english > Russ Rankin (GOOD RIDDANCE)

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Before the "Good riddance" concert in Ljubljana, Slovenia, we had a nice opportunity to chat with Russ, their singer and big animal rights activist. This was his ninth interview that day and he was for sure tired of questioning but he still proved us that he is nice chatter and that he has a lot to say to spread the activist mood among the punk rock kids around the world. The interview took its place in the basement of cvetlicarna mediapark venue.

Terapija: How is the tour going so far?

Good riddance: we are half way done. Eight more shows and all of them in Europe.

Terapija: You are Vegan, right? How hard is it to be vegan on the tour? They always give you right food?

Good riddance: we have a rider that we send to all the venues, and in the band I am the only vegan but everybody else is vegetarian. One of our crew guys is vegan also. There is always a choice between vegan and vegetarian food. Actually it is always easier in Europe because European catering is better, they care more than in the states where we usually hear: here's some potato chips and some coke - that's all you get.

Terapija: is it expensive to be vegan in the states, because here, for example in Croatia it is.

Good riddance: I know what you mean, it is. I am vegan since 1993 and back then it was more expensive than now. Today everyone knows at least one person that is vegan, it is not weird anymore. In the northern America you have chain markets with health food, soy and stuff and more people becomes vegan and vegetarian more shops will be opened, companies will produce more and at the end the food will be cheaper. It is simple economics.
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Terapija: in the past on punk rock concerts it was normal to have anarchist / activists literature and it is not the case anymore, as far as I know?

Good riddance: I really like when this happens, and it sometimes happens. We had a tour in 2004 that was sponsored by PETA and we had a guy traveling with us from PETA the whole time. That was awesome, unfortunately we had only English, German and Spanish language but it was still very cool just to have that awareness there. And I must agree with you that once punk rock was political - it was more than entertainment. Now days most of the American punx are there only for entertainment and there are a lot of bands that are not political at all but they are still popular, but I don't think that's wrong - who am I to tell someone "you are wrong because you are not politically engaged".

Terapija: do you consider yourself to on the same scene as those bands that are not political, or do you think those are separate scenes?

Good riddance: I think in general it's all the same, but looking from other positions - it is possible to subdivide aggressive music to 50 different splits and categories if you really want to. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about that. It is really funny when we come to Europe, on the posters there is always written Good riddance - Californian melodic punk and this kid in Poland on the trip said: "can you tell me about the Californian melodic punk scene where everyone is skateboarding, wearing baggy pants and laying on the beach" and I told him that Californian melodic punk is pure European creation, there is no such thing as Californian melodic punk scene. It is just idealized view of what California is and it is funny to me.

Terapija: do you think that internet killed merchandise distro? Before it was more usual to see the tables on the gigs?

Good riddance: I don't know if it killed it, there are still ton of "distro" kids with "distros" in Prague. I must agree that it is worse than it used to be. But it was always more in Europe than in the States.

Terapija: do you think today that LPs are hard to find?

Good riddance: I think so. In Santa Cruz where I live there is a really cool record store and they sell loads of punk vinyl. Almost all my records are in vinyl. Since I bought the iPod I had to borrow CDs but I still got tons and tons of records at home. I will always have, I would never sold the anyway. Soon there's gonna be kids that never saw a record. I think that availability of music on the internet is making distro obsolete, because it is so easy now to find so many different kind of music and buy a song pretty cheap and even for free.

Terapija: do you agree with free internet downloads?

Good riddance: part of me does and part of me doesn't. Part of me that's in the band and trying to make a living doesn't like it because it is like stealing, and than the part of me that used to draw stamps on my hand and sneak in a punk show thinks it's cool. Well fatwreck signed a deal with iTunes now so the GR songs are on the network and you can buy them. So for me it is cool because it makes people easier to get our music and we still get some money for it. It is obvious that records sales are going down, but if still people can buy the songs that they like on the internet and the band can still get some money for it - that's appropriate.

Terapija: Is playing all you do? Or do you do other jobs?

