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Rise Against

Forged in the Chicago punk scene of the late ‘90s, Rise Against seemed an unlikely candidate for mainstream success. After signing to a major label in 2003, Rise Against went on to release six albums that reached the Billboard 200—five of which charted in the top ten. In this episode we speak with vocalist/guitarist Tim McIlrath and guitarist Zach Blair about sheltering in place, being political, following your passion, Zach’s tenure in the band Gwar, and much more.

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Transcript

Speaker 1:
Welcome to an Ernie Ball podcast. It starts now.

Evan Ball:
Welcome to Ernie Ball's Striking a Chord. I'm Evan Ball. Today we have Tim McIlrath and Zach Blair of Rise Against on the podcast. We have a wide ranging conversation, including a great discussion on record labels. Rise Against have been on independent labels and major labels over the past two decades. In that time span their band grew massively and of course the record industry saw drastic evolution. So they definitely have some perspective and authority on this topic. Other topics include following your passion, being political, sheltering in place in the age of COVID-19, Zach's tenure in the band Gwar and more.

All right, there are a few rough spots for the audio. Internet connections fluctuate but this is the era of remote communications, so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Tim and Zach of Rise Against.

Evan Ball:
Tim McIlrath and Zach Blair, welcome to the podcast.

Tim McIlrath:
Thank you for having us.

Zach Blair:
Thank-

Evan Ball:
So how are you guys passing your time lately?

Zach Blair:
I'm staying really positive. I mean, I'm a positive guy. I see a glass as half full. I think everybody, I'm sort of impressed with everyone's resilience and adherence to sort of community and paying attention to things and taking things in stride. I don't know, man, I think we're getting ahead of this thing, the numbers are showing good now. So I'm using it as ... To quote my buddy here, Tim McIlrath, as a collective sort of pause and a sigh and a regrouping of sorts and trying to learn from it and take some positive things away from it. With my days, I'm playing a lot of guitar, like I always do and writing music and trying to exercise as much as I can. But I've developed my own little daily rituals.

Evan Ball:
How about you, Tim?

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, for me, it's been a lot of ... Like we weren't supposed to be on the road at this time anyway, and so there was minimal disruption to the Rise Against world. Like we finished our whole tour and campaign for Wolves a while back and so really we've been just in the writing mode. And so for musicians that are in the writing phase of their cycles, it's probably a pretty normal thing. So we've been lucky that we didn't have the mass disruption that a lot of friends of ours and peers of ours had with their crews and touring, the trucks you rent, the shows that you now have to postpone and reset, people that have records coming out and all momentum that goes into putting a record out.

That can be like really frustrating, and so in a lot of ways we've sort of dodged a lot of bullets in that sense and like I think this whole thing, it's definitely, I've heard people kind of call it the great equalizer because it's hitting everybody all at once, but honestly, it's hitting some people in the world a lot harder than it's hitting other people, and that's something that I'm trying to be aware of and recognize that some people don't have the option to stay home, some people are on the frontlines and now the frontlines, instead of being what we typically think of as frontlines, the frontlines are grocery stores. Frontlines are emergency personnel, that kind of thing. So those are people that are really putting themselves at risk to keep the wheels turning. Because the world will keep turning, if an advertising executive does not go to work for the next six months, you know what I mean?

Evan Ball:
Right.

Tim McIlrath:
But someone's got to pick up your garbage, you know?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
It sort of redefines what essential really is.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, it is really a time where you take stock of everything and kind of reassess.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, absolutely.

Evan Ball:
And just for our future listeners, we're recording this on April 9th, 2020, so ...

Tim McIlrath:
Oh, yeah.

Evan Ball:
We've been living the stay at home life for almost a month now and who really knows how close we are to the end of the tunnel? Do you guys write remotely, anyway?

Tim McIlrath:
In the pat, yeah, because we're kind of ... so I guess everybody knows our whole deal. Joe and I are in Chicago, Zach is in Austin, Texas, and that's where we both are presently, and then Brandon lives outside of Denver, Colorado and so for the majority of this band's existence at this point, we've done stuff remotely and we've kind of figured that whole thing out. I think we've done a pretty good job at it.

Zach Blair:
Yeah, it's kind of good to have your corner to go to, because we're one of those bands that we never really stop touring the way a younger band tours. We've always managed to keep a very steady touring schedule and so with that having been said, it's like it's also nice to have your little corner of the world to go to and just ...

Evan Ball:
Yeah, all right, let's get a little history. Did you guys grow up with music in your homes?

Tim McIlrath:
I guess like the broad answer is no for me. There was certainly music but my parents were not musical. I took like the piano lessons that you're supposed to take as a young person and then my parents have record collections. They have three records. They had Kenny Rogers; Don Mclean, so American Pie; and then Bill Cosby himself, and that's like if we went on road trips, we listened to those three records like back to back to back to back to back. So I can sing the words to any of those songs.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Tim McIlrath:
But it really wasn't a ... Like getting into music was really like my own independent journey. Like as I became more an adolescent, I got into what was on the radio and the punk scene and metal. I had two older sisters who were like way into heavy metal and so when I started hearing stuff like Guns N' Roses and that kind of thing, that was a little bit on the heavier side of it, it was like, "Oh, this is kind of interesting." Then when I finally heard a band like Minor Threat, I was like, "Well, this is fucking dangerous. This is incredible," and that's where it kind of went for me.

Evan Ball:
How did you come across Minor Threat? Was that from friends?

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, it's kind of everyone has that story of like the older kid in your neighborhood, the mixed tape, that whole thing. That was what it was. It was like between like ... I remember I went away to camp and there was an older cooler counselor who had like Dock Martins and he was into punk and I had heard a little bit of some punk bands and so I knew a little bit and so when he found out I knew a little bit, he was like, "Well, now you need to discover all these bands." He gave me a mixed tape with Social Distortion, Screech and Weasel, Fugazi, Naked Raygun, Minor Threat, Descendants, and Subhumans, I think. I'm sure a lot of guys our age have the same stories but that was all you had, like when I walked away with that, I couldn't go research it on the internet, you know what I mean?

Evan Ball:
Right.

