Political Punk Bands have been informing the masses about issues relevant to their lives for years and one band that has withstood the test of time, continuously educating their fans (and critics) is Rise Against and frontman Tim McIlrath is our next virtual hangs guest!
As the band prepare for the release of their ninth studio album Nowhere Generation (out Friday, June 4th via Loma Vista Recordings) Tim took time out of his schedule to talk about the record which may sound like it was written for the year that was 2020, but it turns out their forward thinking about topics that may concern us in future, ended up becoming a reality when they were writing prior to the events of the year we’d all like to forget:
“Rise Against has always been on the dystopian edge of music. We’ve always been singing about things that are happening in our world and then painting a picture of what the world might look like if you go down that road. So, even though the bulk of this album was written in a pre-pandemic world, I think people will find that the songs and the lyrics are talking about what last year really looked like and I think that the reason that is [is] because we always are trying to paint that picture. But I don’t think any of us thought it would come true that soon [laughs]”
Ignoring the fact the band kinda/sorta predicted the future before it happened, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the world – especially with an orange faced leader in the United States – was already heading down that path and the COVID-19 pandemic was just like adding more fuel to the fire. Since the aforementioned “leader” was sworn into office, bands/musicians and, well, the entire world had an opinion on it with everyone from Anti-Flag, Prophets of Rage, Pussy Riot, Fever 333, Sum 41, Thy Art Is Murder and stacks more writing songs about their thoughts.
But Rise Against chose to steer away from that subject matter on this album, which turns out because it was just way too easy to write about as Tim explained:
“Donald was kinda like air pollution, like he’s just always there. You’re always hearing his voice on the radio or tv or something like that. It was so great to see America reject, not just Donald, but that whole ideology, that whole way of thinking because Donald is kind of like a symptom of a bigger disease.”
“There’s a Donald in every country around the world. That ideology hasn’t gone anywhere!”
“And in writing this record I didn’t want to write a record about Trump, that would have been real easy to do, especially being in Rise Against, you know, ‘here we are, a political punk band during the Trump administration’, there would have been a lot of low hanging fruit and easy targets to sing about… Putting Nowhere Generation together, I was like ‘let’s sing about some of the things that are happening under the surface and some of the things that allow someone like Trump to rise to power and let’s talk about the world that someone would live in to make a choice like that or to help someone like that get ahead'”
It’s this ‘thinking outside the box’ mentality that has made Rise Against a household name in the alternative scene. You know that when you’re listening to one of their songs, you need to be of full attention because not only are you going to get some kick ass punk/rock jams in your ears, but you’re subliminally going to be educated about issues you didn’t even know you need to learn about.
In this day and age, we turn to bands for help/support with a wide range of issues, but more importantly, they also educate us on social issues we NEED to know about when they become the unofficial “voice of the voiceless”. This band has always been at the forefront of topics not only close to them, but to their fans and as McIlrath points out, it all comes back to using your platform for the better good, especially when the world is watching:
“Not everyone has access to a vehicle like this. So when we look at Rise Against, especially coming from the punk and hardcore world, you look at this really incredible dynamic vehicle to get ideas and a message to people who are listening and how lucky are we to have that vehicle…”
“I don’t have rockstar dreams,” adds Tim “I didn’t get into this because I wanted to be a rockstar [but] what excites me is being able to kind of turn lightbulbs on over your head. That’s what I get out of it! That’s how I know we’re doing a good job is if we’re turning on some lightbulbs or if we’re ruffling some feathers and creating some friction. That’s what keeps me coming back for more”
But where did that passion first ignite? What made Tim McIlrath wake up one day and go “I want to create a positive change in the world!” Well, it can all be traced back to Chicago’s underground punk/hardcore community in the mid-90s when the bands he idolised, used their platforms to educate fans about issues they probably didn’t know existed until they stepped foot in the door at those shows:
“The first time I heard the word sweatshop was at a punk show. The first time I learned about environmental issues like global warming was at a punk show. The first time I really heard about the plight of indigenous cultures was at a punk show. The punk show became my secondary education.”
“I knew that if I ever had the microphone, like if someone ever gave me the opportunity to be on that stage, I wanted to pass that torch to whoever the next version of me was.”
And that’s all it took for that little spark inside to light and – consequently – turn into the Molotov cocktail that Rise Against has become over the past 22 years. Who knows, the next political/social justice activist could be reading this right now, not knowing they hold the power to make a positive change in the world. All that’s needed is a little encouragement and persuasion to get started and what better way to kick it all off than by listening to Nowhere Generation when it gets released on Friday (suss our review here).
A HUGE thank you needs to go out to Tim McIlrath for taking the time to chat with Wall of Sound. Make sure you check out the full interview below.
Virtual Hangs/Words by Paul ‘Browny’ Brown @brownypaul
Pre-Order Nowhere Generation Here
Rise Against – Nowhere Generation tracklisting
1. The Numbers
2. Sudden Urge
3. Nowhere Generation
4. Talking To Ourselves
5. Broken Dreams, Inc
8. Sounds Like
9. Sooner Or Later
10. Middle Of A Dream
11. Rules Of Play