It was SBÄM-Fest 2023 and we were backstage in a container, just at the end of our interview with Max from the Band MUDFIGHT, when someone was knocking at the door and entered. It was Chris #2 from ANTI-FLAG. He came in, everybody said “Hi” and Chris immediately made a joke and everybody in the room was laughing and so the mood was set. We quickly wrapped our talk with Max, shot some photos and refocused our attention. Here we go – enjoy our conversation with Chris#2 from ANTI-FLAG, we had a lot of fun and I hope you will enjoy it as well.
Chris, very nice to meet you. Thank you for taking your time making this interview with us.
Yeah, thank you for clearing this up. It’s not “Se-BÄM” Fest, it’s “SBÄM Fest”.
And sometimes I always wanted to ask Stefan (Stefan Beham from SBÄM), but I didn’t want to embarrass myself after all these years later. Cause we’ve been here three or four times and it’s amazing to see how this festival has grown from the Club and from the barn, now this huge open-air scene. We’re honored and privileged to be here any time and we were talking about it before the interview started, but any relevancy for a band which has been around for as long as we have, the amount of care and attention, it’s something we are really grateful for and we are not taking it for granted.
We see this as great opportunity to share our ideas, to find people who believe in the same culture and community and empathy that we do as a band. So it’s a very important festival, SBÄM-Festival and ya just happy to be here and for taking the time with me.
Sure, it’s amazing that the spirit is still alive and still growing, like we just have been here with a Band called MUDFIGHT. Those guys are in their teens, or early twenties and they are carrying on the spirit what you guys started in the early 90s. Isn’t that amazing?
Well truthfully, I think that anyone picking up a guitar in 2023 is an inspiring thing to me. We are recording this interview on a phone; you can make a whole album on your phone now. And I don’t necessarily think that that’s a bad thing. You know there’s a lot of people who are averse to the technological advancements, infiltrating our arts and community, but this (Chris points to my phone) is inexpensive relatively and we Punkrockers always come out of passion, not necessarily a privilege of access.
So, I know, my first drum kid, I found in the garbage, and I put clear plastic tape over the drum and when you’d hit them, they’d all three of them made the same sound. At least I thought, ok, now I’m in a band. So, you use any tool you can use to move the ball forward and seeing young Punkrockers in 2023 is really fucking awesome, and you know obviously that’s not a result of us, there’s GREENDAY, RANCID, we played with RANCID last night I mean those things, BAD RELIGION, NOFX, they are still tremendously impactful. But for us we wanna be making relevant statements and to do that we need to make relevant sounding music.
Totally, that’s what we have been discussing about before, that’s brilliant and you guys put so much energy into your shows and you’re touring all the time. Do you guys have any rituals before getting on stage?
Not to much, I mean we’ve always been like…you know our shows are always impactful on our bodies. We are throwing ourselves around and we were used to get made fun of us, because we would be stretching, we would be making sure we are prepared to do it, and now as much older men we really have to stretch haha.
So I think, it’s funny we’re playing with LESS THAN JAKE, and I see Chris (DeMakes from LTJ) working his body out before the show. Then I go, “You used to make fun of me when I warm up backstage” HAHAHA. So yeah, that’s just of the rituals, just preparing our bodies for it. The other mind blowing stupid ritual is, I brush my teeth before I go on stage.
Ya, it opens me up. You know, I don’t really warm my voice up, Justin and Chris, they warm their voices up. I’ve always been able to just yell, but ya it does help, to be able to breath. Especially last night in Italy. It was on the beach, so it was so much dust when the circle pit started. I can feel it, so can blow all the snot out before the show.
But truthfully, I think the show is the ritual for us. And you know the songs will change, the way we perform them will change but the intention of the ANTI FLAG show – that is the most holistic thing we have. We want people to know, if you believe in our empathy of apathy, you believe in optimism over cynicism, if you believe in eradicating racism, sexism and homophobic and fascism as a whole, that’s the goal of Punkrock – there is this band and so that is our main advocacy and main ritual.
Nice, and we really can hear it and see it all the time. Early this year in the beginning of the year you released your new album “Lies They Tell Our Children”, and I fucking loved it.
And it is your first concept album, so how did you come up with the idea of making such an album now?
Yeah, So it’s just the thing you are talking about. We’ve been a band for a long time, 30 years of ANTI FLAG. We consistently look at each other and say “What can we do so this thing is different?”. Because, ultimately you are right, we play a lot of shows, we have been here for a very long time, we’ve made a lot of records and you can feel become complacent, your just always escalating, you’re just going through the motions and so for us, that is a main focus to try not to A: repeat ourselves and B: if we do, do it in new and interesting way. So coming out of the pandemic, we didn’t wanna write a record in that space where everyone was trapped. And not to say it was not bad.
Which was good to hear, because there were so many singing and writing about it.
Yeah, and ultimately, we really didn’t see each other that much during the pandemic. Pat’s wife is an ER doctor and in the emergency room she saw a lot Covid patients. Chris and Pat have both two very young sons. They have been very protective about their children. Justin was the main caretaker of his father who’s 85 years old. Because our live style was rock’n’roll, and when everything shut down, he was home every day, so he took over the roll of taking care of his dad. So for me, I was just sitting in my office and was writing songs for people. Like I put it on the internet, I said “if you would like me to write a song for you, just let me know”. I wrote a hundred songs.