Tim McIlrath:
I didn't see a picture of what these bands looked like. At that point I was like 12 or 13, so it wasn't like I was hanging out in the city and going to shows yet, really. So these mixed tapes were really important back then, because they really were your only one, your one and only lifeline to this subculture that was existing globally and each thing was a different piece of the puzzle that you cherished.

Evan Ball:
How about you, Zach?

Zach Blair:
I had like normal kids have a football dad that pushes them into sports and I had a music dad that pushed me into music. My dad was a Radio DJ so he was like a classic rock, all night request hour guy and my dad had a show my entire life from ... He went to work, his show started at 10:00 PM and he worked until the morning. So my dad always slept during the days and that he just, to show us his life ... but it was a lot of like a heavier music, like classic rock and acid rock and stuff. So my dad was really into like Blue Cheer and, of course, Sabbath and Hendrix and the psychedelic stuff. But also because I'm from Texas, my dad's favorite band of all time was ZZ Top.

I also have a brother Donny, who plays in the band The Toadies and my brother was early on a bass player and so my big brother and my dad just kind of ... My dad just gave us guitars and was like, "Here's what you guys are going to do," and would just ask us if we were practicing and ask us what songs we learned today and stuff like that. Our family was broke because my dad was a DJ. My mother was a florist at a grocery store, so money didn't exactly flow in, but I do remember, we would hock our TV but we wouldn't hock the stereo.

My dad always just had the record sitting up against the speaker of what was playing and normally it was ZZ Top's Deguello and Robin Trower's Bridge of Sighs or Victims of the Fury, actually, and Black Sabbath's Volume Four, just either one of those records.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Zach Blair:
So to me, there wasn't a choice and I'm glad I didn't. I actually did love it. I eternally wanted to impress my dad and have his approval but I also really had an affinity and a love for it as well. So it never occurred to me to think of anything else to do, which served me later on because I had that resilience tested many times when people you went to high school with are now graduating college and starting families and having kids and having mortgages and you're in your 30s and you're in a band with a bunch of dudes. But thankfully, I stuck to what I wanted to do and didn't care about what else happened. I just knew that I wanted to do this.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
You know, you kind of do that rebellious thing, a little bit what Tim was talking about where you met the older kids, you meet the kids ... I'm from a really small terrible town in Texas, where no one was like my brother and I and so we had to start importing. We had to start try to meet kids from Dallas and sure enough we did and those kids started telling us about Minor Threat and the Descendants and we sort of found our own music that wasn't my dad's. We had started already because we had found Thrash Metal, because a gateway drug from all the other things we were listening to that my dad wasn't into was Metallica.

So the Metallica was ours and that led us into like really aggressive over the top Black and Def Metal and that led us to punk. Because you just would see pictures of these bands and whatever tee shirts they were wearing, you're like, "Oh, I'm going to check that out."

Evan Ball:
Nice, okay. So you're punk and metal?

Zach Blair:
I'm punk and metal. I'm a bit equal. I think I'm about 60-40, I'll say, 60% punk but and Tim send me a song earlier today, just to let you know, that I was like, "Holy fuck, what's this and how do I not know it?"

Tim McIlrath:
Isn't that song so good?

Evan Ball:
What?

Zach Blair:
It's so fucking good.

Tim McIlrath:
So like Petty Rollins is doing this KCRW, a four hour stream of music where he just play a radio DJ. I mean that's what he is, right, but you can just kind of stream it and so I've been listening to it over and over and Lair of the Minotaur, Let's Kill all these Motherfuckers. Was that what it was, right?

Zach Blair:
Yup.

Tim McIlrath:
That was so brutal.

Zach Blair:
Yeah, I think you could say that I'm a fair share of metal and I also did a stint in Gwar and so that definitely fed into my metal thing. After that, I was like, I need to play in a punk rock band again.

Evan Ball:
Wait, what ... Let's pause there, real quick. So it's not a rumor. You were actually Flattus Maximus in the band Gwar?

Zach Blair:
I was. It's like my party trick that I pull.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Zach Blair:
I can say. I was in Gwar and people go, "What the fuck?"

Evan Ball:
Is there any way to summarize in a nutshell, like the mythology of Gwar?

Zach Blair:
In a nutshell, Gwar are Space Pirates that their sleazy manager from ... They crash landed on the Earth, in Antarctica and this manager guy, enterprising guy went and got them addicted to drugs so they would serve him for the rest of their lives and he gave them crack cocaine. I mean, it's the silliest stupid thing but then it's music theater at its finest so we were setting up and turning down a theater set every day and performing the same things and knowing your marks and knowing your beats and stuff, leg by the genius Dave Brockie, rest in peace, this most charismatic, gregarious individual I've ever met, funniest. But it ran its course with me, there was also a bunch of ... and this is okay to talk about, but some addiction issues that I don't clutch my pearls up but there was some in that band that were getting the way of progress, I guess we should say.

And also, I joined these guys' band and I never felt like it was my thing. When I joined Rise Against, it was with open arms and I felt like I had been in the band since day one. But I wouldn't trade my Gwar years for anything and as a matter of fact, the guy that replaced me, Cory Smoot, he died. I got to go back and write with them six or seven songs and play on Dave Brockie's last record.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, what a unique experience and those were some pretty heavy duty costumes. How were the live shows? Is it difficult to play?

Zach Blair:
One Gwar live show is like one month of a regular show. It was 60 pounds of hot rubber on your body and you just ... If you got through the show without vomiting that was a miracle, because you vomited all ... It was awful.

Evan Ball:
You play a lot of leads in that, too, right?

Zach Blair:
Yeah, I was Lead Guitar Player and it was ... You had to learn how to see ... I had these cheek bones in my mask. I couldn't see my guitar, so I had to basically practice the whole set without looking, which helped me in the long run with other things, but ...

Evan Ball:
Totally, yeah, yeah. So you've got a lesser known shred side to you, I take it.

Zach Blair:
I'm a Shredder at heart, I think. It's long division. I don't think it really helps you many other places. You don't need to know it really, but it's fun to have it in your back pocket.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. All right is there a worst or best gig ever that comes to mind?

