|THE ORGAN INTERVIEW... ANTI-FLAG APRIL 2006|
sunny day at the end of April 2006 when we were thinking about the May
Day celebrations/protests and the events that were about to take place,
the phone rang, Sean O picked it up..
“Is that the Organ? This is the operator, I have Chris from Anti-Flag on the phone for you, will you accept the call please?”
“Indeed we will” said I...
Hey it’s Chris #2 on the phone. Why are we talking to Chris? Well why not? There’s a lot to ask Anti Flag here in 2006. What are they about these days? There’s a corporate giant of major label picking up the tab for this phone call for a start, Anti-Flag’s latest album is being bankrolled by Sony, Sony think they can make money our of Anti-Flag. lot of people not that happy about that fact. May Day protests? George Galloway? Chris #2 – bass player, co-vocalist (and the sound of a dropping bomb) is on the phone from the USA. Let’s ask him some questions.
So, #2, what brings a now major label American band over to London to join in with the London May Day activities then?
Ah, like that with you guys is it? OK, well it just happens that we’re over there in your part of Europe, our schedule means we can make it and we pretty much see activism as a global thing. We don’t see that we have to be a British band to be playing in London that day or anything. Surely activism has to be a global thing in 2006. There may be specific issues that relate more to British people that we’re not quite so tuned in to but this is international labour day. You have a national minimum wage there in the UK now but that doesn’t mean you can’t protest and demand the same for other people in other parts of the world. We just see it as being about getting involved and being part of something. Being an activist is what this band is all about. AntiFlag is about respect for each other, about an agenda of equality for all, about a sharing society. May Day should be about calling for things like social healthcare as a right for everyone, for workers everywhere.
Do you see that as the function of a band? To be raging against the machine as it were?
Well no, not every band, there’s room for everything and everyone. I do certainly see it as the function of Anti-Flag. There’s plenty of room for everything, it’s a big world, there’s a lot of hours in the day – you can listen to the Beatles singling a personal love song and you can listen to Anti-Flag raging about the WTO, and still have time on your hands. There’s room for all, just as long as it’s real and coming from the heart and you mean what you’re saying or singing about. You know you can always tell if a band is honest about what they’re doing or saying, you can smell it when a band is in some way contrived and fake. There’s always room for honest music whatever the subject. Music should always inspire in some kind of way, a love song from the Beatles can be a most inspiring thing, so can a call to arms from The Clash. For us it’s always been important to provoke thought and be part of an activist movement and if we can help spread the word and have people thinking about a whole range of issues then that’s good. Activism has always been part of my punk rock upbringing and outlook – Anti-flag are here to promote and provoke an activist agenda. You know one of the few good things to come out of the disastrous Bush/Blair governments, is that people are thinking and getting active again, well here in America they are anyway.
So we need bad government to rage against then?
Well no, I’d far
rather it be perfect and that we could just go pick cherries and be happy
about everything, but hey it’s not. Bush is at least good for fuelling
up the activist in a person and we’re certainly here to help pour our fuel
on that particular bush fire....
Well yes it upset a lot of people, but we thought about it lots and before we did sign. We fought for two main things. First off for one hundred percent control over everything - artwork, content, gig policy, everything and second, we wanted the label to pay for advertising but for the advertising to be on our terms. All out album adverts here in the States carry website addresses for Military Free Zone.org - that’s an organisation that addresses the outrageous policy, the myths and outright dishonesty of military recruitment in American high schools. We also have details of the Underground Action Allience.org on all our album advertising – something that we as Anti-Flag founded and have funded from the money we make at shows and such. We just felt we needed to get the messages out to more people and get them out there quicker. We need to contradict all the other information that’s out there and we feel the label we are with no is the best vehicle to do it. I mean if we can crossover and get more people questioning things then I think we can actually claim that we’re achieving something. I know people think we’ve sold out but hey, we’re not about to start making cute little duet pop records with Kelly Clarkson or anything.
