The bassist in political punk band Anti-Flag talks about the new album, organized religion, The Clash, and a possible Australian tour. And hippies.
Amy (falloutfry) of Buzznet: I saw you perform at Bamboozle Left in 2008, and the set was amazing. But, I was a little dumbfounded by your opposition to moshing. Why don't you want your fans to mosh?
Chris #2: Um... opposition to moshing? Where did that come from?
Buzznet: No way! Justin Sane was saying "Don't mosh! Don't mosh!"
Chris #2: At Bamboozle? I'm pretty sure we did a really big circle pit that day.
Buzznet: For real?
Chris #2: Yeah! Well, I think that we often stop any show where a fight breaks out.
Buzznet: Maybe that was it. I think there was a pretty big Wall Of Death there.
Chris #2: Yeah, things like that are a bit silly. But as far as dancing at shows, we are all for it.
Buzznet: All right, serious question: The Clash; You've been Clash songs lately. I fucking love The Clash, so it'd be great to know how they've influenced your music, your politics, all that good stuff.
Chris #2: Essentially, for us, The Clash are a band that we often look to for not just musical inspiration, and not even socio-political inspiration, but just how they carry themselves as a band: Their ability to transcend genres and transcend the politics of a scene. They went out on limbs and brought reggae music and hip-hop music that was happening at the time, and they brought it into their music. They were able to really challenge people. With us, whether it be our melodies or whether it be the type of chord progressions or even drum beats that we try to incorporate into our songs, I've found that looking to them and being like, "Okay, let's not be afraid, let's just do what's right for the song," they've been tremendously influential.
Buzznet: That's great. This is a direct fan question: (asked by Nick Leonard) What is your most memorable fan moment?
Chris #2: The craziest thing that ever happened is, we had recently played in Moscow, and the van that we were in got chased and shook. And, I think those sort of break-downs between band members and
audience members, those are often amplified in territories where it's very difficult for us to communicate with people. You know? It almost goes down to caveman instincts, like "I'll just shake you to let you know that I think what you're doing is great." In that sense, it was probably more of them not being able to say "Welcome to Moscow, have a good show." The way they said that was "AHHH!" and they shook our
vehicle. That was a bit scary. But, in the end, it all worked out and the shows were great.
Buzznet: This is another fan question: (asked by Jerry DazzlePants) What the fuck happened in Australia last time, and when are you coming back?
Chris #2: What happened in Australia was, we were finishing up the album, and we ran over: We weren't going to make the proper deadlines that we needed to. We were also dealing with economic crises, talking
with promoters, dealing with plane tickets, those kinds of things. So we thought it'd be better to sort of wait a little bit, finish the record, and then come back when we can do more stuff. So we're going to come back to Australia in December or March. We don't know the exact schedule: We don't know when we're going to come back exactly, but we are definitely going to come back.
Buzznet: Okay, let's tackle this: You've gotten a lot of criticism for signing to a major record label, despite the fact that they gave you more creative freedom. This poses a difficult question: Is it more important to have personal freedoms to make music, or to have a large audience? (Do you make music for yourselves or other people?)
Chris #2: [sighs] Well, that's an interesting question. Honestly, as far as Anti-Flag is concerned, our first and foremost priority is to make songs that we believe in. Because we're the four people that have to play them every night. However, we come from the school of thought that, if what you're saying is true, and what you're saying is genuine, and if you actually believe in it, that will rub off on others. And, not only will it rub off on others, but they'll see the honesty. They'll see the fact that it is genuine. They'll be able to
decipher that music as very different from the new Britney Spears hit, which may be fantastic to tap your foot or shake your butt to, but at the end of the day, it's essentially about nothing. We've always tried
to write music that was bigger than a band, bigger than a song, or bigger than a record, but was about building a real community and real relationships. That's what punk rock is. That's why we play this type of music and that's why we play the shows that we play. It's about the people that live in whatever city that Anti-Flag plays in, so the next day, they can high five and hug and be like "Hey! I was at the show! I
saw you there! I'm Chris! Nice to meet you!" That's a thing that is very much lacking in music right now, and I think we're doing the best we can to bring it back.