Zach Blair:
A generic answer is that we get to do this and we get people still showing up after 20 years that want to see us do this and want to hear what we're doing. So every gig is ... I mean honestly, and that sounds so hackneyed and so sort of played out but very gig we do, I'm so amazingly blown away. We did play to ... and it's on film, I think it's one of the ones that sticks out with me most. We got rained on the entire time. We filmed it for our DVD that we put out. It was [inaudible 00:15:34] in Germany, which is their version of say Coachella and the Europeans do festivals right.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Zach Blair:
And there was ... How many people were there, Tim?

Tim McIlrath:
They say like 80,000.

Evan Ball:
Whoo.

Zach Blair:
80, 85, it was so large that you saw this city of people and then behind them was just a video wall. So let's say 40,000 people we're playing to and then 40,000 more were just watching video walls of what we were doing, because we're this big, you know? We're like the size of a LEGO minifig, or whatever. It rained on us the entire time and I remember thinking like, "We're going to get electrocuted, but this is going to be a great way to die." And so I always remember that show.

Worst, I've had many, many worsts, Gwar had a lot of bad ones because just of the logistics of Gwar, and that's a whole other podcast. Falling down in the suit and turtle-backing where you can't get up, somebody has to come get you, and that's the worst. Falling on stage, [inaudible 00:16:39] but we did do one and I want to say there was two different shows and we're on the same tour. One was in Warsaw, Poland and one was in Prague, Czech Republic, that were so hot, I remember ...

Tim McIlrath:
Oh, yeah.

Zach Blair:
I remember, we were only inhaling sweat.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
You're only inhaling everyone's perspiring wetness, so you weren't breathing and I remember Tim who ... Tim McIlrath has never done this in his life, take his shirt off on stage and then kicked his shoes off on stage and then you were just playing one chord, walking around stunned, but nothing comes out, and we all were.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
I remember thinking, I looked at our [inaudible 00:17:23], we had five songs left. It was like, "There's no fucking way we're getting through these songs." And I think we did cut it ... Did we cut it early?

Tim McIlrath:
I think we definitely cut some songs, I want to say.

Zach Blair:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
I remember the heat hitting me in this way that I was getting disoriented and no longer thinking straight.

Zach Blair:
Oh, no, you weren't.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, and like you said, at some point in my head, I decided, this was crazy, because I was not thinking straight anymore. I was like thinking, "You know what, if I just take my shoes off, everything will be better. Just, I just need to get these shoes off." And you've got to imagine, too. Like you're talking to two guys, we don't smoke weed. We don't do drugs, neither one of us drink, you know what I mean? So like, well, this moment, maybe something people are familiar with when they party really hard. Like this was like just two cold sober ...

Zach Blair:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
People, and for me, just like ... and I just was no longer ... Like I was losing my mind, you know.

Zach Blair:
Oh, it was the worst.

Tim McIlrath:
It was one of those hot, hot ... If you ever see a picture of me or any of us playing with like a black towel around our necks.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
It's because we're playing a really fucking hot show and then our Bass Tech Mike Fry, God bless, Mike Fry.

Zach Blair:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
He'll see when we start to lose it. He'll dip these towels in ice water and he'll come out and sneak up behind you and put it on your neck and it'll give you another 10 minutes of life.

Zach Blair:
It's great. It's great.

Tim McIlrath:
Like, "Okay, I can do this." But if you've ever seen a picture of us playing that, know that he's looking at us and going, "Oh, shit, they're about to die. Someone give me a towel."

Zach Blair:
I'm about to go down. It's like, I just remember those two shows, Warsaw was kind of like a basement, I remember, it was a downstairs and the walls were sweating and the ceiling was dripping. I remember that and I was just getting drips on my forehead, it was that bad.

Evan Ball:
This is especially graphic in the age of COVID-19.

Tim McIlrath:
It's true. Yeah.

Zach Blair:
Oh, dude. Yeah, no kidding. Yeah, it was the worst, it was the worst but we made it through and you kind of also romanticize it because you remember like the pictures of all your favorite punk bands doing the same thing. You're like, "Yeah, we did it."

Evan Ball:
So Tim, no accidents ever from swinging a mic cable around?

Tim McIlrath:
Oh, have I hit anybody, Zach? Ever? I don't think I've hit anybody.

Zach Blair:
You know what's really amazing is that you have come within a half an inch of hitting my head ...

Tim McIlrath:
Oh, God.

Zach Blair:
So many fucking times and you've never done it, unbelievable.

Tim McIlrath:
That hurts so, that hurts so bad.

Evan Ball:
Pushing it.

Zach Blair:
Tim and I have definitely ran into each other many times.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
We never knocked each other down, but we've definitely and it's usually our backs, we hit backs and then we kind of bounce off of each other. Like, "Oh, shit," you know.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
And I've fallen so many times, so many.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, I've fallen, too. I use to fall a lot.

Zach Blair:
Oh, yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
So you fall and there's just no good way ... You got to laugh it off with the crowd.

Zach Blair:
Yeah, [crosstalk 00:20:18].

Tim McIlrath:
I just have fun with it, you know, but not ... I don't think I've hurt anybody. That would hurt so bad. If that happened. It would hurt so bad.

Zach Blair:
I remember I came down, remember in Manchester, I came down with my headstock and I just took a chunk out of my own head and they had to rush the paramedics out after the show, because it was my head and it wouldn't stop bleeding.

Evan Ball:
Wait, you own headstock hit your ...

Zach Blair:
Yeah, my own headstock on my own head.

Evan Ball:
Your head, your head, yeah.

Zach Blair:
Yeah, because I was like swinging my guitar down and just ...

Evan Ball:
Oh, I see, I see.

Zach Blair:
I didn't need stitched stitches, but it's definitely looked pretty dramatic, because there was ambulance out in front of the venue as the kids are leaving and everything. It looked cool.

Evan Ball:
All right. Tim, how did Rise Against, how was it born?

Tim McIlrath:
I guess it was like 20 years ago now, late '90s Chicago punk and hardcore world Joe's previous band, which was called Idiot Fingers Louie had disintegrated, I was at a kind of crossroads as well. He approached me and he was like, "I want to do a project. This is kind of what I have some songs written," and he gave me a cassette of the songs. I heard them a few times and then went and just sang whatever's off the top of my head of the songs. Right away, we could tell like, okay, this could be a cool thing. Then we sort of assembled the band over the next year or so in Chicago and things happened rather quickly after we finally got like a [inaudible 00:21:58] together.

