Interview: Zach Blair of Rise Against Talks Tour, New EP and More
We had the pleasure of talking to Zach Blair from Rise Against Prior to their upcoming Europe tour. Besides their new EP, we talked about their love for Europe and much more. Check it out!
How are you?
I’m good, man. I’m good. We’re home, we got home at the beginning of September, so we were gone all summer. We did, five weeks in Europe and then went home for 12 days and did five weeks in the States
Congrats on Nowhere Generation II! How has the feedback been so far?
It’s been great so far. We get the reports and we see that people are engaging. For us it was important to do two releases, sort of an amendment to the original Nowhere Generation record. Because of the way things are consumed nowadays, we had this huge batch of songs and we just decided that, even as for us as consumers, we would rather have something doled out instead of just one large lump sum. Because there’s no way you’re gonna digest all of that at the same time.
Your music often discusses difficult topics but always have a hopeful undertone, how does this affect you in your during the creation of the songs? Do you experience these highs and lows during your craft as well?
I mean Rise Against has always been a band, that sort of practiced what it preached. And this album was made and written before the pandemic, but it was made during a particularly tumultuous political climate over here in the States with the idiot that was Donald Trump as our president.
So I think that that got reflected and I think if we didn’t have the outlet, that was that sort of a thing, I don’t know where we would be as adults. We get pretty frustrated and fortunately, like our forefathers, our forebearers and all of our influences in punk and hardcore music that we grew up with. You write about that shit and it affects you in your personal life.
It affects you in your political life and political belief. You put it into the work and then the art. And we’re really lucky and fortunate that we get to have that outlet.
Most of the songs were written before the pandemic. That’s already been a while, is there already some new music in the production line?
No man. For right now we’re really just trying to get through the cycle for this body of work.
For us, this was a lot for us. It was a lot of output. And we really just haven’t even thought about being creative yet. We don’t really even know what is gonna be next for us. We have some things next year that I can’t tell you about right now, but our band is like that. We’re: recording, creating, writing, recording and then tour mode. They’re just different modes and they don’t usually ever intercept.
If you were not attached to Rise Against and you were asked to start your own music project, would you do something completely different or would you do something similar to Rise Against?
That’s a good question. I mean, I’ve done a few other projects than Rise Against. I did a band called Vanishing Life with Walter Schreifels from Quicksand and Gorilla Biscuits. It also has Autry Fulbright who plays in the band OFF! He did play in the band …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, and Jamie Miller, who is now the Bad Religion‘s drummer. But at the time he was also in …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. We did a record called Surveillance. Then I started a band with my best friends, a few guys here in Austin. they were in a band called the Riverboat Gamblers. We started a band called the Draculas.That is very different than Rise Against, It’s much more of a sort of garagey, new wavy sense. Post punk, punk thing. It was so much fun. They’re still touring. I’ve tried to step away from that because they’re a full-fledged band now, they’re actually just now coming back off tour.
But I have thought about being creative. And with something a little more in the style of Rise Against because I guess that’s what people would expect. So, we’ll see. That’s an interesting question because it’s funny that that hasn’t been something I’ve thought about.
Are there styles and genres you want to try that are way different than Rise Against?
Well, my own personal music taste is all over the place. I listen to a lot of metal. I listen to a lot of classic rock. I was in GWAR, the speed metal shock, rock horror, monster band. So I have a music taste that’s all over the place. As a musician, I really do like to explore other avenues and do other things.
I’m always a willing participant. If somebody asks me to, I love playing on other people’s stuff like taking a solo on this person’s song. Or helping or collaborating and writing with someone else. Cuz, it only helps you out. And I really feel like the way you get better quicker as a musician is to just play with other people that are better than you. I’ve been doing it my whole career and it really does level you up. It’s quickest way to get there.
Continuing on the topic of giving tips. You as an experienced musician, what advice would you give smaller bands or artists who are just starting?
That’s interesting question. It’s funny, I have been asked it and I usually have a really quick answer. That answer’s always: Well, you put your shit in storage, you get in the van and go tour. Don’t see home for a while. Go play to everyone, go play to no one. Just play. And I believe a certain extent of that still rings true.
However, with the way social media plays such an important role in the way we consume music nowadays. There are exceptions to that rule because there are also bands, artists, or guitar players. They are like, a YouTube guitar player?
There was a whole thing, in a guitar player magazine over here in the States. Of these guitar players that are guitar heroes. They have signature guitar models and prominent companies. They do all this stuff, and they never even played a show. And that’s mind blowing to me.
