After Anti-Flagís Chris #2ís sister was murdered in February of this year, the band decided to take some action and release A Benefit for Victims of Violent Crime to raise money for victims of violent crime, in this case her two children left behind. Along with discussing the situation with his sister and the EP, #2 spills a little bit of the beans on the new record, why he likes Justin Timberlake, and his RCA sugar daddy
A Benefit for Victims of Violent Crime is due out October 02, 2007.
Since this album is a benefit for victims of violent crime, where exactly is the money going to?
Thereís one in particular called the Center for Victims of Violent Crime (CVVC) in Pittsburg, PA, where weíre from. The web address is cvvc.org. Weíre splitting the donations; 50% of the donations are going there and 50% of the donations are going to education on violent crime. I guess that turns into your definition of the victim of a violent crime, whether it was someone who was actually attacked in a violent crime or in this case my sisterís two children that were left behind after her death, they are the true victims of the crime.
How come the album is being released on A-F records? Did you ever have issues with the major in regards to release material on your own record label?
Not at all actually. Theyíve been more cooperative with this release than most things. The studio songs that are on this release were recorded in the same session as For Blood and Empire. We had them leftover and in February of this year, whenever I found out that my sister was killed, I didnít necessarily know what to do with myself. Music and the band were probably the furthest from my mind and then as reality and real life started to kick back into gear, there became this real interest in wanting to have some sort of tangible win out of such a negative situation.
We put our heads together and realized we had these songs and we might as well release them and have the money go to people that really need it. As far as the label situation is concerned, we are currently in the studio finishing up a full-length album for RCA records that will come out probably spring of next year. This is a real personal release and they offered to release it, but we really wanted to keep it in the hands of our friends here in Pittsburg that help us run the label. Itís been a very rewarding experience
When you first found out about the tragedy, were you at home or out on tour?
I was on tour. We were playing a side show from the tour that we were on with Billy Talent and Rise Against. We were doing one day off and just playing with Rise Against. It was really the most surreal experience ever. The band, Anti-Flag, was doing a coat drive across Canada and most of them were taking place at malls. There was this particular store, West 49, kind of like your Hot Topic youíre one stop shop for all of your alternative needs; whether you like them or not they were giving us this place to facilitate a coat drive and a meet and great. Kids would come by and donate a coat for the local homeless/community center in a mall when I got a call from my bother-in-law and all these reactions came out at once. I was like, ďget me the fuck out of this mall and get me home.Ē
Then you have to deal with crossing the border, it was a difficult thirteen hours to get home from where we were. The real disconnect that a lot of people unless youíre in a band or work in a place where you travel as much as you do, itís one of the things that you donít realize; you have real life and you have touring life and so often I catch myself like, ďyeah, just the other day when we were doing that, and someone is like dude, that was two months ago.Ē
You blur the lines of home and away and home reared its ugly head into tour life. It was a difficult thing but everybody on the tour, Rise Against were amazing in helping me get back home, and my bandmates were amazing; the bus driver was incredible, he didnít sleep at all, he drove straight home. Everybody was really great to me at that time and Iím very grateful to have the friends I have
Did you get to take some time off touring than?
Yeah, yeah. We had things booked and there was a little bit of question about whether or not we were going to do our headlining tour in March which was almost exactly a month later. You kind of realize there are a lot of things that are out of your control. People deal with things like this in their own way. Iím 100% completely sure that Iíll never fully come to terms with dealing with the death of my sister. I loved her to death and maybe there were things I should have done to help her to get out of the lifestyle she was in.
Youíre always going to have these questions and insecurities. I realized that keeping myself busy and doing things was a lot better than sitting at home and either being furious with the social standards that we have in America that make it almost impossible for people to rid themselves of ghetto life or ghetto mentality, or just my own personal demons that I have to deal with and that I came face to face with thru this. It seemed like an escape; playing shows and being in this band is an amazing experience and I canít tell you how many kids grabbed me and hugged me while we were playing shows. I really believe thatís what punk rock and the scene are there for.