Tim McIlrath:
We were signed to Fat Wreck Chords out of San Francisco before we even played our first show and that was due to a number of reasons. Mostly because we couldn't getting a [inaudible 00:22:10] together to like play our first show. We were ready. Like Joe was ready, I was ready, we wanted to but like we had auditioned 17 drummers, something like that, trying to find ... Before we found Brandon and so that's kind of where the band started, like our origins and then we snowballed from there and even though we've actually known Zach since literally like our first tour, he ended up joining the band years later.

Tim McIlrath:
We crossed paths with him many times over the first few records of the band and then we finally ... When it came up and we needed somebody, he was the first guy we thought of, when he joined the band. It wasn't like we held auditions, it was kind of like everybody was like, "Hey, what about Zach?" Everyone's like, "Yeah," and that was it.

Zach Blair:
I remember back then I had been in a band that had put out a few records on Fat ... Oh, actually, I'd been two different bands that have been on Fat Wreck Chords, so it was all this family and they would always send you their current releases, their records and their things. I just remember getting the first Rise Against record and hearing his voice and just thinking, you know, nothing disparaging the current state at the time of punk rock music, but I wasn't hearing much that was like really different or blowing me away or doing their own thing. And his fucking voice, I remember playing it for all my friends and going, "Did you hear this fucking kid on Fat Wreck? Who the fuck is this guy?" I still think that to this day, actually.

Evan Ball:
That's great.

Zach Blair:
Yeah, that's always, it never ceases to amaze me. My brother and I were just talking about Tim's voice today, actually, but I knew even then. I was like, "Man, I would play in this band." I had a band with Bill Stevenson who produces Rise Against records and always has. He's kind of like our fifth member, our mentor, our seer, our sage.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
Our guru.

Tim McIlrath:
Our guru.

Zach Blair:
Our guru, and he's been my mentor since I was a kid. I punched him when I was 16, because I loved his band and he took my band under his wing and started producing our records in the '90s and all that shit, but our band was calling and crying, and the guys, Rise took us out and that's when we really, really bonded, and man, it was maybe two years after that tour, they just called me. Cold called me. I was working construction and these guys called me on the phone and were like, "Hey, dude, do you want to be in our band?" I was like at Home Depot. I was like, "Fucking [crosstalk 00:24:48]."

Evan Ball:
Oh, that's awesome.

Zach Blair:
"You want me there tomorrow?"

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
"How about tonight, motherfucker?"

Evan Ball:
Tim, backing up, did you leave college for Rise Against?

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, I would have been going to my senior year. I was an English major and a Sociology minor and I was a pretty half-assed student. I wasn't on this like full scholarship grind with a job waiting for me at the other end.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, well, you're still playing in bands the whole time, too, right?

Tim McIlrath:
Still playing bands. I mean college was really just a way for me to leave town, live in a punk house, have my parents vaguely support me while I went to shows every single night in downtown Chicago. I kind of lived at a place called Fireside Ball and I played music just all the time. We built like a shitty practice space in the basement of this punk house and I just played music and wrote songs with friends and jumped from band to band and I was a bass player in a band and I was the singer of some bands and I was the guitar player in some bands. Really, I was going to show is I was just ... I didn't need anybody to go with, I didn't care who was playing, I was just a kid that would just show up with five bucks and be like, "I'm here. I don't care who's playing. I just want to see music."

Tim McIlrath:
I remember doing that and loving living in downtown Chicago because there were so many shows that were happening and it wasn't ever like a careers kind of way. It was just an impulse. I just, that's where I wanted to do, it's where I wanted to be. I never truly never really saw myself in a million years still doing this this many years later. I put bands on pedestals. I put professional musicians on pedestals. I thought that was something that other people did, but I loved doing it. Yeah, I never went back to school but I'm glad that I had the years that I did.

Evan Ball:
So you must have felt it was promising enough, right, to pull you away?

Tim McIlrath:
I knew that like no matter what, there was enough momentum behind what we were doing that we were at least going to get to the first rung of the ladder.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
And I knew that at that point, we had a deal with Fat Wreck Chords, which was a really big deal in like the late '90s, early 2000s.

Evan Ball:
Totally, yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
It was like people subscribed to Fat Wreck Chords. Like having a record on Fat almost guaranteed you were going to sell 10,000 copies and tour the world, you know what I mean and so I saw it as a great opportunity. I was aware enough to know this was a cool thing. You know, maybe we'll get a record out of it, maybe I'll get to tour. I hadn't really traveled that much before then. It was almost felt like you were winning a contest, you know what I mean? Like it felt like you were getting chosen to go do this, but just like contest is a one time thing, that's what it felt like. It didn't feel like you would still be doing it. You didn't have the delusions of grandeur to think like, "Maybe there'll be a second record. Maybe there's be another tour."

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
Maybe I'll still be doing this a couple of years from now, but it did, it had enough momentum where we were going to go into a real studio, we're going to put out a full length, and we're going to play show, and school is going to be very much interrupted by all that and so I convinced my parents ... My parents pretty much given up on me at that point though so there wasn't a lot of convincing. They were like ...

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
They stopped fighting my impulses in a long time, but I told them, "I'm not going to go to school, I'm go to a studio, I'm going to record a full length, and I'm going to go on tour. When this all falls apart a year later, there's always college. I can always go back."

Evan Ball:
Sure, well, and you guys must have had, been well connected with Fat Wreck Chords from previous bands, 88 Fingers Louie, and other connections?

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, that was huge, that was like ... I mean that was the reason we got our first start. Everything else was up to us, you know what I mean? From that opportunity, but from Joe having a history with 88 Fingers Louie who had toured internationally at that point, so his connections were vital to us getting off the ground.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah, the Fat Wreck Chords era I knew best was right before you guys signed with them, so I'm sure there's some overlap there, but it was Strung Out, Lag Wagon, No Use for a Name, Mad Caddies. So the band I was playing in Forever stopped playing, so I kind of lost touch and shifted my energy into college finally, but I remember, this was a time where some emo bands started showing up on Warped Tour like 2001-ish. So when you're up and running with Fat, this era's kind of a blind spot for me, I'm curious, what is the state of Fat Wreck Chords at this time? Are tastes changing, is it pretty mixed?

