Political punk rockers, Anti-Flag are treating Australian’s to a one off, world first performance of their 2006 album, For Blood And Empire in full, followed by an encore of fan voted favourites.
Anti-Flag bassist, Chris No.2 talks to The Upside News about the band’s return to Australia for such a special, rare occasion that only Australians will be lucky enough to experience.
“We wanted to play these songs for sure because obviously it’s been 10 years and it’s some sort of milestone in that sense. But for us, if anything, it was about Australia as a whole and thinking what can we do to prove to these people that us making this 20-hour trip to them really means something to us. So ultimately, the playing of the record and the encore of requests, all of that stuff was born out of our affinity for Australia and how much support and community we have felt from the people there. We really wanted to give back and do something special for them, and that’s why you’re getting a show that nobody else gets to hear.”
With this being a world first, Anti-Flag have only played some of the songs on For Blood And Empire a few times since it’s release in 2006.
“There are a handful of them that haven’t been played since the For Blood And Empire tour in 2006. There’s no muscle memory for some of them! So we’re really dusting them off. I think we played every song except for the third track ‘Emigre’, so that will be the first time we ever play that song live in the world. It was probably never played live because I know that we never really tested out any of those songs in a live setting before we tracked them for For Blood And Empire. We were pretty much right off the road, right into writing and then right into the studio. That song was played only in the studio and probably only played in parts too. When I listen back to it, it definitely sounds like Pat (drummer) and I did the rhythm section and then we put everything else on top of it. Which is probably why it never got played in the real world! I can tell you that already through 4 days of practice that we are going to be challenged” Chris laughs.
If seeing For Blood And Empire performed in full wasn’t enough for Anti-Flag fans, the encore will be made up of fan votes. Although the voting process is still yet to be decided.
“I’m thinking that as the dates get closer we’ll throw it out into the internet ether, hopefully for the person who isn’t as outgoing as the others, isn’t going to be shouty when it comes time for the show setting and maybe they want to get their vote in early. An absentee ballot as it were. Then once we get to the show I’m really looking forward to having some fools raise their hands and get rowdy and make sure we make the end of the night something really special.”
“Typically what happens is 50% of the audience shout out songs that we are good at playing and we have played before and usually have some sort of repertoire within the set. 49% of the audience will shout out very old songs that we don’t know how to play and we’ll fuck them up, which will be a lot of fun. Then, 1% of the audience will shout out a song that we’ve already played because they’ve just been drinking the entire night” Chris explains.
Australian’s may laugh at America’s very realistic chance of having the former Apprentice host and current presidential candidate, Donald Trump ruling over their country. Anti-Flag, of course, couldn’t be more against this possibility, however, looking at the bright side the band is more politically charged and inspired than ever before.
“We’re about to start writing some new songs and a few of us have a couple ready, things are inspirational and frustrating in America right now. So we want to be ready and able to write as new ideas come in. So, one of the things that we have been doing is warming up with the For Blood And Empire record, before we dive into new ideas each day.”
“People need to cope with sadness and grief however they see fit. So if our reaction is to poke fun of something, or laugh at something, or to see the death of American democracy as humorous, so be it. Donald Trump is a joke, this election is a circus, and I think that one of the things I’m happy about is that this has pulled the guise away from American politics being fair. This election is showing how dirty it actually is and how you have to be a millionaire or a billionaire to be a politician and then a billionaire to be president. That disconnect between that upper echelon percentage point of wealth vs. the rest of the world, that disconnect is so real that these people have nothing in common with the common person, they have no sense of what’s happening in real parts of America. Their true colours are being shown by a truly sensationalized media circus around them. I think that it is a really unfortunate time for American politics, and I’m glad that Australians are laughing at us, you should be. But at the same time, I know that the women of Pussy Riot said, in regards to Donald Trump, when Vladamir Putin ran again everyone laughed at him. Everyone said ‘oh, he’ll never win, he’ll never win’ and of course he won and subsequently Russia became the ultra Reich that is.”
“I think that there’s a very real possibility that Donald Trump can win and we will be mobilizing against him. I really want to be on the record early, specifically as we’ve been doing this For Blood And Empire stuff. A lot of people reference us as only being active or challenging of American administrations during the Bush years. We have Die For The Government, Underground Network and A New Kind of Army those records were poignantly poised at the Clinton era of politics once before. We’re familiar with what a Clinton era looks like. It looks like mass incarnation of African Americans, it looks like wars in Grenada and it looks like armament deals in the Middle East. None of that is what we want to be a part of. Staunchly we do not support either of these individuals to be the president. However, I also know our history isn’t going to be written by a prime minister or a pope or a CIA kingpin, our history is going to be written by the mobilization of our community to band together to help people who can’t help themselves, speak up for the poor, take care of the sick, to do the hard work it actually takes to make global movement succeed.”
With For Blood And Empire being 10-years old, there are many issues that Anti-Flag were inspired by lyrically that are still issues today.
