On May 27th, 2007, seminal California punk band Good Riddance took the stage for what would be the final time in band's 12+ year career. Now, some three years after that fateful night, the band has provided fans with one last "hurrah" by culling together 21 of their best, rarest, and unreleased songs to be released this July on their long-time home, Fat Wreck Chords. Punknews interviewer Sean Jain had a chance to speak with singer/songwriter Russ Rankin about the collection, the legacy of Good Riddance, the title of the album, Capricorn One, and what the future holds for Rankin, Good Riddance, and Rankin's other band, Only Crime.
Hey Russ, thanks for doing this…besides prepping for the release of Capricorn One, what have you been up to?
Iâve been working on some solo stuffâtrying to get some of my old songs together, and trying to figure out when my band Only Crime is going to get a chance to get together again and finish demoing some new material.
Oh cool, is everybody off in different places with Only Crime?
Yeah, itâs been kind of a crazy year and so weâre hopefully going to get together this July and maybe do some shows and definitely finish nailing down new material for the new album.
Where do you guys think your going to eventually hole-up and do some writing?
Same as always, weâll be at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins.
Right on, so moving on to Capricorn One, why did you guys decided to release Capricorn One now?
We were approached by Fat and they sort of thought that it would be a cool idea, and they knew that we had done all these other projects through the years and we sort of tossed it aroundâChuck, Luke and myselfâand eventually decided that it might be kind of cool for our fans and, since weâve been done for a few years and some of these songs that were not widely released, or some that were never released at allâif they saw the light of day, we thought it might be kind of cool. We didnât want to release a bunch of songs that we didnât like, but the cool thing about this release is that several of these songs are still some of our favorite songs.
What's behind the title, Capricorn One? Capricorn One is a movie that came out in the mid-seventies and it was kind of coolâ¦the premise of the movie is that these three astronauts are going to go to Mars and NASA runs out of money, and the rocket wonât work, but theyâve built it up so much in the media and the government has spent so much money, that they canât afford to fail. So they build a fake set, and they basically kidnap the three astronauts and they tell them that they have to go into this little spaceship and talk back to home like theyâre in space, and they have to film them on this sound stage, and they tell them that if they donât cooperate theyâre going to kill their families. Itâs a pretty creepy movie actually.
It sounds similar to some of those theories that the Apollo moon landings were faked.
Yeah, I think thatâs kind of what itâs about, but itâs just sort of creepy because the government is in a position where theyâd rather kill their own astronauts and threaten their families than admit that theyâve bit off more than they can chew. Itâs kind of a movieâI donât know how well it did when it was released, but Iâve watched it several times and I always get a kick out of it. Plus, O.J. Simpson is in it, before all of his legal troubles.
Cool! So do you believe that they faked the Apollo moon landing?
I donât think so. I think they probably really went thereâ¦but I wouldnât put anything past the United States government.
So how did you guys go about choosing the tracks for Capricorn One?
That part wasnât so difficult, we basically just had to go through all the songs that were unreleased, or released in a limited scope, and pick the ones that we really liked and make sure that we didnât use ones that were still in printâlike we did a split seven-inch and a split CD with Kill Your Idols which was released by Jade Tree Records and thatâs still in print so we didnât use any of those songs. The bulk of the songs are from our very first seven-inch that was ever released, which was released on Little Deputy Records out of Austin, Texas in 1993, I think, and that recording was from our first demo tape. Little Deputy basically took four songs from that demo tape and pressed âem and then when we were demoing for our second full-length with Fatâwhich ended up being Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellionâwe had an over-abundance of songsâ¦songs were just pouring out of us and so we basically decided to take six songs that werenât going to be on the record, but that we still really felt good about, and do split seven-inches with other bands that we knew on labels that were owned by friends of ours and Fat gave us the "okay" to do thatâ¦so those six songs are on there as well, and a couple of out-takes from recordings from the demos that eventually got us signed to Fat as well.
You guys are including, I believe, six songs on Capricorn One that are totally unreleased…is that correct?