Zach Blair:
I want to say, yeah, it seemed like the '90s were the big boom of those bands you just mentioned.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
Fat Wreck, I remember Europe, like festivals in Europe that not even an Fat Wreck band was playing, has Fat Wreck merchandise. It was such a phenomenon, such a cult ...

Evan Ball:
Right.

Zach Blair:
And all of this was just happening, with Fat Mike and it was an independent label and these bands are getting such ... Just creating such a thing. That of course it wasn't completely sustainable and then going into, I think Rise Against era, Fat, the early on aughts to mid aughts to the emo generation and all that stuff with the Warped Tour, I think bands as Fat smartly started looking into other sounds. Rise Against did not sound like a Fat Wreck band to me.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Zach Blair:
That record was ... it sounded more like sick of it all and good sort of East Coast style hardcore mixed with Jagnasty mixed with Tim's voice coming out of no one had heard a guy sing like that with this type of band. So along with them, they signed ... What were more bands that kind of got signed.

Tim McIlrath:
Around that time, there was a shift, like you said, and there was a shift in sound and it was ... They went from the No Use for A Name, Lag Wagon, NOFX, Strungout World, to all of a sudden they signed Avail. Avail was like gutter punk, Richmond, Virginia punk rock. That was a huge sign. They signed Sick of It All, New York City Hardcore, that was a big shift for them. They signed Anti-Flag, which at the time was kind of out there. They started to sign bands like Against Me and Lawrence Arms. They were putting out like some really cool bands like Dead to Me.

Evan Ball:
It's a broader net.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, so there was a shift in what Fat was doing and it was stuff that like it maybe didn't have that same Fat sound but it had something in common with like the Fat sound.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
So it felt like we were part of this new era of Fat Wreck Chords. That was cool and it was important and it was like, when you signed to Fat you also signed to a family.

Zach Blair:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
Because not only did Fat Mike give us our shot and put our record out, but then that was our first five years was opening for Strung Out for a long time, opening for the Mad Caddies around the world, opening for Sick of It All on our first European Tour, opening for NOFX on our first Western Canadian Tour, those were all directly related to the fact that we were on the Fat family. Those are tours that I don't think we would have been on had we not been part of that Fat family and not only was it huge for us and our huge introduction to so many fans around the world, but it also taught us that this is how you do it. Like you give back.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
We were nobody when Sick of It All took us to Europe but they did it because it was like part of this family. We were nobody when NOFX took us to play for massive crowds in Western Canada, but they did it because they kind of, they were giving back and so it really taught us like, "You've got to give back. You've got to take this bands out. Oh, you've got to give them a chance because that's why we're here because somebody gave us a chance.

Zach Blair:
Yeah, it's almost like, "Here is the keys to the kingdom, all you've got to do is just go and do likewise." You know, you had these sort of people showing you what they did, how they did it, and taking you out with them, to do it with them and to get you on the job training, so to speak. Yeah, the weight of what he did for bands of our generation can't be understated, I don't think. Him and Brett Gurewitz at Epitaph.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
Those two labels just broke the mold on how we all sort of had careers from the '90s to the aughts to now, it's unbelievable what those guys did for us.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, this is kind of a general question. The business has changed a lot since you guys got signed. What's the biggest perk of having a label today?

Tim McIlrath:
You touch on something really interesting and something I think that is heavily debated in the music world is the idea of putting out your own record, going DIY, taking things away from like a bigger structural framework of a label, and kind of selling music through your own website that kind of thing. I think that there is a lot of validity to that. A big label can be dead weight for a lot of bands, a lot of people, depending on who you are. We are a band that ... and I can only speak to our career, we're like a global band. If you had to take what Rise Against does and put it in numbers, most of those numbers would fall into, fall outside of the border of America.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Tim McIlrath:
And so what we do, and not only is it global but we have to look at it as a global thing, not even just an American thing or a North American thing. And so you have to treat it as a global thing and know that a label is the kind of thing you're going to need if you want help in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Australia, Japan, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, all at the same time and so we've always had a lot of success with that sort of world where there's boots on the ground around the entire planet, to help support what you do, which is great because we make songs and we want people to hear them and there's no point to making them if they don't hear them.

Zach Blair:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
And so we've gone from an Indie label, obviously, Fat Wreck Chords, our first two records, and then we signed a five record deal, well, with Dreamworks but it turned into a five record deal with like basically Universal Music Group. We did all five of those records over the course of about 10 or 11 years, and then became a free agent and then we signed a Virgin Records for our last record, and now we're with a label called Loma Vista, which is part of Concord.

Tim McIlrath:
So we've been around the block and we've seen these things kind of take place but the label has always been really important to a band like us, because there's some smart people and also as you know, the industry has been changing, it's a constantly moving target. So when you're a band like us who's been putting out records since the year 2001, the climate in which we put out each record was different. When we put out the first two records, like social media wasn't really a thing. When we put out the third record, iTunes was brand new, now it's kind of gone.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
And so this thing is every time we would put out a record, it'll be like a different world. It would just be, "Oh, you have to do an exclusive song or give an exclusive song to Tower Records and the next record, "Well, now Tower Records no longer exists."

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
Now you need an exclusive song for like Best Buy or whatever. It's like, "Oh, actually, Best Buy is decreasing shelf space for records every single day so it doesn't matter."

Evan Ball:
Right, right.

Tim McIlrath:
So it doesn't matter.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
And so the whole business side of it is something that I think that the right people or somebody smart can kind of help you keep up with it, if you find the right partner.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
And I think that says a lot. I think the right partner, labels nowadays I've noticed, especially with like say Loma Vista that we're working with now, they're approaching it, they have younger people that work for them, they know that say TikTok is the way that people are getting, hearing music now or whatever it might be. Things that we're not keep ... We're in a bus touring and playing shows, like we're not figuring all these things out as they're happening, because like Tim said it's just constantly evolving, it's shifting and changing.

