Tim McIlrath

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Tim McIlrath
Tim McIlrath Rise Against.jpg
Tim McIlrath at The Republik in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2015.
Background information
Birth nameTimothy James McIlrath
Also known asJames Kaspar (pseudonym in The Killing Tree)
Born (1978-11-03) November 3, 1978 (age 40)
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Origin Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • lyricist
  • composer
  • vocalist
  • guitarist
  • bassist
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass
Years active1995–present
Associated acts

Timothy James "Tim" McIlrath (born November 3, 1978) is an American punk rock musician. He is the lead singer, rhythm guitarist, songwriter and co-founder of the American punk rock band Rise Against. McIlrath is known to support animal rights and actively promotes PETA with his band. [1] He is also straight edge.

Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed in the mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as "proto-punk" music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent record labels and other informal channels.

Rise Against American punk rock band

Rise Against is an American punk rock band from Chicago. The group's current line-up comprises vocalist/rhythm guitarist Tim McIlrath, lead guitarist Zach Blair, bassist Joe Principe and drummer Brandon Barnes. Rooted in hardcore punk and melodic hardcore, Rise Against's music emphasizes melody, catchy hooks, aggressive movements, and rapid-paced tempo. Lyrically, Rise Against is known for its outspoken social commentary, covering a wide range of topics such as animal rights, economic injustice, environmental disasters, forced displacement, homophobia, modern warfare, and political corruption.

Animal rights idea in which some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid suffering—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings

Animal rights is the idea in which some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid suffering—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings.



McIlrath attended Rolling Meadows High School in Rolling Meadows, IL. [2] This was also the set for the music video, "Make It Stop (September's Children)." [2] In college (Northeastern Illinois University), McIlrath majored in English and Sociology.[ citation needed ] In his junior year,[ citation needed ] he met Joe Principe at a Sick of It All concert. Principe asked McIlrath to sing over a few tracks that he and Dan Wleklinski had recorded. [3] It was at this time that Transistor Revolt was formed and McIlrath left college.[ citation needed ]

Rolling Meadows High School

Rolling Meadows High School, RMHS, is a public four-year high school located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. It is part of Township High School District 214, the second largest high school district in Illinois, after Township High School District 211. The other five schools include Buffalo Grove High School, Elk Grove High School, John Hersey High School, Prospect High School, and Wheeling High School. It serves primarily central and east Rolling Meadows, a significant part of Arlington Heights and a small part of Mount Prospect. Its feeder schools are South Middle School, Holmes Junior High School, Carl Sandburg Junior High School, and Our Lady of the Wayside, a private Catholic school.

Rolling Meadows, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Rolling Meadows is a city in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The population was 24,099 at the 2010 census.

Make It Stop (Septembers Children) 2011 single by Rise Against

"Make It Stop " is the second single from punk rock band Rise Against's sixth studio album, Endgame. The single was released to digital music outlets on May 30, 2011. The song impacted radio the following day. It peaked at number six on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart and number eight on Billboard's Rock Songs chart. The song is part of the It Gets Better Project.

Music career

Baxter (1995–1999)

McIlrath began his musical career in his early years; he was very active in the Chicago local punk rock scene. His first band was the post-hardcore band Baxter, formed in 1995 along with future The Lawrence Arms drummer Neil Hennessy and future Killing Tree and Holy Roman Empire bassist Geoff Reu. Their first release was a full length, self-released, cassette, Troy's Bucket , which was released in 1996. Troy's Bucket was met with warm reception from the scene, and Baxter became a popular band in the Chicago underground scene.

Post-hardcore is a punk rock music genre that maintains the aggression and intensity of hardcore punk but emphasizes a greater degree of creative expression initially inspired by post-punk and noise rock. Like post-punk, the term has been applied to a broad constellation of groups. Post-hardcore began in the 1980s with bands like Hüsker Dü, Black Flag, and Minutemen. The genre expanded in the 1980s and 1990s with releases by bands from cities that had established hardcore scenes, such as Fugazi from Washington, D.C. as well as groups such as Big Black and Jawbox that stuck closer to post-hardcore's noise rock roots. In the 2000s, post-hardcore achieved mainstream success with the popularity of bands like My Chemical Romance, AFI, Hawthorne Heights, The Used, At the Drive-In and Senses Fail. In the 2010s, post-hardcore bands like Sleeping With Sirens and Pierce the Veil achieved success and bands like Title Fight and La Dispute experienced underground popularity.

