We’re approaching almost a year since [No Use for a Name frontman] Tony Sly’s death, which was big news to anyone in the punk scene. Where were you when you heard of his passing and what was your initial reaction?
I was actually washing my car in my driveway and I had gotten like 15 texts from different people all at once. When I started reading them, I couldn’t believe it. [NOFX frontman] Fat Mike was one of the people that texted me. Hearing it from him made me realize that it was real. Not that people would ever, ever joke about that, but hearing it from him, yeah…I had such a long, long history and friendship with Tony and that whole Fat Wreck Chords team. Over the years, I’ve had acquaintances pass away, but no one that close to the scene that I grew up in and no one that close of a friend. It was really hard to accept. It’s tragic. He was so talented.
Will Rise Against be contributing any songs to the tribute album that Fat Wreck Chords will be releasing?
Well, probably not, but Tim did “For Fiona”–the No Use for a Name song–for the Revival Tour compilation that Chuck [Ragan] from Hot Water Music put out. It’s just an acoustic compilation, but Tim tackled that. All last summer when we were on tour, Tim played that song acoustic and we showed this slide show of Tony on stage while Tim played it. It was done in good taste and with respect.
How often, if ever, do you check out your band’s live shows on YouTube or elsewhere on the internet? And if you do, what’s going through your mind when you’re watching those clips?
You know, I do watch them sometimes, mainly for the performance. I always have a hard time watching myself so a lot of times I think, “Man, that was stupid doing that” or whatever (laughs). That’s just kind of how I’ve always been though–a little self-conscious. It’s a little bit awkward for me to watch us on YouTube, but I still do it.
What was the last tattoo you got?
The last tattoo I got was a lion head on the side of my neck.
That must have been painful…
Actually, not as bad as you would think. I kind of did it as a nod to Chicago because the Art Institute in downtown Chicago has these great lion statues in front. I kind of did it for that.
A large part of your band’s identity is its liberal tendency. On just about every social issue, a lot of music fans could not agree more with where you all stand. But faith in politicians from either party on non-social issues that are increasingly important today – such as fiscal and economic policy – seems to be waning. How do you feel about punk rock fans taking openly conservative stances on these things? Is the punk model evolving or is there no space for these types of opinions in the scene?
I think the whole intent of the punk rock movement was originally based in politics and change. Whether you’re left or right, punk rock is a great platform to voice your opinion. You’re always going to notice the extremes. That was the intent of punk rock initially. I guess I really haven’t noticed that there are more people voicing conservative opinions overall. But unfortunately, sometimes a lot of people change with the majority and with what’s going on around them. That kind of sucks. Even in the punk rock scene, I have kind of noticed that. Today, everyone is so quick to bash the Obama administration and it’s like, “yeah, okay.” He didn’t do everything he said he would do, but he had a ton of bullshit to try and fix and clean up. No one could possibly take that on and be 100% effective in everything they said they would accomplish. You’re going through too much red tape and bullshit because that’s kind of the nature of American government. I guess with politics I just go with the lesser of the two evils – like maybe the candidate that’s less likely to bring us into war (laughs). I remember Ian Mackaye saying that in an interview once and it always stuck out to me.
Believe it or not, there is an entire generation of kids today that have never heard of, or at least not taken the time to appreciate, bands on a lot of the t-shirts you wear when you play–bands like Misfits, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, etc. What’s your reaction to that?
You’re right. For me, it is kind of like a, “Hey, check this band out because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be up on stage.” That’s why we do some of the covers we do. We cover Minor Threat. If only 10% of our audience can look beyond us performing that live and find out who Minor Threat actually is, it might open up a whole new world for them. But yeah, it’s kind of weird – we played with FLAG (featuring three original members from Black Flag) in Germany and the audience had no idea who they were or what they were doing. I was like, “C’mon guys, what are you doing? These guys on stage paved the way. These songs are so important!”
Any last words for your fans?
Thanks for the support and go listen to the first Bad Brains record!