I’ve been a fan of Good Riddance ever since I heard “Mother Superior” on FAT’s “Survival of the Fattest” compilation, so I was incredibly stoked to get to talk to the band’s singer, Russ Rankin outside the Nation before their show on August 19th, 2001. Good Riddance are one of the most prolific bands in the punk scene, with six releases in the past six years (seven if you count their home video), and it sounds like this band is far from being done.
Kevin: You’ve been doing this for 15 years now – did you ever imagine that this would end up being your career?
Russ: No, never, I never did. You know I haven’t really been doing “this” for 15 years. I’ve been playing in a band and trying to get somewhere for quite a while, but doing what we’re doing now, which is like spending close to a year on the road, traveling a lot – we’ve only been doing that since about 1994. But yeah, for the longest time I wanted to be in a band and have it be like a full time thing. But even if all this never happened, I’d still be doing this, because I have fun, it’s what I want to do. But it’s definitely worked out for us so far.
Kevin: So do you see yourself doing this down the road? Or at least do you plan to stay involved with music?
Russ: Oh yeah. A friend of mine and I just started a record label, so we’re going to do that, and I’ve been starting to produce some bands. So there’s all these other ways that I’m finding to get involved with music, without having to be in my band, which is awesome. Plus, I don’t see Good Riddance stopping anytime soon.
Kevin: Who did you do production with?
Russ: I produced a band called the Missing 23rd, who are on Sessions Records. Also a band called Riff Raff from our hometown, and a band from Canada, from Toronto, called the Trilambs. But that record hasn’t come out yet, they’re still looking for a label.
Kevin: Is it hard to do production?
Russ: Well I’m not really doing a lot of the engineering and sound, I’m more helping the bands get from A to B songwriting-wise so they can make better use of their time in the studio. Because I’ve had the ability to be in studios with some really good people that have worked with my band, so I’ve learned a lot. And it was actually Bill and Stephen at the Blasting Room that suggested it, that planted the seed in my head that I should get into production, because they kind of thought I had a good ear for things.
Kevin: You’ve had six separate releases in the past six years, and that’s not counting compilations – is there something about the studio that makes you want to keep coming back?
Russ: I think we’re pretty prolific with writing songs. The studio’s weird – you don’t like it, but you do like it, it’s just a weird experience. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot pressure, but there’s something about starting with nothing and building up until you have this record, there’s something really cool about that. It’s almost like, by the time you hit the end, you wish it wasn’t ending. We’re also cognizant of the fact that in this scene it’s important for us to stay productive because there are so many other bands. And this may not be true, but I worry that kids will forget about us if we don’t put something out pretty frequently.
Kevin: You’ve had some guest vocal appearances recently – what made you want to fly across the country twice just to sing a couple lines?
Russ: I was a guy that used to lament that I never got invited to do guest vocals. Granted, I’m not like… I’m the guy that didn’t know how to play anything, so that’s why I’m the singer, I’m not this great singer. But I used to watch like Tony from No Use For A Name get invited to do stuff, or Joey from Lagwagon, and we’ve gotten Cinder from Tilt to do stuff, and no one would ever ask me. I used to joke around about it, but then, bam! Twice in one week… First, Rise Against called me, and then the guys in Ensign called me, and they were both recording albums at similar times, and were both doing vocals at similar times, so it really worked out. So I flew to Jersey, I was there for a day, then I flew to Indianapolis, did my thing with Rise Against, then went home. So all in one trip, I got to see a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and it meant a lot to me to be able to do it – that’s why I took the trouble to actually plan a trip. I just really wanted to do it.
Kevin: Do you ever play “A Credit To His Gender” live, since you obviously don’t bring Cinder on tour with you?
Russ: Nah. But we actually used to play that song quite a bit, because a lot of people told us they liked it, and there’d be girls in the crowd that would sing the part. Like sometimes before hand they’d come up to me and ask if they could sing that part. We played in St. Petersburg this one time and this girl sang it just spot on, like she had a really good voice, it was awesome.
Kevin: I noticed on your website that you’re all big Kid Dynamite and Lifetime fans – did you go out and specifically ask Dave to play drums for Good Riddance?
Russ: Yes we did. From the first time we played with Kid Dynamite, like we watched him play, and we knew then, if we ever needed a drummer, and he was available, he’d be it. His aggressiveness, the way he plays, his attack, like how hard he hits the drums… It was pretty much a no brainer on our end.
