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Joe Principe of Rise Against

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  1. Melody Bot

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    This past week, I was able to chat with Joe Principe (bassist) of Rise Against before the band embarks on one of their most ambitious tours to date. In this interview we discussed where the title of their excellent new album Nowhere Generation came from, the songwriting process that the band went through during these sessions, what Rise Against plan to do with their bonus material, as well as how Joe stayed active in the causes he is passionate about during the pandemic. Rise Against will be starting their headlining tour with support from the Descendents and The Menzingers.

    Thank you, Joe, for connecting with me today. Rise Against has been one of my favorite punk rock and political activist bands since you guys formed. How are you feeling now that the band has now released your ninth studio album, called Nowhere Generation?

    It feels amazing. We finished recording this record two weeks before the lockdown, and before the pandemic really hit home. And things start shutting down. So we’ve been sitting on it for so long, and obviously, it’s unprecedented. No one has ever experienced something like this. So it was super odd to work on something so focused, and to be so honored to be that focused, and then all of a sudden, you can’t show it to anyone yet. So it’s nice to finally release it.

    Yeah, but I bet it’s pretty refreshing at this point. Because there were some challenges I imagine with getting the record out since the past year was difficult across the board for a lot of people, and a lot of artists for releasing music. Did you experience any of that with this one?

    Well, yeah, we’ve actually had about four or five false starts. We had a release date, and then we can do another release date. So we didn’t want to put it out and then not be able to play shows on it. And we didn’t want him to feel old and stale. So we sat on it, and that was definitely the best thing we could have done because now it feels fresh. And everyone’s pumped on it. We have a tour coming up in August. So it really feels like we got the timing right on it.

    Where did the actual title of Nowhere Generation originate from? And what does it symbolize for you guys today?

    That actually speaks to the youth. It’s basically an acknowledgement of the struggle that how hard it is basically to get through your lives, like school, and then when you graduate and go to college. And you acquire this student loan debt, and it’s all about achieving the American dream. And it seems like it’s further and further out of reach. Every year, I feel like my generation…I’m 46, so my generation and older are not wealthy. The younger generations seem to be very greedy in the economical landscape, if you will. I feel like when I’m talking to my parents, or my mom, my father passed away a long time ago…So my mom, just talking to her, I definitely got the sense that that generation and my grandparents were definitely more the kind to help others every step of the way. They were there to help out and it was all about the younger generations, and it was all about making sure your kids have a better life. And you did it at some point. It’s still there. I’m not saying everyone is greedy, but it seems to be less and less. It seems to be more like, “What about me?” rather than, “Oh, I have to take care of my children.” So that’s kind of when Nowhere Generation speaks to you. It’s like an acknowledgment that we see the struggles that…we all have children, right, everyone in the band, except our guitar player. And we see how hard it is for our kids to get through school and to have teachers that pay attention, care enough, and then you throw the pandemic on top of it. It just makes it really difficult and very stressful for young kids. Like with my kids, they’re having a hard time even just enjoying their youth. And they are worried about school too. Yeah, basically, that’s what Nowhere Generation is for. For the youth and an acknowledgement of that.

    It’s interesting to hear you say that because I’m also a parent of three kids myself, and I’m 38. And just hearing some of the things you brought up about, like the pandemic and the struggles with school and stuff like that, I’m feeling that completely. Because my oldest is 10 years old, and he had some difficulty at first adjusting to the online environment, and stuff like that, but now it seems like it’s almost like second nature to go into these hybrid environments. And these dedicated teachers…my hat goes off to them for sure. But, what was the actual recording process like for these sessions that became Nowhere Generation?

    So myself and Tim, we got together just the two of us in a studio, and we recorded everything in Colorado and the studio called the Glass Room in Fort Collins, Colorado. And we started meeting there for three or four days at a time. Then, once a month became enough time. So I think we started this record in February or March of 2019. And we just met every month and it was very casual. So basically, we wanted to take the pressure off ourselves to write, and we just went in and sometimes we would individually bring in full songs, and then they were done. And other times, we kind of critique each other’s work and refine things. And then sometimes I would bring in a riff or Tim would have a riff, and we would just build on it. And then when we had enough songs, we got the other guys into the studio, and then we really hashed it out after probably like four or five months. So I think in total, we ended up having like 20 songs. And we pinned it down to recording 16. And then the one we just released, there’s 11 songs, on Nowhere Generation. So yeah, at some point, we’re trying to figure out a good way to release the other five.

    Do you think that material will lead to an EP at some point? Or, whenever it makes sense, maybe after the tour?