“Further than being exciting punk rock jams, one of the reasons you see us playing songs like ‘The Press Corpse’ at almost every show we play really harkens back to the agenda of the song and how it has stayed apropos since the release of the record. Press Corpse being about the failure of the media to be a watchdog of the powerful in the lead up to the invasion of the war in Iraq. You could use those lyrics to discuss the failure of the media when we watched the rise of someone like Donald Trump. No one is calling these politicians on their actual shit and subsequently, that’s lead us to the situation that we’re in.”
“Then you look at a song like ‘This Is The End’, which is a song about choosing empathy and recognising that punk rock as a whole should be about more than just ourselves as individuals. That’s one of the reasons why that’s song has had the legs that it’s had. I think that there are a lot of agendas and issues that definitely transpose, the follow-up question to that is, why keep going? You write these songs and nothing changes, why keep going? Essentially we have to recognise that it doesn’t work just by writing a song and the next day the world is different. That’s not how it goes. Change is incremental it’s always from the bottom up. Our job and role as an artist with a conscience is to make art that reflects that conscience and hope that when we’re dead and gone it serves as a document to prove that in the Donald Trump era of American politics we were on the right side of history. In the fight for the LGBTQ rights of the world, we were on the right side of history. In the debate over fucking science of climate change, we were on the right side of history. At the highest police brutality and police murder rates of 2016 where in America the police killed two people a day, we were on the right side of history. I think that obviously our focus has shifted to banding together communally, having these moments of solace, through these shows, through these records, where we feel like we’re not only. That will give us the energy to face a Friday morning when I’m about to turn on the radio and hear what the fuck Donald Trump has done next” Chris laughs.
As the bassist of Anti-Flag, Chris is renowned for his ability to make melodic clunky bass lines. Chris’ bass skills have the unique ability to go against classic bass stereotype and stand out in an Anti-Flag song as the focal instrument.
“The two punk rock bands that I listened to as a kid were The Dead Kennedys and Green Day. I feel like The Dead Kennedys were such technical musicians when I was growing up and being inspired by punk rock, and I couldn’t play it. So then I found Green Day, and I could play Green Day songs. I feel like the bass playing of Anti-Flag lives in those two worlds. There are a lot of times where it’s doing the Mike Dirnt thing, which is really about the melody and filling a gap when a guitar isn’t doing a melody or when a vocal isn’t doing a melody. Then you have this Dead Kennedy’s jazz styled that happens a lot. Those are primarily my two biggest influences just sonically as bands. I was just trying to emulate that. I wanted to be a guitar player but I’m not a very good guitar player.”
Anti-Flag has created songs about issues they strongly believe in and want to fight for since 1998. During this time they have seen many successes with their ability to harness a community behind their songs to step up and speak out for what they believe in.
“Well, what’s interesting is ‘Depleted Uranium Is A War Crime’ is the last song on For Blood And Empire. That was the one song where there was a law passed, banning the use of depleted uranium munitions. So it’s a win! We could play that song and have a discussion amongst ourselves about the pressure that we all put on people. Specifically, in that song there’s a sound clip from a former congressman in the states from Seattle, his name was Jim McDermott. We were working together with him on the punk voter movement in the states and the subsequent Rock Against Bush tour that we did. Through this, we met and we were talking about issues that we cared about. One of which we both shared was this depleted uranium issue. He was the one who sponsored the bill that eventually changed the law and made depleted uranium munitions illegal. We did an interview with him on the phone and that’s what we used in the song. So to have a song that you can point to, we wrote this song about this issue, we worked together, we raised enough hell that it’s over. We won” Chris triumphs.
“Also on the back For Blood And Empire, there’s a website for MilitaryFreeZone.org, which was combatting a provision in George Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ act that gave military recruiters the information of high school students, without their permission. We did a lot of work with people in congress and we got that part of the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ changed. When I say we, I don’t mean just the four of us in Anti-Flag I mean all the people who worked hard on it. So you can point to these things and say hey if it was wasn’t for this record if it wasn’t for this, we wouldn’t be in this situation where things are slightly better. Then you look at a song like ‘The W.T.O Kills Farmers’, which is talking about a company called Monsanto and their genetically modified seed growth. Fast forward to 2016 where they’ve just merged with Bayer and they literally own one-quarter of the world’s seeds. Then you can say we’re in a much worse predicament than 2016, that song didn’t work! There are victory and losses to all things” Chris laughs.
Anti-Flag will tour For Blood And Empire in December, coming to Uni Bar Adelaide on December 9.
Monday, December 5: The Triffid, Brisbane
Tuesday, December 6: The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Thursday, December 8: The Factory Theatre, Sydney
Friday, December 9: Uni Bar, Adelaide. Lic/AA
Saturday, December 10: Max Watts, Melbourne
Sunday, December 11: Amplifier Bar, Perth
Event Link: http://bit.ly/AF16tour
Feature Photo: Josh Massie