Kevin: Did it take some convincing to get him to play for a band on the opposite coast?
Russ: It took a lot of convincing because, when Kid Dynamite broke up he was a little bit shook, like he seemed to feel like the rug had been pulled out from under him. We had Dave from Lagwagon filling in at the time, like he played on the FAT tour, the European Tour and then the Warped Tour, which was really cool, he totally helped us out. And Lagwagon was taking the year off anyway, so it worked out well for everyone. But all that time, we were bugging the other Dave to join us. And he was reluctant, mainly because of the distance thing. He’s getting married in November, and he lives in Philadelphia, and we live way out in Santa Cruz, so we just talked about it, and basically wrote out year long schedules that were as travel friendly as possible for him. So we set out a plan, but he also had financial goals, since with him getting married, he obviously wants to get a house, and he wanted to make sure he wasn’t flying back and fourth all the time. So we worked out time off for his wedding, honeymoon and all that. But once we made those satisfactory, because, you know we were ready to do pretty much anything to have Dave play for us, but once that happened… He actually was officially in the band during Warped Tour last year, like he’d agreed to join, but we wanted to finish that tour with Dave Raun, and then the new Dave’s first tour with us was last October in Western Canada.
Kevin: Is the distance issue working out okay?
Russ: You’d have to ask him, since he’s the one flying across the country, sleeping on couches. He likes Santa Cruz a lot, like he seems to enjoy staying out there, but I’m sure he misses his fiancé, his dog and what not. Like tonight he’s got friends that are coming, and they’re taking off for Philly once we’re done here – we’re not going to see him until sound check tomorrow.
Kevin: How much did his presence affect the sound on the new album?
Russ: Well he doesn’t really write specific songs, but we knew the kind of stuff that he could do, so I tried to write stuff that I figured he’d probably do anyway but what I knew would compliment his playing. We’d toured with Kid Dynamite so I felt like I knew his style pretty well, and in another sense, it was kind of like a fresh start for us. He has so much enthusiasm, and he’d never really been in a studio atmosphere like the Blasting Room, so it was really good for him too, he got a lot out of it.
Kevin: I understand your goal with Operation Phoenix was to try and revert, maybe even pay homage to a little older and harder style, like the music that originally influenced you in this scene. Were you trying to explore that further with this album?
Russ: I wanted to write the best songs we’ve ever written, like we wanted to take our songwriting up a notch. When you choose to play this kind of music, you kind of relegate yourself to okay we’ve got a bass drum, a guitar, typical chord progressions, you sort of box yourself in, and we know that. But given that, how different can we make it? How much can we push it to make it more interesting? You can see it a lot in “Pisces,” that’s a very experimental song for us. Half the song is just instrumental, and we experimented with a lot of different guitar things, vocal things. I think these are the best songs I’ve ever written.
Kevin: A lot of bands as they grow talk about being in their “prime.” Perfect example is Lagwagon – we’ve heard Joey come out and say he thinks they might be past their prime, and if they are, he wants to stop while he’s ahead. Would you say you’re still in your prime, in terms of songwriting, stage performance, and everything?
Russ: Yeah. If I had any doubts, then the writing process and recording of this record smashed those doubts. Sometimes we play shows where I think, maybe we’re losing it, but I think that’s just me, maybe I’m to hard on us at times. I’ll invariably pick out the kids are in the back and not into our music and just ignore all the kids that are going nuts. Like last night we played in Atlanta, which is usually a really good place for us to play, but this time around there wasn’t a very good turnout, and the energy level just dropped after Death By Stereo. So I totally took it out on them and I realized you know, I shouldn’t do that. There are kids that took the time out to come see us, and they knew our words and stuff, so you can’t get bummed out by stuff like that. That aside, musically speaking, I think this record puts us up on another level. As for comparing it to past albums, it’s definitely a progression, it’s not just “oh we got a new record, let’s just throw some songs together.” I definitely don’t think it’s lacking in intensity. I’m really really happy with it.
Kevin: You’ve got a split coming up with Kill Your Idols on Jade Tree – what should we expect for that release?