Baxter (punk band) band

Baxter was a Chicago post-hardcore band. The band consisted of Tim McIlrath, Neil Hennessy, Anthony Fiore later replaced by Timothy Remis, and a bassist only referred to as J. Wood.

The Lawrence Arms band

The Lawrence Arms are an American punk rock band from Chicago, formed in 1999. They have released six full-length albums and toured extensively.

In 1997 they released a 7" EP Lost Voices on Static Station Records. After some local touring, the band split up.

McIlrath played bass and sang backup in the first incarnation of The Honor System. He sang one song on their demo. He and drummer Neil Hennesy could also be found in a brief lineup of the grindcore band Yellow Road Priest, whose members went on to form Pelican. The band broke up in 1999.

The Honor System was an American punk rock band from Chicago, Illinois, formed in 1999 by Dan Hanaway and Rob DePaola, after the breakup of their previous band The Broadways. The band briefly featured future Rise Against frontman Tim McIlrath as a bassist. They broke up in 2004, leaving behind two studio albums and three EPs.

Grindcore is an extreme fusion genre of heavy metal and hardcore punk that originated in the mid-1980s, drawing inspiration from abrasive-sounding musical styles, such as thrashcore, crust punk, hardcore punk, extreme metal, and industrial. Grindcore is characterized by a noise-filled sound that uses heavily distorted, down-tuned guitars, grinding overdriven bass, high speed tempo, blast beats, and vocals which consist of growls and high-pitched shrieks. Early groups like Napalm Death are credited with laying the groundwork for the style. It is most prevalent today in North America and Europe, with popular contributors such as Brutal Truth and Nasum. Lyrical themes range from a primary focus on social and political concerns, to gory subject matter and black humor.

Pelican (band) band

Pelican is a post-metal quartet from Chicago, Illinois. Established in 2001, the band is known for their atmospheric and almost entirely instrumental style. They have released five studio albums and four EPs.

Arma Angelus (1998–1999)

McIlrath joined the band Arma Angelus, a Chicago metalcore band fronted by Pete Wentz, who was to become bassist in the pop punk band Fall Out Boy. McIlrath played bass in the band until 1999 when he quit to form Transistor Revolt, which would eventually become Rise Against, and The Killing Tree.

Arma Angelus was a metalcore band from Chicago, Illinois. The band was formed in 1998 and disbanded in 2002. Members of the band were Pete Wentz, Tim McIlrath, Jay Jancetic, Daniel Binaei, Adam Bishop and Timothy Miller.

Metalcore is a fusion genre combining elements of extreme metal and hardcore punk. The word is a portmanteau of the two genres. Among other styles blending metal and hardcore, such as crust punk and grindcore, metalcore is noted for its use of breakdowns, which are slow, intense passages conducive to moshing. Pioneering metalcore bands—such as Integrity, Earth Crisis, Converge and All Out War all of which had formed by 1991—are described as leaning more toward hardcore, with their style sometimes being called metallic hardcore, whereas later bands—such as Caliban, Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, Trivium, As I Lay Dying, Bullet for My Valentine, and Parkway Drive—are described as leaning more towards metal. Pantera and Sepultura have been particularly influential to the development of metalcore in the 2000s, which saw many bands in the genre achieve commercial success.

Pete Wentz American musician

Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz III is an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known for being the bassist, lyricist, and backing vocalist for the American rock band Fall Out Boy. Before Fall Out Boy's inception in 2001, Wentz was a fixture of the Chicago hardcore scene and was the lead vocalist and lyricist for Arma Angelus. During Fall Out Boy's hiatus from 2009 to 2012, Wentz formed the experimental, electropop and dubstep group Black Cards. He owns a record label, DCD2 Records, which has signed bands including Panic! at the Disco and Gym Class Heroes.

