Eighteen years ago Russ Rankin agreed to sing for a band known as Bunch Of Skate Punks. For a while they did the obvious things; played at house parties, small venues in their hometown of Santa Cruz, changed their name, but then somewhere along the way, as sometimes happens to the privileged few, things started to get serious. Good Riddance got recognised by Fat Wreck Chords. The group found itself in a band everyone could live off. They would tour most of the year, travel to Canada, the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia, play to audiences that love them, enjoy themselves like only a band can. Yet, as their many fans will have lately noticed, the pace is getting slower, the gaps between tours and albums are getting wider. Good Riddance have changed very much indeed.

Today, Russ is at home drinking coffee and watching what he sees as an entertainment show-the US news. Over the phone he sounds like he could be an approachable guy, friendly but not sleazy. Honest about his past and future with the band without giving the game completely away. Of course I’ve decided all this from what he says and from the sound of his voice. I’ve never met the man, but maybe in March, I will. Because, no, the band haven’t split up as has been the rumour, and yes, they’re coming back to the UK and Europe, but for one week only, with None More Black supporting. This mini-tour comes nearly a year after the release of their latest album, 'Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection'.

“We never got the chance to promote it in the UK. We only went to Canada and the US. Everyone’s just been busy getting on with life.” says Russ. The band is no longer their life, but has been overshadowed by other things, ‘grown-up’ things, such as marriage and kids. Luke, the guitarist, has gone back to college to get the education he dismissed so long ago, whilst Chuck, the bassist, Dave the drummer, and Russ all work to support their families. So no surprise then, that the guys can’t take half a year out from work to tour round the world.

The band’s favourite venues are the Garage in London and the Melkweg in Amsterdam “because it’s in a really cool part of Amsterdam.” But what Russ is really looking forward to is the thrill of being back on tour after such a long time. His current life has little resemblance to his old one; “I like walking around places, hanging in bars, seeing what’s going on, looking in shops, writing poetry.” A few years ago he’d have spent six to nine months of the year touring, but this has now been reduced to just one or two. Though they’ll be doing the Japan, Australian, and maybe South African circuits, it will again only last one or two weeks. Whether this drastic change of lifestyle was Russ’s choice is slightly ambiguous. Luke’s decision to go back to college “interrupted everyone’s lives. We couldn’t tour as much, so Dave and Chuck had to get full time jobs. And it basically ruined the band.” Wisely though, they decided not to break up, but just to do something every now and then when everyone had the time. Russ has not written any songs for Good Riddance since, and nor does he plan to, as things gradually slow down to the eventually inevitable standstill.

Even now, as the European tour approaches, the band won’t be meeting up until they get to Germany. The set list is discussed between them, which they’ll all then practice individually, in between going to work or college and changing nappies. A few days before the first show in Munich they’ll have one practice together before they’re ready to rock. With all this distance between them, all the waiting done by the fans in the past year, rumours started to circulate that the band had actually broken up. Despite an angry looking message on their website designed to clear up the rumours; “GOOD RIDDANCE is NOT breaking up. This was NOT our ‘last tour.’ STOP asking us.” Russ is actually not that surprised; “I don’t blame them. I know if that was me I’d think that. It’s because we haven’t done anything.”

Inevitably though, the band’s failure to show any sign of life will do them more good than it will harm. The rarity of their tours will undoubtedly attract the masses. Not a bad thing if you’re supporting band, None More Black. Both Good Riddance drummer, Dave and the members of None More Black originated from a group called Kid Dynamite. Dave was spotted and recruited by the Riddance lot soon after Kid Dynamite split up. The two bands are still friends and Russ hopes that his None More Black will inherit some of his fan base after the upcoming tour.

Over the years various labels have been stuck on the band, some are obvious and understandable, others are irritating but unshakable. Politics falls under the former. To Russ Punk has to be political, other wise it’s just not credible; “I have grown up listening to bands like the Dead Kennedys, never seen punk as anything but political. The Vandals- those kind of bands- they’re just having fun, but I’ve never been into that.” One thing the band is not, as Russ is quick to point out, is straightedge, though he himself is; “I saw some bad stuff on tours. There are two sides to punk. One is the straightedge side, and the other side is the wasters. No one expects anything of you when you’re in a punk band. You get all the booze and drugs you want, and it’s easy for things to get out of hand. No one expects you to be on time so you end up doing whatever you want and going off the rails. Some members drink, do some drugs, and I don’t want to commit the band to one side of the spectrum and to limit itself, so I don’t know how that came about. I don’t enforce my opinions on the band. The only opinions the band has as a whole are the opinions that everyone shares. I haven’t ever talked about it in interviews or anything. We’ve had straightedge members and we’re liked by straightedgers, but that doesn’t make us a straightedge band.”

What the band can agree on though, is animal rights. Two of the members are vegan, including Russ, whilst the other two are both vegetarians. This year their tour is being, for the first time, sponsored by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The band has had a six-year relationship with the organisation, donating some proceeds and displaying PETA posters and leaflets at the shows; “Kids would take them because they were free, and then learn about PETA. It’s good that they don’t just go to gigs for mindless fun but get a message out of it. I always want to use punk to get something across.” PETA must have received a lot of good feedback from fans because they approached Fat Wreck themselves.

“What side projects have you got going on?” I asked.

“Good Riddance is the side project now.” And so it seems they really have moved on. Russ is currently recording an album with his new band Creep Division; “I thought about the bands that we’ve toured with and who I wanted to play with. I made up my dream band and now I’ve got it.” Good Riddance bassist, Chuck is also involved with another band, but unlike Russ, he’s really going back to his roots, by playing at pubs and small gigs with his friends (Ed Gregor from No Use For A Name among them) by the name of I Want Out. They’ve already recorded a split EP on Russ’s other side project, his label Lorelei. Set up in 2001 with his friend Joe Clements, the label is what Russ wants to fall back on when, as he puts it, he’s too old to play in a band. It’s his way of staying in the music business no matter what happens. The name of the label is deliberately non- specific, to accommodate the huge variety of bands they have signed. The list seems endless; “A folk band, a blues band, a Ramones style band…”

Joe worked for a label for two years, and learned all he needed to know to set up on his own. By Russ’s own admission he only comes in once a week to listen to demos, write Bios, get interviewed, take out the trash. Really, he’s only just learning how a record label works.
And the other six days?

“I go and play ice hockey, then go down to the beach to look at the waves. If they’re there I go surfing. If there aren’t any I sit and play on my guitar. ”

But then in less than a month’s time he’ll be in Europe for the first time since 2001. Maybe I’ll see you at The Garage.














Related Links:



Commenting On: Interview - Good Riddance








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last