Russ: We recorded the four songs for that split the same time we did our record. Actually we kind of recorded everything without knowing what was going to go where. We eventually picked four songs, and the four songs we picked kind of cover all the facets that we do. There’s melodic stuff, there’s core, there’s fast melodic, kind of like Fertile Fields stuff. All the stuff that Good Riddance plays is going to be represented on that split. We’re really stoked to be able to do that.
Kevin: Was it Jade Tree that approached you, or did you work it out with Kill Your Idols?
Russ: Jade Tree is doing a whole series of splits this fall, and Dave, our drummer, had had a really good relationship with Jade Tree from his time in Kid Dynamite and all, and he was good friends with all the guys, so I guess it appealed to them to have a band like us, because we’re known, and Kill Your Idols is an up and coming band that may not be as well known, but they’re getting more well known all the time. It would be a really good thing for the label and for us. As much as it sucks, there are a lot of kids out there that are really devoted to one label, which they think has a definite sound, and it happens to be the sound they like. Like, when we got to tour with Sick Of It All, a lot of Sick Of It All fans were like, wow, Good Riddance is pretty good, but I never would have bought their record because they’re on FAT. We did a split with Ignite on Revelation, kind of the same thing. So now being able to put something out on Jade Tree, maybe there are kids that are really into Jade Tree’s releases but wouldn’t normally check us out because they’ve got a preconceived notion about what Fat Wreck Chords is about. I’m not saying all kids are like that, but there’s that mindset out there, and those kids are going to buy anything that Jade Tree puts out, and they’ll hear our band, and if they like it, maybe they’ll go check out some of the bands on FAT. The same thing goes for FAT kids – they’ll get this split because we’re on it, and they’ll go what’s this Jade Tree label? And hopefully they’ll maybe check out a sampler or something. We’re just trying to sort of cross pollinate, because I don’t think it benefits anybody to stay in one circle the whole time.
Kevin: Definitely, there are a lot of stereotypes out there.
Russ: Exactly, and you miss out on so much good music by believing the stereotypes.
Dan: Well the earlier FAT comps do sound kind of similar.
Russ: Well this is my opinion on that. Mike wanted to start a consistent label, so he took bands that he saw something in that told him that these were bands that were going to go the distance, that were going to work and have some talent. But he kind of held their hands, so each band was held to a standard. Some of those bands probably didn’t know what they were doing in the studio, and I don’t think he wanted those bands to just take some money and go off and record and just send back the finished product for Mike to go, what the fuck is this? I’m not going to put this out. I think it’s a matter of that, sort of a hands on thing in the beginning, and also a matter of bands wanting to sound that way because they think if they do, FAT will sign them. You could say that maybe early Lagwagon sounds like NOFX, or Strung Out, or maybe even some of our first record, but you definitely couldn’t say that about all those bands’ latest releases. Especially Lagwagon, in the last year they’ve completely gone mellow. They’ve gone in a direction that’s completely unique to them that’s not like NOFX at all, and the same goes for Strung Out. And now you’ve got Avail… To say that all FAT bands sound the same now is really off the mark.
Kevin: Things just worked out so well so fast for FAT.
Russ: It’s no accident, it’s a label that treats its bands well, and the bands want to work on the charter, so it breeds loyalty. I’ll defend Fat Wreck Chords, and I get sick of people trashing it. But what can you really do? Kids are going to think what they’re going to think.
Kevin: The same thing happens when a band signs to a major, or signs to Epitaph, or whatever… Did you ever think things would go so well for this label?
Russ: When it first started, I’d been a NOFX fan probably since the late 80’s. I used to go to Gilman St. all the time. One time I went to see D.I. and they cancelled, so this band I’d never heard called NOFX ended up headlining by default. I thought they played a good show and they were funny. I’d also see Mike outside after shows with boxes of CDs selling copies of “Liberal Animation” as kids were coming out the door, and he’d just sell them for five bucks. I started going to see NOFX pretty regularly, and every time they played there was more and more people and they were getting more and more popular. So when I heard about their first release, the Lagwagon album, I knew it was his label – I’m not sure how I knew, but I did, but I knew this was probably going to be really good. So I bought Lagwagon, I bought Strung Out, Propagandhi, and I loved it, and I thought around that time that we were ready to sign to a label, and we were sending out demos so I thought, let’s send one there. And Mike called my house like 10 days later. But we got involved with Fat Wreck Chords and then the next year, in like 1995, it just took off, it blew up, and we were really fortunate to be there kind of before all that happened. Like, FAT’s all subsided now, so FAT doesn’t guarantee anything. For a while you could put “Fat Wreck Chords” on a show flyer and 500 kids would show up, you didn’t even have to say what band it was. It’s not like that now, which is probably a good thing, since bands have to earn it, but FAT is still a great label to be on. I have friends on other big punk labels and they complain, they say you know this isn’t as rad is I thought it would be, but I’ve never had a single complaint about Fat Wreck Chords.