    Yeah, I think so. I think something along those lines, someday we’ll make it cool. You know, for the fans that are record collectors. We’ll do something really nice for it.

    I love what you did with the Long Forgotten Songs compilation! That compiled a lot of the B-sides along the way. I wonder if there’s ever talks of doing a second series of that or not?

    You know, we were all tapped out on B-sides, but oddly enough, that release ended up becoming one of my favorite records. Because, with a B-side when you hear a grouping of songs, you can usually pick out the weaker ones. But then you kind of you kind of sit on it for a little while then when we were compiling Long Forgotten Songs that was what the songs are. Maybe they fit the mood of whatever record they were written for, or whatever time frame they were written. But yeah, like the song “Lanterns” on that record, that’s one of my favorite songs.

    That’s a great one! Yeah, that’s cool to hear how you kind of pigeonhole some of the ones that kind of came out along that time period, too. There seems to be a plethora of rock, and punk rock bands and this new wave of bands coming out. Usually they want to stay actively engaged with their fans and promote their message, especially with the last administration, of course. What do you feel is the overall political climate over the past two years? And what do you look forward to seeing change, additionally in the near future?

    Well, there’s no place for apathy, and I especially do like that there was the highest voter turnout, ever in an election. With this last election, the youth and younger generations, they’re more engaged. That’s what I was looking for. I want the 18 year olds to be aware of what’s going on politically and to be involved, and especially to be involved in your local communities, and your local government, because that is something I didn’t realize growing up. I didn’t realize how important it was to vote in local elections, because that directly affects your life, basically. And, I was just raised in a traditional Italian household in my household, and especially back then, my mom sheltered me from everything. She didn’t want to, she felt like it was like for adults in Africa, you know. So she never talked about politics. In the house, I had to discover punk rock to kind of get turned on to politics, which is kind of sad to think about…but I was just glad it was the last few years that people were making more of an effort to vote and to speak up and to use your voice. And I do think that there’s a lot of newer bands coming up that seem to have these political overtones that bands like the Dead Kennedys had or bands like Sizing of course. That influenced Rise Against and the Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains. There’s a lot of fans coming up that kind of have that overall message. It’s like this rebirth of it. And I think it’s amazing because that’s kind of what stirred it up for me. I wanted something loud and fast and something I could relate to and skateboard too. And it seems to be coming back at least at least from my perception, on social media, and I know Epitaph Records, they were signing a bunch of young bands that had this kind of youthful punk rock energy, and it’s nice to see it. Because I like for bands to be branching out, and to explore creatively, and that’s awesome. But at the same time, I’m definitely a bare bones, grassroots and in your face kind of guy. That type of music always appealed to me, even from a young age, like fourth or fifth grade. I just love the in your face, shock value of it, and that’s what grabbed me. So it’s definitely nice to see it’s still prevalent.

    Yeah, definitely. And it sounds like it definitely had an impact on your musical career too, because you’re still definitely very much in the “scene” of those things. And Nowhere Generation has this feel of urgency in a lot of the tempos and the messages brought forth in Tim’s lyrics. So what motivates you and your bandmates as artists at this stage of your careers?

    People ask that all the time. But if I could boil it down to a mood and a feeling, it just kind of comes out of us. There are songs on this record and they definitely lend themselves to a faster tempo, or more of the in your face, vocal approach. It’s all about whatever makes sense. And for the time, with writing this record, the songs I brought in and the songs Tim brought in, we were pretty set on how fast or slow it should be. Because we kind of know that if you write something that’s too fast, you’ll not know when the vocals kick in, because it’s going to be hard for Tim to sing or to get his lyrics out with clarity. And that’s the barometer. So if he’s not in the scene, and we’re not really hearing what he’s singing about, then we kind of slow it down a little bit. But it’s all about what feels right for the riffs that we’re playing. And what we are feeling when I write a song, it’s a direct release of what I’m going through emotionally. So if it’s something fast and aggressive, it’s probably because I’m frustrated for the day. That style didn’t change. That’s how I was when I was a freshman in high school writing songs, and it is the same way when I’m 46.

    How did you stay active in the causes that you’re passionate about? I know you’re a big animal rights fan. And also with the pandemic, how did you stay active in the causes that you’re passionate about?

