With a new acoustic album, The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol. 1, Joe Principe brings the melody to hardcore with beloved punk rockers Rise Against.

For almost two decades, Chicago hardcore punk rockers Rise Against have been thrilling crowds and thrashing stages with their energetic and heavy-hitting brand of music from their prolific catalogue that spans eight albums. That's why diehard fans and punk aficionados alike are thrilled with their latest release, The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol. 1, which contains ten of the band's most popular hits reworked as acoustic numbers. For bassist Joe Principe, this meant stepping away from his distortion pedals and picking up an acoustic bass to embrace his melodic side. 

The result is a beautiful showing of the passionate writing of Principe and his bandmates merged with layers of orchestral strings, added harmonies, and alternate compositions that display just how tasteful hard rock can be. Principe excels at holding down the low end and the foundation for the band while giving space to the other instruments. Tracks like "The Violence," "House On Fire," and "Savior" display the way he navigates through the many melodies around him and finds his own voice to add to the bigger picture. 

Just last week Rise Against wrapped up their Mourning In Amerika Tour, which paired them with fellow rockers Anti-Flag and AFI for a thrilling stretch of big venue shows, and that's exactly where we caught up with Principe to discuss his band's new album and how he approached their first ever acoustic record.


How is the tour going so far with AFI and Anti-Flag? It seems like you guys are having a blast out here. 

The tour is amazing. Great crowds and great hangs with close friends. I’ve actually known both of these bands longer than I have known the members of Rise Against.

So needless to say you’ve been getting a lot of time with fellow bass players Hunter Burgan (AFI), and Chris 2 (Anti-Flag)?

Definitely. And having them on the bill is keeping me on my toes. I have the upmost respect for Chris and Hunter and love the way they both play bass. We all come from the same school of bass with similar influences. Actually, you couldn’t find more like-minded bassists on one tour. We’re close friends, so we have years of inside jokes to riff on (no pun intended). There are no egos on this tour so I feel like we all inspire each other.

What gear have you been using for this tour?

I currently use two Orange 8x10 Cabs, a Darkglass 900 Head, an Orange AD200 Head, an Avalon U5 DI, and a Way Huge Pork and Pickle distortion pedal. And of course my Fender Basses.

What was the inspiration behind reimagining songs for your new album, The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol 1?

After being a band for nineteen years it was nice to try something different. There’s always been an acoustic side to Rise Against, so we thought it would be nice to showcase that.

Photo by Kristin Otto 

Photo by Kristin Otto 

What was your process like for working out your bass parts acoustically?

Well, a lot of the bass melodies were played by other string instruments on this stuff. There was a cello, a stand up bass, and a violin, so my job was to play tastefully and kind of dance around the other players.

How did you capture your sound in the studio? 

I used a DI on a Fender acoustic bass. That was it. Pretty simple plug and play.

Tell us about the bass that youre going to give away in your current Contest?

I’m giving away a Fender American Original Precision with a ‘70s reissue J-Bass neck. The bass has my preferred Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound pick ups as well. For me, the P-Bass body and J neck are the perfect combo. I love the thick P-Bass tone, but I love the playability of the J-Bass neck. I tend to play a lot of chords and the J neck makes it a little easier to do so.

Why is bass and music so important to your life and how did it impact you?

In my opinion, bass is one of the most important instruments in a rock band. It’s the foundation to the song. You can always tell when a band has a weak bass player. It sounds disjointed and unhinged. I started noticing bass in songs at a young age and started realizing soon after what its job was. It’s the anchor to the song while also adding complimentary melody to vocals and guitar. I was always drawn to the melodic elements of the bass and the counter melodies it can create.

As far of the importance of bass and music in general; its always been my only comfortable form of self expression. I’m a “get to the point” kind of guy, so I was immediately drawn to the urgency of punk rock. A lot of those older bands had amazing bassists that carried the songs. Bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Descendents, Naked Raygun, Adolescents, etc. They all had/have very unique bassists that help create their sound. I picked up on that and carried that torch in my own writing. 

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 8.05.41 PM

-Now Joe wants to know why you love playing bass, and why music is so important to you. And in doing so, you can win a Fender Bass autographed by Joe and the rest of Rise Against! 


The contest ends on 10-20-2018, so sign up now! 


Joe Burcaw: Gettin’ Jiggy With Black 47

BRONX-BORN BLACK 47 HAS BEEN A NEW YORK CITY INSTITUTION since 1991, when six Irish ex-pats first delivered their edgy amalgam of rock & roll, traditional Celtic folk, reggae, and rap behind politically charged lyrics. In 2006, having gone through four bassists over their first 12 albums, the group sought someone who could get firm a grip on the bass chair. Enter Joe Burcaw, whose surname bandmates quickly twisted into “Bear Claw,” in deference to his muscular, lock-down lines. The Akron, Ohio native was first drawn to bass in the 8th grade, via the melodic grooves of Duran Duran’s John Taylor, and he quickly went to school on other ’80s heavies like Bernard Edwards, Sting, and Geddy Lee. Burcaw is currently on tour with Black 47 in support of their latest CD, Iraq.