Kevin: I’ve read in the liner notes to your albums that you always donate some of the profits to charity. Do you have any idea how much you’ve raised in total?
Russ: Not really. I could find out, I could ask FAT’s accounting, but I think the important thing is just that we do it. By putting the name of those organizations in our liner notes, it gets them some exposure that they wouldn’t normally get. I mean, we’re not a big band, we don’t sell a million records, but the money that they get from us twice a year is money they wouldn’t otherwise get. PETA aside, they don’t really rely on our money, but a lot of organizations that do great work are just barely making it, and are trying to stay afloat with volunteers, private donations and such.
Kevin: I remember seeing that in your cd, and then in Ignite’s cd, they actually put literature in their liner notes, and it’s a great way to make some kids aware of what’s going on.
Russ: Absolutely. It gently nudges the kids into some of this stuff – it gives them more than just entertainment. We give out PETA literature at our merch table on tour, so some kids will take it and hope maybe they’ll take it home and read it, and from there you never know what could happen. We’ve gotten a great response from that – PETA said that all the hits they’ve gotten to their website, and a bunch of kids that have phone in have said that they got interested in PETA because of our band. Think about if ten or fifteen more bands started doing the same thing, and a lot of bands are, but if more bands got into this it could really increase awareness.
Kevin: Do you concern yourself with whether or not kids take the message in your lyrics to heart?
Russ: I used to. But that really goes nowhere, because I can’t control it, and when I worry about things I can’t control, it leads to being upset. So we just try to play the best music we can, write lyrics I’m proud of, put it out there and let go of it. Invariably some kids will grasp on to it and go wow, these lyrics are really meaningful, maybe they get a new perspective on certain issues. But if kids just want to come to a show, dance, buy a t-shirt, go home, that’s fine too. It’s not really up to us – we’re not going to go out to the front door and evaluate who’s worthy to see us. You can link worrying about what kids think of your lyrics to elitism, and I don’t want to do that.
Kevin: I’ve heard people knock on bands, and even blame some member changes on a couple of you holding straightedge or vegan beliefs. Do you get any of that?
Russ: We do, and it’s really just people not knowing us, knowing what we’re about. We get pigeonholed a lot, and it’s really frustrating.
Kevin: Do you ever get disenchanted with the stereotypes that are out there about those particular lifestyles?
Russ: I do, but you have to remember that’s a Russ issue, not a Good Riddance issue, and I guess some people don’t realize that. I don’t want to slam this down anyone’s throat, but I know I have the tattoos and stuff, but I won’t wear straightedge shirts on stage, since it could upset a band member. But for some reason a lot of people assume we’re a straightedge band. Never bother to ask, they just go on the internet and some kid has posted “Good Riddance is a straightedge band.” I would encourage you to talk to everyone in the band, because for some reason a lot of people ask me “Is Good Riddance a straightedge band?” And the answer is no we’re not, we never have been and never will be. There’s members of the band other than me that are drug free, and there are members that aren’t, and even if I could start a straightedge band, I wouldn’t want to, because it would really box us in. What I like about our band is that we’re like a fly in the wind band – we’re questioning things, we’re questioning the status quo, we’re challenging people’s objectives trying to make the world better. But we’re also pretty vague about issues – we don’t want to endorse or oppose any viewpoint. We’re a band, we play loud music, so you can think what you want to think, but the straightedge thing is really hard to shake. A lot of interviews I do it’s almost like we’re at a restaurant – how many vegans, how many straightedge, it’s like they’re taking our order for food.
Dan: How exactly do you define a straightedge band?