I donât know for sure, but that sounds about right. If not six, then itâs close to that.
Right, but as far as those totally unreleased songs go…is that it…is the Good Riddance treasure chest empty so to speak?
As far as I know. You know we spent so much time in different studios doing this and that, and like a lot of things with Good Riddance story, if we had known then what we know now, we probably would have taken better care to keep that stuff and figure out where it ended up. I feel that weâre fortunate to have tracked down what we did for this releaseâ¦Iâm surprised that we were able to find some of this stuff, because I had no idea where it was.
The press for the album mentions that you provided commentary to each song…was it hard to go back and look at the songs from the headspace you were in back when you were writing them?
I think that the only reason I did it was because Iâm not in that headspace.
What I was hoping to do with that was give the songs some context because, unlike the rest of our stuff which is out there which was released on Fatâ¦you know, in sequential order, followed up by numerous tours and countless interviewsâ¦all that stuff has some sort of context to sort of lay around it, whereas these songs are sort of appearing in a vacuumâ¦like, thereâs been no Good Riddance for three years and all of sudden, Bam! hereâs this group of songs which are from all over the map as far as year they were recorded, and somewhat different line-ups, and so in order to sort of tie it together, I thought it would be kind of cool to give some context to the songs.
In the liner notes for the song "Remember When," you mention that that song is for the "undisputed champion of girls who have Good Riddance songs written about them"…is that a reference to one girl in particular?
Yeah thatâs one girl. She gotâ¦Iâve written songs about a few girls, but she got the most songs.
The song "Great Experiment" is pretty different from anything Good Riddance has ever done. What inspired you to write it?
Iâm trying to rememberâ¦I wrote that while I was writing stuff for My Republic andâ¦yeahâ¦I donât knowâ¦what inspired it was our media and how it polarizes peopleâ¦like pretty much all my songsâ¦it starts out with me being angry about something and then hopefully I can find some words that rhyme and then thereâs a song, but I think youâre talking about the style of it.
Yeah, yeah, thatâs what I meant.
Yeah it was a little bit different, probably because it was one of the only songs that I ever wrote on an acoustic guitar first. A lot of guys I know who write songs, they write almost exclusively on an acoustic because itâs so easy to just pick it up and grab it and sing over it, and I have an acoustic guitar but I suck at playing it, I canât play it rightâ¦I always just go right to the Les Paul usuallyâ¦and that song I wrote just goofinâ around on the acoustic one day. I guess that would be the only thing I could think of that would sort of set it apart. Stylistically, its definitely not aâ¦I mean, I donât know if we had a typical sound, but if we did, itâs pretty far outside of that. I still really like itâ¦I mean it didnât pass the My Republic test, but I still really like that song.
Is the title of "Great Experiment" in anyway related to the "experimental" nature of the songâ¦was there sort of a pun intended there?
No, not as is much as the music is a little bit outside of our normal scope, I mean the "Great Experiment" is a reference to what the Founding Fathers of the United States called our countryâ¦our country was called "the great democratic experiment" and thatâs kind of what the song title is a reference to, but it wasnât a reference to the style of the song. I think weâve had bigger songs than that, maybe notâ¦the fact that youâre telling me this makes me think that this song is further outside the norm than maybe I thought.
Yeah, to me it was, but maybe its one of those things, you knowâ¦music is in the eye of the beholder.
Do you find it easier, lyrically, to write about socio-political issues as opposed to more personal-oriented lyrics?
In the beginning I definitely did and then, as time went on, I think I got a little more comfortable finding ways to sing about more personal stuff, and I think that happened by starting to get some good feedback because, I think that the political songs I still believe they are important, itâs still what attracts me most to this kind of music, but the personal songs I think are what resonate more deeply with people and, over the years, Iâve gotten much more feedback about those songs from fans and friends of mine who say, "That song touched me because I could relate to it," or, "Iâve got a friend whoâs going through the same thing," or, "I went through the same thing," and Iâm the same way when I listen to music and I think that that identification, that sort of bond, is what makes music resonate with us so much.