Rise Against (1999–present)

Tim McIlrath playing at Sziget Festival in Budapest in 2011 Tim McIlrath, Rise Against Sziget 2011 (2).JPG
Tim McIlrath playing at Sziget Festival in Budapest in 2011

In 1999, Tim McIlrath formed the band that would become Rise Against with former 88 Fingers Louie bassist, Joe Principe, guitarist Dan Precision (A.K.A. Mr. Precision), and drummer Toni Tintari under the name 'Transistor Revolt'. Drummer Brandon Barnes did not join until 2001; it was at the same time the band was renamed Rise Against. They officially recorded their debut album The Unraveling on Fat Wreck Chords in 2001. [4]

88 Fingers Louie is an American band from Chicago, Illinois, United States, which was formed in 1993. They played a style of hardcore punk, melodic hardcore, and punk rock. After disbanding in 1999, guitarist Dan Wleklinski and bassist Joe Principe formed the well-known punk rock band Rise Against. The band reunited in 2009, and has continued playing shows in Chicago, Canada, Belgium, Las Vegas, and Asbury Park. The band held a 20th anniversary show in 2013. The name comes from a Flintstones gangster who sells dodgy pianos.

Joe Principe American musician

Joseph Daniel Principe is an American musician. He is the bass guitarist, backing vocalist, and co-founder of the American melodic hardcore band Rise Against.

Brandon Barnes American musician

Brandon Barnes is an American musician and producer from Denver, Colorado. He is best known as the drummer for the punk rock band Rise Against. Brandon is also a strict vegetarian, an animal rights advocate and actively promotes PETA with his band. He is the only member of Rise Against who does not identify as straight edge.

In 2002 guitarist Mr. Precision left due to arguments with the band, and Todd Mohney filled his role. Later that year they released their second album Revolutions per Minute which was greeted with warm success . They toured the U.S. steadily that year, though by the end of it, Mohney left. In order to replace him, former Reach the Sky guitarist Chris Chasse joined in 2004 and they released their Geffen debut Siren Song of the Counter Culture . [4]

With the release of the singles "Give It All", "Swing Life Away", and "Life Less Frightening", Rise Against became more popular with mainstream fans, but still kept their underground sensibility. After more touring (including a European tour and spots on the Vans Warped tour), the band went back to the studio and recorded their fourth album The Sufferer & the Witness , which included four singles ("Ready to Fall, "Prayer of the Refugee", "The Good Left Undone", and "Behind Closed Doors".)

By 2017, McIlrath has recorded eight studio albums with Rise Against (The Unraveling, Revolutions per Minute, Siren Song of the Counter Culture, The Sufferer & the Witness , Appeal to Reason , Endgame , The Black Market and Wolves ) and remained as the main lyricist of the band.

The Killing Tree (1999–2006)

McIlrath has played in his metalcore side project The Killing Tree along with former Rise Against guitarist Todd Mohney and former Baxter and Holy Roman Empire bassist, Geoff Reu. During the early years of the band, all members used pseudonyms (Tim's being James Kaspar) out of concern for it. The Killing Tree has not produced any music or toured since 2004, but contributed their previously unreleased song "Dressed to Fuck" on the 2006 Thick Records compilation album Hair: Chicago Punk Cuts, which featured Emily Schambra (of Holy Roman Empire) as guest vocals on the song. [5] Schambra also contributed backing vocals on Rise Against's album The Sufferer & the Witness for the songs "The Approaching Curve", "Roadside", and the b-side "But Tonight We Dance".


When the band first began, McIlrath stated how they weren't seeking to gather such a large audience in their pursuit for originality and social justice that defined them as the "black sheep" of punk rock. [6] The original goal of the band was only to create music, never seen as a long-term group until the band came to a realization of similar activist beliefs that led McIlrath to describe music as a vessel for change. These beliefs started to get integrated into the music most prominently after the release of The Sufferer & The Witness, when McIlrath said that he sought to make a difference in the world he lives in as opposed to being one of the bands in the punk/hardcore scene today that are[n't] saying anything important". [7] McIlrath also has been prominent in promoting his own activist beliefs such as his promotion for PETA and straight-edge ethics.

