Anti-Flag is a band that has always worn their beliefs on their sleeves. The politically conscious punkers will see the release of their sixth full-length this Spring and take the road to promote its release. Scene Point Blank recently spoke with bassist Chris #2 about the band's new release as well as who he intends to vote for in the upcoming election.
Scene Point Blank: Anti-Flag recently released an EP of both new material and live songs. Proceeds of the album's sales go to The Center for Victims of Violence and Crime. The circumstances surrounding the album are ones you wouldn't wish on anyone. When dealing with the loss of your loved ones, how did the idea of releasing a benefit album come about?
Chris #2: In punk rock, we generally find ourselves not rich with wealth but rich with creativity, whether it be benefit records, mix tapes, or whatever. We've always used our music as a tangible way to raise funds. This EP is an extension of that idea, we had songs laying around that we had recorded during the For Blood and Empire session, and we were recording the live shows on the War Sucks, Lets Party Tour, we just put the two together to try to create a positive and give back to some people who were helping myself and my family.
Scene Point Blank: Several of the songs featured on the recording previously appeared as b-sides/bonus tracks. Are the versions found on the EP re-recorded? How did you go about choosing the songs that made there way onto the EP?
Chris #2: No, they're the songs that did not make it onto For Blood and Empire, not necessarily because they weren't good enough, but mostly because they did not fit thematically inside the concept of the last album. We just wanted to put as much content on the record as possible, make it something that people would want to get their hands on. That is also why we made the pressing limited, that way people went and got the record quicker and put the money in the hands of people who need it faster.
Scene Point Blank: In addition to the new material, there are also two interludes containing audio samples, what can you tell us about the sources of these samples?
Chris #2: We recorded the interludes in the studio, they were just interesting ideas we had... "Oh, Katrina" is actually a whole song that I wrote, we recorded a short version of it which is found on the EP.
Scene Point Blank: Can you shed some light on the meaning behind the song "Corporate Rock Still Sucks"? It seems rather ironic given your current label situation, not to mention the increased number of punk bands signing to major labels. Chris #2: Yea, obviously it is in reference to some of the things Nirvana were doing in the early 90's. Music moves in cycles, and I truly believe that manufactured corporate sponsored music is quite terrible, made to be force fed then thrown up later. In our case, we were poking fun of ourselves, writing a song about the corporate stooge life and being a band on a major label, is our life as monotonous as those working 9-5 in towers of capitalism, is it any different than going to work at Taco Bell? All you can do is hope to exist inside this system and to make your money in humane ways and spend it in humane ways.
Scene Point Blank: It was recently announced that for your next album, you've chosen producer Tony Visconti, who is known for his works with David Bowie and Morrissey, among others. Why choose a producer without any attachment to underground music as opposed to the producers used on previous releases?
Chris #2: We have made five full-length records, The Bright Lights of America is our sixth, we did not want to repeat ourselves, not only for the people who have listened to any of our records before, but for ourselves, it is important to staying inspired and relevant.
Scene Point Blank: A recent press release revealed that the band is looking to evoke a D.I.Y. sound on the new recording. Do you think its possible to truly demonstrate a D.I.Y. attitude and sound with a big name producer and major label backing?
Chris #2: Honestly that line was taken out of context, we played more instruments and made this album live, the last four records we made were far more calculated and removed a lot of the spontaneity that we have on this record. So in a sense it is a DIY record, in the way that it was made.
Scene Point Blank: In a recent rundown of the tracklisting, it was revealed that the new album would contain some interesting instrument choices - timpani drums, xylophone, trumpets, and the harmonica. What can you tell as bout the band's decision to include such an array of instruments into these songs?
Chris #2: Yea, it was a further extension of wanting to make a record that Anti-Flag has never made before.
Scene Point Blank: With the Bush regime coming to a close, did you feel this album was your final chance to focus lyrical topics towards Bush and his advisors? Did you attempt to look outside of domestic issues given the impending end of Bush's presidency?
Chris #2: There are many different issues on this record, I think at this point people know where we stand on the Bush Administration, a lot of the issues on this album are ones that exist regardless of presidents. Life and living are very political things, how we are brought up, the places we spend our money, the things we put on and in our bodies are all political statements. This record looks at the more personal and grey sides to politics, versus, perhaps, the more black and white political agenda that you are wondering about.
Scene Point Blank: Anti-Flag have been adamant in their opposition of the war on terrorism, specifically the war in Iraq. What kind of role did the Iraqi war have in the songs of the new album?
