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A Conversation With Russ Rankin
Samuel Barker
August 26, 2001

Russ Rankin

Samuel Barker: What is your name and what do you do?

Russ Rankin: Russ, I sing vocals, Good Riddance.

Samuel: How long have you been on tour so far?

Russ: We started the tour on the twenty...I don't remember, we've been on tour about a week and a half.

Samuel: So you guys are just starting out.

Russ: Yeah.

Samuel: So are you guys doing the whole tour with Kill Your Idols and Death By Stereo?

Russ: Yep.

Samuel: How'd you get hooked up with those guys?

Russ: We knew a couple of the guys in DBS before their band was a touring band and we took them out on tour to West Canada this past fall, we had a great time with them. Nice guys, fun to tour with, so we knew they'd be great to tour with. We've played a few shows with Kill Your Idols over the years and loved their music so we thought it'd be cool to have them on to. We were stoked they were able to do it, it's been awesome.

Samuel: I know you guys are doing a split together, are you doing new songs on it?

Russ: Well, we have a new record that came out on July 10th on Fat; while we were recording that album we recorded four more songs in the same session that will be on the split. They're doing three songs; it'll be on Jade Tree Records.

Samuel: Are you guys still under contract with Fat or are you on a per record basis with them now?

Russ: I think we're on a per record basis with them now. We've basically been told that they'll release our records as long as we make them.

Samuel: So are you guys close with everyone at the label?

Russ: Yeah, it's awesome. It's first name basis with almost everyone there. People treat us well. They're happy when we call; they're not dodging us or anything.

Samuel: You guys have a good mix of Hardcore and melodic punk, is that something you guys took from the bands you watched growing up in CA? I know each area has it's own sound.

Russ: I think there is something to that. Growing up in California, it definitely has it's own style of punk music that has evolved. I also think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we're older and we grew up listening to bands like Black Flag and bands like that who have a little more vinegar to them, more aggression and anger. Even the melodic stuff we've got has teeth. I think that's the thing that makes us a little different from most bands today. We don't go for pure melody. We have some melodic stuff and some angry stuff and sort of mix it all together. It comes from us being older, like I said, and listening to really aggressive bands and also being influenced by melodic bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise, bands like that.

Samuel: I know you guys did Warped Tour in 2000, was that fun to do, would you do it again?

Russ: It was cool. It was a really great way to spend the summer, because normally we'd be out doing this. It gave us a great way to play to a lot of kids who have never heard us before or have heard our name and never seen us, and a lot of kids who have no idea who we are. Warped Tour puts you in front of a lot of kids. We're still at a point where we can really use that. Every time that happens to us, whether it's Warped Tour or being asked to open up for a really big band, it's like we invariably end up making new fans. We have kids come up to us and say 'we saw you at Warped Tour and really liked you band so we came to the show.' It's a good experience. For bands like us, Warped Tour is a big honor for us. It's not like we get to choose, they wanted us to do it, we wanted to do it, we had a really good time doing it. We had a blast.

Samuel: I know when I've seen you tour, it's never necessarily just with hardcore bands, there is usually a good mix of bands. I saw you a few years ago with NUFAN. Do you think it's helped touring with various bands with different sounds?

Russ: Definitely. I think because we're on Fat Wreck Chords people try to pigeon-hole us because people think all Fat bands sound the same, which definitely isn't true. And we, I don't like using hardcore because labels are so subjective. I remember when I was a kid and when you went to see Black Flag you were a hardcore kid. We tour with bands we like as people; you spend a lot of off time with the bands. The tour with NUFAN wasn't our tour, it was a package tour and we were very fortunate to get put on a tour with a bunch of bands we normally wouldn't tour with. The fact that it was like that worked in everyone's favor. We all got exposed to kids who normally wouldn't see us. Like when we go out on the road with Sick Of It All, it's helped tremendously. There are a lot of kids, it's sad to say, who won't give us a chance because of what label we're on. The opposite thing holds true for bands like Kill Your Idols. Kids who listen to Fat bands won't give Kill Your Idols a chance because they don't know who they are. They hear that they're a New York hardcore band and they have a picture of what they'll be. On this tour already, Kill Your Idols has made a lot of new fans. Kids are like 'wow! I can't believe that you've been around all this time and we've never heard you.' Our mission is, well, it's not a mission, but we like to desegregate it. It's just music, it's amplified rock n' roll with good guys playing it, it shouldn't matter what you want to label it or what box you want to put it in.

