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?
I‚??ve been working on some solo stuff‚??trying 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, it‚??s been kind of a crazy year and so we‚??re 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, we‚??ll 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 around‚??Chuck, Luke and myself‚??and eventually decided that it might be kind of cool for our fans and, since we‚??ve been done for a few years and some of these songs that were not widely released, or some that were never released at all‚??if they saw the light of day, we thought it might be kind of cool. We didn‚??t want to release a bunch of songs that we didn‚??t 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 cool‚?¶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 won‚??t work, but they‚??ve built it up so much in the media and the government has spent so much money, that they can‚??t 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 they‚??re in space, and they have to film them on this sound stage, and they tell them that if they don‚??t cooperate they‚??re going to kill their families. It‚??s a pretty creepy movie actually.
It sounds similar to some of those theories that the Apollo moon landings were faked.
Yeah, I think that‚??s kind of what it‚??s about, but it‚??s just sort of creepy because the government is in a position where they‚??d rather kill their own astronauts and threaten their families than admit that they‚??ve bit off more than they can chew. It‚??s kind of a movie‚??I don‚??t know how well it did when it was released, but I‚??ve 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 don‚??t think so. I think they probably really went there‚?¶but I wouldn‚??t put anything past the United States government.
So how did you guys go about choosing the tracks for Capricorn One?
That part wasn‚??t 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 didn‚??t use ones that were still in print‚??like we did a split seven-inch and a split CD with Kill Your Idols which was released by Jade Tree Records and that‚??s still in print so we didn‚??t 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 ‚??em and then when we were demoing for our second full-length with Fat‚??which ended up being Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion‚??we had an over-abundance of songs‚?¶songs were just pouring out of us and so we basically decided to take six songs that weren‚??t 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 that‚?¶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 don‚??t know for sure, but that sounds about right. If not six, then it‚??s 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 we‚??re fortunate to have tracked down what we did for this release‚?¶I‚??m 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 I‚??m 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 Fat‚?¶you know, in sequential order, followed up by numerous tours and countless interviews‚?¶all that stuff has some sort of context to sort of lay around it, whereas these songs are sort of appearing in a vacuum‚?¶like, there‚??s been no Good Riddance for three years and all of sudden, Bam! here‚??s 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 that‚??s one girl. She got‚?¶I‚??ve 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?
I‚??m trying to remember‚?¶I wrote that while I was writing stuff for My Republic and‚?¶yeah‚?¶I don‚??t know‚?¶what inspired it was our media and how it polarizes people‚?¶like pretty much all my songs‚?¶it starts out with me being angry about something and then hopefully I can find some words that rhyme and then there‚??s a song, but I think you‚??re talking about the style of it.
Yeah, yeah, that‚??s 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 it‚??s 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 can‚??t play it right‚?¶I always just go right to the Les Paul usually‚?¶and that song I wrote just goofin‚?? 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 a‚?¶I mean, I don‚??t know if we had a typical sound, but if we did, it‚??s pretty far outside of that. I still really like it‚?¶I mean it didn‚??t 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 song‚?¶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 country‚?¶our country was called "the great democratic experiment" and that‚??s kind of what the song title is a reference to, but it wasn‚??t a reference to the style of the song. I think we‚??ve had bigger songs than that, maybe not‚?¶the fact that you‚??re 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 know‚?¶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, it‚??s 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, I‚??ve 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, "I‚??ve got a friend who‚??s going through the same thing," or, "I went through the same thing," and I‚??m 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 band‚??and especially now that it‚??s finished‚??and still having people contact me, it‚??s 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 is‚?¶it‚??s impressive and it‚??s humbling‚?¶I mean, that‚??s what bands did for me, so I know what that feels like.