Right, well over the years have you ever met fans that took the more socio-political message you sung about and took it and used it as their own personal rallying cry to try and change the system?
All the time. Being in that bandâand especially now that itâs finishedâand still having people contact me, itâs been really humbling. People have done all sorts of things which were inspired by our music, and probably other bands as well. The fact that somebody could take something that we wrote and released and have it inspire them to that extent isâ¦itâs impressive and itâs humblingâ¦I mean, thatâs what bands did for me, so I know what that feels like.
The biggest thing Iâve gotten from people is people who have gone vegetarian or vegan, or gotten into animal rights because of our band, and I think thatâs awesome because I always felt like we approached it, not from a preachy, shove it down your throat kind of way, but we always made it known that that was our deal and if you wanted to know more about it we were happy to talk to you about it and we always had literature available at our shows, and I think that a lot of people who maybe wouldnât have been exposed to it otherwise, or at least not that early in their lives, got a chance to get exposed to that and see what it was about and maybe gave it a second thought because they liked our band and so they thought, "Well if these guys are into this, maybe I ought took check it out." Again, itâs the same thing that bands like Youth of Today and the Cro-Mags did for me when I was younger and so itâs just kind of like the circle completing itself I guess.
Is there one Good Riddance album that is particularly important to you, either because of the climate that you were working on it, or because of the some unrelated experience that happened to you while working on it?
I think our second album is important because thatâs when I found out that I was a song-writerâ¦and then the album Symptons of a Leveling Spirit, I think, was ourâ¦I think it was the pinnacle, it was definitely the pinnacle for us as far as our career if you just want to go by numbers. Like, the year that that came out, we were in every weekly, all of our shows were bumped up to the bigger rooms, we sold out our whole European tour, and that was about as good as it ever got for us and that was pretty cool for that to happen. Like that record wasâ¦I just have a lot of really good memories about that year personally and band-wiseâ¦everything just went really really well for us and we had a really successful year, and I still think that record, and to a lesser extent the E.P. that came before it, were where I finally kind of like, found my stride as a song-writer. Like, the second album was where I realized like, "Hey I guess Iâm the song writer for this band" and then that album was like where everything sort of really came together where I was able to write a song and look at it go, "Wow that was exactly what I wanted to say," and it rhymed, and itâs got a hook so its like, win-win-win and thatâs hard to do. Anybody that writes songs will tell you thatâsâ¦you know, when you can get the hat-trickâ¦when you can get lyrics that make sense, and that rhyme and that has a hookâ¦youâre pretty stoked.
Over the years you guys worked with a bunch of different producers/engineersâ¦was there one or two in particular that you felt really understood what Good Riddance was about and quote-unquote brought out the best in your band?
Yeah, I mean thatâs really easyâ¦itâs Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton at the Blasting Room. I mean, when we first went thereâ¦we did our first, I want to say three albums with Ryan Greene and Ryan Greene is a great engineer and a really great guy and we learned a lot about being prepared to record, because we did nothingâ¦we were just a local band and all of a sudden we had a producer and a budget and all this, and he taught us a lot. Ryanâs background was metalâ¦like, Ryan cut his teeth engineering in the glam metal scene in Hollywood in the late â80sâ¦his studio know-how was top-notch, his demeanor was top-notch, and we learned a lot, but when we decided we wanted a change, and we went to the Blasting Room, it was likeâ¦so differentâ¦and with those guys at that timeâ¦I mean, since then Bill and Jason Livermore especially have gotten really good, but they were good then, but they just had thisâ¦likeâ¦they knew what we were trying to do and like, when I was doing vocals, and Ryan would say, "Hey you sorta screamed on that last line, did you mean to do that?" whereas Bill or Stephen would say, "Thatâs great, that sounds like Dev," you knowâ¦just totally different and for our band, for what we were after, I think that wasâ¦that fit us, you knowâ¦itâs not for everybody, but it definitely fit us. Also, the way they recordedâ¦it was completely out of the ordinaryâ¦weâd been through the culture where youâd lay down the drums first, then you lay down the bass, then you lay down the guitars, and then you do the vocalsâ¦and we get to the Blasting Room and once the drums were done it was like, all bets are off, Chuck would go in for a couple hours, then I would go in, then Luke would go in, and weâd just be chipping away at these songs and what was cool about it was everybody was involved every day, so it wasnât like one guy was getting hammered on while the other three guys were sitting around watching TVâ¦it was definitely a new approach for us anyway, weâd never done anything like that beforeâ¦so I think that those guys really brought out the best in us, they challenged us, but they also, I think, had a really innate sense of knowing what we were trying to get done. I love Ryan Greene, heâs a great engineer and heâs a really great guy and I learned a lot from him.
