INTERVIEW: Anti-Flag – “We went to the dragon’s lair, stole his money and sneaked out in the middle of the night.”

Photo by David Cooper

Pittsburgh’s finest punk rock band Anti-Flag played this years Groezrock festival twice on the same day. In the early afternoon they played and acoustic set and in the evening they rocked the Impericon stage. Both settings suited the band very well. A chat with Pat Thetic on April 29th 2012 at Groezrock.

Anti-Flag formed in 1988 in Pittsburgh and is well well known for its left-wing political views, focusing on anti-war activism, imperialism, human rights, … From the beginning it was clear that Anti-Flag was going to be all about activism.

The punk rock scene in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania is all about activism. The community there also has a long labor history, so there is a lot of left-wing politics. Its very conservative in some places but very progressive when it comes to labor issues,” says Pat.

Punk rock and activism goes in cycles. We have been doing it a long time now and have seen 2 or 3 cycles when activism became something that people really get involved in. Some people aren’t inspired by revolution and things like that but those are the things that have always inspired us. The last 3-4 years revolution is running around across the world. Its very exciting being in a band right now,” Pat says.

Anti-Flag has released records on different record labels: their own AF-records, Fat Wreck Chords, RCA Records and now SideOneDummy Records. When they signed a deal with RCA Records, a part of Sony Music Entertainment, they received a lot of criticism for being on a major label.

We hate major labels, we always thought that they were the Devil. Even when we worked with them we still thought that they were the Devil. What they did was giving us a lot of money to give to our friends to do really interesting things. We did Underground action Alliance, Military free Zone, … all those projects were paid by major label money, ” Pat Reply’s.

 We went to the dragon’s lair, stole his money and sneaked out in the middle of the night. Major labels suck but they can be usefull in certain situations.

We came from a very DIY punk rock community so I’m very aware of all the arguments against major labels. But that time in history was unique. There was nobody speaking out against the war, their was nobody that was really anti militarization and we thought that there needed to be a voice as big as there could be in the mainstream to talk about these issues,” Pat ads.

The gunstar is one of Anti-Flag’s strongest symbols against militarism. Pat came up with the idea for this symbol.

It was a way of saying that militarism is fucked up and the more we use militarism the more fucked up our world is going to be.”

Anti-Flag’s ninth studio album ‘The General Strike’ was released on March 20th 2012 and is the band’s second release for SideOneDummy Records. According to Pat, ‘The General Strike’ goes back to the old days of punk rock. Its probably not an album for the new-born fans but the old punk rockers will love it.

The thing about being in a punk rock band that’s been around as long as we have is that when you stray to far from what you do, everybody says you sold out and if you don’t than its the same old thing. We don’t care what other people say. We create our own music in a way we want to do it and that’s all that really matters. We are very inspired the last couple of years with the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement and the revolutionary movements in Europe and The Middle-East. That’s what we want to write songs about. The songs we wrote, we think, captured that in a way that is very Anti-Flag and I love the record, “ Pat says.

All the old crusty punk rockers like this record. I don’t know if the young kids will get it. But since I’m and old punk rocker I love it. I never listen to our records but to this record, I listen a lot. It definitely goes back to the old days of punk rock for me,” Pat ads.

The story behind ‘911 for peace’ a song from the album ‘Mobilize’, that was released in 2002:911 for peace was written after September 11th, we were already recording a record and we called off the recordings because everybody was all fucked up after September 11th. Justin wrote this song, brought it to us and we recorded and released it right away. Its amazing that that’s been 10 years ago now.”


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