ANTI-FLAG burst through the concrete wall of apathy like a proverbial desert flower. American Spring is an empowering, energetic antidote to the crippling cynicism that infects even the most dedicated of rabble-rousers. Co-produced by AWOLNATION’s Kenny Carkeet, Jim Kaufman and the band, Anti-Flag’s tenth studio album is both a shot across the bow of the political discourse and creatively challenging. American Spring is a stylistic leap forward that captures the essence of their dense catalog while conjuring a fresh new sound. Anti-Flag’s commitment to high caliber neo-punk music remains as strong as their devotion to raising awareness. “I hope this record can be an encouragement to people to never give up,” declares Justin Sane, guitarist/vocalist and cofounder of Anti-Flag. “I know that music changed my life.” American Spring is the next natural step in a career that produced activist-punk classics like For Blood and Empire (2006), The Terror State (2003), and Underground Network (2001), and inspired international audiences to learn more about the Occupy movement, the anti-war movement, and the idea that “socialism” isn’t a dirty word.
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Interviewed by Jen Rees
To find out more I interview Pat Thetic (drummer). I could of chatted to him for hours and hope to have the chance to do so again. Really interesting guy.
Hi it is Pat is that Jen?
Yep It’s Jen
you sound puffed! how are you?
I’m fine, it is early so I am drinking a lot of coffee!
Quite a few bands that I have interviewed I have not been able to find a lot of information to base my questions on. You are certainly the exception with your Lyrics and Essay’s in your promo material. Actually I could ask more that I could fit in in 20 mins!
Ha! You read all the essays?
Sure did and I agree with you!
Anti-Flag is obviously a highly political band even more so with American Spring. Can you talk a little about how your parents influenced your social awareness?
My parents did in a negative sense, my parents are extreme right wing (laughing)and I defiantly realized what I did not want to think, what I did not want to believe in but having said that what my parents said was a good thing as they allowed me to make arguments and allowed me to have my own beliefs but as long as I could defend them. There were lot of discussions on the dinner table. I remember that I called my Dad a Nazi Fachist Communist. (both laughing) He said well all those things are possible but not at the same time. He explained what each meant and that they are diametrically apposed. So I was allowed to have my own ideas but they were not the same as my parents.
I am similar with my son, he is even more left that I am if that is possible. He is very socially aware etc and our debates are brilliant,thats what you have to do with kids.
Well I am a firm believer that the more ideas we have the better off we all are. Even the stupid ideas, as long as everyone gets a voice, we should allow their stupid ideas to be in the dialogue as well.
Did you write the lyrics first or the essays? Or a bit of both?
The lyrics and the music came first the essays were to explain a bit more about what we were trying to achieve in the songs. Political songs are very good at expressing an emotion but not very good at explaining important critical ideas so that is why sometimes we put essays in with our records to give a little more of a background of what we were trying to achieve in the rock song that we created.
“With more bands getting behind groups like Greenpeace, Occupy Movement and Sea Shepherd (Apocalypta, Moonspell and Gojira to name a few) would you consider organizing a hard rock-themed occupy rally?” (Sibbo)
Yeah actually we were just in Canada and we had Sea Shepherd at our shows. Sea Shepherd is very strong in Canada with their seal harvest and whaling issues and a lot of the kids are really interested in that and then they get involved in organizations like Sea Shepherd and then it becomes a real force in the political and cultural discourse.
So yeah anytime we are doing shows we are trying to have organizations like Sea Shepherd, Amnesty International or Green Peace or who ever has got strong chapters in the area.
”Was there a defining moment in your musical career that’s made you go ‘yeah, we’ve definitely made a difference’?” (Sibbo)
No but I have had the opposite. (both laughing) I remember being at a warped tour show in the mid 2000’s and we were playing one of our songs called ‘ You gotta Die for the Government which is a pretty aggressive and the statement is pretty clear that we should not die for any government ours or someone else’s. The crowd, there was maybe 10 to 15,000 there and the majority of them were singing the lyrics of the songs. I thought to myself I don’t think this is good, if they not are getting what they are singing and that could be really dangerous if they don’t. That was a moment was really weird for me because I should of been excited as these people are not really normally exposed to our ideas and I exposed them to these ideas and I looked out and they were singing along like any other herded sheep and that bothered me, that was the first time. Now I see the value in that and it is much better to see kids out singing or being exposed to ‘ Die for the Government’ than Pledging their Allegiance to the Government as that is the vast majority that these kids are doing. There is such a small fraction of kids that are exposed to our ideas so it is not a problem that I was afraid it would be at the moment as I got further away from it, no matter how many people we connect to it is still going to be a minority.
True, Did you know that out Prime Minister Tony Abbott thinks that Climate Change is a myth? He wants more coal mines and not wind turbines.
Well of course he does. Powerful people want the status quo maintained. That is how they got the power and this is how the are going to maintain the power. The song ‘The Debate is over’ is exactly talking about that issue.It has been 40 years that we have had this climate change debate. There is no debate because the scientific evidence is un refutable at this point that humans are having an impact on climate. If Tony Abbott does not think that climate change is not real then he is a)………full of shit…….b) really un informed
Yeah I think he is a guy that is totally out of touch with the world.