Right onâ¦well Iâm sure you must be sick of this next question, but I gotta ask, do you think Good Riddance will ever play any shows again?
Itâs hard to answer that. I meanâ¦the short answer is, I donât ever see it happening. I have absolutely no desire to do it, but Iâve been around long enough to know that you can really never say neverâ¦but for us to get on stage again in any formâ¦it wouldnât really be true.
Yeah, like by the end everybody was just in different spaces and likes different music now. Like, by the end, we couldnât even agree on what day of the week it was. I think thatâ¦I just wouldnât see the point.
The only reason to do it would be for money, and I wonât do it for money. I have a really hard time with bands that do that, and so I donât want to be that band.
Fair enough, so on that note do you feel that you accomplished everything you wanted to with Good Riddance or is there something you look back on and wish you had done?
Generally speaking, I think that we over-achieved given where we were from and what our background wasâ¦I think that we never could have dreamed in a million years that we would do as much as we did. In the middle of it, when were caught up in it, I think that we had some pretty lofty goals and expectations which we never quite reached, but all that being said, I think that we had a pretty good run and all things considered, we never got any radio play, we never really had a video that got played a lotâ¦we were fortunate enough to operate in a time where there was still enough of an underground scene which could support us. I mean, nowadays, you really have to beâ¦you have to be on Warped Tour or you donât exist, thereâs not really an independent network of promoters whoâ¦well at least not the way it was fifteen-sixteen years agoâ¦that will support a band like us who were, you knowâ¦we were popular, we sell records, but we donât have a video, weâre not a household name, and weâre not going to sell out the House of Blues, soâ¦I think we were fortunate to beâ¦you knowâ¦in that era we were fortunate enough to meet a lot of great people and play with a ton of really amazing bandsâ¦a lot of which are still playing todayâ¦and I was fortunate enough to meet and share the stage and share the road with a lot of really good people and I think that my life is definitely better for it. Music and this scene gave me a lot, and Iâm going to be grateful forever for it.
Alrighty, well Russ thanks for doing this, Iâve got one final question for youâ¦feel free to expound on it this as much as you wantâ¦any thoughts on this years Stanley Cup playoffs?
Iâm stoked that I actuallyâ¦I kind of have a rooting interest because, the last two years I havenât reallyâ¦Pittsburgh and Detroit I donât really care one way or the other about, its like, "Okay itâs the finals so Iâll watch it," and even though I have seasons tickets to the Sharks, and the further they go, the more hockey I get to watch, but I really like the Blackhawks, and Iâve liked them for a few years, I like what theyâve got going on there and I cannot stand the Philadelphia Flyers so its going to be kind of cool to watch the finals where I actually want a team to win.
You donât think Marian Hossa might be jinxed from his yearly habit of jumping ship to be with the next "potential Stanley Cup contender"?
Yeah he mightâ¦but that team is so goodâthat Chicago teamâand theyâre just hitting on all cylindersâ¦but then to do what the Flyers did in this playoffs is pretty incredibleâ¦I canât believe the run theyâve hadâ¦but if the Flyers win the Cup thatâs the worst possible thing that could ever happen.