Political lyrics

Having not grown up in a political family, McIlrath says that he was never particularly involved until he began playing punk rock. [8] After entering the music scene, though, he began to feel a strong connection towards his convictions, specifically animal and human rights. While Rise Against's most popular songs are not political, songs such as "Swing Life Away" and "Make It Stop" have risen to prominence as McIlrath seeks to speak to a generation that he believes is lacking conviction towards their world, as explained throughout the storytelling narrative of the band's albums. The band has begun to seek after more politically and socially challenging lyrics as time progresses, responding to current events such as the song "Help Is On The Way" and its use of support for victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.


McIlrath became a vegetarian at the age of eighteen as a result of his own understanding of the meat-industry as opposed to having it "shoved. . .down my throat." [9] The realization of PETA, an animal rights support group, came through the music scene and McIlrath's own realization of the events that occur within meat processing and inhumane conditions that animals are forced to live in. As time went on, these beliefs got integrated into his lyric writing such as Rise Against video for the single "Ready to Fall" contains footage of factory farming, rodeos, and sport hunting, as well as deforestation, melting ice caps, and forest fires. The group has called the video the most important video they have ever made.[ citation needed ] In February 2012 the band released a cover of the Bob Dylan song Ballad of Hollis Brown as part of a benefit for Amnesty International. [10] The Director's Cut of the video was first made available to a PETA website. [11] In 2009, the band was voted Best Animal-Friendly Band by PETA. [12] After the release of the film Black Fish, McIlrath worked with PETA to create a video in support of releasing animals in captivity, exclaiming how "I make a choice every time I go out on stage, I choose to perform. Animals in captivity don’t get to make that choice". [13]

Straight edge ideals

McIlrath, along with most of the rest of Rise Against, follows the subculture ideology of "straight edge", a belief that promotes refrain from using alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs, in a reaction to the excesses of punk subculture.


McIlrath has a condition called heterochromia, where his left eye is blue and his right eye is hazel. [14] [15]


Related Research Articles

<i>Siren Song of the Counter Culture</i> 2004 studio album by Rise Against

Siren Song of the Counter Culture is the third studio album by American rock band Rise Against. Released on August 10, 2004, it was Rise Against's first album on a major record label, after the band signed with DreamWorks Records in September 2003. The recording sessions for the album with producer Garth Richardson were split between two studios in British Columbia. These sessions were marred by numerous distractions and inconveniences, such as the absorption of DreamWorks into Geffen Records, the arrival of a new guitarist, accusations of the band selling out, and the birth of lead vocalist Tim McIlrath's child.

<i>The Unraveling</i> (album) 2001 studio album by Rise Against

The Unraveling is the debut studio album by American rock band Rise Against, released on April 24, 2001 by Fat Wreck Chords. Following the release of the extended play Transistor Revolt in 2000, the band signed with Fat Wreck Chords and began working on the album at Sonic Iguana Studios with producer Mass Giorgini. Musically, The Unraveling is rooted in melodic hardcore, with lyrical themes that include friendships, relationships, and memories.

<i>Revolutions per Minute</i> (Rise Against album) 2003 studio album by Rise Against

Revolutions per Minute is the second studio album by American rock band Rise Against, released on April 8, 2003 by Fat Wreck Chords. After establishing a fanbase with their 2001 debut The Unraveling, the band members wanted to record an album that distinguished themselves from other Fat Wreck Chords bands of the time. They chose Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore to produce the album, with whom they developed a strong rapport. Recording took place from November to December 2002 at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado.

<i>The Sufferer & the Witness</i> 2006 studio album by Rise Against

The Sufferer & the Witness is the fourth studio album by American rock band Rise Against, released on July 4, 2006. A hardcore punk and melodic hardcore album, it comprises thirteen tracks that focus on melody, catchy hooks, and rapid-paced tempo. Social and political issues as well as the concept of self-reflection constitute the majority of the lyrical content.

Ready to Fall 2006 single by Rise Against

"Ready to Fall" is the first single by the punk rock band Rise Against from their fourth studio album, The Sufferer & The Witness (2006).

Swing Life Away 2005 single by Rise Against

"Swing Life Away" is a song by American rock band Rise Against. It is an acoustic ballad, with a sharp guitar sound and optimistic lyrics about daily life and the working class. The song was first included in the 2003 compilation album Punk Goes Acoustic, and was later expanded upon in the band's 2004 album Siren Song of the Counter Culture.

