Anti-Flag, Part 2

And now the second part of our in-depth interview with Anti-Flag. Yesterday, the band released their major label debut, an album which is among the most politically radical records released on a major label in recent memory. Radical politics aside though, it's also one of their most accomplished and solidly written albums and our reviewer described it as "classic street-punk-by-way-of-pop-punk sound incorporating elements of folk, ska and `80s hardcore into the band's already powerful bag of tricks. "

In this second half, Chris and I talk about a lot of things, from Propagandhi to money, to hockey to Canada.

.pullquote { float: right; margin: 1em; padding: 0.75em 0.75em 0.75em 34px; width: 25%; font-size: 1.25em; background: url('/images/icons/interquote.gif') no-repeat #ddd; text-align: left;}

I saw you guys play with Bad Religion here in Toronto, and you got up there to sing the Sage Francis part of "Let Them Eat War."

Oh man, they’re such a fantastic band, like my, the first tape that I ever got that was punk rock had Bad Religion on one side and Cringer on the other side. I couldn’t even tell you what that record was. To do that tour with that band was incredible. I sat next to Greg Graffin and was like "that’s fucking Bad Religion" so that was a cool experience.

Did you sing at all the shows on the tour?

Elvis Costello said there’s nothing more punk rock than spending your labels’ money.

I tried to do as many as possible, I was so nervous the first time, it took me about a week, to work up the courage to do it but actually my nerves were broken down by Greg Hetson because he and I shared an affinity towards the game of hockey and we went to a lot of hockey games together and that broke down my fear of Bad Religion, he kind of let me in and that in turn made me steal their microphone when I was on stage.

So but, for the year, you guys have, I guess you’re going to Europe soon and you’ve got the Warped Tour.

The tour with the Casualties Unseen…

I think we just ran something about that.

(Laughs) Its ok, you are a very busy man.

It seems like you guys might be even busier, with the European tour and Warped coming up.

well it changed, the Casualties, apparently George got sick and wasn’t able to record the record right now and so they’re recording in May so we’re going with the Unseen and Red Lights Flashed mainly in Europe and the Down and Outs in the UK.

And you’ve also got the Warped Tour of course which must be interesting…

A terrible terrible thing.

Really? The first time I ever saw you guys was on the second stage of the Warped Tour

the 30 minutes of playing is fun, but the rest of it is the worst experience ever.

Oh really?

I mean like, toward the middle and the end you have an affinity with everyone but for a while when you’re all like chickens with your heads cut off bumping into all these people and like "Hey! Oh where are you going to be?" "Oh I’ll just be in the sun for 10 hours" y’know its like, that kind of gets old real quick.

But I feel comfortable about this year and its line up so far.

it looks really good.

Specifically with Against Me, Rise Against and Nofx, it will kind of be a coming together of a tour that once was.

it sounds like a family reunion really.

it is.

I remember seeing you guys play with Rise Against a few years ago.

and we had Against Me on that tour as well.

Did you?


I didn’t remember that

After the Warped Tour what other plans do you have?

After the Warped Tour there are European Festivals being talked about. And, at this point it’s a little premature to know what’s really going to happen, so, we’ll be on tour somewhere. And we need to go to Japan and Australia, we haven’t been there yet and we’re going to go there on the record so I’m sure we’ll be there as well.

So, have you had time to write your Grammy acceptance speech yet?

Oh I did. Its reads something like "thanks to the kids, no thanks to the man" it’s real like prolific.

You’re not going to say that George W Bush doesn’t care about black people?

(laughs) No, but I am going to say he doesn’t care about poor people. (laughs)

Well it would be interesting; I really do hope you win now because I would love to see that.

We are coming to Canada too, we’re going to do a cross-Canada tour after the Warped Tour as well.

I know some kids who would be really happy if you hit some smaller cities.

I think, I think we will, that’s the beauty of doing just a Canadian run, you don’t only do the places that are right over the border.

well my girlfriend’s nephew lives in Thunder Bay and he would die.

(laughs) Well tell us his address, we’ll play his house.

I don’t think his parents would like that, they’re rather conservative. But should be interesting.

That’s good. I’m trying to remember the last time we played in Thunder Bay. I know we played there in like the last 10 years.

Well if you think they like hockey in Toronto…

That’s so funny. Um, going back to that Bad Religion Tour and all that hockey we went to; we were in Saskatoon and went to a Saskatoon Blades game and it was like sold out 5000 people, and I’m like the New Jersey Devils can't sell out 5000 tickets, like what the fuck?

Speaking of Canada, do you think Quebec is going to actually separate?

