How does a defenseman from Sweden and the frontman of a popular Chicago-based alternative rock band become friends? The Stanley Cup works in mysterious ways. chicagoblackhawks.com caught up with Rise Against lead singer Tim McIlrath during the Dec. 19 win vs. the Kings.
You're a guest of Niklas Hjalmarsson's tonight. How did you guys meet?
Tim McIlrath: I met him in Gothenburg (Sweden) actually. My band, Rise Against, played a festival out there, and it was shortly after the playoffs here last year. I was here – I live here in Chicago – for the playoffs, so I watched the madness ensue. I certainly wasn't expecting anyone from the Hawks to be in Sweden only two weeks after the game was over. And low and behold, Niklas went from the airport right to the fest, right to our dressing room. You could tell he was still on that high from the playoff win. He came out and introduced himself and brought us some jerseys. He said he hadn't even seen his parents yet but he wanted to see the Rise Against show. I was like “Whoa, that's incredible.” So we played the show and actually had him out on stage. I felt the need to tell the crowd like, “Hey, this guy just helped win the Stanley Cup!” The crowd went crazy. It was a cool moment.
And you guys have just kept in touch since?
TM: Yeah, I've been out of town almost since then, but he said when you get back home, hit me up. We were in the studio out in Colorado recording our new record, and I just got back in town this week, and I was like “Hey man, if the invitation is still open…”
Have you ever been to a Blackhawks game?
TM: I have. I've been to a handful of games throughout my life.
What's the best part of the game night experience?
TM: I think the camaraderie of the crowd – how excited people get, how dedicated they are to this team. In a world where there are less and less unifying factors, to come to a place like this, you can forget about that world and realize there are things that unite us. Everyone's cheering for you and excited, and they let down their inhibitions and sing songs, and it's just such a Chicago pastime.
Do you ever play hockey growing up?
TM: I didn't play anything too legitimate. I was more playing on whatever slab of ice was near my house, but I had the skates and the sticks, and I played as much as I could.
It seems like rock stars always want to be athletes and athletes always want to be rock stars. Have you found that to be true?
TM: Yeah, yeah. Niklas was the first hockey player I met, but I've met a couple guys up there with baseball teams. It's funny how much your lives are parallel. You live out of a suitcase, you travel, you play to giant crowds. You're a celebrity one second, and your waking up the next second in the hotel room thinking “Where am I?” There's a lot of common ground there.
Being a Chicago guy, what's the one thing you tell visitors that they have to see or do?
TM: Well, the sports are certainly important. Hawks game or Sox game, something like that. And the clubs here in Chicago are so incredible. I was so lucky to grow up in this scene and go to shows, especially at the Metro, the Aragon, the Riv. I just believe that whatever club you grew up in really is the best club in the world to you, no matter what. I've toured many times and I've seen clubs around the world, and even though I've seen them, I'm more emboldened by that conclusion, that our clubs here are some of the best places to see music. So it's a great place to see a show.
Let's say the third period is about to start and the Hawks are down by a goal. Coach Q plays a Rise Against tune to get the team inspired. Which one does he pick?
TM: I'd have to say “Re-Education.” It's got a good intro. They play some of our songs here is what they tell me.
You mentioned the new album. How's it coming?
TM: Good. We're almost done with it. We have to go put some finishing touches on it in Los Angeles in January, so I'll be spending some time in L.A. It should come out in March, and we'll get back on tour and play in Chicago this spring.