Anti-Flag (Warped Tour 06)

Interviews | Aug 17th, 2006

While Anti-Flag may finally have their major label record contract and were probably called every name in the book for signing to RCA; the band has not lost any of their core values. They continue to preach about politics at each of their shows and speak their minds as freely as ever. In fact, their latest album, “For Blood and Empire” is uber political and stays true to the band’s original in-your-face punk sound. Bassist, Chris #2 is an absolutely amazing person on stage and off, he was even open to talking about his “big time” record deal.

You guys are from Philly, so your show in Scranton, was sort of a hometown show, right?
In that part of Pennsylvania… you never know what you’re going to get. I was waiting for a cab and I felt like the amount of people who drove by and called me a fag was at an all time high so I was really dreading the set. Pennsylvania is a really large state, we played Pittsburgh on this tour and my mom was there, and I got to see my dog. My dog is righteous, I wanted to bring her but she’s too small.

How many Warped Tours does this make for Anti-Flag now?
This is our third full Warped Tour. We did part of it in 1999 which was really cool it seemed like there were more parking lots and less gravel. I like parking lots better than gravel, and I think the tour is getting bigger and bigger.

Who have you guy been hanging out with on this year’s tour?
Against Me, Rise Against [and Anti-Flag] did a 3 month full US and Canada tour in 2004. Meeting up with those guys again in this kind of rock and roll atmosphere is really nice. One, they’re great people but they also write great music so it’s fun to get to see your friends play. NOFX, we obviously have a great relationship with Fat Mike and those guys. The Living End was on the tour for a while, I feel that they were the best band to ever play a Warped Tour stage. They can play their instruments better than anyone I’ve seen. It feels like there are more of the same level punk rock bands on this year than any other year, and it’s doing well… I feel like the Bouncing Souls, Anti-Flag, Against Me and Rise Against are kind of holding it down.

A lot of your fans never thought they’d see Anti-Flag on TV, with the popularity of Fuse, how do you feel about having your music readily available to mainstream America?
I think that it’s all about looking at new outlets as opportunities. I know, talking about The Souls specifically, they’re so passionate about their music. I’d rather see an honest band, a band that believes in their songs on television than a band that’s fabricated and is selling an agenda. For us, we care so much about every song we write, not just the music side of it, but the political side of it. For us to be called Anti-Flag and have some of our messages on main-stream American household television, that’s a huge win for us. I think that everyday you turn on the Fox News, you turn on the CNN, and they’re selling you something and we’re trying to be the opposing force of that. We’re trying to say really respect one another and treat each other in this world as equals. If someone wants to give us airtime, so be it and we’re going to take it. We’ve never been a band to balk at those chances that’s why we’ve never said never to anything.

Anti-Flag fans can always learn something by going to one of your shows, being that you have a limited amount of time on Warped, what’s the most important message you want to get out to your fans in that time span?
This year, the most important part of our Warped Tour experience is talking about our non-profit organization, Military Free Zone (militaryfreezone.org). In the “No Child Left Behind Act” it indicates that any school that receives federal funding, must turn over the roster of its students to the military for recruitment purposes. Schools that don’t do that are in jeopardy of losing their funding and as you know, schools around the country are already underfunded. For the military to stoop so low, and the campaign is so backwards. If you’re a student, and you do not want your information shared with the military, you have to opt out instead of years that I went to school where you had to opt in and it was a volunteer thing. Now, it’s completely backwards so the most important thing that we talk about on stage is, yeah, we’re a rock band and yeah, we play shows and have a great time [and] we really want to celebrate the moment with everyone regardless of ethnicity, sexual preference, haircut or what music they listen to. We want to celebrate the fact that we’re all together, once that’s over our main agenda is saying look, if you’re in school, or know somebody that’s in high school, college, or middle school, right now the military is targeting them. With all these wars popping up all over the globe, the recruitment numbers are going down and down because people don’t want to have anything to do with these illegal wars, so they should really know that the military is preying upon them and this is proving that they’re doing so. They go after kids with bad
grades and instead of saying ‘hey, you’ve got bad grades let’s sort of turn your life around’, they offer the military as the only solution to that kid’s problem. It’s pretty ridiculous. There’s no right or wrong way to do any of this, and ultimately, if we can stand on the Warped Tour stage and today there’ll be ten thousand plus people here, and if one person walks away and says even something as small as ‘next time I’m in my school and I see some guys walk up to someone and call him a “fag”, I’m going to stand up to that, I’m going to say that someone’s sexual orientation is not a derogatory statement’. If someone takes that away, hell yeah it was way worth it.

