Rise Against: Interview with Tim McIlrath

Has that not been the case before?

Going into Siren Song, there was the label transition. We were going from an indie to a major. There’s a lot of changes happening in the band internally when you do that. You have to meet all these new people and work with all these new people.

It’s a really huge process and we’d only known Fat Wreck Chords. That was the label we started on and we had two records on and we functioned for four years on. That was all we knew.

So when we went to a new label, there was certainly that transition. And it all worked out. It turned out great, but at the time it was just very different for us. Everything was different and working with new people and stuff like that.

Internally, we were getting a new guitar player in the band. We got a new guitar player right in the middle of writing Siren Song Of The Counter Culture, so that was certainly a distraction. We had to stop and teach a lot of songs to Chris and figure out how to work with Chris and all that stuff.

There was a lot of stuff going on in our lives personally, and it was just a big change for the band. Now we’re past changes, we’re past all that stuff and we’re back to just being Rise Against.

At the same time though, not having to deal with change is a change.

True, it really is. We all finally feel comfortable in our shoes. It’s a good place to be.

About doing Warped Tour. Is it different coming back this time as one of the headlining bands?

It’s definitely different this time. When we started this tour, we were the new guys and you’re treated like a new guy when you are a new guy out here. You don’t know anyone, no one knows you.

You’re like a freshman in high school, it’s all brand new to you. And of course you have the seniors out here who know it inside and out. They’ve been to the venue a million times, they’ve worked with the same people in production 10 million times and now we’ve sort of become one of those bands.

We’ve been out here, we know all the girls that work production, we know Kevin Lyman, we know all the stage managers, we know the crew, they all know us, we’ve barbecued with them, we’ve partied with them. They’re all old friends at this point, so it’s like coming back to school after a summer off, that’s what it feels like.

It’s always a good place to be when what you do for a living is something that’s a lot of fun and you do it with a lot of friends. It’s a real sense of community out here, so it makes it a little less of a strange place and more like home.

You’re doing the whole Warped Tour, then you’re going to Europe. It’s not like you’re any strangers to touring, but doing that kind of constant, intense stint on the road, does that ever take a toll on you guys?

It certainly does. It probably used to a lot more than it does now. We’ve been doing this for six years, and we’ve toured nine months out of the year for those six years. I haven’t been home for more than three months since the year 1998.

It’s certainly something that’s become our lives and we’ve become slaves to the road, and it’s a huge part of who we are and what we do. At some point in the band, there’s certainly that crisis of faith moment where you’re like, ‘Oh shit, is this what I want to do? I haven’t seen my friends, I haven’t seen my family in three months.’ And you either decide no, this isn’t what you want to do, or you get past it and realize, yes, this is worth it, this is the price I pay to follow my dreams and do what I do. We’ve all passed that point.

Certainly there are points in the year, and there will be from now until the time we stop touring, where it gets tough. It gets real tough to be out here and to be on the road and there’s times where you feel like throwing in the towel, and so far we haven’t. We power through it.

We still have a lot of fun, and it makes it a lot more exciting when you write a record that you’re really proud of. We wrote a record that we’re all really excited about, so in that sense, we’re excited to get it out to the world, to play it out here to North America all summer, then go over to Europe and play it for the Europeans, everyone in the UK, then we’ll come back to the States, then we’ll head over to Japan and Australia, then we’ll hit Canada and do it all over again.

When you have a good record that you’re proud of and you can’t wait to have people hear, it makes each one of those shows important and more fun than it could be if you’re not excited about the music you’re playing. Right now, we’re really excited. We wrote our best record yet, so I can’t wait to get it out there. At the same time, we tour a lot, we do a shit load of touring, we’re gone a hell of a lot, but I don’t think we do anything different than a lot of bands. We’re not special.

This is what bands need to do to survive and this is what we do.

The Sufferer And The Witness is available now through Geffen. Rise Against are one of the headliners on the 2006 Warped Tour and will hit the Tweeter Center in Camden on Aug. 3, Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY on Aug. 5 and the Englishtown Raceway in Englishtown, NJ on Aug. 6. For more info (and more tour dates), check out riseagainst.com