Rise Against Joe Principe Interview

© Jason Segel | Luma Vista Recordings

Chicago-based band RISE AGAINST have established themselves in the melodic punk scene with nine albums spanning the past 20 years.
Evidence for this is that the group was able to reconcile the dominant instruments of a major distribution and individual folks without compromising their original beliefs, themes, and upright commitments, or denying their association with basic punk music. Evidenced by last year’s cult album “Nowhere Generation,” produced by Bill Stevenson, and the EP that followed, “Nowhere Generation II.”
It’s also been two decades since RISE AGAINST visited us in France, and the Quartet was still here last summer in Clisson for Hellfest. But at the top of the bill and on the stage of the Bataclan, he’ll sing on November 4, a room he knows best because she’s already performed three times since 2012.
A few days prior to this date, we spoke with guitarist and founding member, Joe Principe.

She has been taking the roads to promote the album “Nowhere Generation” since 2021 and then released the album “Nowhere Generation II”. How special are these five songs until they are released a year after your ninth album?

In fact, these are additional songs. Here’s what happened: We recorded the album “Nowhere Generation” and had 18 songs, but that would have been too long for the album. So we decided to separate them into two different outputs. So it was planned that way from the start. We didn’t want to make too many songs at once. I don’t like when the album goes on.

After touring the US for a few months, I’m back in Europe for concerts, but this time as one of the headlines. Is your preparation different from festival performances, like the one you did at Hellfest in June?

Yes, because the parties are longer, we need to prepare for them. When we’re in the headlines, we can practically play whatever we want, while at festivals we’re sometimes restricted, even if it’s just by making up the stage, for example. As a lead, we obviously have more fun, because we can let our creativity do the talking. The atmosphere is different in theaters and festivals. The energy released is not the same, so the preparation is a little different, yes.

Do the topics covered by your songs, which made your reputation, influence the development of your concert roster?

I would say that what influences our list is rather our mood at the time. We try to have lively, fast, more pop, slow … so that the party is varied and fun. It’s a real challenge, because we have nine albums to our credit and it’s hard to choose from all of our songs. We try to play singles on the radio as well as old songs or songs that we haven’t played before. Then, we can’t please everyone, and some of our fans may be disappointed, but we really try our best to please as many people as possible.

RISE AGAINST has always expressed itself in core themes, and we know your direct commitment. What event made you want to make your music a way to share your convictions?

In fact, I attribute it to your upbringing in the punk community, and punk has always expressed some form of rebellion with bands who spoke out against what seemed unfair to them, like RAMONES who opposed mass society. That’s what stuck with us forever: punk is a platform that inspires change. When we started the band, we felt like it was normal. We’ve always been on the same wavelength for that.

“Punk has always expressed a form of rebellion with teams who rose up against what seemed unfair to them.. That’s what stuck with us forever: punk is a platform that inspires change.”

Go principle © Alex Sega | hard force

So you’re attached, no matter what, to the punk and hardcore scene of the ’80s and ’90s. Today, are there topics you’d rather not touch on in your words?

No, we deal with everything that affects us in our lives. Our singer Tim (McElrath), writes all the words in a very personal way, but leaves plenty of room for interpretation for fans so that they are free to choose how they perceive it. There are also more internal, more direct addresses, which leave little doubt about the message and intent conveyed. But in general, everyone can apply our songs to their personal life. Important.

Are there any songs from your early albums that are unfortunately still relevant today?

Yes, in fact I think we have a lot of songs that can apply to everyone’s life, in all stages of their existence. For example, I think “Alive And Well” is a universal and timeless song. It talks about the battles you can have and the trials you have to overcome at any time in your life. But I think every album has songs for everyone. The nature of the world means that it takes a long time before mentalities develop or laws change, especially with regard to the environment or weapons. Unfortunately, we’ve probably been there for 22 years and there are many things that we can change in the United States to really help people and they are the same problems that we started. Money and power are very powerful, unfortunately. They seem to rule the roost when it comes to government. Therefore, many people really have to fight for change, otherwise crooked money and politicians will prevail. It’s really difficult. With RISE AGAINST, we hope to at least show people that they are not alone in their battles.

“With RISE AGAINST, we hope to at least show people that they are not alone in their battles.”

What do you think, more than 20 years later, of the hardcore punk scene in Chicago?

It’s hard to say, because we’ve changed. We’ve had kids, and we’re pretty busy in our lives, so I’ve become a little detached from the current scene. Plus, the COVID pandemic hasn’t helped, as everyone has been a little entrenched in their personal lives for a few years. But I know the scene is still very active. Let’s just say I was more aware when I was younger, more involved and I know all that was going on. I look at everything more outwardly now, but I think that’s because I’m getting older as well and I have other priorities.

You don’t grow up, you mature!

Yes really! And that’s actually how I feel about it. I always like and really enjoy what we play, especially the live broadcast. RISE AGAINST is a real outlet, no matter your age!

Do you remember the first recording you listened to that marked you for life?

Yes, I think it was one of the RAMONES albums. But it’s funny because then, growing up, I got more hardcore than punk, especially the DRI band in the ’80s. I wanted to learn their music and their way of playing the guitar which sounded completely new to me. So I would say DRI, RAMONES…and THE CURE. I still love them today, not to mention pop music like Duran Duran!

And is there a band or artist you’ve never seen in concert and dream of seeing it live?

Yes, I’m especially thinking of a new wave group from the ’80s called ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN which I dream of seeing on stage…but I miss it all the time! Every time he comes to Chicago, I’m on the road! Every time ! They were there in September and of course I wasn’t. They are #1 on my list of bands to watch.

I know it’s going to be tough, but if you had to dedicate one song to your fans, which one would you pick out of the nine RISE AGAINST albums?

Well, actually, there’s a song we played as a kind of side B a few years ago called “Tweeter”. They really are RISE AGAINST fans for me. It’s a song that I find great, because it encourages people to speak up, and to use their voices in anger. And that’s all we care about: being heard.

We realize that it is more and more difficult for a group to organize tours, between the health crisis, environmental problems and events in Eastern Europe. Can you visualize yourself and see the future?

I think all we can do is do our best to keep the world safe. You must be smart. But we also have to live our lives and get what needs to be done. It is difficult to predict the future, so the main thing is not to imagine the worst-case scenario, otherwise we will not do anything.

A few days before your visit here, on November 4th in the Bataclan, we wish you a great tour!

I can’t wait to play in Paris! It’s always great to play in France, so we’ll enjoy it. We presented at Hellfest and it is always a pleasure. I know Paris is far from Clisson, but I love the atmosphere of the concert halls and fans of Paris. It’s really nice to be able to come back to Europe. Plus, we’ve always played in Paris on dates close to my birthday, so I associate Paris with my birthday and it’s more fun. Thank you for your support over the past 20 years. We love you and can’t wait to see you again!

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