In The Spotlight: Tim McIlrath
Tim McIlrath is a punk rock vocalist of Chicago origin, who possesses a fairly distinct high-mid singing voice along with a fierce scream, and he interchanges these frequently in each of his main frontman positions. He is also a strong voice for PETA and animal rights in general, being a straight-edge vegetarian himself, and has also guested on albums ranging from Anti-Flag to Flobots. He also has a slightly unusual condition known as heterochromia, which results in one eye being blue and the other brown, as can be noticed in this shot.
I was first introduced to Tim’s work on the Rise Against track “Paper Wings” (which I found on the Burnout 3: Takedown), and was instantly drawn to the style of punk rock they were aiming for. The vocals were a little scratchy, but compelling, and since checking out the releases surrounding Siren Song Of The Counter Culture the band have cemented themselves as a group with an incredibly solid discography. Starting out with a more hardcore punk aspect, this has since shifted to a punk rock style, Siren Song being the fulcrum between the two. That said, both styles work well, and I placed the latest record, Endgame, in my Top 10 of 2011, and with good reason despite the reduction of screams. This is the latest single from the album, called “Satellite”. Dig in.
In the early years of Rise Against, Tim also kicked off another project with ex-Rise Against guitarist Todd Mohney, intended to be in a more metalcore direction. Even if I may disagree with that label, The Killing Tree made several great releases even, most of which are an absolute pain to get ahold of (I’m still searching). The Romance Of Helen Trent is a particularly interesting concept album, the lyrics of which are written in a traditional emo style but better quality than many of their contemporaries, and it comes highly recommended. One of The Killing Tree’s castoffs (which later appeared on a compilation) has become an addiction of mine, and is provided here. ‘Scuse the language of the title, the lyrics are far better.
One of the more surprising discoveries I made about Tim involves one of his other earlier bands, an actual metalcore band by the name of Arma Angelus. They weren’t a particularly huge band, but they had some moderate success with a few demos and releases, and Tim was bassist for this band before he formed the prototype Transistor Revolt, which morphed into Rise Against. The most surprising part of Arma Angelus was in the form of frontman Pete Wentz, who went on to play bass for Fall Out Boy. Just listen to the track “Victoria” below (featuring Tim on backing vocals) and tell me you aren’t just a bit surprised as to the stylistic change.
As bonus material for this post, I would like to demonstrate to you all a humbler side of Tim McIlrath. Rock stars in general are not known for this, but to call Rise Against down-to-earth would be a severe understatemen. As part of the filming for Another Station, Another Mile (a DVD release, and reference to “The Dirt Whispered”), Tim traveled around Europe busking. In this video, you see him perform his own song “Swing Life Away” to people on the streets of Budapest, as though an ordinary guy trying to make a living.
Warning: This video is very humbling and emotional.