Rise Against has always been about more than getting famous or getting rich. Since forming in 1999, the hardcore punk outfit has taken strong stands on political and social issues, striving to empower listeners while rocking out with an edge. The band’s conviction is powerfully personified by the aggressive style of founding member Joe Principe, whose blisteringly fast lines lay a thunderous foundation while sending a formidable message of its own.
Right from the opening track on his band’s latest album, The Black Market, Principe makes his presence known. “The Great Die- Off” is a showcase for his fervent picking, which burns through the verses and, amazingly enough, gets twice as fast during the chorus transitions. But Principe’s got a tender side, too: On songs like “The Black Market,” he doubles the vocal phrasings with gritty, gain-cranked tone, creating a beautifully heavy effect. Thanks largely to Principe’s skillful anchoring, this album’s seamless blend of hardcore, punk, rock, and pop just might be Rise Against’s most evolved material to date.
Did you approach your lines differently on the new album?
The songs had a lot of space that called for more melody from the bass. On the first single, “I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore,” the bass is really busy and melodic, probably more than my lines on the last couple of albums. I think it adds to the vocal melody, and I did a lot of that on this record. When I was younger I had a tendency to overplay because I wanted to show off a little, but over the years I’ve toned it down and played for the song more than anything.
Your lines are locked in with every nuance of the drums.
Always. I developed that kind of style because I grew up thinking I had to line up with whatever the drummer’s kick and snare were doing, and nothing else. Some people cheat their way through and play whole-notes or strum on chord changes, but I’ve always played right along with the drums, and it creates such a powerful sound. I love the grittiness of taking distortion and linking it with aggressive drumming.
How does your picking technique influence your overall tone?
My picking is aggressive and I dig in a lot, which really dictates my tone. I tend to pick up and then down, which is different from most pick players. It can make my hand look like it’s doing something that isn’t related to the timing of the drums. I’ve always been more comfortable picking upward, and I feel like it makes me a faster and tighter player. If I’m playing a triplet pattern on bass, it’s easier for me to do when I’m starting up—I can work my way into a circle pattern. I know other bass players, like Paul McCartney and Fat Mike from NOFX, who do that, too. It’s just always worked best for me.
You have a lot of vocal duties on this record, too.
The bass is a lot more involved, and I tracked the backing vocals separately, so when I went into rehearsals to play these songs live, it was difficult to hit both parts at the same time—I needed to practice a lot to build that muscle memory. Les Claypool once said that if he can play a song while watching a TV show, then he knows he has it down. I think he has something there.
Rise Against, The Black Market [Interscope]
Bass Fender Master-built Precision Bass
Amp Ampeg V4-B head, two Ampeg SVT- 212AV 2x12 cabinets
Strings Ernie Ball Slinky (.050–.105)
Picks Dunlop Nylon .88
Direct boxes Avalon U5 DI, Sans Amp Bass Driver DI