One of Canada's best exports, Winnipeg's Propagandhi has been producing quality punk rock since the early 90s. Besides being one of the band's that launched Fat, the band has released a succession of genre defining records, most recently Potemkin City Limits.

I had a chance to speak with frontman Chris Hannah and you can click Read More for the results.

I suppose the most common question regards the lengthy time between releases and tours. Have you guys been working on "Potemkin City Limits" since the release of your last album, or is it the work on the label and other projects?

There are many ways in which Propagandhi does not behave like conventional bands. One of those ways has been sheer disinterest in the idea that bands need to fart out a product for consumption on a schedule. This includes making appearances on a stage for a paying audience.

Additionally, creating music and stringing together my private thoughts into lyrics does not come naturally to me. It's not my calling in life. It's not what i think about first thing in the morning. Real musicians live and breathe music. I'm not a real musician, so making enough music to justify releasing an album necessarily takes us longer than conventional bands.

I found the way you organize G7 to be quite interesting. I read some of the information about Parecon and I'm wondering how that has been working and perhaps you could let us know how that would work in a record label.

I always laugh when punk record labels that are organized like dictatorships prattle on about how important democracy is every four years, but would summarily fire their staff if they demanded to participate meaningfully in the decision-making processes of the label.

There's no bosses here. everybody has a say in the decision making process insofar as the outcome of that process affects them. Labour is divided up between collective members with the goal of making sure everyone has a comparable share of exciting, creative work along with the shitty, boring work.

In fact, pretty much every organization in the building we are located in (the Old Market Autonomous Zone in downtown Winnipeg) operates under similar, if not identical principles. there's a cafe/ bookstore, a bicycle courier company, a film company, and a lending library (among others) that are all worker owned/ oriented and interconnected.

Nobody here pretends it's an easy ride; democracy isn't about simple answers. It takes time and work and compromise. But it's far more rewarding than working under some self-important shitwad who thinks s/he's the lead character in some terrible Ayn Rand novel.

Musically, I've noticed that while the first two albums were angry, they had a hopeful, sarcastic tone while the most recent albums have been significantly darker and more sceptical. Was there any particular incident in that brought about this stylistic and perspective change?

One could argue that the punkvoter campaign was a cynical collaboration with the duopoly to effectively destroy a 3rd option in the US. Hopefully they haven't succeeded and hopefully they will take the concept of democracy seriously next time around. what happens in the US has tangible consequences for most of the planet.
Possibly the revelation that things are far worse than I originally suspected when were teenagers and making the songs that appeared on the first record.

One other change I've seen is that lyrically, you've shifted from focusing on individual issues (feminism, gay rights, racism, etc.) to more structural ones. Any reason for that?

I suppose that we feel that the record Less Talk, More Rock laid a foundation that we've built upon rather than simply repeated. A polemic like Less Talkā?¦ is the groundwork for everything that has come after it. We hold the ideas from that album to be self-evident: no need to repeat them.

You guys have had many public disagreements with your US record label and its owner, particularly about the "Rock Against Bush" campaign and their support of moveon.org and George Soros. While the lyric sheet for the album does suggest that you feel compromise leads to subverting of principles, would a Kerry presidency be preferable to a Bush presidency?

You have to make a distinction between compromise and collaboration.

Making measured, accountable, daily compromise is fundamental to living amongst other humans in any healthily diverse society. The problem is that in modern society, where power and wealth is so completely concentrated in the hands of the minority who benefit from the status quo, compromise is customarily a one-way street. Compromise is expected of people whose visions or desires or values conflict with the status quo. It is not expected of those whose visions or desires or values are congruent with the status quo.

Hence, for example, in the pathological race to oust Bush 2 from office, Americans who desired an end to wars (foreign and/or domestic, military and/or economic) waged by governments indentured to transnational corporations were expected to compromise their vision, their desires and their values and work to elect a new, "different" administration that has historically been indentured to transnational corporations and has embraced the art of war as a means of maintaining global capitalist hegemony.

Conversely, Americans who were comfortable with capitalism and US global hegemony (but want legal abortions) were not expected to compromise by, say, working to elect a party outside the duopoly who refuses the financial influence of corporations and rejects war and expansionism as a centrepiece of policy. I'm all for reproductive choice and I'm especially interested in the termination of American foetuses (calm down, I'm joking), but it certainly wouldn't be sufficient to compel me to vote for the other half of the planet-raping, war-mongering, corporate functionary duopoly.

One could argue that the punkvoter campaign was a cynical collaboration with the duopoly to effectively destroy a 3rd option in the US. Hopefully they haven't succeeded and hopefully they will take the concept of democracy seriously next time around. what happens in the US has tangible consequences for most of the planet.

On "Rock for Sustainable Capitalism" you seem particularly disappointed with the state of punk rock, and even with Fat Wreck Chords. Do these disagreements with Mike make you reluctant to release your music on the label?

I would imagine that it's clear to everyone involved that the punk scene of this millennium and Propagandhi are not moving in the same direction.

On a couple of the tracks on the new album ("Name and Address Withheld," "A Speculative Fiction" and "Die Jugend Marschiert") it seems that you hold individual Americans responsible for the actions of their government. Can you tell me about that?

Well, two of those songs ("Name and Address" and "Speculative") are, at their core, meditations on justice and vengeance. specifically, people's tendency to confuse vengeance for justice. I think they have to be read carefully. "Speculative" was built with the expectation that conclusions could be drawn from it that are radically different than mine. The song is meant to play with the listener's sense of right and wrong within the context of a collectively identified group. "Name and Address" is a meditation on my own ability to make the distinction between vengeance and justice. I was brought up with the line between the two blurred at best and consequently still grapple with that.