The biggest thing I‚??ve gotten from people is people who have gone vegetarian or vegan, or gotten into animal rights because of our band, and I think that‚??s 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 wouldn‚??t 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, it‚??s the same thing that bands like Youth of Today and the Cro-Mags did for me when I was younger and so it‚??s 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 that‚??s when I found out that I was a song-writer‚?¶and then the album Symptons of a Leveling Spirit, I think, was our‚?¶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 was‚?¶I just have a lot of really good memories about that year personally and band-wise‚?¶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 I‚??m 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 it‚??s got a hook so its like, win-win-win and that‚??s hard to do. Anybody that writes songs will tell you that‚??s‚?¶you know, when you can get the hat-trick‚?¶when you can get lyrics that make sense, and that rhyme and that has a hook‚?¶you‚??re pretty stoked.
Over the years you guys worked with a bunch of different producers/engineers‚?¶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 that‚??s really easy‚?¶it‚??s Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton at the Blasting Room. I mean, when we first went there‚?¶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 nothing‚?¶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. Ryan‚??s background was metal‚?¶like, Ryan cut his teeth engineering in the glam metal scene in Hollywood in the late ‚??80s‚?¶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 like‚?¶so different‚?¶and with those guys at that time‚?¶I mean, since then Bill and Jason Livermore especially have gotten really good, but they were good then, but they just had this‚?¶like‚?¶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, "That‚??s great, that sounds like Dev," you know‚?¶just totally different and for our band, for what we were after, I think that was‚?¶that fit us, you know‚?¶it‚??s not for everybody, but it definitely fit us. Also, the way they recorded‚?¶it was completely out of the ordinary‚?¶we‚??d been through the culture where you‚??d lay down the drums first, then you lay down the bass, then you lay down the guitars, and then you do the vocals‚?¶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 we‚??d just be chipping away at these songs and what was cool about it was everybody was involved every day, so it wasn‚??t like one guy was getting hammered on while the other three guys were sitting around watching TV‚?¶it was definitely a new approach for us anyway, we‚??d never done anything like that before‚?¶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, he‚??s a great engineer and he‚??s a really great guy and I learned a lot from him.
Right on‚?¶well I‚??m sure you must be sick of this next question, but I gotta ask, do you think Good Riddance will ever play any shows again?
It‚??s hard to answer that. I mean‚?¶the short answer is, I don‚??t ever see it happening. I have absolutely no desire to do it, but I‚??ve been around long enough to know that you can really never say never‚?¶but for us to get on stage again in any form‚?¶it wouldn‚??t really be true.
Yeah, like by the end everybody was just in different spaces and likes different music now. Like, by the end, we couldn‚??t even agree on what day of the week it was. I think that‚?¶I just wouldn‚??t see the point.
The only reason to do it would be for money, and I won‚??t do it for money. I have a really hard time with bands that do that, and so I don‚??t 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 was‚?¶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 lot‚?¶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 be‚?¶you have to be on Warped Tour or you don‚??t exist, there‚??s not really an independent network of promoters who‚?¶well at least not the way it was fifteen-sixteen years ago‚?¶that will support a band like us who were, you know‚?¶we were popular, we sell records, but we don‚??t have a video, we‚??re not a household name, and we‚??re not going to sell out the House of Blues, so‚?¶I think we were fortunate to be‚?¶you know‚?¶in that era we were fortunate enough to meet a lot of great people and play with a ton of really amazing bands‚?¶a lot of which are still playing today‚?¶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 I‚??m going to be grateful forever for it.
Alrighty, well Russ thanks for doing this, I‚??ve got one final question for you‚?¶feel free to expound on it this as much as you want‚?¶any thoughts on this years Stanley Cup playoffs?
I‚??m stoked that I actually‚?¶I kind of have a rooting interest because, the last two years I haven‚??t really‚?¶Pittsburgh and Detroit I don‚??t really care one way or the other about, its like, "Okay it‚??s the finals so I‚??ll 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 I‚??ve liked them for a few years, I like what they‚??ve 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 don‚??t think Marian Hossa might be jinxed from his yearly habit of jumping ship to be with the next "potential Stanley Cup contender"?
Yeah he might‚?¶but that team is so good‚??that Chicago team‚??and they‚??re just hitting on all cylinders‚?¶but then to do what the Flyers did in this playoffs is pretty incredible‚?¶I can‚??t believe the run they‚??ve had‚?¶but if the Flyers win the Cup that‚??s the worst possible thing that could ever happen.