten to where we are today. We never thought we'd make it. We always thought that our friends would get famous, but not ourselves. And now we play in big stores, are on tour and reach so many people! A dream came true. But where do we want to start? "
At the very beginning, before the band existed. How did you get into music in the first place?
“I never wanted to be a singer! I can say that in advance, I wanted to play the guitar. We had our first band in high school and we were rehearsing in a friend's basement. We still had a singer, but at some point we were looking for a new singer. I didn't like my voice and thought that I absolutely can't sing. I still think so today. I still have a lot to learn. But I tried and thought that especially in punk rock it doesn't have to be perfect, but that it has to come from the heart. I just tried it and somehow it worked. At that time I just had to sing damn loud, almost scream, because we had no way of amplifying the singing somehow during rehearsals. Somehow I had to compete against guitars and drums; I think that's why I sing today the way I sing. "
You never had any class either?
»My teachers were my great role models for other bands, for example Black Flag or Defeater. They always said that the song had to come from the heart. That makes you feel good about yourself, and I think the fans also notice whether it's music that is meant to be honest. But I always wanted to be a songwriter and guitarist. "
Was it also these bands that inspired you to get involved politically?
“Not so directly. I grew into the Chicago hardcore punk scene of the 90s back then. There were a lot of bands, a lot of people that inspired me. As a child, of course, I wasn't political, but at some point I understood how important that is. "
When you founded RISE AGAINST, was the music in the foreground, or did you have the plan from the beginning to use the band as a political platform?
“A bit of both, music and politics have been the driving force from the start. But I would say the music had a bit of priority. Without having a good song in your ear, you couldn't deliver the content. "
Do you remember your very first gig?
“Ohhhhh yes (laughs), that was in a tiny basement. We didn't have a record yet, just a couple of songs, and there were about 20 or 30 people there. And to be honest: we were really bad. None of our friends told us that back then, but in retrospect people came and said "We like what you're doing now, but back then ... that was shit!" I don't hold it against them, we were really terrible! "
If you make a direct comparison to today, things have really changed extremely. Instead of basement shows, you play the biggest festivals. In Germany you even had interviews with Focus and ZDFKultur, ran on some of the biggest radio stations and had your first television appearance outside of the USA (on TV total). Is it really what you wanted?
“It's so hard to say. You have to know in advance that Germany is really something special for us. We have an extremely loyal and active fan base here, and somehow we made it into the mainstream here. And yes, I think that's good. Because we haven't betrayed or sold ourselves. On the contrary, I think being in the top 40 leads to more people listening. And that's what we want. That people listen and think and change something. "
Do you think such a mainstream audience even knows what you're singing about and what your message is?
“No, not everyone will know. But that's ok too. I am also happy when people come to our shows, exhaust themselves completely and just let everything out. When the whole thing becomes a cathartic experience and people can just let go of everyday life, then that is just as successful for me as when they deal with our content. But in the end we make music, and it's perfectly fine to use it for entertainment and partying. "
A very liberal attitude. And yet there is hardly a band of your size where the content is so present. Whether politics, animal welfare, homophobia - no topic is too big or explosive for you. Or has there ever been a topic that you would have liked to have written a song about, but that you were afraid to tackle?
“Good question (thinks for a long time). I do not think so. We have always said what we think. The subject that I'm losing the courage to talk about has yet to be born. "
You very often bring up very uncomfortable topics. Has that caused you any real trouble?
"More than enough! I can think of many examples! For example, at the time of the Iraq War, we were supposed to be playing at a festival where the stage was sponsored by the US Army. We refused to perform. This was turned into a gigantic drama in the media. We are anti-American. But we didn't care, because our fans believed us and not those idiots on the radio. "
Was that also the time when "Revolutions Per Minute" was released? What memories do you have of that time and which factors influenced you when you were writing your song back then?
“Yes exactly, that was at the time. Bush, war, the post-9/11 era, insecurity ... The Americans were very emotional back then, very insecure. We processed that in the album. But what many forget, personal matters also play a role. We found ourselves and as a band back then. This process is also evident on the album. "
Has a lot changed from then to now, both for you personally and in society? There are still grievances, that is not the question. But you deal with such "problem topics" in a certain way. Would you say that in general the way one can talk about difficult topics has changed?
"Oh yeah! On the one hand, the ways in which you can exchange ideas and information, that has become much more transparent and open. I have the feeling that something can be changed more quickly, for example through communities on the Internet. People enter into dialogue with one another and that is the first step. All in all, I would say, it is better than it used to be, and history is always moving towards justice. "
That would be a few nice closing words if I didn't have another question for you. What are your plans for the future?
“We have a hell of a lot planned! We’re going to be playing some festivals in the US in the coming weeks. And we collect the B-sides of our records and want to put them all together on one album as soon as possible. Of course we also write new songs. But despite all the plans and ideas, we want to take a little time off in summer and take some time to breathe again. "
We are excited! A few last words for the German fans?
»Thank you (in broken, warm German). We always like to come to Germany, we have always received a lot of support and input. See you!"
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