Zach Blair:
So you have these younger people in your family, in your spectrum that are ... Like Tim says, boots on the ground that are working with you, that you feel have stake in the game just like you do and they're going, "Oh, actually we need to be doing these sorts of things now." They get involved with the band. It's not so much, "We're going to work this record now." Because what is a record nowadays?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
There's not this unit, this thing that we used to make that goes out as sort of a widget that people are buying and consuming. They're consuming your band and so now maybe you have eight to 10 or to 12 new songs at any given moment but those eight to 10, 12 new songs are basically just a flyer for ... "Oh, and this is Rise Against, and they're going to be doing this and this and this and this," and that label now is your partner that are telling you all the different varied ways that you can be working on your career.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
That's an impressive thing, seeing how they've sort of morphed, the sort of modern label because they have to stay in business as well and if you show up at work one day and it's like, "Oh, by the way, that thing we've been selling this whole time. That thing is free now. Okay, so scramble, now how are we going to be able to keep these doors open?"

Evan Ball:
Right.

Zach Blair:
I think they've done it to a really great, great degree, yeah.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, that's great. That's illuminating, because I hear a lot of the other side, like they're labels are obsolete or whatever, but that makes a lot of sense.

Tim McIlrath:
It's not a one size fits all thing either, you know what I mean?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
We grew up in a punk world where ... and you grew up in a punk and a hardcore world, it's like the major label is always evil, right? The major label destroyed your favorite band, broke your heart. There's no scenario where it could be a good thing, and like that was something that I know I was indoctrinated with. I read the Steve Albini columns about what major labels are and it scared the shit out of me and I think that it's even possible to be ... like it's case by case almost, there could be a band having that experience with the same level you're on while you're having a great experience.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Tim McIlrath:
I will say like Rise Against, like I'll speak to like say our five record deal with Universal. We signed a five record deal with Universal Records in 2004, we wrote and recorded all five of those records without ever submitting a demo first, without them ever hearing what they're going to get before they got it, without ever changing anything and kind of making it clear to them that we will not entertain any request to change anything either, so they never really did.

Zach Blair:
Any of their suggestions.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, yeah. We just stopped them, we're just like, "Just so you know, were going to say no to whatever you say," so they're not going to say anything. Nobody ever sent us back to write single. We never worked with a co-writer on any of those records or any record, period. We did all of that independent of any sort of intervention. We delivered five records, three of them went gold, all of them were a success, and nobody fucked with us.

Evan Ball:
Not necessarily the bogeyman you might have heard of.

Tim McIlrath:
Well, not only that, but like, well, we signed in 2003 and then we left in say like 2013 or 14, we had been there longer than anybody in the office at that point.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
You know what I mean? Like it wasn't even the same people. The president had changed three times.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Tim McIlrath:
Like Jimmy Iden was now working for Beats when we left, you know, and so it was like, we were allowed to do our own thing. We never took tour support from a label. It was really, we found this dream scenario that worked oddly well for us and I'm not saying that every day on that label had a good experience but I know that like I heard horror stories from independent labels.

Evan Ball:
Sure.

Zach Blair:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
Just because the word independent precedes your label doesn't mean that you're a good label doing good things.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Tim McIlrath:
I would think what also made me a believer in that whole system, too, was that when Rise Against did our major label debut, which was Siren Song of the Counter Culture, the two singles that propelled that record and kind of therefore like our introduction to a bigger world, were two previously released songs that were comp tracks from punk rock comps that had come out already. The two songs were Swing Life Away and Give it All, but they were two old songs. They were songs that Fearless Records had put out in a punk goes acoustic comp and Fat Wreck Chords had put out on the Rock Against Bush compilation.

Tim McIlrath:
And so we got to see in real time what these songs look like just kind of put out to the world or what these songs could do if you have this giant machine working behind them globally.

Evan Ball:
That's interesting. Wow, yeah, scientific experiment.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah ... Totally, they were old songs. They were songs people had already heard, but when you gave them to these people at the label, it was like, "Let's do something with this." After that, I was a believer, you know, because I was like, "Thank you for shining a light on these songs that we love and that we wrote. We want people to hear," and they did that.

Evan Ball:
This is something I've wondered about, Tim, I know you write plenty of lyrics that are not political, but some are.

Tim McIlrath:
Right, yeah.

Evan Ball:
So you become known for taking certain positions. When you introduce politics into a band, I would think everyone in the band's politics must be aligned and to some degree. Is this ever an issue?

Tim McIlrath:
You know, no, it hasn't been and I guess like I never thought about it and ... We started the band, especially as lyricist you're just being asked to write something that you are passionate about, right? You're just being asked to put your heart on the paper and that's all I did and I think I sort of ... in like a really probably self-absorbed kind of way, I just assumed everybody agree with me. You know what I mean? I didn't think about their feelings in the whole matter, I just thought, "This is my job. This is what I'm here to do is to write this."

Tim McIlrath:
I think what we would go on to find out is like we were on the same page for the most part. Like we're definitely four individual people with different opinions on things, but for the most part, like there's nothing that I've written that I think rubs anybody the wrong way. I think we have different passions to different degrees. It's something that's been very convenient, I think, for this band and it was never a pre-requisite to everybody agree with each other either. It was never like, like even when Zach joined the band, it wasn't like we grilled him about his politics. It was just like, just like Zach.

Evan Ball:
Right, right, but I guess it probably ... Like Ted Nugent's not going to apply for the job.

Tim McIlrath:
Well, yeah, and I think that was a thing, too. It's like when you come out of a pumpkin hardcore world the stances that we took were not radical. We were just like everybody else.

Evan Ball:
True, like yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
We didn't stand out. It wasn't until we were in this mainstream world where all of a sudden journalists were like, "Oh, you talk about politics," and we were like, "Wait, are there bands out there that don't talk about politics?" You know, like, that was a new idea, but it was like, "Oh, we're the black sheep in this." It was only getting exposed to a wider audience that we realized the things that made us a little different.

Zach Blair:
It was a culture shock, but it was something I was really proud of. You know, I think what the most important things as far as like, at least politically, look, which let's face it, especially nowadays, that's the first thing you think about when you wake up, it's the first thing you see, it's something that's either going to piss you off are make you happy, but, a big misconception about our band, speaking about that as well, was just the way we lived our lives. It's like, "Oh, I heard, everyone in Rise Against is vegan and straight edge." It's liken, "Nope, note everyone in Rise Against is vegan and straight edge."

