Making the MyNetwork move with Rise Against

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September 30, 2008

In the latest Superstar to Superstar, The Brian Kendrick talks to Tim McIlrath, lead vocalist and guitarist of the Chicago-based punk band, Rise Against. Their song "Re-Education (Through Labor)" is featured in the WWE's kickoff spots promoting SmackDown's move to MyNetwork TV this Friday, Oct. 3. The track is the first single off the band's fifth studio album, Appeal to Reason. The Geffen Records album hits stores next Tuesday, Oct. 7. (LISTEN)

The Brian Kendrick: Hey, Tim, this is Brian. How are you doing?

Tim McIlrath: Good. What's going on, Brian?

Kendrick: Nothing, man. I've got a couple questions for you, if you don't mind. … You've said you don't like to plan things out with your music ahead of time, that you like to get in there and let it come naturally. In many ways, this is similar to another Chicago tradition -- the Improv. Being a Chicago-based band, do you think there's anything about the Windy City that encourages this type of spontaneous creativity?

McIlrath: That's a good question. I spent a lot of time going to the Improv in my college years, and Chicago has a great comedy sector of our population. I guess, in a way, you really could compare the two -- the comedy scene, which has been more or less underground in Chicago for a long time, and the punk rock scene I grew up with in Chicago. I suppose they are things that happened in the basements and garages of Chicago. There's probably some connection of the two, and maybe we do things the same way. I never really thought about it before, but that's really important.

Kendrick: Right on. I love that Improv stuff, myself. All right, I've got another one for you: If all the different layers of your music were personified into a fictitious WWE Superstar, tell us, what would that Superstar be called.

McIlrath: What would he be called? This is a great question. I think he'd be a mix between something like the Incredible Hulk and Zach de la Rocha [of the band, Rage Against the Machine].

Kendrick: OK! (laughs)

McIlrath: Somewhere in the middle there. I can't think of a great name.

Kendrick: We can come back to a name if you'd like.

McIlrath: OK.

Kendrick: Yeah, we wouldn't want to rush through that one, man. All right, your single, "Re-Education (Through Labor)" is featured in WWE's MyNetwork TV promotional spots. (LISTEN) Share with us why you feel Rise Against and WWE are a good fit.

McIlrath: You know, it's funny; I think they are a good fit because there's a lot of what we do in our music that is just without compromise. Musically, lyrically, it's really a no holds barred kind of thing. Our music is about just sort of this unrelenting energy behind it. We try to maintain that intensity in our songs because we do what we do in the studio and because we've got to go out there on the road and play it. And we don't want to go out there and sit on bar stools and tap our shoes while we're playing. We want to go out there and be jumping into the crowd and screaming into your face, and having kids scream right back in our faces and jumping on top of us.

Kendrick: Hell yeah.

McIlrath: That's why we're into it. So it sort of fits because wrestling also has that kind of energy and that intensity and that angst. It's all there, so I definitely see the parallels.

Kendrick: Dude, there really is, huh?

McIlrath: Mmm-hmm.

Kendrick: You've said that your music is derived in many ways from its roots in the national underground punk scene. With this in mind, how have things changed now that you've found success along mainstream music fans?

McIlrath: It's definitely changed. It's like we exist in a different world that I never really grew up in myself. Like, I grew up in the real underground punk scene and the hardcore scene of Chicago. I didn't find myself at a lot of the shows that are the size of the shows I'm playing nowadays. I spent my time at veterans' halls, watching the local band playing, or in bowling alleys or little bars across Chicago, watching little bands play. I didn't really go to a lot of the bigger shows, but now, I'm playing the bigger shows. It's a whole different world. At first I was grudgingly accepting this, because it was like, "Oh no, this is foreign territory. I don't know what to do here." But now I see it as -- this is a really exciting opportunity for us to get our message across to a whole, broad range of fans and people who normally I wouldn't have crossed paths with. It's kind of a cool thing. It's kind of like basically somebody handing you a bigger bullhorn and saying, "Here, now everyone can hear you. Say what you want to say." That's always been a lot of fun and also a challenge.

Kendrick: Songs like "The Strength to Go On" and "Hero of War," they seem to educate people. How important is social awareness? Is that a big priority in your music? Is it something you focus on? Does it come naturally?

McIlrath: I guess, really simply, it's something that I feel like I owed to the music because the bands I listened to growing up taught me a lot about what was going on in the world. I learned more from music than I ever did from a teacher, than I ever learned from anybody. I learned it all from music. So I feel this responsibility to give back to the music scene, what it gave to me. I want to pass that torch on to the next generation, what all of the punk bands from yesterday passed on to me. I'm so thankful that they were there, and they spent their time in the trenches, making sure that record got in the hands of some kid in the Chicago suburbs. All I want to do is make sure that I pass that on.

Kendrick: Right on. Now, during the laying down of the tracks of Appeal to Reason, you were forced to explore uncharted ground and make some hard decisions about which songs to leave on the album -- something you said you found very difficult. What criteria did you use to choose between your babies?

McIlrath: Oh, that's a hard one. I think a lot of it is just gut instinct. It's like the more you over-think this stuff, the more you ruin it. It's really just your gut. You've got to go with your gut. Something as simple as the way all four of us look at each other after we hear it back on the stereo can decide the fate of a song. We tend to know right away. We certainly look to our producers to advise us on that, too. Our producers are also really good friends of ours and guys who have had years in the punk scene. So we also look to them and see how they feel about it, too. But yeah, a lot of it is pretty much gut.

Kendrick: Cool, man, cool. I've got one last question before we go back to the name of your supposed fictitious Superstar.

McIlrath: I've got an idea for it.

Kendrick: Oh, do you want to hit me with that one now, then?

McIlrath: I'm thinking we'll call him the Eliminator. Do you guys have an Eliminator?

Kendrick: No, there's no Eliminator.

McIlrath: I think we'll call him the Eliminator because he's out there to eliminate injustice in the world.

Kendrick: Sweet! I love it. (laughs) OK, so I do have a last one then.

McIlrath: Go for it.

Kendrick: If your songs could be the theme music for any WWE Superstar, past or present, who would it be?

McIlrath: Well, it would be you, of course.

Kendrick: Hell, yeah, Tim! I like the sound of that, brother.

McIlrath: That's right.

Kendrick: Cool, Tim. It's been really cool chatting with you.

McIlrath: Yeah, you too, man. Good luck with everything.

Kendrick: Thanks. You take care, man.

McIlrath: You, too.

Kendrick: Bye.

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