Well why not? Why not go all the way and get in to everybody’s mind – it would certainly be interesting? I mean I like what Green Day have had to say with that last album, the message is really obvious but then I guess it needs to be obvious to reach in to the fast food eating consumers in the shopping malls.
Yes, we like what they’re doing, we’re not as obvious about it as Green Day are and I like to think we’re delving a lot deeper than they do, but yes, we like what Green Day are doing and saying.
So you’re the next step on when people work out they don’t want to be part of a nation that only does super-size?
Yeah, I like that, maybe we can be....
And you don’t think
you could do that without the support of a major corporation?
And when you grab those minds are there then other bands you want to point people at?
Oh yes, for sure, let me see, are you asking for names?
Yes if you like
Well Strike Anything are sounding like they’re about to come out with a really good album on Fat Wreck, The Code who are on our label A-F Records – they have a kind of Operation Ivy sound, well not quite as full on ska but people should really check them out
is your label benefiting from this? Are you diverting money in that direction
and are other bands on your label benefiting?
Do you still have time to run your label? I mean isn’t part of the trade off with RCA that you have you are part their machine now? Full on 365 days a year?
Well we always were full-on anyway so it’s no different there, and we have an amazing staff who have always worked with us and we all run things on an equal basis – we all have one vote each, real democracy in action.
If you four want to sign a band your label staff ca n all vote against you and say no?
Yes in theory but that doesn’t really happen, well actually it has a couple of times, but we generally agree on bands and where we want it all to go with the label, we’re all thinking in the same kind of way, it’s a good collective spirit. The thing about us signing to a major label is that it certainly has people focusing on us and really checking out what we’re saying and doing. Some people within the punk rock community are really waiting for us to go wrong or sell out or compromise in some way, where as others who weren’t really aware of us before are asking what we’re about – we’re getting a far more interesting diverse reaction, we’re getting a lot of really close attention. If the album had just come out on one of the traditional punk labels then how much notice would people have taken? It would be just another underground Anti-Flag punk rock record. People are checking out what we’re doing and saying, and yes, if that helps others come through on our label then that’s a positive thing as well.
Any plans to sign George Galloway and put our a rap record for him then?
What! Where did you heard that one?!
I didn’t, I made that rumour up jsut now, but I did hear that you were going to do some kind of interview thing with him when you get over here though?
Yes that is true, We’re interviewing him and he’s going to interview us. I like what I hear about that guy, I don’t know too much about him, Justin (Justin Sane – guitarist/vocalist) is going to be doing it. Justin is a big fan and really studies what Galloway does and says. So yes, you British people keep going on about how interesting it’s going to be.
yes you could argue that George was trying to push a few of the same buttons
and get people thinking. He’s certainly worth listening too when he actually
manages to get past the cynical British media - he needs to be questioned
(as does everyone), it’s certainly the kind of person we need around and
putting forward his points and firing out his questions though, he talks
a lot of sense and he can talk rubbish, always worth a listen.
What happens next then? You have this new album out, is it tour and tour and tour now?
Well yes, we’re really looking forward to getting over to Europe to introduce the new record. We’re really proud of this album. We just finished something like 60 dates in the States. Dates on the Warped festival tour and such - that reached a lot of people. Yes, we’re in full on touring mode now, I like it that way.
Doesn’t all that blatant product marketing and such on those awfully corporate looking Warped Tours suck at your soul?
Well talking about the Warped tour is not something I’d expect to get in to with an English publication really.
Well we get the Warped thing over here in terms of all the marketing that can’t be avoided and and as you said with the May Day protest, it’s a global thing now - they market as us in the UK just as much. Whatever is going on in the US today is sure to be going on here in the UK tomorrow.
