Today, Fat Wreck Chords are reissuing RISE AGAINST’s 2003 album RPM with 10 bonus tracks celebrating the album's 10th anniversary of release. We’re also celebrating here by giving you an inside look at the original album from Tim McIlrath. Check it out, below. RPM10 is available to purchase via the Fat Wreck Chords online store now.
“Black Masks & Gasoline”
As we're writing our songs, the actual song title is often the last touch, not the first. In the meantime, our songs had pretty generic names that we used to easily identify them; almost always the name of a different band that the song either vaguely sounds like, or was inspired by. When Joe [Principe, bassist] brought the riff for “Black Masks & Gasoline” into the rehearsal spot, we all thought it had a NOFX feel, so the song was dubbed “NOFX.” It became the song that opens the record, and it’s still a great way to open a record I think.
RPM was the first time I was bringing a guitar to practice as I started to bring ideas to the group, and “Heaven Knows” was one of the first songs I brought in for us to collaborate on. It was fun to have two guitar players so we could play multiple parts live. [Guitarist Todd Mohney’s] style meshed well with my own, as we had already played in a band together. We were different types of players, but we complemented each other well. “Heaven Knows” was a departure from anything on The Unraveling. We ended up filming a video for it in an old oil warehouse in Chicago.
Coming from the hardcore scene in Chicago and being a band that was now breaking out of the local scene meant there were growing pains, jealous buddies and cries of “sellout.” It's a punk/hardcore trait to either feel guilty for being successful or to believe that someone must have done something questionable if his or her band becomes popular. Along with our growing notoriety (which is almost laughable looking back; we were barely filling the Fireside Bowl in Chicago!) came a lot of resentment ; songs like “Dead Ringer” came in response. More popularity and more resentment would come, but in those early years we learned how to deal with it, so we were ready to weather and dismiss it as it came.
I always thought this song had an AFI sort of feel, which would make sense as we had done a lot of the Art Of Drowning tours as an opener. We had never written a song like this before; it was a cool sign of things to come and that we weren't a one-trick pony. Brandon [Barnes’] drums on the choruses are epic. Our producers were both drummers and everyone brought the best out of each other.
“Like The Angel”
We called this one “Lifetime,” for obvious reasons when you hear the opening bassline. “Like The Angel” was a great poppy song, and I loved that I was in a band that could get away with doing songs like this and “Dead Ringer” on the same record under the same band name. We were fans of everything from Lifetime to Bad Brains, and we weren't afraid to write pop songs, hardcore songs, fast punk songs or even acoustic songs. This song was our ode to wanderlust and punk rock girls that make the world go 'round.
“Voices Off Camera”
RPM was the first time we met producers who ended up being our recording soul mates. It would only take doing one record away from Bill [Stevenson] and Jason [Livermore of Blasting Room Studios] to convince us to go back for every other recording since. This record was the beginning of a relationship that would spawn three more records throughout the next 10 years. Bill and Jason loved many of the songs on the demo we brought in as is, including this one. Joe brought this riff in and we all loved it immediately. It's really low key, so I'm barely singing, and I always loved the way the lyrics came out, and the breakdown was always fun live.
“Blood-Red, White & Blue”
This song was another Bad Religion homage and easily one of the more ferocious ones on the record. It's a guaranteed pit-starter. RPM was a punk record coming out in a post-9-11 world, but it was still a country where anti-war statements from artists were few and far between. Saying “fuck the war” in 2002 was different than saying it now, and far more dangerous. We were one of the few bands saying it and taking shit accordingly. I wanted a song that talked about the conflict of interest between our “God Bless America” attitude, and our actions that no God would ever bless.
This song was another two-guitar attack that we put together. I remember writing it in a NYC hotel room, too sick to leave so I had all these hours to kill. Still a fun song to play live and a top contender if we throw an RPM-era song into the setlist. We don't do a lot of soloing, but I love Todd's solo on this one. Todd and I had found a guitar tablature book for Appetite For Destruction in the dumpster behind our work, and it quickly became our coffee-table piece. Some of that gritty rock stank ended up in little flourishes in Todd's playing.
“Last Chance Blueprint”
I remember we played a show in the middle of this recording process, and Bill had never seen us live before then. After he saw us live, he took a whole different approach to producing our record. He knew we took the live show seriously and that we were a physical band that demands a response and interaction from our fans. “Last Chance Blueprint” was our escape song. Pretty simple in its execution, it was always a fun one to pull out live. I love the drum and bass intro and the discordant notes that Todd chose to ring out in the intro.
“To The Core”
This is another song talking about scene politics. I remember writing it and thinking this was the last time I would dignify detractors with a response. Message boards were becoming more common and people anonymously expressing opinions without being held accountable for what they were saying was becoming the norm. The internet, a creation meant to foster dialogue and creativity, was being used to basically just talk shit and rile people up. Like the song says, “Time spent on hate is time gone to waste.”
This was a really different song for us and in some ways still is. The metal intro was always fun to play, and so was the breakdown. I still think there's a line in this song which best describes us and our audience, “In a world void of feeling or heart/We are the torches in the dark.”
This was the last song we put together for the record. We just jammed on that verse riff a lot until a song came out of it. We had everything ready to go by the time we got to the studio, so we just plugged in and played. We loved Fort Collins, the people and everyone's families. We spent Thanksgiving at Bill Stevenson's house and made friends we still have to this day. It's sort of a home away from home and is now a place where we go to get work done; whether it’s a record, a demo, or a rehearsal. Todd, Joe and I would stay up late with a Casio keyboard and make joke songs in the wee hours since we had no money to go out and we didn't drink. This record was so much fun to make, and we were stoked to reunite with Bill and Jason for The Sufferer & The Witness years later.