Prayer of the Refugee 2006 single by Rise Against

"Prayer of the Refugee" is a song by American rock band Rise Against, featured on their fourth studio album The Sufferer & the Witness (2006). The lyrics were written by lead vocalist Tim McIlrath, and deal with the themes of forced displacement and the societal issues surrounding refugees. The song uses a contrasting verse-chorus form, with slow and melancholic verses against fast-paced and chaotic choruses. It was released as The Sufferer & the Witness's second single on December 6, 2006.

The Good Left Undone 2007 single by Rise Against

"The Good Left Undone" is the third single from Rise Against's fourth full-length album, The Sufferer & the Witness. The song impacted radio on May 22, 2007. In June 2007, the band announced they would be holding a contest to determine who could make the best video for the song. They released a bulletin over their MySpace account giving information about the contest.

<i>Appeal to Reason</i> 2008 studio album by Rise Against

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The Killing Tree band

The Killing Tree was a hardcore punk band from Chicago, Illinois. They were a side project of Tim McIlrath during the early days of Rise Against and featured former Rise Against guitarist Todd Mohney and bassist Geoff Reu of Baxter and Holy Roman Empire.

Savior (Rise Against song) 2009 single by Rise Against

"Savior" is a song by American rock band Rise Against, featured on their fifth studio album Appeal to Reason (2008). In contrast to the social and political topics normally discussed in Rise Against songs, "Savior" is about forgiveness and broken relationships. It is a punk rock song, with a "frenetic pace" that John Hanson of Sputnikmusic described as reminiscent of tracks from the band's 2003 album Revolutions per Minute. It was released as Appeal to Reason's third single on June 3, 2009.

Hero of War 2009 song performed by Rise Against

"Hero of War" is a 2008 song by Rise Against from the album Appeal to Reason. The song was mistaken to be the album's third single, after a music video of the song was released on the band's Myspace on May 20, 2009. However, It was later revealed it was just a promotional video and "Savior" is in fact, the third single.

<i>Endgame</i> (Rise Against album) 2011 studio album by Rise Against

Endgame is the sixth studio album by American rock band Rise Against, released on March 15, 2011 through DGC Records and Interscope Records. Rise Against began work on the album in September 2010, after completing touring in support of its previous album, Appeal to Reason, in mid-2010. The first single from the album, "Help Is on the Way" debuted on KROQ and KKDO on January 17, 2011, and was released on the band's MySpace and digital media outlets on January 25, 2011. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number two, the band's highest position to date. The album has been certified platinum by the MC, gold by the BVMI and gold by the ARIA.

Help Is on the Way song by American punk rock band Rise Against

"Help Is on the Way" is a song by American rock band Rise Against, featured on their sixth studio album Endgame (2011). Inspired by lead vocalist Tim McIlrath's visit to New Orleans, the song is about the slow response time for aid to disaster stricken areas. It incorporates elements of punk rock and melodic hardcore, with lyrics that allude to Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. "Help Is on the Way" premiered on KROQ-FM on January 17, 2011, and was later released as Endgame's lead single on January 25.

"Wait for Me" is a song by American rock band Rise Against, featured on their sixth studio album Endgame (2011). The song impacted radio on June 12, 2012. Written by lead vocalist Tim McIlrath, the track is notable for being one of the slower songs off the album. It was released as a promotional single in 2012, and was the final single released for Endgame. The song garnered positive reviews from critics, with praise directed towards the track's slower and methodical nature. It reached number 14 on the US Rock Songs chart, and was featured on the "Best Songs of the year" lists by KROQ-FM and WSUN-FM.

<i>The Black Market</i> (Rise Against album) 2014 studio album by Rise Against

The Black Market is the seventh studio album by American rock band Rise Against, released on July 15, 2014 through Interscope Records. A melodic hardcore album, The Black Market comprises twelve songs that focus on mid-tempo rhythm, vocal hooks, and strong bridge sections. The album's thematically introspective lyrics are a departure from the band's typical social and political topics, and revolve around dark subject matters.


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