Russ: Well, when I first got into the movement, it would be members of the band that didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs. When I first got into straightedge, this is how old I am, veganism and vegetarianism had absolutely nothing to do with each other, until Youth Of Today did the song “No More” on We’re Not In This Alone, and that sparked a big article in a zine called No Answers, and those are the things that inspired me to start looking into it. But first straightedge and hardcore got lumped together, and now veganism seems to have been brought in, which I guess is cool, because it does make people more aware of what’s going on.
Kevin: So was it the music that initially sparked your interest in straightedge?
Russ: Oh yeah. Uniform Choice, No For An Answer, Insted, Youth Of Today, Bold, Judge, I went to all the shows, and it was just a really really good time. It was a different scene back then – I still support hardcore, and I still support straightedge bands, but back then it really was a positive thing. There wasn’t the gangs, there wasn’t the violence, there wasn’t the really close-minded upper-handed morality of some of these kids. You know there are 17 year old kids that think they know fucking everything, telling people how they should live their lives, and inevitably these are kids that in two years are going to sell out the edge anyway.
Kevin: I don’t think that’s just a straightedge thing though.
Russ: It’s not, but I also never would want to discourage kids from being idealistic, because we need that, but be careful what you say. At the end of the day, you’ve got to walk your talk, and unfortunately a lot of people don’t.
Kevin: A lot of bands say things, but don’t do things, and that’s something that bugs me. Do you feel like you pretty much practice what you preach?
Russ: It’s hard sometimes, because you’re right, there are bands that will say stuff but never think about acting on it, but there are four of us in this band, and even though my lyrics need to be approved by the other guys in the band, and if they aren’t, they don’t ever see the light of day, but if we’re on the stage singing one thing, and one of the four of us normally acts different than that, then there’s a credibility gap, a big one, an unacceptable one, so we’ll stop playing that song. I don’t ever want to be in a situation like some bands that I’ve seen and known, like a band that I used to look up to, and believed in their message so strongly, and then seen them off stage and see everything just come crashing down, it’s a fucking joke, it never mattered at all to these people. As much as I have a part in expecting too much out of people, you know, they’re going to do what they’re going to do, I don’t ever want to be a band that that happens to. And I don’t think we’re in danger of it, because all four of us are good people, all four of us are pretty socially aware, and consciously just live right. Three of us are vegan, one’s vegetarian, we’re all into animal rights, we make smart consumer decisions, who we’re going to vote for, where our money goes, not buying things from certain companies… Just all these little things you can do in your everyday life that can make a difference. That’s something that we do, and we try to encourage other people to do it as well, like a ripple effect. But if I wasn’t doing it myself, then it’s completely pointless.
Kevin: I wanted to say congratulations on your engagement last year – if you’re willing to answer, have you set a date for the wedding yet?
Russ: Well, we haven’t set a date because she used to live in Toronto, and now she got a job in New York city, so when we live in the same town we’ll get married.
Dan: I remember seeing Anti-Flag chatter on about the election back in February to kids that were at most 16 years old. Do you ever think that there are times when you preach too much on stage?
Russ: Well what it boils down to is I used to talk a lot between songs, like a LOT, like I’d go off almost like Chris from Propagandhi, and my guys just were sick of it. They just wanted to play music, and what we finally compromised on is that everything I want to say is in the lyrics. We’re here to play music, play our songs, as fast and hard as we can, and as many as we can fit into our allotted time, without me flapping my gums. So now, there’s occasionally some humor, we’ll try to be funny on stage – we’re an intense band, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously. We want people to have a good time, and not feel intimidated, not feel talked down to, not feel challenged by us. We want to have a good time, and we really really appreciate all the people that take the time to come and see us play. And especially when we tour a lot, it’s so rad, we see some of the same kids, we watch them grow up. And we’ll have stupid inside jokes from that town that we’ll never forget, and then they’ll yell stuff out to you and it’s like oh my God, I forgot about that last year. And that’s awesome, it’s like having a big extended family. All the stuff in the lyrics is stuff that the band stands behind, but as far as what we do live, like, I may say some things, like… Voting is an important thing, and maybe some kids aren’t old enough to vote, but if you plant the seed in their heads early enough, then they’re not going to wait forever. Like, I didn’t vote until 1992, and I had been eligible for many years, but I was effectively marginalized by the system. I did not care. So if you can plant a seed in a kid’s head at 16 years old, that as soon as you’re 18, get on the fucking ball, because it’s so important – especially state and local stuff. Then it’s really not a wasted cause to preach about that. Like, Chuck our bass player, he’s 33 and he just voted last year for the first time, and all for the same reasons. You know, the system keeps cropping up these two identical candidates and then convinces everyone that they’re the only two candidates out there. And of course the majority of the people in this country aren’t represented by those two candidates, so people are just like, well I don’t want to vote for either of these guys, so I’m just not going to vote. Because people are kept in the dark about the other parties, so the more people that can vote and be active. Like our whole band voted Green Party in the last election, because we’re sick of being shoved into apathy, we’re sick of being forced to make a choice between just two people. We’re a democracy, it’s not supposed to be that way. I didn’t vote for Ralph Nader because I thought he could run the country, he probably couldn’t, but if enough people vote for these other parties, get the numbers up, and get then on the playing field, then maybe one day there could be a man or woman running as a Green, or Libertarian, that could run the country, and would be a viable option, that everyone in America would know about. They’d be invited to the debates, and they’d be covered on the news, and their conventions would be covered. The networks all covered the Republican and Democrat conventions, with special theme music, and graphics, and their best reporting teams. You know, I watched the Green Party convention at 2 AM on C-Span, and it was just a camera on a tripod in the corner of the room.
