DS Exclusive Interview Part Two: Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) discusses the internet, punk rock and politics

The second part of our interview with Tim McIlrath of Rise Against gets down to business.  Tim discusses the underground pre and post internet, keeping Rise Against fresh after 12 years, Barack Obama and the current political climate in the United States.  Check it out here.

In case you missed it, you can read part one of the interview here.

I think of the internet as a good resource especially for people who can’t go to shows for economic reasons, lack of transportation or bad location etc. What do you think about using the internet as a tool to discover bands as opposed to pre-internet where you had to go to shows to find out about under the radar bands?

I think the underground had a certain allure back before the internet. I don’t know whether that allure exists today, but I have faith that people will find a way to recreate it. When I started going to shows, there was no internet to find out where the shows were. You had to gather flyers from previous shows or record stores, and you didn’t have map quest to figure out how to get there! At one point in Chicago, we had the Punk Rock Hotline which was essentially one guy’s answering machine and the message was a list of shows. That was advanced technology to me.

How do you think punk has changed over the years? Do you think the commercialization of punk is a good thing?

I like to see punk get big. I think the word could use more of what punk has to offer. The only part that bums me out is when only the superficial parts crossover without the guts of what punk is, the ideology. Punk, at its root, hasn’t changed.

You take a lot of time out to involve yourselves with fans via contests, emails etc. What are some of the coolest fan interactions you’ve had?

A girl in Virginia once gave me a guitar. She had customized the inlays, shaped from renewable metals, and designed all these intricate designs on it that had relevance to either me or the band. It was really fucking cool.

Several years ago you opened for Sick of it All in Europe and in 2004 Bad Religion. Does it feel odd to have the tables turned having them open for you?

Simply put, yes. It feels like some sort of alternate reality and I feel very lucky to be a part of it. While we may have graduated to some major audiences, we have yet figure out how to survive as a band for as long as either as those bands have, that’s the ongoing challenge.  I’m happy to sponge any knowledge we can soak up by surrounding ourselves with bands like Bad Religion and Sick Of It All.

Is it difficult to keep things fresh after being a band for twelve years?

I take it day by day and am constantly overwhelmed by the success of this band. I get something different out of the music and the shows all the time. As of late, the thing that keeps it fresh for me is that our politics have sort of a blank canvas again. As mainstream fans find our music, they aren’t used to some of the ideas we are talking about. There are times where I felt like I was preaching to the converted, but not anymore. Fans now are hungry for it, or they get their feathers ruffled by it, either way that is exciting.

You’re featured in a new documentary titled “The Other F Word” which features other punk musicians and fathers. Has being a father changed your outlook on anything, particularly punk rock?

It’s made me look past my own generation and into the next generation in a very real way. I’ve always felt a certain degree of responsibility to our fans, but it pales in comparison to the responsibility I have to my kids.

The first time I talked to you was in 2008 just before Barrack Obama was elected President. Now it’s 2011. How do you think he’s done since taking office?

I think he has made some real important leaps forward in legislation like Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, predatory lending reform, and some semblance of Wall Street reform. I think there is more to do obviously. I look forward to the next two years. I hope we can bring these wars to an end first and foremost.

What do you think of the current political climate?

I think the right wing has done a pretty good job at convincing many Americans to vote against their own self interests. There is a class of uber-wealthy who are trying to figure out how to protect their wealth and amass even more. By tugging on strings like family values and religion, they have working class Americans convinced that they are on their side. It’s pretty incredible and disgusting at the same time. I fear Americans won’t wake up until it’s too late and their piece of the pie has been all but taken from them.

With that in mind, what would it take to get the change that you desire?

It would take people connecting the dots, following the money, and waking up to the real agendas behind some of the most powerful people in the country. Smaller government means bigger corporations, which means income disparity, and CEOs that are accountable to nobody but their shareholders. I don’t want to live in a profit-driven society.

What are some bands that you think people would listen to that they might not have heard before?

I’m always surprised at how many kids I talk to who haven’t heard of Fugazi.

Is there any anything you’d like to tell the readers of DyingScene?

Check out The Other F-Word, our split seven inch with Face To Face, and stay tuned for more tour announcements.


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