Samuel: I agree with that. I usually hate the position of trying to think of a label for types of music.

Russ: Yeah, people in the press and people doing interviews, you have to have a place to start from. You have to have a reference point.

Samuel: Right, people get pissed about what you label their music, but people are on your ass to call it something, it's the whole convenience factor.

Russ: Through us touring we get a lot of kids who are labeled hardcore kids who like us now. Then you also have people who are into melodic punk who are buying Kill Your Idols records.

Samuel: So it's fun being able to turn people on to new things.

Russ: When I was growing up there was no division, it was all hardcore, it was all punk, it was all the same thing.

Samuel: I know when you did The Phenomenon of Craving; you guys gave some of the proceeds to The Homeless Gardens...

Russ: Yeah, the Homeless Gardens Project in Santa Cruz.

Samuel: Do you feel it's important to practice what you believe rather than just say something and no back it up.

Russ: It's definitely something we found rewarding, but it's not something I'd say every band should do. I felt it was necessary and possible for us to take it a little bit further than just singing about stuff. There are lots of bands that do that, and there are lots of bands that don't. It's fine either way; everyone has to do it their own way. They just need to do whatever they feel is their path.

Russ Rankin

Samuel: One thing I've always enjoyed about Good Riddance albums is that there are some good messages relayed, but there was never a point where you felt like something was being forced down your throat.

Russ: Yeah, I'm not any smarter than anyone else. If I'm coming across as somebody who knows more, and I'm deeming it okay to share my knowledge with the stupid, unwashed masses, than that is a position of vanity and self-centeredness and false pride. That's not what this band is about. I'm trying to do what a lot of bands did for me growing up, relay a positive message of things going on in the world that I may not have thought about, to give me positive thought things going on. That's what bands did for me, and I'm trying to do the same. We never try to speak from any kind of moral or authorial higher intelligence. We know as much or as little as anyone else. I know a lot of things I believe today are things that my eyes were opened to by someone else.

Samuel: I noticed a lot of flyers on the table, is that something you enjoy doing, bringing out material for people to read?

Russ: One thing that our band does together, because we're all different people and we never try to stand for any one thing and pigeon-hole the band, one thing is our band is across the board is either vegetarian or vegan and really into animal rights. On our record previous to our EP we donated money to PETA and in return they gave us a lot of information to bring on tour. That gives us an outlet to get information to people who normally wouldn't get it. In this society the meat and dairy are such a strong lobby that they have a stranglehold on information and we're lied to and not given all the facts. We're making poor decisions with what we put in our body. So when we're 50 or 60 and our bodies start breaking down and we start getting heart disease we start to wonder 'why me? Why me?' The ecological and physical impact of the meat and dairy industry is not something taught in school and not something readily available. We counter their propaganda with our own propaganda, except ours is based on fact. I believe most people are compassionate and intelligent and when faced with the facts would probably make some different decisions. In this case we are able to make information available. It's just sitting there, you can take it or leave it; it's not being forced upon you. My goal is that everyone pays attention to what they put in their bodies. Right now we're not, we're being lied to and poisoning ourselves, it's a tragedy and it shouldn't be happening in a country like this. It shouldn't happen anywhere.

Samuel: Well, to the lighter side of things, are you still involved with hockey?

Russ: Yeah, I haven't played in while because I've been gone. Summer league is going on right now and I'm not going to play a single game with my team.

Samuel: I just always was intrigued by a California band that has an active player in the group. Is it something you got into late in life?

Russ: I just started playing a few years ago, like 8 years ago, when the San Jose Sharks moved in. I like half an hour from San Jose; I have season tickets. I've been a fan since 1980, since the 'Miracle on Ice.' I was a big fan but I never had a chance to play or go to any games. Then when they started the league for beginners, I was like 'sign me up.' I've played every chance I get.

Samuel: Yeah, a few years ago we got an IHL team and everyone has taken to them. They built a big ice rink and more and more people are getting into hockey.

Russ: Yeah, the Houston Aeros.

Samuel: Anything you'd like to add or say to people who read it.

Russ: I'd like to thank people in the Houston area who have supported our band here for years. It's one of our favorite places to play; seriously, we've always been treated well and had an awesome response here, the city rocks!

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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