So I hate to say: “when I was kid”, and “in my day”. But me and everyone in Rise Against, we got in a van and we left. We left home and we didn’t go back. We toured and played to no one for a long time until we actually started playing to someone. And that’s how it works. We got on other tours that are bigger with bands that are bigger than you. And fortunately, there was a punk rock movement, and there were these avenues that would cater to that.
So the basis of that advice is to throw everything you got into it. Cause that’s what it takes, no matter how you get there. Whether it’s by posting videos in your own bedroom or still getting in a van and going and doing it the way I did it. I feel like it takes 100% dedication. You can’t be distracted. If you really wanna get somewhere with music or any art for that matter. I think you really have to dedicate yourself to it and make it the most important thing. I’m not saying, don’t go work at day job or whatever. There were many times that I was just like, I’m not working. I’m just doing this. Sometimes it just takes that, and you have to resign your life to that of not much. Not many standards. You’re gonna live pretty dismal, and I did for a long time. But I was okay with that. Because I was living the life of an artist. I did what I was doing, what I wanted to do. But I do feel like it takes almost all of your attention and energy and focus.
Would you also say that it takes less skill to become bigger as an online guitar player or something because you just need the right hashtags, the right place to post it on the right moment?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that. Because I feel like a lot of those people are insanely talented. It’s just so odd to me being somebody that did so opposite of that. I just don’t understand it. And I may sound like some old fart, that’s shaking my fist at progress or shaking my fist to these damn kids. But I really don’t understand it. I don’t get how it works. But like I said, I think even with those folks or whoever. It definitely takes a sort of perseverance, dedication and a hundred percent attention.
There’s been exceptions to the rule, there are people that are like: I got a guitar last month and wrote a song, now it has a million downloads and I’m going on tour. I mean, it happens. It definitely happens.
In your career, what are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned being a musician for this long?
I think the work, like the touring, the playing to no one and all that. I think it’s a test, and if you can power through it, you will be rewarded. As cryptic as that sounds. It gets rough. Us human beings, we’re social animals. We mate with people, For long periods of time. We have families, and we have friends. This lifestyle, it takes you outta that.
It gets rough. There were so many times where I’d been gone for weeks with whatever band I was in at the time. We’re playing in Des Moines to 20 people and I have friends at home that are getting married, or graduating college. I had to ask myself, what the fuck am I doing with my life?
That happened a lot. Those sort of moments happen quite a bit. But if you power through all of that, you can do this. It’s all I ever wanted to do. It’s all I ever thought about.
Was there also a certain thing that got you through all that?
I mean, just knowing that I was on the right path. Knowing that I was following my own heart. I didn’t know much else about myself, ever. I’ve always been a little clueless and short of things, but I always knew that I wanted to do this.
So one of the biggest lessons was that this is gonna be really hard. And it is really hard, but if I just keep my nose down, and persevere that I’ll have this wonderful life I’ll be a musician and there’s nothing better than that. But it has been difficult.
It’s great now. It’s great to be in Rise Against, it’s great to tour the world, it’s great to play the shows every night, to people that actually wanna see us after being a band for 22 years. That’s the reward. You know, I’ve been doing this for 30 years.
You played a headline festival show in the Netherlands this summer. Do you have a special bond with the Netherlands and your Dutch fans?
Well yes, it’s funny because the last time we played in Amsterdam, it was the biggest show we had done yet. It was after years of having gone there. And I think we had a lot of fans from that gig at that festival. But Europe in general. From the Netherlands, to Germany, it’s so good for us. By all of it. And I think that’s why we, might be in Europe more than we play in the States honestly. Because it’s just always felt like home for us. We’ve always been so accepted with open arms, followed down all of our music paths, and forgiven for things. The European fans, the Netherlands fans, they’re right with us. We see the same faces that have been there for all these years and they’re gonna keep coming out. And I feel like American fans are a little more fickle than that. They’re gonna listen to you for, if you’re lucky, 10 years and then they’re done.
You have another headline show in the Netherlands soon again, can we expect the similar show to the festival headline, or do you have surprises in store for us?
We’re gonna do some different things. Yeah. Well I can’t really say it yet, but we’ll be doing some different things for sure.
Is there also one certain show in Europe that you’re more excited about secretly than the rest? Or is it all even?
Not really. I mean, like I said, it’s like we just get excited to come to Europe because for us it’s exotic, it’s cool and it’s so much different than being in the States. But also we get welcomed and accepted so well.
It’s really a great feeling to play in Europe in general.