Good Riddance was one of my favorite bands in the late 90s. I was thrilled when the crew from Fat Wreck hooked me up with an interview with Russ Rankin when they visited Detroit in the fall of 1999.
I met up with Russ and we went to a bar next to St. Andrews Hall and settled into a booth to do the interview. The owner came up to us out of nowhere and announced while pointing at Russ “If he’s not going to drink, you have to leave.” Russ gave her a look, stood up and said let’s get out of here. We ended up doing the interview sitting on a Congress St. curb next to a tour bus.
As of now (Aug. 2020), Russ is still cranking out albums and touring with Good Riddance. You can find more info on them at: http://grpunk.com/
How did the band form?
Initially, I had three friends. A drummer, bassist and guitarist, and they were all just learning to play their instruments. They were playing like AC/DC covers and stuff like that. They were kind of interested in playing punk, and that’s what I was into. One night (since they didn’t have a singer), they asked me to sing for them, so I yelled and screamed and stuff. They liked it and I told them if I was going to be in their band, they would have to do punk stuff. So we did like Sex pistol covers, Drunk Engines, Agent Orange and stuff like that. We were called Good Riddance back then, but that was an early history of the band. Luke (guitar player) joined the band in 1990, before then the band was loosely organized. We hardly ever practiced. We didn’t play original songs or record or anything. So when Luke joined up, he and I were kind of serious about it, so I would say that Good Riddance really started in 1991 or 1992 when we decided to write our own songs, try and record, get shows out of town, that’s when we really started to take it seriously.
Your music really has a lot of variety to it, from punk rock to hardcore. What bands influence you?
I’m an older guy, so I’ve listened to a lot of music. When I got into this stuff, punk and hardcore really was not as separate as they are now. I was influenced a lot by the Dead Kennedys, Crass, Conflicts, Adolescents, Diagnostic, Kromags, stuff like that.
How did you hook up on Fat Wreck Chords?
We made a tape and thought it was good and sent it to a bunch of labels.. A lot of labels. Fat was the first label who called us back. We were going to do just a 7” first, and we had written a bunch of new tunes. Mike (Fat) liked them a lot so we decided to do an album. That was our first album .We kind of lucked out. Fat was a lot smaller back then too. We’ve been fortunate.
What do you guys do outside of the band?
I surf, skateboard, play hockey and play guitar. We all keep a low profile. Everyone else keeps busy with girlfriends, pretty domesticated. I’m the only one without a girlfriend.
A lot of your lyrics are from a political viewpoint. Does the band (as a whole) stand for the issues?
The lyrics are mine. The band doesn’t mind them, but it would be a mistake to say their beliefs are the same as mine. As a band, I would say that our political viewpoints are pretty much liveral, pretty much to the left on most issues. We’re all different people. I’m straight edge and others aren’t. A couple of us are vegan, a couple of us are vegetarian.
I really dig that tune “Waste” off of Ballads from the Revolution.
Yeah, I”m vegan and I wanted to write a song that might jar peoples heads into thinking about, well, not that I want to tell people what to do, because I don’t want to do that, more of looking at something a different way because a lot of people justify meat eating by, you’re just so used to it, it’s so normal to see it that people look right past it. Like, how that meat got to your table, what’s really involved. I think people who are passionate people would find something wrong with it if they looked into it. We’ve had a really good response to that song. That song alone has caused people to become vegetarian, which I never expected but is really cool.
What are your goals as a band?
Just to play music that inspires people and continue to tour.
How’s the band’s relationship together?
It’s a weird relationship. It’s not like friends, it’s like a business. Because at home, we don’t hang out a whole lot together. We hang out with all different people who all have different lives. But, we are able to get along crammed together in small places for months at a time and we never fight. We’re pretty easy going around each other which makes it really easy to travel, tour and stuff.
How’s the scene in Santa Cruz (California)?
It’s pretty good. There is no place really good to play for like punk bands or hardcore bands. Our town is not really big. There’s like a couple of rock clubs, big venues that will book whatever is big at the time, like ska bands are playing there now. There’s not like a small venue all ages place that’s open all the time. Things will open and then close up. Which makes it hard for local bands to get seen and makes it hard for bigger bands that tour to book shows in Santa Cruz. To get a good show going you have to pretty much rent out a Vets hall which is a hassle. But it happens every once in a while. There are a lot of cool kids out there, and a lot of cool bands though. When we play there we have really good shows.
Any outside (of Good Riddance) projects?
Right now, myself and Chuck (bass player) are doing a side project with Craig from Sick of it All called Creep Division. I play bass, Chuck plays guitar and Craig sings. This kid Pat from a band called No Motiv plays drums. We’ve played a few shows on the East coast, a few on the West coast and a few shows in Australia. We’re going to try to put out a CD when we get a chance. We’re all busy in our main bands though. As far as what label – any label that would put us out.
What was your first tattoo?
Russ pulls his sleeve up revealing his Statue of Liberty tattoo on his arm.. A beauty.