Interview with Anti-Flag
This Interview is from the January Issue of "Shut Up and Skate" Fanzine
Anti-Flag is a band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have had Anti-Flag's classic, "Die for the Government" cd for nearly a year now and have practically worn out my cd player listening to it. That said, I had still never seen them live and after hearing so much about Anti-Flag's live show I never expected them to live up to all the hype. Fortunately, they not only lived up to the hype but fucking blew me and everyone else away! No other band I've seen cares so much about their fans or has such a positive message. Not only that but they play with so much intensity and heart and create such a feeling of unity during their set that you feel like everyone at the show is your best friend. It's pretty incredible. After seeing them live I can say with a great deal of conviction that they are one of the most under rated bands of the late 90's if not the best punk band of the late 90's. Anti-Flag is what punk rock has been missing for a long time. We need more bands like them. I missed my chance to interview the entire band after the show but Justin Sane was nice enough to respond to some questions via email.
SUS: Names/instrument/ages/how long together?
Guitar/Vox: Justin Sane/19 years old
Drums: Pat Thetic/19 years old
Guitar/Vox: Chris Head/19 years old
Bass/Vox: #2/17 years old
We've been together for 5 long, hard years.
SUS: You've had a number of line up changes. How did the current line up come into existence? Why is Andy no longer in the band?
Andy quit because at the time we were not getting along but we have since made up and are good friends again. However, he is not really interested in playing punk rock anymore so there was no real chance of him ever rejoining. When he quit we searched for a long time for a band mate who had the same goals and ideas as we did. Chris fit that description perfectly, so we picked him up about 2 years ago. After playing with a number of different bass players who were cool but not always practical(because they either lived far away or weren't totally committed) we gave #2 a shot. He ended up fitting in perfectly and now I can honestly say that I think we're better than we've ever been. I can hardly wait to tour and record again with this line up!
SUS: Do any of you guys skate/snow board/roller blade/bmx?
Yes. Most of us skate and/or snow board. As my knees have gotten worse and worse I do less and less which sucks! Now I wear these big stupid pads but I guess it's not such a dumb idea because if I had from the start I'd be in better shape.
SUS: Why the name "Anti-Flag"?
Anti-Flag was meant to symbolize a number of things, but mostly unity. Unity between kids at shows, and on a bigger level, unity between people of all nations. It doesn't mean, Anti-America! It means that the common people of the world should say "no" when those who run their country tell them to go fight in war. We choose the upside down flag as a symbol to denounce nationalism because "leaders" usually use nationalism to pump up people for war.
Also, we wanted to call attention to the numerous contradictions and fucked up things the U.S. government supports or does, such as: bullying around Iraq while at the same time supporting oppressive governments in countries like Mexico(which is not even a democracy), or trading with countries like China who have horrible human rights records.
SUS: You guys have done some pretty big tours(No Use For A Name/Bouncing Souls/U.K. Subs 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour/Down By Law/ to name a few) what was it like to opening for those bands? What is it like now head lining your own tours where you now draw better than most of those bands?
Any time you get to go on the road with a cool band it's great! You usually become good friends and have a great time, plus you get to see a great band every night! Usually bands we tour with join the list of my favorite bands(and that is true of every band you mentioned.) There are a lot of other bands we've toured with that I totally LOVE too, like dbs from Vancouver Canada, The Smooths from Baltimore, The Unseen from Boston, Ma., and Reagan Squad from Pittsburgh, Pa.
Headlining our own shows is great fun but also very moving because you feel like the kids at the shows are there because they believe in the same sort of positive things you do.(i.e. unity, working together to make a better more peaceful world, acceptance, etc....) That's a great feeling because it let's you know that others out there feel the same way you do and that your message is hopefully reaching people.
SUS: You guys are straight edge right? Do you have problems with people who drink, smoke, etc?
Pat, Chris, and I are all straight edge. #2 is an occasional drinker. We DO NOT have a problem with kids who are not straight edge. We believe that straight edge is something you do for yourself, not something you do to be cool, or push on other people, or any of that bullcrap. I think the first step in making a positive change in the world is accepting that everyone is different and that we have to work around those differences if we're ever to accomplish anything. I don't care what you do as long as it's not hurting others or fucking up our scene.
SUS: Who is Davey in your song, "Davey destroyed the punk scene"? Is he a real person?
Davey was/is a made up person, although you may have an butthole who fits his description in your town. There were a number of points we were trying to get across with that song. First, that to us punk rock means acceptance! For us it isn't about who's cool and who's a dork. We just care if you're nice or not.(We leave the popularity/coolness contests for the stuck up buttholes in high school.) Second, for us punk is NOT about whether you have a "punk rock look". It's what's in your heart and head, NOT what you look like that matters. I've met "normal" looking kids who to me were way "punker" than some kids I've met who have mohawks.
SUS: How do you feel about kids who see bands like Rancid and Green Day playing on MTV so they cut their hair and now call themselves punk even though they have no idea what punk really is?
I don't really have a problem with those kids as long as they aren't coming to shows and acting like butt holes and here is why... A kid might see a punk band on MTV and think it's cool so he/she goes to a punk show having no idea what punk rock is really about, but then at the show he/she hears the message and sees what's going on and realizes that there's a lot more to punk rock then just a haircut. So, as a result he/she gets really into punk and tries to make a difference in the world. To me, that's a really great thing! So there are positives and negatives about punk and MTV. I'd rather look at the positives and give someone a chance rather than harp on the negatives.
SUS: Any good skate parks in Pittsburgh?
Yes, one. It's called Shady Skates and it's really cool. That's about it though.
SUS: You guys have your own label(A-F Records). How did that come into existence and why?
It came into existence because we wanted to re-release some of our old material, which we did on a cd called, "Their System Doesn't Work For You." But we also wanted to help out some bands that were around who we really loved like Reagan Squad and The Unseen. We put both of their cd's out on A-F Records and they've done really well and it's been a lot of fun.(as well as a lot of hard work). The Unseen have a new cd coming out in June, which I think will be called, "So This Is Freedom?"
We also thought starting a label would be a chance to do something positive through our music by working on benefit comps etc... We've already done one which helped to raise money for battered womyn's shelters in Pittsburgh. We're working on a new one which will be called, "Striking back Against Domestic Violence", which will raise money for the National Coilition Against Domestic Violence. It's going to have a ton of cool bands on it, including, The SubHumans(From the U.K.), Anti-Flag, Youth Brigade, No Use For A Name, The Unseen, Good Riddance, Reagan Squad, and a lot more! I'm psyched about it!
SUS: Any closing thoughts?
A few... First, we have a new cd coming out in March called, "A New Kind of Army". It will be released as a split label release on our label(A-F Records) and Go-Kart Records.
Secondly, Anti-Flag's main message's are of unity and anti war. I've touched on unity but not war. When I look at war, I don't see it as a vehicle to help the common person, I see it as a tool for power hungry old farts to get what they want by using kids like you and I. What sense does it make for me to fight and kill kids from other nations who are in the same boat as me? Usually people who fight in wars don't have any say in the screwed up things their "leaders" tell them to do. So most likely the person on the other side of the line doesn't want to get killed or kill you, any more than you want to kill him or her. So it just makes sense for all of us to refuse to fight. Then our so called "leaders" will have to find a new way to settle their disputes.
Finally, you can reach us at:
c/o A-F Army World Head Quarters
PO BOX 71266
PGH PA 15213
Thanks a lot! Keep up the good work! -Justin Sane