Like custom songs, like Chris DeMakes from LTJ? Haha
Well, his are definitely much more professional. He is making songs for people’s wedding. I was writing songs for people’s dogs or whatever. That’s the little difference. But it’s basically the same idea, and he and I talked a little bit about what he was doing and his was a little bit more of a business and mine was more like exercise. I wanted to stay sharp, and I set this goal to myself to write a hundred songs and I did, I achieved it. So when we came into writing the Album, I didn’t feel like I have been sitting and resting on my laurels. I came in like ready to go and only one riff of the 100 songs was ending up on the album.
Oh really, which one?
That was “Modern Medicine” The main guitar riff of that song.
Which is an absolute hammer.
I love that song. But going back to the concept record, when we got together, we basically were trying to think of – there’s a lot of information and a lot of problems in the immediacy – I mean, how did we get here, and that is story of the album.
Writing about it; what were the political policies starting in the 60s, 50s and 40s that lead us to 2023. What were the corporate overtaking of our global governments that happened through out the years, and lot of people were shocked to known that.
For example, this climate crisis we’re in. When you are talking to a relative or grandfather or whoever and they say “well I don’t believe climate change is men made”. That idea is only 40 years old. That happened in the 70s because Exxon Mobile and BP, they spend millions and billions of dollars to confuse the public. They did advertising campaigns and so when you tell somebody like that “I’m older than the idea of the climate change is not real;” and then you go “Oh, well maybe we can change it”. It’s not the that big of a problem. For example, if you get into the discussion of slavery and evils of the global slave trade, actually the American past, that’s 400, 500 years old.
You cannot relate to it anymore?
Exactly, but you can relate to the prison industrial complex. So you are able to point to more immediate things that really set us back. That was the driving force of making an album like that. And hopefully people are listing to it are going away with “Oh I thought, this is such a big issue, and we can’t change.” But no when you leave with the idea of “No man, your dad’s older than the idea of climate change, we can fix that problem”
Absolutely, and thanks’, this is very insightful, for me and defiantly for our readers as well. And now the title makes even more sense to me “Lies We Tell our Children” which is like that cause of our problems. Since our father’s generation, we’ve been always told these lies.
Yes, and interestingly enough, the album title relates to the first single we released “LAUGH, CRY, SMILE, DIE”, and that song was written about an advertisement that Exxon took a full-page ad in the New York times, it was called “Lies They Tell Our Children”.
They were saying that the hippies were lying to the kids about the impact of oil and gas on the environment. What’s really amazing, it was in 1973, Exxon had a scientific department that studied what petroleum and gas did to the environment and they found that they were bad. And so what they did is, they said “Ok thanks for the information” They shut down that science department, where they invested millions in, and replaced it with PR department with the same budget. And their goal was to bring out an ad for the New York times.
I found this to be so damning and now the information is coming out, with the Freedom of Information Act. And you see that those mother fuckers have known it for so long, and now they all divert from it, because it’s only profit motives what drives them. Now you see General Motors, they are all going electric now for their cars. It’s like you cause the fucking problem and now sell us a car HAHAHA. It is…
Hypocrisy at it’s best.
Yeah, and this seemed poetic to us, so we started with that idea.
Coming back to the musical part of the album. You made a lot of collaborations on this album, with one of my favorite singers, Tim McIlrath, from RISE AGAINST. You had Shane Todd from SILVERSTEIN, and even Campino from the German Punkrock band DIE TOTEN HOSEN.
Yeah, that was awesome.
I have a tough question for you. Which collaboration was the most fun for you?
Ahhm, so, I can think of them in a few ways, but most fun of them was with Tim “THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVES”. Because I gave him a demo.
I swear to god, when I first heard that song. I though to myself, “this is a RISE AGAINST song, by ANT-FLAG” especially the part after the first chorus, that instrumental departure into the second verse is so RISE AGAINST – sorry for that.
Haha, no it’s ok. So truthfully, that’s how a lot of them happened. Because we are so influenced by these bands, we’ve toured with them for so long, we’ve been friends with them, that we were like “why are we trying to hide it” If we write a song that sounds like RISE AGINST, let’s call RISE AIGNST “You wanna sing on it?” it was that simple.
And it was maybe the most fun for me, because the demo that I gave Tim – he took it to another level, he gave us three harmonies – and our producer Jon Lundin is a huge fan, he even has a RISE AGIANT tattoo, and he is maybe 15 years younger than us and that’s one of the things we like to do for the last years. Starting with “American Fall”, we’ve been intentionally working with people younger than us.
Yeah, we can hear that. Coming back to what we talked about before. American Fall was the album were your sound departed into next level.
Ah I apologize, it was “American Spring” with Kenny Carkeet, he was from Florida, he grew up on Punkrock and he still was ten years younger than us. Then Courtney, who worked on “American Fall” was 15 years younger, and so on. They know about Punk, but their takeaway from it is through a different lens, because they were not there when it happened, they’re revisiting it, and that gave us different perspective.