Well I don’t know I think its of those things where they just use it to get what they want.

That’s interesting. A lot of people have said that this time they think they’re going to go and I don’t think they’re going to go either, I feel the same way that you do.

I mean and it’s a really good bargaining position to be saying that. Well if you don’t give me more money then I’m totally leaving. Its like the guy who threatens to quit his job, he’s not really going to quit.

But the only thing, it’s obvious that they won’t go, when they tried to go the first time it was such a bad move for them.

You know what I mean? Didn’t like 40% of the population leave?

I’m not writing it for anyone whose already made up their minds about the band. We’re sort of writing it for people who have valid questions and concerns about why we are doing something new. And that’s the dichotomy of every time a punk band does something that’s out of the ordinary.

A big chunk of the population left, they also lost a lot of their big businesses which was a really bad thing. The Bank of Montreal is headquartered in Toronto, not in Montreal.

everyone picked up and moved to Toronto.

It’s bad for them but then they’re in a weaker position and they still have a pretty strong link with the States, but lot of what they’re hoping and counting on would be that everyone honours the agreements they have with them already. That might not happen so it’s a huge gamble. Its weird to me you know, it’s even dumber than people who want to create their own state for Christians, because having your own state for your language - really you can pretty much speak French in Montreal without anyone giving you a hard time, but not being from there, maybe I don’t get it.

that’s the thing; I’ve talked to different people. Most of the people who are from there seem to think that the new government is going to be able to get it done, but a lot of people outside are like "no way" and I just think it makes zero sense for them to actually separate. I think that they are - they’re fairly…

It's one of those things like Ireland where the conflict has kind of outlasted the original reasons for it.


You can’t really, just, I mean it stretches out, you don’t want a history lesson but it stretches back so far, its wars that happened 300 years ago that people are upset about. But its tough.

Totally. You guys did just elect your first right-wing Christian prime minister.

He's pretty frustrating; a bunch of scientists in Canada came out and said that marijuana is less addictive than opium or tobacco, and he went on the record and saying "I don’t really buy that". He has a Masters in Economics so he clearly can tell pharmacologists how to make decisions about science, right?

(laughs) "Oh fuck, well it’s a … I don’t know

I totally get how you guys have managed to keep writing angry, political songs, there’s so a lot motivation these days.

To be honest I thought we were going to talk more Propaghandi than we did (laughs)

We can talk about Propaghandi, everyone always brings you guys up together.

well, and I mean I don’t even think about it in that respect, I just figure like anytime one of the bands is mentioned, the other is mentioned, y’know and it’s a…

Well you’re both from working class towns, you’re both from Fat.

Well sure, sure, it makes sense but they’ve continually made digs at us, so I thought I was going to get a "what do you think of that?"

Well I was going to ask you that

Its ok, I mean in the end, to be honest, everything that Anti Flag does is about connecting it to a community, the punk rock community, I hope that when we’re on the Warped Tour and we’re playing to a person whose never heard our stance on the issue of militarism or the issue of equality that we have as a stance for the band - I hope they listen to that and then look deeper and find a Propaghandi.

I just didn’t want to get into it too much, it seemed like a baiting question; like trying to stoke a feud.

And there’s no way I can because they’re fucking incredible. Like, you can’t and they’re untouchable and that is what makes them so special as a band, and to be honest, like, I want people that listen to Anti Flag to listen to Propaghandi, y'know, like, none of us, y’know what I mean, its not exclusive to one style of getting across your ideas via song

I’ve never understood the whole competitiveness thing that people see. Its not like you’re only allowed to have one CD. You can buy both Anti Flag and Propaghandi and no one’s going to get mad.

And beyond that, if you feel that it’s possible to covertly subvert the mainstream while using it, then perhaps Anti Flag is the band for you.

So which one of you is going to marry a movie star now?

Y’know I would assume, because, see that’s the thing, I’m guessing Pat but Pat has been in the longest relationship with his partner, more than any of us, but I could see Pat marrying someone as a publicity stunt, so perhaps that would …

I notice you used the word "partner" and it reminds me that I used it once and suddenly got a lot of emails about that. And they stopped reading the thing I was writing and it became "oh is Aubin gay?" and it’s not that important, I’m trying to talk about Against Me and I was writing a review and everyone was focusing on the fact that I wrote "partner" and frankly, I'm not really that important.

well exactly and think that’s an obvious example of our indoctrinated selves that we all have where the second something like that is questioned, your sexual orientation becomes an issue. Y’know like, "what?". But that’s fucking from, childbirth baby, that’s just in your head. It’s going to be a long time, hopefully it happens, but it’s going to be a long time before people stop jumping on things like that.