Chris #2: It has certainly influenced the album and band, however this is less of a specifically "anti-war" album then the last two have been.
Scene Point Blank: After thirteen years as a band concentrating its lyrical content on political topics, how does the band keep things from going stale? Does the band ever consider lyrical content that is not politically oriented?
Chris #2: We write songs about things that are important to us, the thing that keeps us going more than anything is touring and meeting new people. People that care about this world, which is more inspiring than any song, just being in the same room, the solidarity. That's what changes the world, not a song or a band.
Scene Point Blank: Since 2001's Underground Network, each Anti-Flag release has been accompanied with essays pertaining to the lyrical content of the songs. Is this something that we will see continuing with the new album?
Chris #2: There is a more interactive approach to The Bright Lights of America. The record comes with postcards that can be mailed to various U.N. branches and hopefully the mail in campaign will push the worlds governments in a more progressive manner, it will also be a tangible action that people can be proud of taking.
Scene Point Blank: Earlier Anti-Flag releases seemed to be more varied in their musical styles, particularly the incorporation of ska elements. Is there a particular reason for the distancing from these types of songs? Can we expect a reintroduction of these influences on the new album?
Chris #2: Um, I feel like we've always been quite varied in our styles, the last record had some of the ska/reggae type elements you speak of "The W.T.O Kills Farmers" and "War Sucks, Lets Party." On this album there are a lot of different styles and influences present.
Scene Point Blank: Anti-Flag received quite a bit of flack for signing to a major label after taking a strong anti-capitalism stance. Do you still feel you are looked down upon for making the jump to the major label? How do you respond to individuals calling you "sell-outs?" Do you still feel the same disdain from fans for moving to a major?
Chris #2: I really think that most people are past this idea. The last record proved that we are more focused and more passionate about seeing the ideals of this band through, more than ever. This helped with any questions and concerns people may have had about our bands move to a major label.
Scene Point Blank: You signed a two-album deal with RCA. The album you've finished writing will fulfill that contract; do you have any plans on continuing on in the major label world? Or will you sever your ties and use your newfound notoriety to return to your roots?
Chris #2: Well, lets worry about this album, you know the one that hasn't even been released yet...ha...
Scene Point Blank: As bands release more material, they tend to look down upon their earlier releases as immature and juvenile - some going as far as completely disregarding it. What are your thoughts on the early Anti-Flag catalog? What kind of role will those songs play in the current and future plans of Anti-Flag?
Chris #2: We love those songs, we play a bunch of them, we rotate them through various tours, we are not ashamed or embarrassed by anything that we have created...
Scene Point Blank: In punk rock, or any form of underground music - hardcore, metal, etc - being a bass player usually means little recognition or notice. And yet, Anti-Flag's music seems to rely heavily on your bass playing. Is this an intentional part of the songwriting process for the band or just an incidental expression of one of the band's main influences - The Clash?
Chris #2: It is just something that we've used as a melodic device in the band... All of us love music that has melody, so we try to make as many instruments in the band have an impact on the song.
Scene Point Blank: Is there a particular album that made you pick up a bass as opposed to setting out to play the drums, guitar, or sing?
Chris #2: Not really, I just wanted to play music, the bass presented a way for me to do so.
Scene Point Blank: You've been a member of Anti-Flag for a number of years now. How comfortable are you now bringing your songwriting ideas to the band verses your first joining? Do you remember the first time you brought an idea to the rest of the band?
Chris #2: Yea, I've been in the band for almost ten years now, and have had many songs that I sing, I've written songs that Justin has sung and vice versa. We are all very comfortable with each other, no one is nervous about bringing ideas into the band. I think the first whole song I brought in was for the Underground Network session, it was "Bring out your Dead" and it was fun, I remember that, recording it was not fun... ha.
Scene Point Blank: Anti-Flag wrote the song "Drink Drank Punk" in response to the rambunctious party lifestyle that many punks were bringing to shows. Are the members of Anti-Flag still straightedge? Do you identify/label yourselves as straightedge?
Chris #2: None of us drink or smoke, but labeling ourselves "straightedge" has always been more of a label of convenience. Like if someone was offering us drugs rather than turn it down and have a full conversation as to why, we might say, "No thanks, I'm straightedge" - crisis adverted.
Scene Point Blank: Over the years, Anti-Flag has adopted a slight militaristic image with members all donning similar wardrobe. What was the motivation for this move? How do you respond to critics that see your "uniform" as ironic given punk's ideology to be unique?