Well we like to think the main point of doing the Warped tour is to get right in to eye of that particular storm and say hey look there’s this point of view over here as well. We do a lot of talking about things in between songs, addressing things like the Depleted Uranium issue (Organ interruption: seems Anti-Flag did some press conferences on DU with a congressman. Indeed the band had him up on stage at some of their recent shows – go explore and read for yourself, what is Depleted Uranium? Go look at the links of the Anti-Flag website, that’s what they want you to do). We want to reach people and raise our own anti-flag, we’re just saying to all those people, “hey, look, think about this as well and ask these questions and look at that...”
You don’t seem to
have any kind of free festival culture as an alternative to things like
Warped there in the USA do you?
Don’t you think you could have something, get together with a few like minded bands who have a voice, big free festival, something without all that warped marketing getting in the way of your music and your activism – surely the people would come if bands like you were playing, you must be an attraction?
We just don’t have the grants and permits to do that. They do over there in Germany and it does seem rather good
No, it’s not about grants and permits! Big gathering points like the Stonehenge free festivals of the 80’s over here in the UK were really positive meeting points and rallying calls. Events where thousands of people connected up and learnt about bands like Crass and the idea that punk rock was more than just some fashion statement. There weren’t any grants and no one gave anyone permission! It all came together through those who knew what they were doing - the site and the stage ‘magically’ came together and word spread through the active scenes and it all went on until the authorities made a stand. Bands like you have a voice, there has to been an alternative to soulless things like Download and those Warped tour marketing exercises? Yes, infiltrate them, but surely there is an alternative? I thought you were anarchists? You sure have the anarchy symbol plastered all over your artwork and such – you don’t need permits!
Well that band Leftover Crack do things in New York, there are things going on
Yes, those big squat type gigs, I see those things happening, Leftover Crack and the NY punk community, people like the Ramon collective in places like Oakland.
Well were not here on some great punk rock crusade.
I’m not saying you have to be crusading for some mythical punk rock utopia, surely positive activism starts with people realising they don’t need to be marketed at and punk rock is not about being a consumer of fashion? Surely punk rock is a state of mind, a way of thinking? About being involved?
There sees to be
a lot more commitment in Europe, we get these forty year old guys in the
UK and places like Germany, still got their mohawks and still as committed
as ever – I love it. We just don’t get that in the USA. People get to eighteen
and just stop and seem to feel they have to grow up or cop out or something.
I mean yes we do do shows with bands who refuse to have anything to do
with things like Warped, we have respect for those bands, but we’re kind
of straddling the camps - we just like to get in there and reach people,
it’s all about reaching out, about being positive activists and reaching
people. We’ll do whole tours where we avoid Clear Channel venues but then
they have control of most of the big gig halls where the mass of people
go so we feel we need to go right on in there and use those Clear Channel
people for our own ends. They’ll work out who we are soon and stop us.
If this new record reaches one extra person and in doing so makes that
one extra person think a little more because we have it out on a major
label or because they saw us in some Clear Channel venue then it will have
been worth it. We just want to make people think and we’re optimistic about
feeling we can achieve something good here, We’re not one of those pessimistic
bands who think everything is wrong so they just put their heads in the
sand and sulk and sink in to a hopeless state of negative mess - we’re
optimists, things can be changed even if it is just a little and if we
can do that with Anti Flag then put us in front of those people on a Warped
Oh yes, I’d certainly say we are, when we were optimistically trying to make our first record we couldn’t see further than the edges of our home city of Pittsburgh. We didn’t know how to reach out, now we’re connected up right around the globe, we can get out and be part of a global message, hell, I’m very very optimistic and very excited about where we are and what we can do
And with that the operator said time was up, or the man pulled the plug or Chris number 2 got a little uncomfortable or we didn't have the right permit... And there you have, Anti-Flag are at least throwing out a few questions, they certainly know how to stir things up and they seem to think they need a permit, they may have short comings and their music could be a little more dangerous, but hey, we need bands like Anti-Flag getting in to people's heads and point out a few things, today's AntiFlag fans might just be tomorrow's zine makers and DIY label makers, activists, question throwers.
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