One quick question about the label, how involved is the band in that?

AF Records is 100% everyone is involved as far as the four of us goes and as far as Dan, George, Dave, Katie and Alex who oversee the ship while we’re not there. Everybody can pick a band to sign, everybody can be as involved in that band as they want. The only time where it’s less democratic than others is whenever it comes to paying for things because AF funds the entire operation so if that week things aren’t going well we can veto doing something. Um, things haven’t been going well for AF Records since the flood, it hasn’t been a sort of prosperous work environment since then. It took a lot of time to get back on our feet, then we had distribution problems because of the Lumberjack merger.

I think we’re going to try to find a new life as far as distribution is concerned for AF Records and that will add a second wind to the label, I think now we’ve built everything up and everybody feels good about it and we can go again and sign new bands and we can push the ones we have.

That's good to hear, bcause like you guys have put out some really strong stuff.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have the label serve its purpose. We wanted to alert the world about certain bands, and the bands have moved on to new life, Much the Same who’ve just signed to Nitro, New Mexican Disaster Squad have signed to Jade Tree.

And, to continue pimping AF Records, we’re going to release the picture disk of For Blood and Empire

That sounds pretty interesting.

And I think its going to come with, much like the record comes with a stencil. I think it’s going to come with an 11 x 11 or 12 x 12 stencil.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have the label serve its purpose. We wanted to alert the world about certain bands, and the bands have moved on to new life, Much the Same who’ve just signed to Nitro, New Mexican Disaster Squad have signed to Jade Tree.

And a can of spray paint?

Well, we can’t give the spray-paint, then we’re aiding and abetting. We’re just supplying the tool (laughs)

You can always hope.

. If someone uses it to spray paint somewhere then that will be a travesty.

One thing that is bound to come up is the mechanics of signing to a major label.

The monetary aspects of signing to a major label?

You’re not going to tell me how much it was are you?

No, because it’s not important.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding, everyone is speculating.

Well what is, and this is going to back to the criticism of signing to RCA, that we were well off as a band because of Fat Wreck Chords before we signed to RCA, so it doesn’t make any sense to do it for quote unquote "the money". And that is precisely correct, we didn’t sign to RCA to put money in my pocket or anyone else in the band’s pocket. What we signed to RCA for was to use their resources in the form of guaranteed money to spend on marketing the ideas of the record. And that meant things like put militaryfreezone on every ad that went out for record. Things like putting underground action alliance on print, the web and any ad that they do for the record. So, to say that its not about the money is not 100% true, but its not about the money that any of us take home, because it is a correct notion that the touring that we’ve done and being on Fat Wreck made us have apartments and places to live and food to eat, so that’s not the issue.

Because of the extra money they we’re making them spend on things like the packaging and things like that, y’know, its not a, when you sell a CD on Fat versus a different label, Fat gives the best royalty rates of any label. That’s why they’re the best independent label that they are. They’re the most fair and the most just to their bands. So its true, but whenever it comes down to promoting the ideals and the songs on the record, I think that’s where the new distribution channels and the extra money that they spend is important. And plus that Elvis Costello fucking guy said there’s nothing more punk rock than spending your labels’ money. (laughs) But what does he know?

That’s definitely going in the little jump out.

I’ve seen your jump-outs.

I’ll pick that one for sure, that’s a good one. But I mean there was no chance I was going to ask you what you guys made. I don’t know why anyone would think that was cool to talk about. You wouldn’t ask me that would you? You wouldn’t say "Gee Aubin, how much money do you make there?" I mean it’s…

I don’t know its one of those weird things that I’ve noticed, everyone seems very concerned about numbers lately and I mean I know a lot of sites, we don’t do this ourselves but some people are really into posting Sound Scan numbers. I’m like why do you care? Either you like it or you don’t. If the numbers are high is that going to make you like it more?

that’s ok you don’t need to, we’re just. I actually read comments that were like "oh.. I can’t believe that this Sound scan is only this high" and I’m like "wha? Really? That really matters to you? Shouldn’t you be like "this band really kicks ass?"

I don’t know, like I don’t know why people are so concerned all of a sudden. I want the band I like to make enough money to allow them to continue to make records, and how is that bad? As long as it’s the right amount to get them to the point where they don’t have to go back to working at Burger King, you know, its fine by me because other than that it’s no one’s business. I don’t ask my friends how much they weigh and I don’t ask them how much they’re making.

well I think it’s a, um, y’know it’s obviously a testament to the lifestyle that is around us and things are far more focused on money and numbers now than they’ve ever been.

but I’m a finance person I’m supposed to care about that stuff.

