Rise Against Interview

Chicago quartet Rise Against have been flying the flag for smart, propulsive melodic hardcore for eight years now, and recently completed their biggest UK tour to date in support of last year’s excellent ‘The Sufferer And The Witness‘ album. Alex Gosman caught up with bassist Joe Principe before the final show of the tour, at the London Astoria.

So how are you guys doing? How’s the tour going so far?

“It’s been great – every time we come back to Europe, it just gets better and better. This time we’re headlining the big room at the Astoria, and it’s been awesome to see the steady growth in the size of the venues we play over here, since we first came over in 2001. Every time we’ve toured the UK, London has always been the last show of the tour, and it’s a great place to finish.”

This has to be one of the best punk rock tours to hit the UK in ages – did you choose to bring along The Bronx and Cancer Bats [the support bands] yourselves?

“Yeah, whenever we’re headlining, we pick the support bands ourselves – and we really wanted to have a proper, aggressive punk rock vibe to this tour, you know? I think the reason why it’s worked so well is that although all three bands sound different to each other, we still have a lot in common, both in terms of music and attitude – so I think it’s a good mix.

We’d never met the Cancer Bats before this tour, but we knew of them because we’re all friends with Alexisonfire, who recommended them to us. We’ve known The Bronx for a while, though, and we met them through mutual friends too. It’s a good feeling when you go out on tour with some bands and everyone immediately gets along, you know?”

The last time we saw you in the UK was when you did a few dates in early September, shortly after playing the Reading/Leeds festivals. Can you give us a brief summary of what you’ve been up to since then?

“Well, after we’d finished in Europe, we went back home and toured the US with Thursday…then we did a short tour of Canada with Billy Talent, before supporting My Chemical Romance on their US tour earlier this year. So yeah, we’ve been keeping ourselves busy!”

Since you were last here, Chris [Chasse, former RA guitarist] left – was that a shock, or had he been planning to leave for a while? And how is Zach [Blair, new RA guitarist] fitting in?

“We could kind of tell that Chris wasn’t really happy, and that he was exhausted from all the touring we were doing…but it’s worked out for the best, because he’s a lot happier now, and we’re really happy with Zach; because he’s completely into the touring and all the other stuff that goes with being in a band. We’ve known him for about six years, and we feel very lucky to have him on board…it was a happy coincidence, because his previous band [Only Crime] couldn’t tour that much, so it’s worked out well for us all.”

It’s been roughly a year since you released [most recent album] ‘The Sufferer & The Witness‘ – are you happy with the responses you’ve received from fans and critics?

“Definitely; it’s had very positive reviews and praise from the fans. It’s our favourite record that we’ve done so far, and I think it really shows how much we’ve grown as a band over the last five or six years.”

Has it helped to ease the predictable ‘Rise Against on a major label!’ criticism?

“I think so…the thing is, no matter what label we’re on, you’re always going to get a record that is completely representative of us at that point in time, because we never write for anyone but ourselves. We’ve never had any interference from our label; we know some bands that have, but not us!”

From time to time, I’ve seen you labelled as a ‘political band’, which seems like a rather narrow definition. How would you describe yourselves?

“Well, yeah, the political aspect is just one side of us…I’d say we’re more of a socially-aware band. Tim [McIlrath, RA singer/guitarist] writes all the lyrics, and he writes from a personal perspective on everyday life; sometimes that encompasses politics, sometimes relationships, it’s a reflection of his state of mind at the time. If you check the lyrics on [2004’s]”Siren Song Of The Counter Culture‘, a lot of them are very politically driven, because there was a lot going on in US politics at that time.”

So what are your plans for the near future, after this UK tour ends?

“We’re going back to the US for a two and a half month tour with Comeback Kid and Silverstein; and we’ve been friends with those two bands for a long time, so it should be a fun summer!

After that, we’ll be going to Australia and New Zealand, and we’re hoping to be back in Europe around October/November time – that isn’t confirmed yet, though. We’ll probably be on the road for the rest of this year, and then start writing the new record in 2008.”

[‘The Sufferer And The Witness‘ is out now on Universal. Check for more info]

Alex Gosman