What was the thought process that lead you guys to the ultimate decision to sign to a major label?
Here’s what happened. What year is this, 2006? Ok, in 1999 we finished a record called “A New Kind of Army” and there were many labels that wanted to put it out, many of which were major labels. The two main ones were Go Kart Records from New York City, and Fat Mike wanted to put it out on Honest Don’s Records which at the time was another label he was doing alongside Fat, an imprint he had created. Those were the two we were really considering. The majors came a-knocking and they would drop off cards at shows and say ‘hey, if you want a shot at the big time, give me a call’ and ‘if you guys are looking to do this for real, call me’ but at the time we were thinking what would it take, now, this was back in 1999; what do we want to do with this band. That was right at the time we were figuring out who we were, and trying to write songs that were not just about what was happening in our our town. Now, at that point we had toured the country and toured Canada, we’re talking about going overseas and there were a lot of growing pains happening at that time. We made a list of goals as a band; some were lofty, paint the White House black or whatever; but some of them were what do we need to work with any record label. This was because we were going between Go Kart and Honest Don’s. The first and foremost thing we talked about was we wanted to be ourselves, no matter who we worked with. So, any contractual agreement we have with any record label regardless of their size, regardless of the funding or who the parent company is, wether it’s Fat Mike, or Greg from Go Kart or Sony BMG, one of the stipulations is for us to remain in creative control and the ability to say the things we want to say and not be censored. That’s pretty huge, there are a lot of factors that fall underneath that, but we’ve said that the first sentence in any contractual agreement we have will be “Anti-Flag retains control over Anti-Flag” the website, the artwork, who we tour with, how the record sounds, who produces it, everything.

We fast forward to the last record we did, “Terror State” right before “For Blood and Empire” when that record came out, it did really well first week, as they say. The Soundscans were pretty high, and our tour was doing really well, we were out with Rise Against who had just signed to Dream Works and Against Me, a lot of people were talking about them. It really felt like that 1994 vibe where everyone is sniffing around. Sure enough, people wanted to buy that record and take it away from Fat and we said absolutely not, that’s Mike’s record he worked really hard to get it where it was, but if you want to talk to us about a label deal, this is the stipulation, Anti-Flag is us. They were like, ‘well, now you’re a big enough band, you’ve proven yourselves, you’ve been a band for ten years’ so, at that point it became which one of these people that are promising us our freedom, which one do we work with, which one do we feel good about? Something about New York and the people here made us feel good about RCA because it’s based in New York City. All the other labels, we met in California and LA, on the beach, and they’re dudes and I’m not so into dudes. There was a realness about the people at RCA, even in their roster; sure they have Kelly Clarkson and Christina Aguilera, but they also have Ben Kweller and things that weren’t huge and massive, Kasabian and My Morning Jacket. Regardless of wether or not you only love punk rock music, or whatever, they have bands that they were signing because they like the music, not because they thought they were going to get rich. They have the American Idols to keep the lights on, they don’t need Anti-Flag to do the same. It just felt good for us, coming from “The Terror State” and having it do really well and us realizing that we want to keep moving forward. It seems that with every record we’ve made a step, we’ve made a decision to challenge not only ourselves but our “audience” who has been a part of our community. That being the case, we just said, ok, this company feels right, let’s make this move and try to challenge people and sure enough, right after that people who had written off Anti-Flag for years, their antennae were up and they were like ‘what’s this record going to sound like, is this company going to change them?’. I think in the end, whether or not it will pan out to be the greatest decision in the world for us, I have no idea, I have no crystal ball but I know that we’ve already talked to CNN and we have ABC news interviewing us tonight. We’ve already been able to grow as a band and we love the record, we love what it looks like. We’ve spent shit loads of Sony BMG’s money on our booklet and packaging, none of us have any qualms with that. We can sleep well at night knowing that we’re using them far more than they’re using us.

Any plans for any of you to run for office?
I don’t think so. I think that Justin sometimes fantasizes about it, but I know far too many secrets about him that I would leak to the press for huge sums of money and I would get him out of it right away [laughs].

Maybe Chris won’t be president anytime soon, but his band and his music are so well-informed, and exactly what the punk rock community needs; a strong, positive voice. Their new album, “For Blood and Empire” is absolutely astounding and quite possible contains the anthems of this generation.

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