Chris #2: I think when you're making any type of statements you have to believe in them and have confidence in them, if you need to dress a certain way to be more confident so be it. I truly believe that there are statements and attention that fashion can draw and it is not all negative. We wear what we feel comfortable and confident in; I suggest all should do the same.
Scene Point Blank: On your last headlining tour, you went on the road with a diverse line-up of artists: Big D and the Kid's Table, Alexisonfire, and Set Your Goals. How involved were you guys with the lineup of this tour and others that you head out on?
Chris #2: We put the line up together ourselves, the same way we do every tour. We find bands that we think are creating honest music with integrity. I prefer that the bands on our tours be unique and diverse, so that the people that come out to the shows are witnessing something new that they might have not seen unless they were there.
Scene Point Blank: You recently completed a Canadian tour. Will you guys will be embarking on another U.S. tour in the near future?
Chris #2: March 28th we start the full U.S. Bright Lights of America Tour.
Scene Point Blank: Now that Anti-Flag has grown in popularity, will you abandon playing smaller clubs at the D.I.Y. level for the large concert clubs?
Chris #2: We play a mix of all club sizes. It is important to us that all who want to see us, regardless of age, sex are able to get into the show and are safe. We are not abandoning any place or any one.
Scene Point Blank: It's one thing to be a political band on record, and another to get involved in the real world. How involved do you guys get in your local political scene? Do you have any upcoming projects planned that you can tell us about? Chris #2: Unfortunately, we've been on the road so much that we haven't been able to be a part of what's happening locally as much as we would like. We've donated a lot of time and money to local organizations; the benefit EP is currently doing so as well. Right now were getting all of our ducks in a row for the mail in/post card campaign that will be going out with the next album.
Scene Point Blank: How did you guys get together with Tom Morello in the first place? What are your thoughts on Axis of Justice, the group he co-founded with Serj Tankian of System of a Down?
Chris #2: I think that Axis of Justice is doing great work. We've known Tom since he asked our band to tour with Rage Against the Machine in 1999 on their Battle of Los Angeles tour.
Scene Point Blank: The current presidential campaign is underway and there is an astronomical number of candidates to choose from. The Daily Show has gone as far as to call it a "clusterfuck." Of those candidates running - political party aside - who would you choose to vote for as of today, and why?
Chris #2: I've always backed Kucinich, at this point now on the Democratic side it is either Obama or Clinton. Of those two I pick Obama hands down. The last thing our country needs in more dynasty politics; The Bush Family, The Clinton Family, kings and queens, monarchs...it is not democracy. However what George W. Bush has taught us is that who is elected president matters. Even if that person is the lesser of two evils, vote in the lesser and then push them to be even more progressive. Using our memory of the past as a reason for doing so, cynicism is our biggest enemy. The moment we remove ourselves from the debate, they have won.
Scene Point Blank: Recently, a student at The University of Florida was arrested and tazered for resisting arrest at an open forum speech by John Kerry. What are you thoughts on the outcome of event? Was the student out of line? Did the police use excessive force?
Chris #2: I've seen the video, you've seen it too. It obviously was an abuse of power. No one was out of line other than the people protecting and serving.
Scene Point Blank: Another major topic of 2007 was the situation surrounding the Jena Six. What is your reaction to the treatment and fast-tracking of the perpetrators? How can we as a people stamp out racial injustice when areas of our country are still living in the 1950's?
Chris #2: Dialogue, if you hear or see someone using racial slurs, call them on it. That's what we need to learn from our history. It does not take many; it takes someone putting peoples ignorance back in the face of the ignorant.
Scene Point Blank: In a recent interview in Spin Magazine with Johnny Rotten, Rotten says that the Ramones weren't punk - agree or disagree?
Chris #2: I disagree, I'm not really sure anyone, including Johnny Rotten, can tell anyone they are or are not punk. Also, who the fuck were the Ramones to call Sheena a punk rocker!
Scene Point Blank: A-F Records has been fairly dormant with the exception of the Inquisition and Darkest Hour re-releases and the benefit album. Are there any upcoming releases in the works? Chris #2: We've slowed to pay attention to some of the bigger releases, the aforementioned Inquisition, Darkest Hour, and EP, but we've also done Incommunicado who are fantastic. Since we were flooded we've been assessing and making more calculated moves.
Scene Point Blank: Is there a possibility of a Whatever it Takes reunion show or has that been laid to rest?
Chris #2: Never say never, but wed all have to speak to one another first. I know for a fact that we all loved that band and the songs that we created.
Scene Point Blank: Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
- Official Anti-Flag Site: http://www.anti-flag.com