Rebel Rampage is a California-based power trio with an outspoken rancour for the current American leadership. Their mission statement is “Armed with words and music to resist oppression by the government and inspire change for equality and justice,” and they were active in drumming up opposition to the Republican Party in the recent midterm elections.
They’ll be releasing their album Divided We Fall, (Angelo Moore of Fishbone is a guest musician) on November 18 and will be giving out free copies to members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The video for their song “Immigration Man” paints a compassionate portrait of a sad circumstance while the angry musical delivery rages against the injustices of a racist system.
Frontman Graham Czach, the band’s vocalist, bassist, and songwriter, recently took the time to explain how they got here and to share a little of the zeal behind what he calls his “protest rock power trio.”
What kind of childhood did you have?
I had a great and crazy childhood filled with lots of adventure and extremes. I grew up in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, in an unincorporated part of Palatine, a forest preserve. Not that far outside the city, it was great to be able to have the best of both worlds and to have the woods and nature as a second home as well as the city to visit and experience when I wanted. It was a healthy balance.
My parents were very loving and the biggest music appreciators there are. They still go see almost more shows a year than I perform, and I do about 150+ gigs a year professionally with all the bands I’m in. I look back at my childhood as one of the best times of my life, carefree and happy, living it to the fullest and experiencing everything I could. I was also a wild child and have tons of crazy stories you almost wouldn’t believe without witnesses, but that’s for another time.
What role did music play in it?
I was always listening to music and had headphones glued to my head almost all the time. I started playing the upright bass and electric bass in orchestra and bands in school when I was seven or eight and have been playing ever since. Heavy metal was a huge influence on me when I was young, and the first thing I learned on bass was “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth),” the Cliff Burton solo on Metallica’s Kill Em’ All album.
I definitely was a metalhead through most of junior high and high school years but was always into the classic rock I grew up on with my parents, such as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, CSNY, and more. Led Zeppelin is my favorite rock band of all time, and I personally think the best. I was in original bands since I can remember and have been putting out albums with one band or another since the early ‘90’s. Music with real messages and substance always struck a chord with me and hit me deep because it had purpose, you could really feel the emotion and get behind it in a real way.
Who do you credit for teaching you compassion and a love for justice?
My mother was the best example of how to be a good person by caring for all living and non-living things with the utmost compassion and by standing up for what’s right and seeing justice served when needed. She’s a social justice warrior and always gets involved in standing up for equality and justice for all.
What was your reaction to the results of the midterm elections?
Mixed. I think it’s great and a positive step forward with some sort of sanity to have the House back in Democrat majority so they can start reversing some of these horrible courses this abomination of an administration has taken, especially stopping the wannabe fascist dictator Trump. I think it’s also great that a record number of women and minorities were elected to office and overturned so many red states and districts.
However, it boggles my mind how many people still vote for the insane Republican Party and agenda, at this point, against their own interests. It’s just plain ignorance and believing the propaganda of Fox News and the constant fearmongering and hateful rhetoric of #notmypresident Trump. It’s unbelievable that anyone can still support him. He’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to this country, ever.
I still have hope for the future and believe that sometimes it has to get worse to get better. It looks like that is playing out in this case. I just wish this nightmare would end. Trump has committed so many impeachable offenses at this point and thrown our country into such a constitutional crisis that he should have already been gone. It’s up to the power of the people and I will go as far as to say we need a revolution. It’s time!
Why did you choose the power trio format?
I always wanted to be in a power trio rock band. The chemistry and sound is so huge and infectious and also allows you to expand in ways that you can’t with bigger bands. It’s the trifecta of power. Some of my favorite power trios are Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Muse, The Police, Nirvana, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Rush, and Primus, to name a few. The sound is always so unique because each member has room to really shine and let their own creativity and style come through. It’s raw and bare for everyone to really sink their teeth into and feel the emotion and power. It’s the best format for the messages and activist music we’re making.
How did the bandmembers meet?
