Politically charged Pittsburgh punks, Anti- Flag are touring Australia again in December, playing the now 10 year old recording, “For Blood and Empire”, in its entirety. Ragged Press Editor, Matt Gleeson had a chat with bass player Chris No.2, about the upcoming tour, the ongoing relevance of the band’s breakthrough album, and even managed to squeeze in a bit of an unusual request.
MG: How are you Chris?
C2: Yeah good man good, everything is going well. It’s early here in the States, but it’s going well.
MG: Well I do apologise if it gets a bit noisy, I’m actually photographing a local gig tonight as well, so I have just jumped in the car out the front of the pub.
C2: Cool, no worries.
MG: I just wanted to ask you a few questions about the upcoming tour. You’re playing For Blood and Empire in its entirety on this tour and it’s 10 years old now, I guess I’m interested in your thoughts about how relevant the album still is?
C2: Yeah well I mean I think that for us it’s an important record, just in the sense of I believe that that’s where we found our truest vision for what we want to sound like, for how we want to combine ideas of social justice and empathy and equality for all, with punk rock music. I think that’s where we really hit our stride as a band, so for us it’s extremely relevant in that sense, where we feel as if it’s what defined the sonic chapter of Anti-Flag for this decade. Thematically and politically it’s unfortunately tremendously relevant, especially to American politics and this Donald Trump race and the failure of corporate media conglomerates to be the watchdog of the powerful, and to actually do their jobs and be truthful and honest journalists and not just report sensationalised things, which they have been doing and that’s what led us to Donald Trump.
MG: Yeah and I guess those messages are probably relevant for the rest of the world too. I mean, I know on my Facebook feeds here in Australia, it’s flooded with Trump vs Clinton, and some of the ridiculous things they both say and carry on about.
C2: Well of course. I think that obviously the American election has a lot of impact around the world, but furthermore I think a lot of people are laughing at us, so it’s become quite popular around the globe to watch the failure of American politics at work right now.
MG: Yeah. I mean one of the standout songs on that album (For Blood and Empire), is of course, ‘This Is The End’, but it’s thematically somewhat different from the rest of the songs on the album. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for that particular song?
C2: Yeah, I mean I think that like you said, that’s our initial foray into songs of empathy, and realising that punk rock and our counter culture and community as a whole is predicated upon empathy, and the idea that we speak up and help out those that can’t speak up and help themselves. We care about more than just ourselves, we want to make an impact that lasts longer than we do on this planet, so with This Is The End, I think it is the first time you saw us directing us away from a specific issue, one that we are speaking too directly, and maybe talking in a broader sense about how difficult it is for a lot people to just get up in the morning and face their day, go out and make a positive impact, so I really felt like we were challenging the advertising world, we were challenging the journalistic world, we were challenging all of these things that tell us on a daily basis, and on a minute by minute basis, that we’re not good enough and that it’s up to us to take our media back, take back the way the importance and value that we put on goods and services and really have a paradigm shift towards empathy, and so yeah I think that’s a really important song and I think that’s one of the main reasons why that song connected with so many people. I mean if you look at the record, it’s track seven, like we were afraid of it, we buried it and yet it’s one that seemingly has you know, if not been the most important song on the record, it’s definitely one of two.
MG: There’s another recording along that theme though. You and Justin played a live acoustic set at the 11th Street Records a couple of years ago. I think it was as a part of Punk Rock Bowling and Justin made a speech just before Broken Bones, I don’t know whether you remember it, about friends who had suicided and the importance of the punk community. How important do you think the punk community is in addressing these kind of issues?
C2: Well I mean again it just comes down to there is so many places where we don’t feel free to be ourselves. You know, whether it’s school or work, or even at the dinner table at home, so to have this forum and this community where, whether you’re male or female, straight or gay, transgender, black or white, big or small, rich or poor, you are welcome and as long as you come in and you care about more than just yourself, you’re welcome, and I think that underestimating the importance and the value of having that safe space, is one that we often do, and one of the reasons why we allow for the infiltration of people who don’t give a shit about punk rock who are just there for fashion, or just there because they are told it’s cool, or any of those things. So it’s something we really take a lot of solace in the fact of knowing that when we go out, if there’s violence at the show, we are going to stop it. If someone is feeling unsafe we are going to stop it, you know we are going to do our best to make sure that these places stay true safe spaces and give everyone the best of the abilities in our control for them each to be themselves.
MG: And you guys tour an awful lot. You’ve been right across the world. How do you maintain that sense of community for yourselves?
