Alter The Press!


Interview: Anti-Flag - 21/02/2009

Chris caught up with Justin from Anti-Flag, before the Portsmouth leg of their UK tour supporting Rise Against.

ATP: What's your name and what do you play in the band?
Hi, I'm Justin Sane, and I sing and play guitar in Anti-Flag

ATP: Hows the tour been going so far?
We've only done one show so far, which is a free show we put on in London, and it was great. It was a badass show, we did it in a small room, and it was packed. It was great and we had a really good time.

We were actually recording a record up until the day we left which was just about three or four days ago, so Anti-Flag have been in the studio for the last two months. We jumped on the tour starting in the UK and tonight is our first night, in Portsmouth.

ATP: What brought about the free show in London?
It's something we try and do every once in a while in various places. London is a place we really love, and always had a really good time there, you know. I think that it really wasn't any one persons idea. There wasn't really any reason to do it other than the fact we just thought it would be a lot of fun. London is a place we can so a small show by ourselves for free and still play a show later, a bigger show that will also do well.

And with Rise Against, this is their big headline tour, and we couldn't do a really big show and we wouldn't want to take away from their show. London's a big enough city, where we could do a show and not take the excitement from the Rise Against show.

ATP: As a band who made their being politically motivated, what issues are current important to you?
Well, there's a number of issues. In the US right now a bis issue for me is healthcare, because we don't have healthcare, we done have a national healthcare programme, so that is certainly a big issue. Obviously with the economic collapse that has taken place around the world an issue that I've been talking a lot about, and writing about are the bailouts of these corporations.

The corporations, more specifically the banks, got themselves into this mess and now the people are left to bail them out. I think we should be giving bailouts, but I don't think we should be giving bailouts to corporate raiders. We should be giving them to homeless people, to teachers, to carpenters, to librarians. There are many people in this world that are giving themselves in a positive way to make the society better. I don't think bankers, who's only role is to accumilate more wealth are doing a service for the world that earns them the right to be bailed out by the people when they make really bad, dangerous, risky, and even what I would call borderline illegal activity, so that's certainly an issue.

For Anti-Flag, anti-war issues have been the main push behind the band, and the idea of breaking down nationality. I see nationality as an artificial barrier used by people such as George Bush, to divide people and to influence people to fight against one another when it's not in their best interest. That's an issue that will never go away for me, as long as there's war going on in this world.

Right now of course, one of the hotspots are far as war is concerned is Africa. Specifically, what really fuels it is arms dealers from all over the world, including the United States, Great Britain, Russia and China, that are willing to send armament, and weaponry, and they do so because they are making ridiculous profits. They are profiting off the death, and mutilation and murder of human beings. Thats the kind of injustice I have always tried to focus upon in my song writing its what's inspired me to do what we do. Right now the United States is trying to establish a permanent military presence in Africa and there's a song I wrote. I don't know if it will be on the next record or not, as we've recorded 17 songs, but its called 'Say No To Africa' it's about the idea of stopping the long arm of US military imperialism.

ATP: Your band name has quite anarchic connotations. So how do you feel about the new President Obama?
I endorse him and I voted for him, because he was our best hope for taking a step forward. He is not perfect. There is alot of things about Barack Obama that I think are problematic, but he was a much better candidate than John McCain or anyone else who had a chance of winning and I think that Obama will try to do good things, and I also think he will have some success. He has a lot of opposition to his most progressive ideas and that has to do with national healthcare, and ramping to the war in Iraq. On the other hand, he wants to expand the war in Afghanistan, and for me, thats a major problem. We are not going to win a war in Afghanistan, putting more troops and dropping more bombs on people heads is not a way to resolve a conflict. What they really need to do is drop hospitals on peoples heads, and drop medical supplies, and education.

I support the idea of having a cabinet position, for example someone who works at the presidential level who has the position of 'peacemaker.' Why don't we have someone in charge of reaching out to others to create peace? I figured these are things Obama could do, but I don't think he's going to do. I see Obama as a step in the right direction, but he's not the answer, he's not the solution.