Well, you are (laughs)

But its music, its music you know what I mean? Like its just weird that everyone was so concerned, for you guys you probably want to make sure you recoup but, I don’t know if its something that people sweat as much if they’re not in the band.

and well you know also, its like, there’s a different school of thought that no one will ever be able to understand whenever it goes to doing something like this because this, y’know, anything in life, there are crossroads that we all come into and only us will know what direction and path feels right, y’know what I mean I don’t know what your situation is with you and your partner, for example

But, y’know, if you made a decision, I’m not going to question that decision in that relationship because I’m not in your shoes. Y’know so it’s very simple and its part of why punk rock is great because it is very cynical, um y’know its part of the culture that we’re all in to questioning decisions and not saying whatever. I think there’s a little bit of faith that needs to be involved, especially if you are quote-unquote "part of the band community" or something like that, so I think as far as the faith issue is concerned, anyone who is on the fence about Anti Flag and this decision, the record will show them the motive behind it. And y’know obviously, to us, its obvious the motive was not to pocket a bunch off money and find coke and hookers, it was.

Stretch hummer, that's what you really need.

well Willie Nelson runs his bus on vegetable oil man.

Well you know those vegetable oil ones, you need a permanent mechanic, right, you can’t just drive them for 100 000 miles, you have to really, I think he has a crony who just works on the ..

Oh he has a Mac Truck, two buses and a van, all of which run on vegetable oil, and there’s part of the touring technician is a on-site mechanic.

so um, I guess the last, sorry we’ve been talking for a while, I’ve been wasting your entire day.

No, not at all, I had a lot - I hope that it comes out well cause I know I’m going to murdered! (laughs)

Y’know like I said, you know you’re going to get - some kids are going to complain but I think its one of those things. I don’t know, I don’t think people are as cynical as - like, I don’t know what they like, honestly, reading the comments, I don’t even know what they like.


Y’know I mean, I try to talk about bands that I like, and there’s some bands that I talk about that I don’t like, y’know what I mean?

Well and, its your civic duty as a forum to post on what’s going on, and what some people regardless of how big or small the margin of majority vs. minority is, you’ve got to report on it.

Plus, who the hell else is going to write about Discharge?

No one does, and the fantastic thing is that you do write about My Chemical Romance and Avenge Sevenfold and there are people that are into those bands finding out about Discharge and reading about the new Anti-Flag song, so

I think you’ve just found our secret.


Like I said its been really good to talk to you today, I think the first time we talked was when you first signed actually and were nice enough to call me back about it.

I apologize if I was a little distraught that day, we, to be honest, thought that we were going to have a bit more time than we did.

I think somebody from the label leaked it so…

The truth was, like, in one sense we are going to report about stuff, if we have somebody on the record, so it was good that you were able to confirm it.

But I mean, y’know, its kind of hard to keep something like that a secret. That was one of those things like…

I mean, and that’s the other flipside of it, is - no one wanted to keep it a secret, it just forced, I felt like, I don’t want to say forced, because you didn’t do anything wrong, but I felt like we were put in a situation where if we didn’t say something about it on just the little talk that I had with you, but if we didn’t say something to the kids that were flooding our website that day, um, we were going to upset people that had been involved with the band for some time. And that’s the interesting predicament that you get into when you write a "we are doing something new, please don’t freak out" message.

Um, because on one hand, I’m not writing it for anyone whose already made up their minds about the band. Those are the people who are going to take it and run. Y’know we’re sort of writing it for people who have valid questions and concerns about why we are doing something new. And that’s the dichotomy of every time a punk band does something that’s out of the ordinary.

Well, you handled it very well under the circumstances. I usually tell people that Anti-Flag handled the signing properly. Some other bands talked about their signing with almost a "fuck you" to their fans and the people who supported them, and it was a little disappointing.

You guys took the time to say "Hey, we did something you weren’t expecting, but let’s talk about it" It felt more like "hey we’ve been together for a long time so let’s have a chat" It was so much respectable.

and I mean people took offense to some of the abrasiveness of ours, and that’s one of the things that I do regret about it, is that early on it said something like "people can fuck off" or something’ y’know what I mean, I kind of felt like in retrospect I feel like we should have waited for that. But at the same time it’s a true statement, because there are people who despise Anti Flag and they’re just going to use it to throw it in the face of someone who is sort of on our team and that to me was - I do think that those people can fuck off. I think that there are so many greater things that people can be spending their time and energy on whether or not we’re on the label that’s part of Sony BMG or not, so ..