Put simply, the songs are laments about conflict resolution in human history: that the removal of tyrants has typically been nothing more than a changing of guard, with "liberators" and "humanitarians" simply becoming the new tyrants.

"Die Jugend Marschiert" can probably be taken more at face value. If there were a more clear cut and more obnoxious example than the America's Army video game (paid for by taxpaying moms and dads) that the powers that be regard their children as little more than cannon fodder, i'd be surprised. Anyways, I view it as an indictment of the administrators of US policy.

As Canadians, it seems like our country has embraced more individual rights and has become more liberal while the US has taken a hard shift to the right. Considering how much culture both of countries share (music, television, movies, a border) why do you think that is?

A semi-non-sequitor would be that the radical Christian Right in Canada doesn't have the power (yet?) to substantially influence the political process. In the US, it clearly does: the Christian Right's financial power puts absurd ideas on the agenda of US politics.

How did they get so powerful down there and not up here? I have no idea, but it's probably something people in Canada should be investigating to take preventative measures against it evolving up here too. Stupid ideas do not recognize borders.

You guys have been pretty critical of Israel on this album and previous ones. Has the recent conceding of Gaza changed your views on that?
I would imagine that it's clear to everyone involved that the punk scene of this millennium and Propagandhi are not moving in the same direction.


We're critical of Israel in the same sense that we are critical of other settler states, like the US and Canada, where the inhabitants of a land are forced out in the name of a "greater good", a "manifest destiny" or "progress". It's the never-ending story of humanity; everybody thinks they are God's Chosen People.

The idea that an Israeli pull-out from Gaza is a concession is an Orwellian publicity windfall for Sharon. Giving back something that isn't yours isn't a concession. It's a legal and moral obligation. it's like choking someone during an arguement and then acting like you've made a concession in the dispute by taking their hands off their throat. It's absurd.

You guys have started announcing tour dates and I'm wondering what kind of touring plans (countries) you have for the next year or so.

No real plans yet. I'm staying out of that shit as much as possible. The idea of spending my days in a moving vehicle and my evenings in a stinking club and my nights in a hotel makes me want to stick dynamite in my eyes.

Any others plans for the next year that you'd be able to share with us?

Hoping to off myself.

Can you tell us about any books, music or other things you think are worth checking out?

Chris Hedges' War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is an interesting and compelling book. Anyone who has ever felt or observed the pull of mob rule might find it interesting.

You guys have been very critical of globalization, but it has been pretty effective at lifting a lot of people out of poverty (except for Sub-saharan Africa) What concerns you about it, and by extension, the IMF and WTO?
Despite the best efforts of many bands and labels to churn out heartless, maudlin, meaningless, marketable product, music will always have the power to engage and challenge its listeners.


No doubt this topic is far too nuanced for a thorough debate here, but limiting my points to the institution that administers global trade, the World Trade Organization, here's a list of truths that i hold to be self-evident:

  1. there is nothing innately wrong with international trade
  2. transnational corporations control more than a 3rd of the planet's productive assets.
  3. the World Trade Organization is run by ministers of it's member governments
  4. governments, operating under capitalism, are necessarily indentured to the corporations that control a 3rd of the planet's assets: decision-making and issues that come to the floor at the WTO will necessarily be influenced by these private powers whose single-minded function is to secure profit.
  5. there is no historical indication that these corporations will ever voluntarily reorient their function from profit-making to social concerns.
With those in mind, if the WTO were to be transformed into a democratic institution that in the course of negotiating global trade agreements, meaningfully informed and mobilized public opinion on trade issues; if it considered and vigorously protected the environment; if it protected cultural diversity and considered the entitlements of the world's colonized, indigenous populations; if it recognized that concentrations of wealth and decision-making power aren't compatible with democracy; if it's measure of progress wasn't limited to how many Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises have opened in a given member nationā?¦ well, this "globalization" thing would be less objectionable.

But these things won't happen if left to the whim of the multinationals. The corporations won't allow it; they have too much at stake and the power to protect those stakes.

I was wondering if you could explain the Glen Lambert thing? At first it seemed like a joke on the G7 website, but since you added it to the album liner notes as well, it seemed like maybe there was a story behind it?

I don't know, i guess i'm not really the kind of guy who gets excited to have his name attached to things or to be defined by the fact that he happens to play music with his friends sometimes. I'm not particularly interested in being known as the guy from Propagandhi. It was never my plan. I wanted to be an archaeologist. Oh well.

Do you imagine that the next record will be on Fat and G7?

I imagine that I would rather stick an entire bag of pre-owned ben wah balls in my mouth than think about going through the nightmare of making another record at all right now.

What kind of music inspired you when you were writing Potemkin City Limits?

Mainly the same music that inspired me 20 years ago: Voivod, Sacrifice, Razor… a Winnipeg band called Giant Sons also made a big impression on me a couple of years ago. I was hoping this record would sort of be our version of Sacrifice's Soldiers of Misfortune LP. In vibe, if not form, of course. Not sure we achieved it, but it's what we were aiming at.

Does music have the power to change things anymore?

Yes, absolutely. Despite the best efforts of many bands and labels to churn out heartless, maudlin, meaningless, marketable product, music will always have the power to engage and challenge its listeners.