    We definitely leaned heavily on social media. Anything to promote that on my social media, like I did. And just locally, my wife and I would volunteer at a no kill shelter, or whatever we could do. And I feel like we spent a lot of time because there’s so many people ordering takeout, right? We spent so much time directing people who wanted to eat healthier, where to buy their meals from. People didn’t know. And there’s so many options where you can get healthy meals from Chipotle, if you’re smart about it. So I know it’s like a little thing, but I felt like we did that a lot. It’s showing people what to buy, even at the grocery stores. Because everyone’s kind of sitting around and it’s hard to work out at a gym. You couldn’t really do that. So,a lot of people around us in my neighborhood would ask us if we want to stay fit. You know, we’re working out in our houses, but we don’t want to be couch potatoes. They knew my wife and I are both vegan. So they kind of leaned on us a little bit for health advice. But yes, things like that. That blew my mind with this pandemic. Like getting out and everyone is walking their dogs, right? Neighbors were meeting neighbors that they didn’t know existed ever. Now I literally know everyone in my neighborhood, within a five block radius. So that was definitely a plus, with the pandemic in keeping socially distance, but by getting to know people, I’m basically walking by everyone walking their dogs.

    So I read an article today about how there’s there’s big movement in California with people returning a lot of their comfort animals that they adopted or bought during the pandemic. And it just breaks my heart to see all these people returning their dogs to shelters and stuff like that, and ones that are already crowded as is...

    You know, exactly. That’s what gets me so angry. How could you be attached to an animal for a year or a year and a half, and give it up that easily? I don’t get it. I mean, I really hope there’s still people out there, and I always direct people toward shelters to adopt, and obviously don’t support the puppy mills and all that. But yeah, there’s definitely an overabundance of animals that need adopting, and so I always tried to get that out there as well like for people looking for animals. But the way it also makes me want to adopt too, my wife and I have two gigantic Alaskan Malamutes….So, we’re good. (Laughter)

    That’s cool. So how are the tour preparations coming along? It includes some impressively large capacity venues this time around, and it kicks off next month, correct?

    Yeah, like it is so amazing. And also kind of nerve wracking to get back into that headspace to prepare for a tour to realize you’re going out in the world. And seeing multiple cities again, I’m looking forward to it. But I’m also nervous. I’m sure that it’s gonna take like a good week to get into the swing of things. So, we haven’t ever been home this long ever, as in the 20 year history of being a band. So it’s definitely weird. But yeah, we start pre-production, and rehearsals in a week or so. And we’ve already rehearsed in one instance a couple of weeks ago, and it was so nice to be in a room and play loud and hang out with the guys and work with the guys. But yeah, we’re definitely knee deep in figuring out production, and what we’re gonna do from stage and just to have everyone’s sea legs back. It’s definitely okay to think about how to mentally prepare for something, and once the switch was flipped, everyone’s like, “Okay, here’s the technical. We have these dates.” And then we’re like, “Wait a second, are we ready? But you got to move forward, right?

    Yeah, definitely. So it sounds like you guys are pretty much getting ready to get back into “tour shape” and stuff like that, too. So hopefully you guys feel ready to get back in the swing of things. And I know a lot of people on our site are excited about the upcoming tour too. Did you want to talk a little bit about the openers for the upcoming tour and how you got paired with them?

    Yeah, The Menzingers are from Scranton, Pennsylvania. We’ve toured with them before. They’re an amazing pop-punk band. They just write really, really great songs. And they’re on Epitaph records. So you’ll definitely want to check them out. And then we’re bringing The Descendants along, and they don’t need any introduction, but I’ll have to do it. They are by far one of my biggest influences for bass playing and songwriting. And Vil, our producer, plays drums in The Descendents. So we’ll have him be a watchful eye on every show, to make sure we’re not messing up our songs, front to back. But, yeah, the fact that we got this package together with The Menzingers and Descendents blew our minds. Where everyone was in agreement to move forward with the tour and everyone’s been off the road for a while. So everyone’s trying to make sure it makes sense financially, to be out there. So we made it work. And we’re just really looking forward to it. I think it’s definitely a show to get there early. And don’t miss the openers, because it’s going to be great. You know, all three bands bring something amazing to the table.

    Yeah, that’s a good point. Because also it’s kind of like a gateway, too. If you’re a band like Rise Against, that’s been around for a while, but if you’re a fan just getting into Rise Against you’re going to see two incredible openers that are going to open a lot of eyes and ears too.

    100% Agreed!

    Well, thank you so much for your time today, Joe! I do appreciate everything that you’re doing for the activist movements going on. And, I’m a huge fan of the band. So keep it up!

    Cool. Thanks so much. I appreciate it. Have a good one!


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  2. T-Lloyd


    Ha! Amazing! Glass Room Studios = Blasting Room Studios. Vil the Producer = Bill the Producer.....a bit of auto-correct?