Rise Against: Tim McIlrath's favorite protest songs of all time
Tim McIlrath, frontman for Chicago-based melodic hardcore band Rise Against, says he and his band have found themselves feeling re-energized in light of the current U.S. political climate. Their latest album, 2017's Wolves, reflects this new energy, and McIlrath was excited to discuss its subject matter in his recent sit-down with Steve Baltin for The Recording Academy.
"This is such a crazy time in America right now," McIlrath said. "I feel like Rise Against would have put out a different record had we not anticipated all this stuff happening. So we’re here now tapping into the friction that exists, and we’re gonna continue working on music and find something that tries to hit home with a lot of confused people out there right now."
Alongside in-depth discussion on the band's approach to their current tour schedule, including details of their experiences co-headlining shows with GRAMMY winners the Deftones as well as solo headline gigs at iconic venues such as Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, McIlrath dove into an explanation of a couple songs he feels are the best politically motivated anti-establishment tracks in history:
Baltin: I asked Neil Young this same question. What is the greatest protest song of all time? Is there one?
McIlrath: The one that hits home for me, maybe because you just said Neil Young, is "Ohio." I love the song "Ohio." I love what it’s talking about and the story behind "Ohio" too is that Neil Young wrote it the second that he saw that happen — he was in the studio that day. So, you can kind of hear the urgency behind the message in the song, that he had to get it out there and talk about what was happening. It was probably the closest thing that Neil Young had to social media back then. You know, we need to put a song out right now. It needs to be talking about this immediately. So "Ohio" is still a timeless protest song.
[Neil Young's] answer was you can't pick one because all of them are needed, so his was very diplomatic.
You know what the underrated protest song is? "Civil War," by Guns N' Roses. I was going through that song recently and just like, Axl talking about the war machine and Vietnam, you know, we think of Axl as this insane Sunset Strip nihilistic kind of guy, and there was a lot of important stuff that I certainly missed when I was a kid listening to that song, and it only hit me later. It was a message in here, it was a message that you weren't hearing from hair and metal in the '80s, and he would talk about it, which I thought was bold. Protest music is probably boldest where you least expect it.