Kevin: And obviously it didn’t have the big venue or the millions of balloons, or the celebrities or anything.
Russ: Not at all. It’s waste landed by the media, because that way no matter whether Republican or Democrat wins, the interests of these big companies are served. People might get educated, but just aren’t fully educated on all the options. The sad thing is that the people that are being marginalized, that aren’t voting, are the ones that have the most to lose by not voting, because they have the most to gain by a fair voting system. You have to look at who doesn’t vote: young people, gay and lesbian people, minorities, people who are locked up or institutionalized who can’t vote, and who are those? A lot of them are African Americans, Hispanics, young people. These are people that are effectively kept out of the mix, kept out of the public arena. And as long as that happens, the interests of power will be served every four years and nothing will change. What is cool is that I saw a lot of mobilization of young kids at shows during this election, kids would show up with “Vote Nader” buttons and stuff like that, at least having a clue that first, the election was going on, and also listening to some of the alternatives and helping get Nader more votes than anyone expected.
Kevin: There were a lot of people pushing for Nader on my campus, and I’m in Virginia, which is a really conservative state, and a lot of people were traveling down to Wake Forest from Virginia Tech to protest at the debates for Nader. It was pretty surprising.
Russ: Yeah, that’s great. He actually got thousands of votes in Texas, which I couldn’t believe. I’m from Santa Cruz, which is super liberal, super Green, and he’s a hero there. He came to speak at the Civic Auditorium, which holds 3,000 people, and the place was overflowing, like people had to watch outside on monitors. But that’s Santa Cruz. But he got a lot of good numbers in places where I was surprised, and that gives me hope. That’s why a band like Anti-Flag may come across preachy to some people, but they believe what they’re talking about. Even if the kids at shows are too young to vote, the seed is planted that there will be a time when they are old enough that they need to worry about this. I mean, I spent a lot of years just going fuck it, Reagan’s going to win anyway.
Kevin: I think the issue with some people is just, should I be taking such strong advice from guys that are only a couple years older than me?
Russ: If everyone took the time to educate themselves, we’d be doing so much better. And I’m not just saying that because we’re friends with Anti-Flag and Propagandhi and all, but it’s refreshing to see a band so passionately political in a time where it’s not at all fashionable to do so. Most kids want to go to shows and see kids with big baggy Volcom shorts singing about girls that won’t call them back, that’s basically what punk rock shows have turned into. So it takes heart to really go balls out political.
Dan: It’s funny you mention that, since we saw Anti-Flag with New Found Glory.
Russ: I long for the days when punk was a medium for change. Now it’s just like elevator music turned up to like 45.
Kevin: You’re one of the crowd that says things were better “back in the day” then?
Russ: Oh I definitely am. Most of the bands I listen to today broke up 12 years ago, it kicks the shit out of everything we’re doing now. There’s nothing that will ever be Black Flag, or the Adolescents or whatever. But that’s how it should be, everything’s got to go in cycles.
Kevin: 12 years from now people will probably say how they miss the days punk rock was about girls not calling guys back.
Dan: I’m sure down the road, someone will say the same thing about you guys that you have said about those bands.
