Interview by Dustin Griffin
With well over 20 years clocked in “Good Riddance”, a well received solo record in 2012, two previous Only Crime records, as well as a day job with Apple and time spent as a hockey scout, Russ Rankin is a guy who keeps busy no matter what he’s doing. Now with a new Only Crime album (the first in seven years) on the horizon and an upcoming European tour, we caught up with Russ to discuss Only Crime’s creative process, the jazz influence and how he feels when people refer to the band as a ‘punk rock supergroup.’
You guys all have different bands and commitments. Where do you find the time to record and play shows?
Russ: It’s pretty tough. What we did for this record is we made a shared calendar that we all put our stuff into and we let our booking agents get in on that. We all know that this band is not going to be able to tour more than a couple weeks at a time. We’re going to do one off fly in dates and festivals as much as we can (because) those are a little bit easier to plan. It’s always been that way with this band though, it’s always been kind of a challenge.
And you gather at Bill’s studio (The Blasting Room) in Ft. Collins to record?
Russ: That’s what we’ve been doing, yeah. We would go there to write. We’d go there for five or six days and just rehearse all day long and demo. That’s how we got all of our records done in the past, that’s how we write. It’s like high impact band practice.
Do you have any plans for upcoming shows?
Russ: We’re doing a pretty extensive European tour including festivals pretty soon.
How did the writing process for Pursuance work?
Russ: Generally I handle all the lyrics and I’ve contributed some songs in the past. I didn’t do any for Pursuance. Matt had a lot of chunks of songs and riffs that we built off of and Aaron had a couple and Bill even had some guitar riffs that he wanted to use that he’s been hanging onto since the 80’s, since Black Flag. But mostly Matt contributed the bulk of the material this time that we ended up fleshing out.
Is the creative process in Only Crime different than it is with your other projects?
Russ: Yeah for me it’s a huge challenge lyrically and melodically to try to match some of the things the other guys are coming up with. There’s a couple songs on Pursuance that were hard for me to write melodies to, because I didn’t want to just scream and yell and take the easy way out. But again I don’t have a music degree or the musical chops that the guys in the band have. So I was thrown to the fire a bit. But it’s good for any musician when they do things that are a little outside their comfort zone. With Only Crime the challenge is the appeal. That and the camaraderie and being able to play with such good players. The guys in Good Riddance are really good players as well, so I’ve been fortunate to get to play with a lot of talented guys. The ideas that were in place with Only Crime have been such that I’ve always been kind of playing catch up. But I’ve been pulling it off a bit and learning a lot in the process.
Do you find that challenge sparks your creativity?
Russ: It got me to approach writing lyrics and melodies differently than I ever had and it got me to look at it from a different angle. If they’re writing songs in keys and time signatures that I don’t understand, I have to find a different way to go about it. It forced me to reinvent myself. And the appeal is in the challenge. These guys are playing something that’s totally f*cked, but I want to put a hook in it. A melody to it. And I’m gonna do it, if it kills me I’m gonna do it.
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