Would you say you have achieved what you wanted to by going major, do you think more people hear, understand, and support your ideas?
Yeah, I mean ultimately there got to be some clarification on why a band like Anti-Flag would sign to a major label. Itís really easy to go, Ďwell if we sign to a major label, more people are going to hear us; therefore this is a good idea.í The reason that logic is flawed is there is no guarantee more people are going to hear your music. Youíre risking, youíre gambling a lot when you do something like this. For us, weíve always wanted to work with new people and grow the band, and honestly many times throughout our career, people have come up to us and said, ĎHey, Iím JoeSmo!! from major label X, do you want to sign?í We would say sure, if you can tell us we can do whatever the hell we want. Then they would say, you canít do whatever they hell you want, but you can do some of what you want. We would say, no thanks weíre fine. We found ourselves on Go-Kart, and Fat, and putting out things ourselves on A-F records because of that. RCA, as evil as the corporations that funds them may be, the people that run the music side when you get down to it, those people have been really great to us and let us do the things we wanted to do.
So in that sense it has been amazing because they have been able to get us on television shows that weíve never been on, they have been able to have our songs in places theyíve never been. Some people donít like that and I understand. For us, when we write a song we would like as many people to hear that song as possible. They have been beneficial. Are we a huge band and do we want to be a huge band? Not necessarily. We want to write songs that will hopefully last longer than our band does and someone somewhere will have access to that song. So far our relationship has been rewarding to both of us I assume because they have not kicked us off their roster yet.
Initially when you first went major, it seemed you got a lot of criticism because of some of the views of Anti-Flag, do you think that that criticism has sort of blown over since your message is essentially the same?
Sure, totally. I think that itís scary for a lot of people to think that not only a band because of their sound, but also the ideals of that said band; itís scary to think that the time and effort you invest in something is going to change. Iíve lived with that insecurity many times; there are many bands that came through the ranks that I felt I loved and I felt betrayed by, but I realized that you canít let what you think is going to happen get in the way of what happens. You have to let the songs and the actions of the band speak for themselves.
I love the last record we made; I think itís a really great record. I think that when people heard that they realized, oh the label and the band werenít full of shit when they said theyíre going to do what they always do. Again, itís like weíve worked too long and hard to just say, oh man some fancy label wants to sign us, letís play a song like Justin Timberlake. Thatís ridiculous to me! Itíd be great, itíd be cool; I really like Justin Timberlake, I think heís funny, but I donít think I could do that. I only know how to write a certain kind of song. Some people think itís shit, some people think itís good. Youíre only in control of yourself and your own actions you canít force people to think one way or another.
Since you are working within the system now, have your views change about huge conglomerates at all?
Not at all. I think that corporate globalization is just as evil as it was the day before we signed to a major label. There are many times in your life when you have to decide what is best for your vehicle, your vision, and your creative outlet. I think that the short answer to that question is not at all.
So none of these new songs are going to be on the new record, these were just leftovers and youíre looking on new material for the next record right now?
Theyíre not on the new album at all. Weíre recording 18 songs and uh, when is this interview going to post you think?
Before the EP comes out.
Okay, well Iím just trying to figure out how many beans I should spill to you because we havenít talked about the new album at all yet. We have a really legendary, amazing person [Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Morrissey)] is helping in the creating process in the form of a producer. We made the album in fields of green in Lexington, KY [Sainte-Claire Studios]. It should be finished soon and being prepped and primped and all the things that an album goes through before it reaches the public, which should be around early February or early March, the latest, of next year.
Would you say there are any surprising aspects on the record or anything unexpected?
I think that itís all unexpected. If you listen to the last two albums that Anti-Flag put out, For Blood and Empire and The Terror State, I think you understand where our stance is on the George W. Bush administration, the war in Iraq, and corporate globalization. It is plain to see what our stances are on those two albums so on this record we talk about a lot of things weíve never talked about before.