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
That was this misconception that there was this preconceived thing that you had to be both of those things to be in this band and it's ludicrous. The most important thing is we naturally sort of all do agree on how we all live our lives and the most important things. I've trusted Tim to with all of his lyrics to basically eloquently say what I've always felt or thought naturally and do it in much greater degree than I ever could with my stupid Luddite Cro-Magnon brain and that's what's been most important to me, do you know what I mean, and to point where he says something and I'm just happy to be a part of it, like, yeah, that's ...

Zach Blair:
If we did get sort of shunned at whatever music event we're at, because we said something that pissed everybody of, at least us four on stage, everybody else can be pissed, but all four of us walked off going, "Fuck you." I don't every want to give fucking ass back.

Tim McIlrath:
Zach also does a really good, like every once in a while do a good impression of the day that Tim goes bat shit crazy and says stuff on stage and how everybody would react. That's an inside backstage joke of like, "What if Tim just went out there and said this."

Evan Ball:
Just playing with where's the line where you just lose everyone?

Tim McIlrath:
Right.

Zach Blair:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, yeah.

Zach Blair:
Crazy Tim has gone in some uncharted territory.

Evan Ball:
All right, here's some random questions. What kind of books, podcasts, or shows do you consume?

Tim McIlrath:
I like to have my pendulum swing back and forth from heavy news stuff. I love the live hosts like Bill Maher and like Rachel Maddow, and stuff like that and then I love listening to something really like analyzing like a TV series like the Ozarks, you know what I mean?

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Tim McIlrath:
It's almost like a palate cleanser, getting something heavy and now I just want to listen to like Dave Chappelle.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, it's probably healthy. I have to make myself listen to music sometimes, because I'm always on podcasts. Like, I've got to just drive and listen to music.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, you've got to turn your brain off sometimes.

Evan Ball:
I don't need to always be taking in info.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, because there is a point of saturation where you're just going to take in too much and, yes, you're listening but are you absorbing any of it?

Evan Ball:
And happiness, you know, there's something.

Tim McIlrath:
Right, and exactly, that's the thing, too, like we're in a band called Rise Against, you know what I mean? We have to find the joy in things. We do find the joy in things. Like I think we're four pretty happy dudes. I give you on our bus, it's mostly just dudes joking around, not dudes talking about global politics.

Zach Blair:
Absolutely.

Tim McIlrath:
But you have to find a way you can engage but also enjoy art and entertainment for art and entertainment's sake.

Zach Blair:
My wife and I started Tiger King last night. Have you done it?

Tim McIlrath:
You know what, I have not but I read this story last year.

Zach Blair:
Oh, that's right.

Tim McIlrath:
I remember reading it and being like, "What? How doesn't the whole world not now about this?"

Evan Ball:
Just wait.

Zach Blair:
Well, Evan, just to giving you a hint of where I'm from, I'm from an hour and a half away from where Tiger King took place.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Zach Blair:
Yeah, Wynnewood, Oklahoma and I'm from Sherman, Texas, which Sherman is at the northern most tip of Texas at the Oklahoma border, so that's the people I'm from.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Zach Blair:
Anyway, so we started Tiger King. I've been sitting [inaudible 00:49:09] with myself but I don't go into my living room to watch TV. I just settle down until 8:00 very night. I know it's silly but I just create things for myself to do, whether it's taking lessons, singing lessons online, guitar lessons. Writing music, but I have been obsessed with that. I've been watching ... Of course, the Better Call Saul season is amazing.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, it is.

Zach Blair:
I don't know if anybody ... It's great. Man, I can't quit the Walking Dead. I can't quit it.

Tim McIlrath:
I haven't started the new season.

Zach Blair:
Oh, dude, me and Tim have this thing or it's like we watch it on tour and it's always just ... There's always a protagonist in every season, it's always someone new and someone more fucked up, and all that. I can't stop it and so I'm doing a ... but as far as podcasts go I kind of oscillate between WTF, the Marc Maron podcast, which is amazing. I've found this new one called The Trap Set, which started with predominantly drummers but here lately he's been doing one every day and he's gone from every one ... It's always musicians, which is great. I find that I tend to keep my stuff pretty music centric but it's guys from the Melvins. It's always guys from really cool bands. I've noticed that or either really cool producers or really cool bands.

Zach Blair:
I've been doing the Dean Delray podcast, which is something I learned from WTF podcast and as far as news sources, I pretty much stay into the ... Glued to NPR but lately we've been so inundated with news, it's you have to take a break. I have to end up watching something really silly. I've been watching Schitt's Creek lately, which I think is genius, just to God damn forget what the hell's going on.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. What's the best decision you've made in your life?

Tim McIlrath:
I guess the best decision in my life is to not ignore the impulse to follow your passion and with me that was music. That's the best decision I ever made in my life. I guess, because it was something that I look back on it now. At the time it seemed kind of almost. It just seemed like this really organic thing that was happening that I couldn't ignore but even when I look back on it now, because I have kids also, I have a 15 year old and an 11 year old, and I'm looking at their life and trying to be a parent and trying to help them to figure out what they want to do as much as any parent can actually, is capable of doing.

Tim McIlrath:
When I look back on my own life, just like how reckless it was, almost to follow this passion of my music, it like, it scares the shit out of me when I think back to that 19 year old kid.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
It was almost like I followed because I didn't have enough sense to not follow it, but I'm really glad that I did, because I think that I'd be sitting here, right now with this really ... with these suppressed ideas and these suppressed compulsions, to play music, and so I'm happy that I followed that.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, but what about advice for people out there who are tempted to leave college as you did, to pursue their musical career, because the odds aren't in their favor?

Tim McIlrath:
You're right. I mean, they're not and not only not in your favor but like Zach and I came from this like punk and metal world where our favorite bands were not necessarily successful. I mean they weren't like successful, huge, arena rock, maybe they're barely making a living. They were a huge advantage to us, but we didn't think about how they made a living. We just thought, like this is the coolest thing in the world.