Or he might be a calculating creep who knows that the people who give him the most money are the people who want him not to take action on climate change.
Yes you summed that up perfectly with the mining companies.
Australia does a lot of mining and environment impacts on mining business and makes it more expensive or make it not happen at all, so the mining companies want to pretend that climate change is not happening.
The song/essay that I relate to the most is The Great Divide, I am also a teacher as well as a music journalist and I am often asked why I did not do a job that paid better or my students saying their parents want them to doctors or lawyers so they can be rich. I am proud to be a teacher like you have said that you are proud to be a punk rock band. What song do you connect to the most off your album?
Well the song that I like the most is ‘The Debate is Over’ That one to me connects we me the most as it is saying to people, like most people don’t get the bridge part but it is saying it does not really matter that we changed the lightbulbs that we use, or we go to a compact press for our recyclables but that is a good idea. It does not matter if we buy a Toyota Corolla that gets 27 miles to the gallon to 15 miles to the gallon. The real thing is the economy structure that keeps these companies and this idea going and that is the thing that really nothing is going to change the environment until we change the economic structure where people continue to rape the earth and not have to pay for it. So that song connects to me the most as we are never going to have real change until we have economic change.
My favourite song though is Low Expectations. That is the one that gets stuck in my head. I listen to it and 2 hours later I am humming it. I don’t connect as well to that song but I can’t get it out of my head. (both laughing)
Do you or have you ever have had any experience about your safety when you are touring? (Sibbo)
Good Question! No I feel much more concern about my safety in the US. Although there is two places, the US and Russia. They are the same that both of them claim to be the bastards of economic equality and in Russia and then the bastards of freedom and expressions and neither of them live up to those beliefs. If you speak out against things in Russia you will end up dead and if you do things in the US your phones are going to be tapped and if you are a young black person in the US there is a huge possibility that you will be shot by the police. So those are the places where I am most afraid. Other places are The Ukraine, I was afraid that the Russians would be there, I was not afraid of the Ukrainians. I was in Argentina and I was not afraid of the Argentinan’s at all but someone told me that I should be.
Ok well Australia is a safe place.
Yeah Australia is a very safe place, I like going to Australia a lot.
Thats good! 🙂
You guys seem to change record companies a lot, is there any reason or is it because you have so many contacts in the industry?
No, well there is a reason for it, we grew up in the world where record companies where not an important thing, ideas and live shows and bands were the important thing. We have a record company and I don’t think there is anything special with one record company over another one. We have friends at different record companies, but I see what you are asking, record companies are like land lords, they hold the power but you don’t have to give them the power, you can live where ever you want and go where ever you want. Record companies help you out, they can give you a place to live sometimes but you don’t have to have loyalty to them and I say that as I have my own record company so I am not throwing stones from the outside but the inside! (both Laughing)
in 2015 record companies are not very important to the whole thing.
I guess a lot of people now have a studio in their house.
Yeah I have our own studio in my house and my one record company, we put out our own records, our friends put out our records, the idea in the 70’s and 80’s were the era of when you signed to them you were signed to them for their whole career. That never really made sense.
Your artwork is amazing for American Spring, the concept that a flower is where the face is, in both the back and the front cover is super clever who came up with that concept?
Well we were exploring the idea ofAmerican Spring and what it means as we have been fascinated by revolution in the Middle East and whether it is a good thing or bad thing for the people. We have had discussions with the band about that and when does revolution work and when does revolution not work and why one revolution work over another one and we started to talk about how non violence is the only way a revolution can work and governments and institutions always have more propensity to violence that the population does. So then we started talking about the flower obviously means change and rebirth but then we talked about what is violence and how it is perceived and is violence against one person acceptable and not for another person. So we came up with the concept, the artwork was done by a friend of ours who is a very talented designer and he pitched this idea of the flower and we showed it to a friend of ours, the record cover of the women in the Hijab with the flower over her face and he said that was a bit sketchy and then we showed him the one with the soldier with the flower on his face and he said you can’t do that and we said why not? and he said that the violence against the Muslim women she is clearly a terrorist. I asked him then if the soldier was a terrorist as well depending where you are in life? That discussion is what we are hoping for. A drone strike the equivalent to a suicide bomb,you never know where either of them is coming from. Extreme violence and no control so it is a weapon of terror. We would like this discussion to happen and to add our voice to the dialogue is what we want.
I need to rap this up now as my 20 minutes are up sadly.
Well talk to whoever you talk to and I will be happy to have another chat.
I will do thanks!
Oh one more question,
Will you be touring for this album in Australia?
Oh absolutely, we have been there a couple times it is just trying to find the match to do, it is on our list and we just need to get it right in the schedule. Australia has been great to us and we love coming and playing in Australia, there are good people and a beautiful place to be.
I am lucky to live here. I’ve also lived in Hong Kong and it was not like living here.
Ha! I’ve been to Hong Kong and it is not as nice as Australia but it was still a nice place.
Well thanks for your time and I will get back in touch with you soon.
That would be great. Have a good night, I mean day! (Laughing)
You too thanks, cya
Researcher Jen and Sibbo
Questions Jen and Sibbo