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A Conversation With Joe Principe and Tim Mcilrath
by
Samuel Barker
August 26, 2001

Joe Principe

Samuel Barker: What are your names and what do you do?

Tim: My name is Tim and I sing for Rise Against.

Joe: I'm Joe and I play bass.

Samuel: I was reading in the bio that you guys are responsible for the songwriting, you(Joe) write the music and you(Tim) write the lyrics, do you write the songs together or do you each come with your part and fit them together?

Tim: Kinda both. Joe usually has song ideas that he presents at practice and we just mold them into songs from there. As far as lyrics, I have a journal full of lyrics and I decide what mood the song has, the whole feel of it, and find lyrics that'd be appropriate with that.

Samuel: So it's more of a case where the music comes first and you see what you can fit in?

Tim: Yeah.

Samuel: Well, how long have you been on tour now?

Tim: This is only our fourth day.

Samuel: You're already down here after four days, wow.

Joe: We had an overnight drive from Memphis to Austin. Then we have a really long drive from Dallas to Mesa, AZ.

Samuel: Yeah, when you get out into west Texas, it's a long drive with nothing to see.

Joe: Yeah, it's going to suck to drive that far.

Samuel: What led to you guys going on tour with Reach The Sky?

Joe: Actually we planned on doing this tour alone, and then our booking agent got a call from their booking agent saying they wanted to hook up with us, so we were like 'yeah, that's cool.' It's working out well, they're really cool guys. No one hates each other, so that's good.

Samuel: Have you guys been getting good responses at the shows thus far? Are a lot of kids coming out?

Joe: Well, yeah. Last night was really amazing. Memphis was a last minute show for us, so it was weird. St. Louis is kinda hit or miss in general. We'll see how tonight goes.

Samuel: Well, tonight is going to be bad. There was no promotion for tonight's show. I saw maybe one flyer around.

Joe: Oh really?

Samuel: I know Hands Up Houston did a few, they're great about promoting shows, but I haven't seen really anything about the show. I've seen a few flyers, but the show didn't make any of the newsweeklies. Hopefully people will show.

Tim: Yeah, there are some more cars over there, so it could be worse.

Samuel: I know you guys are from Chicago, are there any bands around there worth checking out that we wouldn't normally get a chance to hear about?

Tim: There is a new band called the Enemy. They have a new record. The scene is growing in Chicago, it's a lot better than it was a year ago.

Joe: What's strange about Chicago is that there is this new influx of bands that are really good and no one knows about them. So no one is really going to see them. As far as popular bands, it's weird, there seems to be...Alkaline Trio is the biggest band right now. It's weird, you either have really big bands or small bands. I guess we're in the middle somewhere.

Samuel: Yeah, we love to find out about good local bands all over, kids need to know who is a good band to see around their hometowns.

Tim: It's unfortunate that a scene like that doesn't lean toward local bands, so those bands don't stick around long.

Joe: Yeah, they usually get frustrated.

Tim: Yeah, but lately it seems more bands are sticking around longer. Sticking it out and it's working for them.

Samuel: Well, I know you(Joe) were in 88 Fingers Louie, since that band came together, has the scene progressed?

Joe: It's progressed. There was a time when it was just us, The Bollweevils, and Slapstick. We were all really popular bands and then we all broke up around the same period as each other.

Tim: Then the scene got really dormant for a long time.

Joe: Yeah, everyone was just waiting for touring bands to come through. It was really weird.

Samuel: I know Joe was in 88 Fingers, were you in any bands besides this one?

Tim: I played in a band called Baxter. We never really did anything outside of Chicago. So we were just a local band.

Samuel: Has it been fun getting out on the road?

Tim: Yeah, it's definitely been fun. It's a huge step us too, with Fat Wreck backing us. We were able to skip a lot of steps a new band usually takes.

Joe: We've been really lucky.

Tim: Yeah, we've been really lucky.

Samuel: Yeah, I never heard anything about the band until I got the promo from Fat Wreck, had you guys ever done anything prior to recording the new album?

Tim: Not at all.

Joe: We got signed to Fat Wreck and we hadn't even played a show.

Samuel: Was it flattering that they had that kind of faith in you?

Joe: Yeah, they're sinking a ton of money in a band that they didn't know much about. They didn't know if we were going to break up next week or what.

Tim: Yeah, we didn't even have a drummer when they signed us.

