Warped Tour ‘08 Update With Brandon Barnes of Rise Against

[Editors Note: Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting video stories taken from the recent Warped ’08 tour. Stay tuned.]

Against Me! finished their set at the Warped Tour in Mountain View, California. I could hear a forceful snare roll coming from the stage directly adjacent to the Florida punks. It was Brandon Barnes priming the pump to “Chamber the Cartridge” while the three other members of Rise Against entered the stage. The bass and guitar joined in and Barnes doubled the speed of his roll. The vocals entered, and Barnes began his incredibly fast time keeping. McGrath screamed “Can we take back all the damage that’s been done?” over one of the fastest and most powerfully aggressive rhythm sections playing today. You would expect the drummer to be thrashing all over the place. Barnes looked relaxed.

Rise Against continued to play through a set of newer material, burning through a lot of the tunes off of The Sufferer And The Witness and Siren Song From The Counter Culture. With a fairly recent lineup change a little over a year ago, the addition of Zach Blair from Only Crime seems to have inspired the band to look at some of their older songs in a new light. Vocalist McGrath picked up a guitar on some tunes, and bridges were often colored with new guitar harmonies. Perhaps it was Hill, or their maybe just the fact this band hasn’t stopped touring since they formed, but there was a new maturity present in Rise Against’s sound. The band introduced the new tune “Re-Education Through Labor” off their soon-to-be-released record, Appeal To Reason, which sounded like a great combination of their last release (The Sufferer And The Witness) mixed with a hefty taste of Bad Religion.

The following day as the drummer took time out of his busy day to talk to DRUM!, I found his demeanor similar to how he looked on stage the night before. Whether performing in front of thousands, or speaking to him one on one, you’ll always find the drummer looking relaxed, with a content look on his face.

Ever since he was a little kid it has been a dream of Barnes to play drums for a living. He came from a musical family where his mother was a pianist, and he grew up listening to and playing many different styles of music ranging from jazz to rock. He took a particular affinity to drummers like John Bonham and Hunt Sales of Iggy Pop and The Stooges. “I think every drummer has to have a thing for Bonham,” Barnes confesses. As I admit that I haven’t heard Hunt Sales drumming, Barnes corrects me that I have in fact heard “Lust For Life,” which is now being played all over the place, including behind a recent car commercial. He then begins drumming on his legs and starts humming the tune, all the while explaining how great Sales’ drumparts were behind Iggy’s music. He’s right, the tune sounds familiar.

Rise Against just completed their fifth full-length, Appeal To Reason, while recording for the third time with Jason Livermore, and ex-Black Flag and Descendants drummer, Bill Stevenson. “They’re like the fifth and sixth members of the group.” It just so happens that both engineers are great drummers too, so they can offer him valuable feedback. Barnes explained to me that they have a unique way of capturing punk drums being played at extremely fast tempos. Things like the dynamic qualities of a fast roll being played on different spots of a snare drum are often lost to over-compression. Stevenson and Livermore have a way of capturing more organic drum sounds, where these subtleties and nuances are still present. After spending two months in The Blasting Room [Recording Studio], Barnes is extremely pleased with their latest record.

Since the release of the band’s major label debut, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture, in the span of two records Rise Against quickly moved on up in the world from performing at bigger clubs to playing arenas. The drummer explained to me that the growth was gradual, so the increase in venue size was a comfortable adjustment. He initially had to make minor adjustments when they began playing bigger venues. While he continues to mic his drums the same way, he had to monitor how hard he was hitting the drums. Often he would be playing the drums as hard as he could, and from his vantage point on stage it would sound like he was hardly scratching the surface of the drumhead. “The sound just gets lost in bigger spaces.”

I asked him about the challenges to playing the Warped Tour. “Well, this is our fourth time playing the tour.” Relaxing was a lesson he had to learn on the relentless tour, doing activities like reading and watching movies when his band wasn’t performing.

A day after this interview, the Warped Tour ended in Los Angeles. While Rise Against awaits the release of their newest record, the band is about to embark on a huge tour with Alkaline Trio, Thrice, and The Gaslight Anthem.

Be sure to check out two new songs off their upcoming record at http://www.myspace.com/riseagainst, and their new video for “Re-Education (Through Labor) at http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?id=1568964&vid=277474.