Tim McIlrath:
I was having this conversation with actually my dentist who is like he's a kid younger than me, but he wanted to be a musician and that his parents or his dad kind of made him become a dentist, was like, "No, you have to become a dentist." And now he is and he's ostensibly very happy at doing it and that kind of thing, but I'm in a place now where I have daughter who's 15 so she's only got like a couple of more years left in my house. She's starting to make decisions about what she wants to do and the protective instinct in me wants to tell her like, "Do something safe. Do something that will keep a roof over your head."

Tim McIlrath:
And then I look back and I'm like, how hypocritical of me to even say that, to even think that. Like do whatever your passion is. What I do think about now, I think about her a lot, I'm like, of her life is that for a lot of people I know, the passions they had when they were in their adolescence is still their passion today. It's still in some way ties in to what they love to do. Some people discover what they love to do later in life and that's cool, but for a lot of people it is what they were ...

Tim McIlrath:
Like I'm still doing in this room what I did when I was 15 years old, which is picking up a guitar and playing on the end of my bed and trying to write songs. That's what I still do as a 41 year old man. My wife is way into like fitness and running and like exercising. That's what she was really into when she was that young and so the one piece of advice that I like to give my daughter is don't think about the future, think about right now what you care about and do that, especially in a world where we have so many distractions.

Tim McIlrath:
It scares the shit out of me to think about how powerless we all are over our phones, how powerless we all are to like social media, connection, communication. Like it scares the shit out of me to think like if you went back and time and put an iPhone in my 13 year old hand, would I have ever picked up a guitar.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Tim McIlrath:
Like why, this iPhone will entertain me non-stop, like so many things that I did my life I did out of sheer boredom.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
Kids aren't bored any more, not only not bored anymore, but like ... and I don't even mean to blame kids, because ... and I had this conversation with my daughter, I'm not trying to blame her. I'm like, really this phone is this really well designed weapon that I am powerless to, that you are powerless to. Like it takes a lot to put it down, it takes a lot to shut it off and find something different to do and so it scares the shit out of me when I think how many people are not picking up a guitar and a guitar is like my general example for how many people are not finding their passions because technology is so ... I guess the word is good. Like it's so well thought out.

Evan Ball:
Right.

Zach Blair:
Yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
It so has your number. People way smarter than all of us are in Silicon Valley right now like figuring us all out and how can you compete with that? You can't compete with that. Most of us can't.

Zach Blair:
It makes stories like I read about Steve Lacey who's an upcoming like singer, song writer, soul, hiphop, RNB. He does stuff with Thundercat and he's a kid. He's like 19 or 20 years old and he makes his records with a broken iPhone6. He taps out the beats and he plugs his guitar into it with an iRig and you have to hear the stuff, it's amazing. And it's always really impressive because what you said, Tim, you're absolutely right. I believe it's a sort of created creativity vacuum. It's going to take all that ... but for some people like this kid, that it's still so strong in him that he's using the benefits of this tool to get it out of him. It's always so impressive when I hear that nowadays because, you're right, for me and you, it was like we had no distraction. There was no good excuse.

Tim McIlrath:
Right.

Zach Blair:
For not picking something up and just doing it.

Tim McIlrath:
Right.

Zach Blair:
But for now, between me and this, there's a phone and I'll go, "Oh, I want to, oh, oh, oh."

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah.

Zach Blair:
And that kid is going, is plugging into this thing and using it and making a song and immediately posting that.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, well, it's so true. I mean the tools are there like never before to create content and art and music and the tools are also there like never before to create distraction and to just watch other people do stuff.

Zach Blair:
Absolutely.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
All right, I guess I should ask this. What gauge strings do you guys play?

Zach Blair:
Oh, Tim.

Tim McIlrath:
Oh, what gauge do I play, Z?

Zach Blair:
Tim play ... For a long time we've been using regular 10 through 46. Just straight out 10s.

Tim McIlrath:
Yeah, yeah.

Evan Ball:
Just the standard nickel bound slinkies?

Zach Blair:
Absolutely, and I have now switched to 11s as of late that I want to take into next year. I just ... something about the tone of 11s for me. I have noticed the interesting things you guys have been doing with your 0.5 lines, like your 10.5s, that's something I'm interested in and your paradigm series is ...

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Tim McIlrath:
Oh, yeah, the paradigms.

Zach Blair:
Also really cool.

Evan Ball:
All right. Tim and Zach, thanks for being on the podcast.

Zach Blair:
[crosstalk 00:58:17].

Tim McIlrath:
Oh, yeah. Yeah, our pleasure.

Evan Ball:
Thanks for tuning in to Striking a Chord, and Ernie Ball podcast. Thanks again to Tim and Zach. I really enjoyed the conversation, such nice guys with lots of experience to draw from.

Evan Ball:
If you'd like to email us, email [email protected]

Zach Blair:
You gave one of our, like family members basically Stefan Egerton from the Descendants, he got a signature model.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, we just launched it.

Zach Blair:
Oh, we're so ... I'm so happy for him. He's been using Ernie Ball since the guitars, he was using to get an access sport that you guys had custom made him back then, just one and, man, he's been using those guitars for over 20 years.

Evan Ball:
So that was '97, my cousin and I did ... That's the first time Ernie Ball got involved in the Warped Tour.

Zach Blair:
Oh, wow.

Evan Ball:
And so we had a booth there where we had guitars on that ... We had an RV and we set up the guitars on the side so he'd come over all the time and play so we made that connection and then ...

Zach Blair:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, it was an access super sport, I think with ...

Zach Blair:
Yeah, yeah.

Evan Ball:
No knobs and [crosstalk 00:59:34] ...

Zach Blair:
No knobs. It was gray and no knobs. It looks like ... Tim, are you here? He's ... I just saw him ...

Evan Ball:
Looks like his audio is not on. I can see a video icon.

Zach Blair:
Okay, I see him.

Evan Ball:
Not sure if he can hear us.

Zach Blair:
Something is [inaudible 00:59:50] ...

Tim McIlrath:
Can you hear me?

Evan Ball:
Yes.

Zach Blair:
I can hear you.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Zach Blair:
Tim, you can join down, you can like join the ... T

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