Some of them are personal demons being exercised and some of them are many other things that fought with us ill, like the global landscape. Itís still very much Anti-Flag. There are a lot of sounds that are different, there are a lot of ideas and messages that are different. At this point, itís our sixth full-length album and we donít want to make one that someoneís already heard.
Not to mention that when you made the other two albums, Bush was still going to be in office for quite a long time, whereas now weíre coming up on the next election.
Yeah, yeah. I think it is time to look towards the future; and not to say that there are many positives, but look toward the positive that have come out of the Bush Administration. The huge one being, people care about global politics right now. People are paying attention to what is happening in the world because a mad man took over the Whitehouse for the last almost eight years, and has ran our lives and rights through Hell. More people than ever are energized and excited about progressive ideas and not allowing that to happen again.
Do you have any thoughts about the 2008 election? Are there any candidates you somewhat support and why?
Yeah, I mean Dennis Kucinich is really the only one that I can come out and fully support. Heís the only one I can blindly follow; as far as the other ones are concerned, it is one of those things where I havenít even began to settle with myself whether or not I should endorse any of these candidates because itís so fucked. You watch people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who look to be our saviors, dance around issues like gay marriage, which is so fucking simple.
How can you in 2008 support someone that doesnít support gay marriage? That blows my fucking mind. I donít want to openly endorse any of these people, but itís always been my belief that some change can come from the people, and I know that all positive change has come from the people. I only hope that that energy that comes from the last years or Mr. Bush turns into something positive come election time. I donít necessarily believe weíre going to be replaced with a savior, but I think weíll find ourselves in a better situation.
Since record sales are low and record stores are closing nationwide, what do you think is going to happen to the music industry in the next couple of years? It doesnít seem like the independent record stores are sustaining and even nationwide record stores like Tower records are closing.
I really believe that Iíve got two statements about that. One: major record companies, my only analogy for what they are and what theyíre doing is this, they are very large, and it takes a very long time for a very large ship to turn around. I think thatís what theyíre suffering from right now; theyíre not adjusting at all to whatís going on around them. Itís not necessarily downloading or CD burning, thereís just too many shitty bands that are getting pumped out there and marketed to be the next Nirvana or whatever is supposed to save rock, or hip-hop, or any of those things that people are just not interested in. People are deaf, dumb, or mute to it. Itís really created climate like it was when a band like the Beatles, who are my all time favorite band, started where itís a singles driven market; people only care about that one song.
I think that thatís cool; I think that helps us, when I say us I mean people that are involved in the punk scene. Thatís what we need to weed ourselves out of the people who are here just because itís cool right now or just because Green Day, or Avenged Sevenfold, or My Chemical Romance had number one albums and think, Ďhey wow Iím going to start a band that has angst because I can be a millionaire if I do that!í Once those things get weeded out, and Iím not saying that any of those bands started their band for the wrong reasons, but you get bands that copy that because they see that and they want that, itís just human nature.
Once those things get weeded out and punk rock is no longer viable commercially, I think thatís going to be fantastic. I canít wait for the day when there is the network that there was maybe ten years ago. It still exists, itís still flourishing right now, and thatís the thing thatís amazing is that will continue to be the constant. Weíll always be able to set up our own shows, and do our own tours, and release our own records because weíre smart enough and have the infrastructure to do that. Because thatís not glamorous, we wonít have a million copycats out there trying to do the same thing and I think that can only mean good things for our scene.
Did you still have a second point, or did you just kind of combine the two points?
Ultimately weíll always be doing this and thatís what separates bands, and musicians, and artists that are in it for the correct reasons from those whom are not. I like to think that even if there wasnít a RCA records sugar daddy for Anti-Flag I know weíre still going to be a band because we were a band long before anyone gave a fuck about us. We were playing every basement, every house, and every place we could play because we loved our songs. I know that weíll always be doing that. So to your question of I am nervous about record sales and the decline, not at all.