Good riddance: I have another band and I am a columnist, I write a column every month in a magazine at home. Luke, our guitar player is full time student, Chuck, our bass player works for "bell sports" - they make helmets and stuff for bikes and snowboarding. We basically don't live only from playing in GR.

Terapija: what do you think what kind of activist are you? Could you declare yourself as political activist?

Good riddance: I don't know. It's always been weird because GR has been seen as a political band, I am really political - but the other guys in band are not quite as political as me. It is always been a spine line for me, I want to make sure that lyrics that I write have something relevant to say, but also I don't want to misrepresent my band mates and come out as a radically political band - in fact - we're not that way. Me personally, yeah! But not every body in a band. To present a band that has some political or social subtext to our songs is accurate, and the fact that we donate money to lot of organizations and the fact that we allow activists organization to table at our shows and the fact that we participate in benefit shows from time to time… all that stuff aside, my personal outlet is writing my column and people interviewing me and are able to separate Russ interview from GR interview.

Terapija: did you ever get into conflict with your band members because of your political engagement?

Good riddance: a little bit yes. Everybody in GR is generally, politically in same line with me, but for instance death penalty in USA is a big issue, I am opposed and Luke is not opposed to it… so we talk and discuss that a lot. But we never had serious conflict. We are all different people, different lifestyles. I am straightedge - no one else in the band is. I am pretty active in the Green party in the States. The others are either registered green or are democrats… nobody is republican, nobody likes the president. Most of the general things we agree on, like PETA and similar.

Terapija: You're the only straightedge man in the bend, so who does the drinking?

Good riddance: everybody except me, but we always play sober or at least not so drunk because we always wanna play a good show, if that is what you asked. They mostly drink after the show. Even if I knew who drinks the most I wouldn't say (general laughter). Straightedge is not for everybody. There's a lot of misconceptions about GR and that's one of them - some people think that we are straight edge band and I don't know how that ever came out. Now I wear a straightedge T-shirt but I would never wear it on the stage because it is not GR. I don't promote straightedge on the stage but a lot of straight kids come to our show just because of me and I think that's cool.

Terapija: Luke Pabich, the guitar player, wasn't he out of the band?

Good riddance: we did one tour without Luke because he had school - we had a substitute guitar player. He also plays in Outlie.
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Terapija: what would you choose: Dead Kennedys, Circle jerks or CroMags?

Good riddance: Dead kennedys! One of the first bands I got into, and Jello is there. I love Circle Jerks and CroMags too, but DK's lyrics - first time I realized powerful punk music is. First time I heard music that wasn't just entertainment, but had something to say, some sort of social critique and I thought it was really attractive. DK really influenced me! The first song I heard got me hooked!

Terapija: main differences between playing in Europe and USA?

Good riddance: The negative thing for me is I cannot believe how much people smoke here - it's insane. Hundred times more than in the USA, it's crazy to me, I can't understand that, I can't breathe and it hurts my eyes and they can smoke all night! Even my bandmates that smoke tell me: "oh my god this is awful". And it is really cool to see many different countries and cultures. There is also funny and impressive to play shows in buildings that could be older than the USA and Luke really enjoyed traveling in Poland. I have never been in Croatia for example and it would be cool to visit you sometimes and I've never been in Finland before too and I would like to play there. I think this is the most eastern part of the world we ever played.

Terapija: what's the most exotic place where you played?

Good riddance: we played in Japan and it was incredible… huge cultural difference. You from Croatia and me from USA we have some things and customs similar, but Japan is really different. We didn't have any problems in Japan, but there was always someone with us for translating stuff. My other band, "Only crime" went there last year, we didn't have a translator when we won't out looking for dinner. Most of the people don't speak English and noone can read the menus.

Terapija: our last question, would you like to play on a wedding?

Good riddance: ??would I play on a wedding (confusing face, but general laughter Op. maxse)? Are you getting married? I think we would… for a wedding present, or at least for travel expenses. Few times people arranged to propose their lifemates on good riddance stage during the show we played. I would definitely like to try to play on a wedding.

Terapija: that would be it… thank you Russ.
Good riddance: Thank you too.

maxse // 19/03/2006

PS: Photos, asking, talking: Maxse & Nina

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