I knew Dylan McGee Jones (guitar) for years when we both lived in Chicago and were in the music scene. We had so many mutual friends and colleagues that we eventually played on some gigs together and became good friends. He recorded guitar on my second solo EP, Star by Star, in 2014-15. He moved to L.A. shortly before I did and started playing guitar for Gallant.
I moved out about a year and a half later and we started playing some in L.A. We both discussed doing a project like this for some time as a power trio with some real rock and solid messages. Once the 2016 election happened, it was a no-brainer and I started writing like a mad man because I felt the urgency and there was no shortness of inspiration and material to write about with the shit show that ensued.
After I had demoed out most of the album, I sent it to Dylan and he recommended PunKy Balfour (drums) as the perfect fit. PunKy was also recommended to me by others in LA. When he came over to my house the first time and I played him the demos, it was an instant connect and we’ve been like brothers ever since. He’s a monster drummer and always brings the music to the next level.
The chemistry in this band is incendiary when we play live, and I think you can hear it on the record as well. It’s our responsibility as artists that have a platform to speak out and stand up for rights, equality, truth, and justice. Over generations, the positive social impact on millions of global citizens by musicians such as John Lennon, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Bono, Zach De La Rocha, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Kendrick Lamar, Henry Rollins, and Lauryn Hill is unwavering and everlasting. We intend on following in these influential footsteps by remaining passionate about this music and the mission to save our democracy!
What’s the story behind the song “Immigration Man?”
It’s a cover song of the 1972 classic hit protest song by Graham Nash, which was performed by Graham Nash and David Crosby. I always loved that song and wanted to reimagine it in a modern rock anthem context, as it is so timely right now with the immigration crisis at hand. I wrote heavy riffs around the harmonic progression and added hits, etc. The original version is quite different. I tried to also remain true to the original though with respect to the melodies and messages. It came out better than expected and we think it sounds great as a modern rock anthem version of the song.
How did Angelo Moore get involved?
At Summerfest in Milwaukee 2017, I was performing with a band there and on the flight back to LA I met Angelo Moore of Fishbone, who had also performed at Summerfest. I was on a flight with the whole Fishbone band and crew. I recognized Angelo because he and Fishbone were a big influence on me and I grew up listening to them. We immediately hit if off, talking about music and politics, etc., and got each other riled up about the current political climate.
I told him about this Rebel Rampage album and project and we both agreed there were no coincidences about this, and we tossed around the idea of collaborating. Fishbone and Angelo’s messages have always spoken out on important issues, especially racism. We exchanged info and he said to send some of the music over to see if we could collaborate on something. I sent him a few songs and he really dug the music, which led to “Red Star” being the one to try out.
We scheduled a time for me to come over to his studio and work on some ideas for horn parts and vocals. I show up and Angelo is running on overdrive like he always is, an amazing true artist savant and an inspiring individual. He instantly started playing along on his sax and writing parts right there and tracking them. I said he didn’t need to record them or do it right then, we can just talk through some things, but when inspirado is happening, you don’t fuck it up and mess with the flow.
So he continued to lay down some ideas and we guided it to the right place together. He then gets up and walks over to the organ where his theremin was and starts playing the song on theremin, it was incredible. So cool! It made me think of the sonar from a sub, which fits perfectly for the Russian red star theme.
We had one more session at my home studio where he came over and cut the vocals and also laid down all those thick harmonies on the choruses as well as the second verse parts and the shouts at the end. Such a great experience working with him on this song. It turned out great and we are close friends now as well as tight musical comrades. Love that dude.
What’s next for Rebel Rampage?
We’re working on releasing the next single off the album, “I Am The Power,” featuring Emily
Armstrong (Dead Sara) with a video. The album release show is our next main focus, which is 11/18 at the York Manor in Los Angeles, where we’re partnering with the ACLU SoCal with special guest speakers and Angelo Moore (Fishbone) guesting with us on “Red Star” and more.
We’re also working on partnering with various resistance organizations to rally the people and make some change through music. Vinyl albums are being made and will be available next month, but you can order them now at rebelrampage.com as well as CDs, T-Shirts, Posters, and Stickers. Please help spread the word and the music to create change and make a difference.
We are on a mission!