ATP: In this country, we have an envoy for the Middle East. He's called Tony Blair...
[laughs] I only remember him vaguely!

ATP: Are you totally anti-war? As you've mentioned Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yeah, I'm totally anti-war. I think people have a right to defend themselves. If someone's invading your nation, then, sure. But I'm certainly against the kind of war Iraq was, which was a war of imperialism, and a war of aggression which was unnecessary and uncalled for. So in general and principal, I think that peaceful conflict resolution is a much better way than warfare.

ATP: You've been in the band a long time. Can you recollect the worst show you've played at?
There's been a lot of them. Part of the way this band was formed was, we wanted to take a stand against this extreme kind of nationalism that exists in the States. Any kind of extremism is dangerous, Christian fundamentalism or Muslim fundamentalism or whatever it may be. Any time you put something into an extreme it can be very dangerous. In the States one of the things I see as very dangerous, is nationalism, as quite often, anytime a leader wants to go to way they want to go to war, they bring out the flag and say 'If your patriotic, you'll support this war.' With our name [Anti-Flag] coming out of standing up against such nationalism, sometimes we have people who come up to our shows who really want to just, kick our asses. So we get nationalists who want to come to our shows who want to fight us. We played this show one time in Florida, and about 150 skinheads came out to fights us, and, well, that was a bad day! The show was basically a riot!

One time we played in New York City and was one of our first times there, but we basically played this punk squat, and there was no water there. I was so dehydrated and thirsty, I ended up having to drink toilet water from the back of the toiler. Again, that was a bad show! It wasn't the water from the actual bowl, but it's still water you don't want to drink! We've definately earnt our road stripes so to speak.

ATP: You've been confirmed for the Warped Tour. Are you play the whole stint, or just select dates?
We're playing most of it, not the whole thing though. The dates we're playing are towards the beginning.

ATP: Now the less serious question! What's on your rider for this tour?
It's pretty simple really, we have have humous and pitta bread, which is my main staple food. Peanut butter and jelly, and wheat bread. There might also be a Guinness or two on there too, I'm not sure. Usually some salsa and chips, tortilla chips! Our rider's pretty basic, I like to get candy, but for whatever reason, when we ask for it, we never seem to get it. Probably because it's really rare vegan candy, it's pretty hard for them to find.

ATP: So you're a vegan then?
No, I'm a vegetarian, but I'm not a vegan. I think there's a lot of reasons to be vegetarian. First reason i support the vegetarian lifestyle is simply because of the way animals are killed, and essentially tortured for human consumption is unnecessary and it's cruel. Also, if your interested in saving the earth's biosphere and environment then the vegetarian lifestyle is the only one to go.

This sounds ridiculous, but, the reality is, the flatulence and gas from all of the cows is the number one most damaging gas to the ozone, and it's the one thing heating up the world faster than anything else. Secondly, all of the consumption it takes to raise cattle and beef and meat. It takes a lot or resources to raise those, plus, the run-off from cow shit destroys water ways. So it's really environmentally unfriendly to eat meat, most people don't realise, but it's something I try and get across: If you want to be an environmentalist, you really should be a vegetarian. That said, i really do miss meat, it sucks not eating meat! But it's something i'm willing to give up for what i believe in.

ATP: What does the future hold for Anti-Flag?
I'm fucked if I know! We have a full year of touring coming up, and a new record coming out. I think this is going to be an interesting year, just socially around the world. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better and I hope that we can be in the middle of whatever exciting and spontaneous change is taking place in the world, and hopefully, change for the better. After we wrap up the year of touring I think we will reflect and look back, and decide if we're going to record again, or what we're going to to do.

When we finish this tour and get back to Pittsburgh, I would like to record a solo album, and probably will, and maybe tour off the back of that.

Anti-Flag have also self-confirmed for the Reading/Leeds festivals in the summer.

Chris Powers

Alter The Press!