Buzznet: So let's back it up. Was the major record label worth the criticism? Because that lost you a lot of fans doing that...
Chris #2: That's debatable on my end because the albums that we've released on the major record label are our biggest albums. So, I feel like when we tour around the world, more people know about us than
ever. So I can't look back on it with a negative light. Do I believe in all the practices of major labels? No. Did I like the fact that there was a corporate layoff before one of our albums was released? No, I think that fuckin' sucks! That's not why I started playing music, to be involved in the business side of things. However, we saw an opportunity to take advantage of some things, and essentially, we were able to successfully take advantage of the Sony system, have them spend lots of money on the band Anti-Flag, and lots of money on us starting non-profit organizations, us working with various already-established non-profits and charities, and being able to incorporate the socio-political aspects of Anti-Flag into a different form. Not to mention the fact that Rolling Stone wrote about our band. They've never done that before! I think there were things that we gained from it; We gained a lot more than the major did! They only sold 100,000 of those albums! They probably wanted to sell a million, but I don't give a damn. I think that, in one aspect, when we first announced that we were "striking a deal with the devil," people were
upset. But the albums came out, and people realized that they weren't changing us, they weren't manipulating us; We were going to do whatever we wanted to do, and whether or not it worked at radio or MTV or any of that shit: That's their business. We're just going to go on and be the kind of band that Anti-Flag has always been.
Buzznet: Jolly good. So everyone knows your views on politics, drug use, vegetarianism, stuff like that, but you're all a little fuzzy with religion. Do you have any particular standpoint personally or with the band on religion?
Chris #2: I believe that organized religion is the root of many of the world's troubles right now. I think that the situation that we find ourselves in and the wars we find ourselves in are inherently based on religion and the advancement of one side verses another. I also believe that they're inherently racist. I think that people are duped and lead to believe that we need to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because "they're trying to kill us, because they hate us." Essentially, where all this hatred for America is coming from is coming from the support of Israel and embedded troops in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that the U.S. government has. And, because they believe that's their holy land, they want the "infidels" out of it! It's all
coming out of a 13-mile radius of land that "The Big Three" of religion are fighting over. It has completely disrupted our day-to-day lives. However, I have read The Bible, I have read The Satanic Bible; I think that there's a lot of interesting elements to them, like, one of the things that I can't get over is the fact that the Qur'an, The Bible, any spiritual handbook inherently talk about helping the sick and helping the poor, but you never hear these religious leaders talk about that! You hear them bash the others! It's a mentality that is so intolerable of difference that it makes me distaste the entire belief structure.
Buzznet: Hallelujah! Now, the punk genre is often mistaken for being associated with violence and ignorance. Do you find this difficult, considering your philosophies are peaceful and educated?
Chris #2: No, I think the words "punk rock" are just thrown around in so many different circles right now. It's not what it was, like, we don't have -- aside from Fat Mike -- we don't have a G.G Allin, and Fat
Mike isn't shitting on people! Like, there was something very dangerous and very scary about the origins of punk rock. Whether it be people like Iggy Pop, cutting himself on stage; there was a lot more performance art. For us, I look at a band like The Clash: The Clash were there with The Sex Pistols, and they looked at The Sex Pistols and Sid Vicious doing their performance art, and they said "You know what? We're going to focus this energy a little bit more, and we're going to put it towards creating a community that can actually do something positive. Kids won't just leave show with a bloody nose, they'll leave with the idea in their head that ending racism is possible." To me, that's the type of punk rock world that I want to live in. It has nothing to do with whatever band of the moment is wearing a spiky belt and has painted fingernails and is on TV and saying "We're so edgy!"
Buzznet: I hate that!
Chris #2: Exactly. The edge, the sound, none of that has anything to do with punk rock. What's punk rock to me is the idea that we can create a space that is different from what's happening in the rest of the world. It's a place that is free from racism, sexism, homophobia. It's a place where equality exists, and even if it only happens for the three hours that the show happens, we at least have that moment.