Russ: To have any place in history would be so amazing.
Kevin: Is there any one song or album that you’d really like to be remembered for?
Russ: I think this album is really something special. Although I’ve already read two bad reviews, and that got me down, I take that shit way to personally. One was Maximum Rock n’ Roll, and when MRR shitcans your record, a lot of people hear about it, it kind of sucks.
Kevin: Do you think reviews really affect how it does with the kids?
Russ: Floyd at FAT seems to think that if MRR kills your record you’ll sell more.
Dan: I got one other question: you guys did a cover of “Leader of The Pack” for the Oldies But Goodies compilation, and when I saw you at FAT tour last year, you seemed all serious, but in this you seemed to be having so much fun…
Russ: Well if you saw the FAT tour here, the reason I was serious was because someone threw a beer at me in the first song, and that could really put a damper on your night. We try to be intense and emotional on stage like the bands used to be when I started going to shows, but also try not to be intimidating. Some crowds will be like totally joking with us and fucking with us, and me and Chuck will get some good stuff going back and fourth, and kids seem to love it when I give Chuck a hard time. But some nights there’s stupid shit happening, like there’s fights or there’s bullies in the pit, and it throws the whole mood. We’re not a band that’s going to ignore that, we’ll stop and address it, and we’ll keep doing that every night until something changes.
Kevin: Do you usually stop when a fight starts or some bullies take over the pit?
Russ: Always. Florida, for instance, is hands down the most violent place to play shows, there are a lot of morons down there. Not to shit on the cool kids down there, but invariably six or seven morons will show up and ruin it for a couple hundred kids, and we’ve been going there, and every time there’s a fight we’ll stop playing, we’ll point them up and go what the fuck are you doing? They can be cowards in the crowd, but when you put the spotlight on them, they’ll call us faggots, or pussies, or queers or whatever, but they’ll either stop coming to shows because they feel like we’re fags and we’re not worth the time, or they’ll come and say, like, I guess I better be mellow tonight, or they’ll stop, and they’ll point it out and make it a big deal. And it’s actually improved, with the exception of one place. This last time we were in Florida it was great, we had a lot of fun, and Chuck said, maybe they’re learning, and I was like, you know he’s right. It takes the piss right out of the bullies if you stop and point them out. Plus, it empowers all the other kids to be proactive – they’ve just been waiting for something like that to happen. It’s unfortunate that kids can’t unite and do it themselves, but it empowers them to have a little pride in their scene. Kids will come up and say like thanks for doing that, that kid does that every week, and I’ll just say, why don’t you fucking do something about it? We deal with it once a year and we’re sick of it, you have to deal with him every weekend, and there are way more of you. I’m not advocating violence, but, like at Gilman St., kids would just make a little ring around the bully and then a path to the door and we’d just point, get the fuck out, and don’t come back, and just because kids had pride in their scene. I think a lot of kids feel that way, but either they’re too young, or punk is being sold to them as this commercial, bubble gum, dance party USA type thing. It used to be, at punk shows, you had some character just to walk in the door – it wasn’t cool. If kids don’t have some pride in their scene, the bands are going to stop coming, and venues are going to shut down. If kids can organize, then when someone comes into the show, they know that they won’t be welcome again if they start some shit.
Kevin: It’s happening here in DC as we speak. The Wilson Center, which has been like a landmark for the past nearly 20 years just shut down, and St. Andrews, which really was the best venue in this area is in danger because some assholes starting throwing fireworks and stuff. It’s terrible that kids don’t have any respect for what the bands give up, what the promoter gives up, what the venue gives up…
Dan: Can I actually ask my question about “Leader Of The Pack”? I was wondering how that ever got started.
Russ: Vagrant contacted us because we had done the “Before You Were Punk” series, and I’d always loved that song, and we had a friend that had a motorcycle, so we brought it into the studio and revved it up a couple times. It was a great time.
Kevin: Planning to do any new covers anytime soon?
Russ: Well we’ve got the Psychedelic Furs cover as the hidden track on this album, a minute after the last track. Do you have the cd? Did you find the cool hidden picture under the tray?
Kevin: FAT didn’t send me cover artwork, just the disc.
Russ: Oh, well if you get a chance, the cd lays on a red tray. Lift up the tray and you’ll find a really cool picture under there.