Russ Rankin is the frontman and sole remaining founding member of Santa Cruz, California-based Punk/Melodic Hardcore greats Good Riddance. Rankin is, also, well-known and widely loved for his musical efforts as part of State of Grace, Fury 66, Creep Division, and Only Crime. Rankin has worked extensively with Descendents, ALL, and Black Flag drummer and producer Bill Stevenson at his Fort Collins, Colorado recording studio, The Blasting Room on both Good Riddance and his solo material, as well as being a long-standing member of Only Crime.
Rankin & Stevenson recently joined forces once more to collectively create what has become Russ’ second proper solo album, Come Together Fall Apart. Anchored by lead single, “Babel,” Come Together Fall Apart is now available in a number of formats on SBÄM Records (Europe,) Cursed Blessings Records (Canada,) and Say-10 Records (US.)
We recently got a chance to speak with Russ Rankin himself about the making-of Come Together Fall Apart, The 2022 Winter Olympics, Good Riddance, Only Crime, and much, much more.
Note: the emailed interview below has been lightly edited for general clarity.
What can you tell us about your primary sources of inspiration and influence behind your latest solo album, Come Together Fall Apart?
The state of the world through my eyes and, also, some of the more difficult, personal, experiences that me and some people close to m have gone through recently.
How does the sound heard on Come Together Fall Apart differ from your last solo effort, Farewell Catalonia, as well as your work with Good Riddance?
I was just learning how to write songs for a solo project and just learning how to properly play an acoustic guitar when I recorded my first album. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but thanks to Paul Miner, who engineered and produced, we ended up with a pretty solid first effort. This time around, I’d like to think my guitar playing has improved, as well as my vision for what I wanted the album to sound like. I wanted to sprinkle in some other sounds and have some drums here and there throughout the album. I think, I came into with a better understanding of my overall vision and how to achieve it.
So, did you have any collaborators while making Come Together Fall Apart or was this album truly a solo affair?
I was fortunate to be able to record at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado, which meant I had a handful of incredibly talented people to help me. As with Good Riddance & Only Crime recordings, Bill Stevenson worked with me on my vocals, lyrics, performance, etc. and, as always, his direction was invaluable. I played all of the acoustic and electric guitars on the album, as well as all the bass, and Andrew Berlin engineered all of that and had a ton of great tips and direction. I learned a lot from him during this process. Andrew, Chris Beeble, and Jonathan Luginbill, all engineers at the studio, are all, also, great piano players and they all played on the album. Using Andrew’s contacts in the area, we were able to call in someone to play bowed bass, someone else to do Celtic penny whistle, and Colton, another engineer, knew someone who came in to play viola on the Billy Bragg cover, [“You Woke Up My Nighborhood.”]
What was it like working with Bill Stevenson, Jason Livermore, Andrew Berlin & Colton Krohn at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado on the recording, mixing, mastering, production, engineering, etc. side of Come Together Fall Apart?
A great experience. I learned a ton and had a really good time. It was a relaxed atmosphere, even though we had a lot of work to do in a very short time.
For those unfamiliar with the story of The Tower of Babel, could you tell us a bit about it and how it inspired “Babel” from Come Together Fall Apart?
I didn’t know much about it. The line “on my way to Babel” popped into my head as I was playing my guitar one day and I liked the way it sounded and so, I decided to build a song around it. After reading up on it, the way humanity used to have one common language and, then, this event splintered everyone into these hundreds of other dialects; I thought it was analogous to the state of the world today and our inabilities to communicate effectively with one another and the turmoil and suffering that has created.
How would you say does your vegan and straight edge lifestyle affect or influence your song-writing?
I don’t know that it does. I have written animal rights songs before and will probably wrote more, so there’s that. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s a factor, other than that, when I write, I am not under the influence of anything except coffee.
Who designed the striking black-and-white album cover imagery for Come Together Fall Apart and, from your perspective, what is the significance behind it?
It was my vision and Stefan [Beham] put it together. I wanted to show the faces of all these different kids concerned and uncertain about the world that we are leaving them.
How did you link up with SBÄM Records (Europe,) Cursed Blessings Records (Canada,) and Say-10 Records (US) to jointly release Come Together Fall Apart? How did you link up with SBÄM Records to release Come Together Fall Apart?
I was approached by Stefan about doing an album with SBÄM and shortly after that I was approached by Al [Nolan] about doing something with Cursed Blessings. It worked out well since I was recording all these songs and those two guys worked out all the details of the releases, release dates, etc.
What made you decide to cover Stompin’ Tom Connors’ “The Hockey Song” as part of a special free 7-inch fllexi-disc split with The Almighty Trigger Happy for Cursed Blessings Records?
I’ve always wanted to cover it. I understood I was treading on scared ground, at least in Canada, but I think I did a passable rendition of it.
Which events are you most excited to watch at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China and why for each?
Hockey. And hockey. Might watch some hockey, too.
When can we tentatively expect to hear new music from Good Riddance?
Don’t know. We have no timetable for new music. We are focused on, hopefully, having a fairly busy show schedule for Spring & Summer 2022.
What’s the current status of your beloved band Only Crime with Bill Stevenson (Descendents, ALL,) Aaron Dalbec (Bane, BE WELL,) Matt Hoffman (Modern Life Is War,) and Dan Kelly (The Frisk?)
We have an active group text. Everybody wants to get together to jam, maybe, write some new stuff. Hopefully, we get to do that soon.