Buzznet: All right. So. Drug use: A lot of activist scenes are filled with it, like, take The Beatles in the 60's and 70's: They and a lot of their fans were not exactly known for being sober, but they share a lot of your values. Is it hard ---
Chris #2: No, I think that... uh.... geez, hippies are hippies, man. I think that is why you might find musical differences because of that.
Buzznet: There is definitely a fine line between hippie music and punk music.
Chris #2: Yeah, exactly. You become a stoner rock band if you wanna rock & roll and then smoke weed all the time. Everything is just a little bit slower.
Buzznet: But we're talking about, say, political rallies, not shows. So it's about the politics, not the music.
Chris #2: Well, you know, I have no problem with drug use. I believe that the war on drugs is bullshit! I think that marijuana should be legal! I'm not gonna smoke it, but throwing someone in jail for it is ridiculous! So, I see the merit for all of it, because I have had people in my life who have done drugs and can function perfectly. I've also had people in my life who have done drugs and don't function very well, so I see both sides of it. Me, I've been down the path, and I have made my decision. Everyone should be free to make their decision.
Buzznet: Awesome. So this is the very last question, and we're going to talk about your new record: The People Or The Gun. What were your main goals in recording this album, and do you think you have accomplished those goals?
Chris #2: Here's what went down: We came off of about a year and a half on the road and we knew that our major record deal was only a two-album deal. We knew that going in. So, we had a real conversation
about the goals of the band, like what we wanted to do and what we wanted to achieve, so at the end of that conversation, we decided that the Anti-Flag albums that are the best and the truest are the ones that just the four of us have written and recorded ourselves. Furthermore, some of our favorite albums have been recorded in Pittsburgh. So we devised a plan, and that plan was to leave labels out of it. Leave businesses out of it, leave producers out of it. Let's go to our own studio, let's write and record the album
ourselves, and once it's all finished and once we see what we have, and once we build the artwork and stuff in such a way that we feel comfortable and confident, Then let's go to a label and see who will release it. So, rather than involving ourselves in what I believe to be a rather archaic process, which is to write an album for two months, you demo it, you meet with a producer, you wait for two months, then you deliver it to the label, and they wait four months to release it because you're doing who-knows-what. If you go through that process, your record comes out a year after you've written the songs! And, I think with the technological advancements that we have, it's important to take advantage of them in order to release the most relevant and pertinent Anti-Flag album that we've ever released. That way, we're able to be on top of the issues that are happening right now. And, a lot of times, people will be afraid of a dated record, so we were working inside those constraints to stay topical, but also release ideas that will last longer than our band. For example, there's a track on this record called "The Economy Is Suffering: Let It Die." It's track two off the album, and it pertains to corporate bail-outs that are happening right now, and you see Barack Obama, who is supposed to be the antithesis of George W. Bush, but you see him giving corporate bail-outs to the same people that the Bush Administration was giving. So, you really have to ask yourself, "Where is the change? Where is the difference?" Instead of just laying that out there in black and white, we use the slogan "The economy is suffering," which is the slogan that was used in the May 1968 riots in
Paris, France, where there were student protests and they were demanding greater wages for the workers in France and Paris. By being able to draw that symmetrical line between these two time frames, I believe that gives us an opportunity for someone to stumble onto the record years after our band is gone and say "Hey, this is what happened at that time. Let's make sure that it doesn't happen again. Instead of ignoring history, let's pay attention to it so that we are not forced and doomed to repeat it." Throughout that process, that was just our head space. Once we got through our meticulous process of writing and recording the record, once it was all done, we only gave it to one label. They were the first ones we sent it to, and they asked us if we wanted to release it, so we said "Yeah. We want it to come out June 9th. Let's go." And here we are!
Buzznet: Congrats on getting that out. Great job. And thank you so much for talking!
i respect it, and damn one of my fav anti-flag albums 'for blood and empire' was on a manjor label, i didnt know that! i thought jus tthe bright lights (which i never bought) was the only one on a major label.
fairly decent interview. The interviewers questions and responses were really scattered though, she didn't know how to tie any of it in together. And her responses were a little less heart felt and more "oh god, I'm affraid of this guy I don't want to piss him off and I wan't this interview to be done already". #2 saved her ass.