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Interview: Rise Against

Originally Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Written by: Sarah De Borre

Sarah De Borre chats with Rise Against front man, Tim Mc Ilrath.
Twenty six year old Rise Against front-man, Tim Mc Ilrath grew up in the ‘burbs of Chicago, found punk-rock and put his English major on hold to help breathe life into a scene that had fallen prey to head-nodding, toe-tapping to-be-seen-sters.

 “I think that my most definitive introduction to punk-rock was, I went away to summer camp in the summer of my eighth grade and one of the counselors gave me a mix tape. It was completely unlabeled so I had no idea who any of the bands were, but he was like, ‘Oh you should check this out, you might like it’. I just loved everything on the tape, all these songs were so different but I had no idea who the bands were so I spent the next year of my life looking around for this music and trying to find out who these bands were. It turned out to be Minor Threat and Jawbreaker and Black Flag, Screeching Weasel was on there, Fugazi, Naked Raygun, Social Distortion. It turned out to be all these bands that I eventually figured out and grew to love and that was the music that I really identified with because it was something different than what I heard on the radio. I couldn’t really identify with anything in the mainstream and that music was raw and it was real and it was honest.

“Those bands had a reason behind their music and a lot of the bands that came after them had messages. I think that in the mid nineties we enjoyed a really socially active and politically active hardcore scene. There were lots of great bands like Snapcase or Refused or even Earth Crisis, bands that really talked about what was going on. All of their music was the music I was being introduced to, I didn’t know any other form of punk-rock and I never considered any of those bands political, I considered them punk-rock. I figured punk-rock was political, that’s what it was there for. It was there to be a reflection of what was going on in the world around you and how people were reacting to it and so when people approach our band and their like ‘Oh… you’re Rise Against, you’re that political band’, I don’t see us as a political band you know? Because I see us as a band that simply picked up where bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag and Dead Kennedy’s left off. These were bands that were always talking about politics, and this was punk-rock and I don’t see us as a political band I see us as a punk-rock band. But what punk-rock has become nowadays is so foreign. It’s such a foreign concept, it’s so different than (what) it was, people don’t understand what it is. It’s meant to be political, it’s meant to be something that’s talking about what’s going on in the world, something that always has a message and I see a lot of these bands out there that just don’t have a message at all. It’s kind of sad you know? There still are some bands like us out there that have messages behind what we do, which is encouraging, but it is sad to see these bands out there that are simply just rock bands with Mohawks and it’s kind of impostor punk-rock.

“I was inspired to do the band because I was bearing witness to a punk rock scene that I felt was slowly dying. I found myself more and more often at these shows where people were just staring at these indie bands—no one was getting into it, no one was doing anything, everyone was there to be seen. It was very fashionable and those shows just made me miss old hardcore shows and old punk shows. I got sick of being the audience member just sitting there with a drink in my hand, nodding my head and tapping my foot to the beat. I just kept wishing, ‘Damn, I wish I was at a show where everyone was screaming along to the lyrics, everyone was jumping all over each other and you walked out in a sweat and your clothes were torn off your back and you walked out feeling so good you could just face another week at work or at school’. I missed that feeling and those bands. I couldn’t find any of those bands in Chicago, so when the opportunity arose to do Rise Against I was like ‘Let’s do Rise Against and let’s do a band that really is just aggressive and fun and gives people a reason to come to a show and just scream their heads off’. Because that’s what I want to do, that’s what I miss and that’s what I feel like there’s a void in the world today and I want to be a part of filling that void.”

Mother, wife, small business owner.

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