C2: Well, I think that you know, obviously we have a disconnect with what’s happening in our own city because of that you know, I assume that’s what you’re getting at, but we have friends here, who are here all the time, and we run a record label here an it’s predominately made up of bands from Pittsburgh, for that very reason, for us to keep connected to what’s happening in our community, and by our community, I mean our specific Pittsburgh community. But the flipside of that is that people ask us, you know, all the time, like you’ve been, well for example, Blood and Empire is 10 years old, you have song about the failure of the media, called The Press Corpse, and obviously that song can be about 2016, like don’t you feel like you’re just shouting at a brick wall? The reason we don’t feel that way is that we travel the world and we meet new people almost daily, who tell us that their eyes were just opened, so we feel as if we’re constantly making progress, we’re constantly getting shots in the arm of optimism from people who are finding out about this idea of punk rock, and this idea of maybe some of the songs that we’re singing, or songs that our friends bands are singing, or people that we know who are artists and poets and writers communicating, so there is a kiss and a curse to travelling as much as we do. You know it’s difficult on things at home sometimes, it’s difficult to stay connected with what’s happening in our city specifically, but the other side of that is nobody gets to meet more cool people, and nobody gets to be around more energy and optimism than we do, because of that.
MG: Yep, so your local scene is still very important to you it sounds like.
C2: Yeah, definitely. I mean we can’t go and play a local punk venue all the time, but one of the things that we’ve really been excited about is, you know Pittsburgh is not like the city we’re most popular in, in the world, so in that sense we still get to do a lot of things and we fly under the radar here. No one really gives a shit about us here. So..
MG: There’s a lot of Australian bands like that too. They’re better known in Europe, than they are in their hometown.
C2: Yeah. That’s the way it works for us. We would have a much harder time if we lived in Munich or Berlin or something like that.
MG: You guys were in Australia last year. I had the pleasure of seeing one of your Melbourne shows, along with Pennywise. Is there anything you are looking forward to seeing again in Australia, or something new you were wanting to do in Australia?
C2: Well what’s interesting is, I’ve said this a couple of times in my interviews, but I met a friend via the internet who said that he is going to find us some ice time, because I play ice hockey and I never thought in a million years that in the summer of Australia, I would play ice hockey.
MG: Well funnily enough the band I’m photographing next Chris, is a local band called The Ramshackle Army, who actually ended up doing the, I guess the team song for the local ice hockey team in Melbourne.
C2: That’s awesome!
MG: Great guys too, I should add. A couple of questions just to finish off. You guys have maintained a solid lineup since 99. How do you make something that intense work for that long?
C2: Yeah I think it’s you know, I can only speak to the years that I’ve been in the band, but the discussions that we’ve had, most of it stems from just finding people who care as much as you do, and I think that is the most difficult task bands face is there will be somebody who believes in the ideas of what you’re doing, but the second it actually becomes a grind, or difficult or a failure, that care, that want, isn’t there. You know, fortunately or unfortunately , no matter which way you want to look at it, from when I joined the band at the end of 98 until, I mean even post 9/11 in the States, we had some really difficult times where people would protest our shows, or they would protest by not coming at all. So there was a lot of earning our keep and grinding our teeth and making sure that we were in this for the right reasons that happened. And then subsequently we had a few years where things were really, really big for us, and in a lot of ways punk rock as a whole has taken a step back and because of our ability to exist when nobody cared, it really doesn’t effect us one way or the another what the culture as a whole is feeling about punk rock. If it’s really popular, we’ll play the festivals if you need us to. If it’s something that’s struggling we’re okay with playing punk rock shows in dirty clubs, you know travelling city to city. We have no ego when it comes to what we’re doing.
MG: I think this will be closing question Chris, because I know you’ve probably got other interviews to do, but you talked before about opening people’s eyes and reaching new audiences with the messages Anti-Flag has, which are really important messages. I have a couple of kids. I have 9 year old daughter and a 12, soon to be 13 year old son, and they listen to your music and what it quite often brings up is discussions around our dinner table. I asked my kids before I came out tonight, was their anything that they wanted me to ask you, and my eldest who turns 13 in February said, “Can they play my birthday party”? Now, I’m not going to hold you to this Chris, but I told him I would ask.
C2: Ha ha. You can tell him, he can’t afford us.
MG: Ha ha. I pretty much did tell him that. Look I’m really looking forward to your Australian shows. I’ll actually be at the Melbourne show as a photographer, so I really look forward to seeing you guys then and I wish you well on all your endeavours.
C2: Well, tell your child, we’ll do our best maybe if you come to the show, pre show, to sing him happy birthday and then you can play that video for him on his birthday.
MG: That would be fantastic. Look ,I’m looking forward to seeing you soon Chris and enjoy the rest of your day.
C2: Cool, thank you. Talk soon.
Anti- Flag Australian Tour Dates 2016
Destroy All Lines, Chugg Entertainment and Bombshellzine are proud to announce the Anti-Flag – ‘For Blood and Empire’ Australian Tour December 2016, supported by the legendary former front man for US pop punk outfit, ALL, Scott Reynolds
Tickets on sale NOW
Monday 5th December – The Triffid, Brisbane 18+
Tickets from: http://bit.ly/AF16bri
Thursday 8th December – Factory Theatre, Sydney 18+
Tickets from: Tickets from: http://bit.ly/AF16syd
Friday 9th December – Uni Bar, Adelaide Lic/AA
Tickets from: http://bit.ly/AF16ade
Saturday 10th December – Max Watt’s, Melbourne 18+
Tickets from: http://bit.ly/AF16mel
Sunday 11th December – Amplifier Bar, Perth 18+
Tickets from: http://bit.ly/AF16per