They were all very cognizant about maintain what ANTI FLAG is, but they would say “Why don’t you try this” and we never heard about it and we said “sure”, and that really is a special thing. At this point we know how to write an ANTI FLAG song, we’ve written hundreds of them, so that’s a very important part.
So coming back, I made joke to Jon, when we got the vocals form Tom, we pulled it up and it was unbelievable for us, and I said, “oh we need to send it to somebody else to mix”, and he goes “ohh nooo”. HAHAHA. But Jon mixed it and he did a great job.
Yes he really did.
But the two songs I loved the most are with Campino and I also love Jesse Leach (KILLSWITCH ENGAGE). Because both of those guys are a little outside of our world. We’ve played maybe ten shows with THE TOTEN HOSEN and maybe just a hand full of festivals with KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. I did Jesse’s Podcast and we got along so well, and we talked about it when I was writing “Modern Medicine”. We talked about how fucked up this world is.
Healthcare and medicine are not trusted when it’s like the most vital part of our society. Especially in Austria, Germany, and the U.S.A where there is so much wealth and so much access. We should be taking care about our people; we should have trust in our healthcare systems. And that was the conversation that we had, and when we wrote the song, I said “I was so inspired by our conversation, what do you think” and the fact that he said yes, and the fact that Campino said yes, those were really like home runs for us. We took the swing and we hit it, we couldn’t believe it. No offensive, I love Silverstein, and I love Shane, but we’re such good friends, I knew he would do it hahaha.
So anytime we got one of these, Brain Baker (BAD RELIGION), when he sent us the solo, he was on tour, he recorded it himself, and the fact he sent it so quickly, I felt like “man this is so cool” that these people are being so respectful to our band, but also like, it’s work, he’s on tour, it’s hard and I’m asking him to play more guitar. So truthfully those were the moments we are so grateful to have such good people in our lives.
Definitely. So we talked a lot about what has change during the last years, but can you tell us what remains the same for the last 30 years?
Well I think our friendship. We fall in and out of love for each other, but we never fall out of love for the show. When you put the four of us on the stage we care about these songs and each other so much, that that always wins. That’s been forever the most consistent thing. And it’s the same whether we’re on the stage or in the rehearsal room. And it’s the four of us, we make the best decision. We just trust each other.
I joined the band 1998 and it’s been 25 years the four of us and you know, there’s not a lot of people who have 25 years of something in their lives. We’re grateful for that.
Cool. I have a question for bass players, reading our magazine. You are one of the most influential bass players in the punk rock scene, you make great melodies, so tell us, what were your biggest influences on the bass.
Gosh. Obviously, my favorite bands, growing up were the DEAD KENNEDIES and GREENDAY. Both of which have incredible bass players. I wasn’t smart enough to know that at the time haha, I just loved this music, connecting to it. When I saw GREENDAY, Billy Joe and Mike, both had fucked up teeth and shitty hair,…I looked like that…maybe I can do this too. It wasn’t unachievable to me. And that was the door opening, and then when ANTI FLAG became a presence in Pittsburgh.
ANTI FLAG’s original bass player Andy was an incredible bass player and so I became inspired by that. Truthfully, I didn’t pick up a bass until I auditioned for ANTI FLAG, and I didn’t know how to play it and I was no good. I was friends with Justin, I was friends with the guys, and I was actually an even better friend with their bass player at the time. Jamie was her name, and she was in the band for about a year, maybe two year.
Chris Head who was the second guitar player in ANTI FLAG, he was the replacement of Andy, but he wasn’t a good bass player, he was much better at guitar, so they said let’s have second guitar, we get another bass player, that was Jamie. I became good friends with her, and I just studied that. I was 16 years old, and they were 20, to it was like “wow, they’re so cool”. And just through that friendship, when I hear they’re looking for a bass player, I though, I play guitar, it’s the same thing and I learned very quickly it’s not the same thing.
But Justin believed in my commitment and my energy, and he literally showed me how to play bass. He gave me bass lessons, he told me how to hold a guitar pick, like that’s how bad I was. Then they went on summer tour for three months and I played bass, every day for eight hours a day. And when they came home to Pittsburgh in August, I said, “hey watch this”. I could play a handful of their songs and they were just like “ok you clearly are working”. And I got my phone call in September, and then I played my first show in September 98, and that’s it. Here I am 25 years later.
Two last questions, we always give the previous band a question for the next band. So we have a question from MUDFIGHT for you…”would you feature them?”
Haha, well I never say no to anything, because when you say no you’re opening up yourself to failure. But of course, I need to hear them first haha.
Haha, so you can give us a question for LESS THAN JAKE if you want.
Alright, I would like to ask LTJ, A: If Jake is real person and B: How much do they love me? HAHA
Haha, alright we’ll let you know. Ok Chris thank you very much.
Alright thank you, check out antiflag.com and www.democracynow.org
Even if the interview with LESS THAN JAKE fell through, we still got the answers during a short chat with Roger Lima:
Roger: A: It is a dog an he knows it! (laughs)
B: I love him very much!
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