DS Exclusive Interview Part One: Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) talks about “Endgame,” Against Me! and division amongst fans

Rise Against’s popularity has grown exponentially in their 12 year history and nowhere was this more evident than when they had Bad Religion opening for them on their last tour.  The band dropped their sixth studio album, “Endgame,” in March this year and have had a heavy tour schedule since.

In part one of our two part interview with Tim McIlrath, DS Editor and Rise Against guru Lauren Mills quizzed the front man about the new album, the story behind the artwork, the response to Against Me! and the division of old vs. new Rise Against fans.  Check out part 1 of the interview here.

UPDATE: You can now read Part 2 of the interview, in which Tim discusses the internet, punk rock and politics, right here.

In a previous interview it was mentioned that the song “Help is on the Way” was inspired by a trip that you made to the Gulf Coast while on break from touring. Tim, what kind of experiences did you have while visiting the Gulf Coast?

I was there to hang out with other musicians and activists to discuss politics and music and how to fuse the two, and we did it in the backdrop of New Orleans . While there, I came into contact with a lot of the culture and also got to see places like the lower 9th ward, the Gulf Coast, and many of the places that were destroyed in the flood. I was fascinated by the Mardi Gras Indians and the Second Line Parades. As New Orleans seemed to drift from the spotlight, I felt compelled to put what I was feeling into a song.

What’s your favorite track off the new album and why?

I really like the way “Wait For Me” came out, it was a fun song to put together.

There’s some pretty sweet looking artwork for Endgame. Who came up with the idea for the artwork and how does it tie in with the theme of the album?

We’ve never done a photograph as a cover, so we wanted to try that. We needed an image that represented the end of civilization as we know it, but not the typical image we associate with that end. I wanted something more hopeful; implying the civilization we have developed is something that needs to end in order for life to go on here. Once we dismantle that, maybe what’s on the other side is more pure and beautiful. To me, the boy is searching for a place to raise his flag, because wherever it was raised before is no longer there.

Tim, did you write Architects as a response to Against Me’s song, I Was a Teenage Anarchist? Some of the lyrics in Architects read like a response to Teenage Anarchist, is this a coincidence?

I felt like the Against Me! song was really dismissive of the fire in my belly, and fire in many of our fans bellies. It was asking for, and deserved, a response. Obviously, we are all allowed to sit on different sides of the fence, but I felt the need to stick up for my side of the fence. I don’t claim to know what that song is about, but that line seemed to trivialize what many of us still hold on to unapologetically.

It seems like there’s a catch 22 in punk rock sometimes. If a band from underground punk beginnings becomes successful beyond a niche punk audience people start to not like them anymore because they are on a major label, they think their sound changed too much or that they’re on the radio etc. However if they release a similar sounding album then people complain that they are uncreative or the band end up talking to the converted every night. I find that some Rise Against fans are divided into these groups. What do you think of all of this?

I think it’s all a pretty natural part of adolescence and I don’t harbor any resent for people who fall into those categories. I was that person too, we all go through it. It’s natural to not want to share your favorite band with the rest of the world. Of course you want a bands second record to hit you the same way its first record did, but sometimes it’s more about the time of your life. At some point, you flush all those things from our system and start appreciating music and its message. In the meantime, it’s your journey. I don’t spend too much time thinking about whether fans are divided. Because when I get on the stage tonight in front of a few thousand people, there will be no division.

This is sort of an off the wall question! On the This is Noise EP there’s probably my favorite Rise Against song Obstructed View. On the back of the album it says published by Transistor Revolt. Before you were called Rise Against that’s what you went by right? Was this song written during the Transistor Revolt period?

Haha, no it was written after we were Rise Against. We only played a few songs as Transistor Revolt before we changed the name. But when you start a band, you have to register a publishing name so we in homage to our original band title we did Transistor Revolt.

Was there a four song demo that later re-recorded and put on your debut album full-length “The Unraveling”?

Correct. I don’t remember which songs, but they were all re-recorded and ended up on “The Unraveling.” I think 401Kill was called Another Day on that demo, but they are all the same songs that would end up on The Unraveling. We just printed them ourselves and sold them for a few bucks. We stopped selling them pretty quickly because Fat agreed to put our record out shortly after we made them and we wanted to re-record those songs.

Do you keep in contact with previous members and/or hang out when possible?

Sure, in fact, I saw Todd and Chris just a few weeks ago on this tour, they came out to the show and we stay in touch.

Each Rise Against studio album has its own sound. How do you manage to incorporate new song topics and sounds into each album?

New topics are easy; the world creates the things that need to be sung about. I just think about where our band fits into the musical landscape and where we can add something not recycle the same old thing. I want to tell the stories that aren’t being told.

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  1. foxymulder
    FoxyMulder5/31/2011 1:23 PM | Permalink

    Good interview, but the link to the second part of the interview won’t work, please fix this.

  2. Lauren Mills5/31/2011 2:00 PM | Permalink

    I’m glad you like it!

    Here’s part two. http://dyingscene.com/news/ds-exclusive-interview-part-two-tim-mcilrath-rise-against-discusses-the-internet-punk-rock-and-politics/

  3. Vanessa6/8/2011 5:15 PM | Permalink

    It was an awesome interview. Tim and Rise Against are amazing, and continue to be an inspiration in my life.

  4. AnotherKid6/9/2011 3:46 AM | Permalink

    Good interview!
    I was very interested in that Against Me! inspired thing. Now I really know what the reason for the responding was.

    You should also know that Against Me! is still setting the world on fire, to quote Tom:
    “The real revolution was the political awakening. That initial spark that made me want to change the world. And that’s what I’m interested in, maintaining that fire.
    That’s what the song is about. I am an autonomous individual. I think for myself. I have no need to supplement my identity through belonging to a scene or exclusively endorsing any brand of political thought.”
    (from his blog: ifeelsicktomystomach.blogspot.com)

  5. Lauren Mills6/9/2011 2:47 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  6. John10/3/2011 2:10 AM | Permalink

    Tom Gabel should kick Tim in the teeth.

  7. Josh12/19/2011 7:37 PM | Permalink

    I absolutely can not stand this fucking contrived poser! Your not hard Tim and your not an anarchist hahaha. I was at the shows when Tom gabel and Kevin mahon were Against Me! They played at anarchist meetings and underground partys with flags burning in the back ground. And if tim is trying to say that he was involved with the “underground” scene… Well then he’s a fucking poser!! Rise against is not the real thing kids. Hahaha I do love that everybody here thinks rise against is “SO” punk rock!, but the truth is their a bunch of fucking posers! Tim played in a band when he was younger with the fucking kid from FALL OUT BOY. I Stand behind Tom gabel all the way! Even if he doesn’t scream until he’s coughing up blood anymore. Tom Gabel has been around and seen shit Tim couldnt even imagine. And for all of that think Rise against is so punk… Look up Dead To Me now that’s fucking Punk!

  8. Rise Against: Pasaje de encuentro antes del concierto. | Shocked11/10/2012 1:38 PM | Permalink

    […] o respuesta notoria? Tim se lo explicó a Dying Scene así: Me pareció que la canción era un tanto arrogante y me prendió la barriga, y […]

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