Joe: We were in between drummers. It was a big step and a big risk on their part.

Tim: They also knew Joe's background and knew that he was serious about doing it. They knew we weren't going to let them down.

Tim Mcilrath

Samuel: I really enjoy the record and we've gotten feedback from kids who have really liked the record, what has been some of the feedback you guys have received personally?

Joe: Yeah, for a debut band, we're doing really well. Fat Wreck has been really pleased with the response. Even with the reviews, we're really amazed at how well received it's been. Even Alternative Press called it the best hardcore record of the year, that's really flattering.

Tim: And like what you said about not hearing of the band until you got the CD, you're in the same boat as everyone else. So it's something new for everyone.

Joe: It's like Tim said, we're like some weird, secret band. Before the record came out, we didn't have anything out. We were so anxious. Everyone in Chicago, even before we played, everyone heard about Rise Against.

Samuel: I know you(Joe) went through a time when 88 Fingers kept breaking up and getting back together and then when I saw Rise Against came out I was amazed to see that you were doing something new. Was it nice to do this and put closure on it all.

Joe: Well, what happened with 88 is, we broke up twice and the last time we broke up I have every intentions of never doing another band with the singer of 88. That was the problem. I want to start a band with people who are in it for the same reasons I am and have their heart in it. It's nice to be on stage with a person like Tim who cares about his lyrics and is really energetic. I guess this is bad, I'm talking shit, but it's the truth.

Samuel: You gotta be honest. I know from personal experience, it sucks trying to rehearse with people who don't want to come or want to be there.

Joe: Like getting certain members of 88 to practice was ridiculous. You should want to be at practice, not like you have to practice.

Tim: It's hard to find a group of people with the same goals.

Samuel: Yeah. Are you guys just working with songs on this new album, or are you writing some new songs to play? I know it's kind of hard to tour with 16 songs.

Joe: Oh yes. Tim and I...he's a guitar player too, so he's writing some stuff now. We definitely have some new songs we haven't been working on, but are really anxious to work on.

Tim: We've been really busy since the new record came out, so we haven't really had time to work on them. We just haven't had a chance to get back in the basement and rock the new tunes. Hopefully that will happen this fall.

Samuel: Are you guys going to be out on the road long for this tour?

Joe: September 8th is the last show.

Samuel: So this is just short mini tour?

Joe: Yeah.

Tim: This is out first time out here, we haven't been to Texas before or the West Coast.

Samuel: I know Russ did back up vocals on the new album, have you guys ever discussed the possibility of touring with Good Riddance in the future?

Joe: Yeah, we're definitely friends with them. The tour they're on now with Kill Your Idols and Death By Stereo, it didn't work us with us being on the tour because they had asked Kill Your Idols a long time before. I'm sure in the future we'll do something. It's definitely something we've talked about. We're also friends with AFI and we're doing East Coast dates with them in September. Those bands have both done a lot to help Rise Against. When Fat Mike was thinking of signing us, they were both telling him he should. They had our demo. We did a demo just for ourselves and that's what we sent to Fat Mike.

Samuel: I know it's been nice lately, Fat used to be know specifically for the So. Cal. Punk sound and now they're expanding with bands like Avail, Good Riddance, Sick of It All. Has it been nice to be one of the first bands on the new turn for the label?

Tim: It's awesome being a part of that, that change, that turn to something heavier. Honestly, we're Fat's newest heavy band. Avail and Sick Of It All already had a following, so we're the first new one. It's flattering, and hopefully it will set a standard with Fat Wreck for years to come.

Samuel: Do you guys have any future plans?

Joe: Just the AFI tour. It's basically a week with AFI, the last show is the 25th. Then after that, there are things being talked about, but nothing concrete.

Tim: When things start slowing down we're going to start writing a new record.

Joe: We love our new record, but we've been playing the same songs. There is only so much you can do to change a set list.

Samuel: Yeah, that's got to be the hard part of having your debut recording be a major album, because most bands usually have a few demos and early recordings to pull songs from.

Joe: Right, at least some 7"s.

Samuel: I figured it'd be rough having only 16 songs to choose from every night.

Joe: We've been talking about doing a split with Death By Stereo. They're into it, but nothing is solid yet.

Samuel: Anything you guys would like to add, say, or do?

Joe: Thanks for reading the interview, and thanks for doing the interview.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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