POZ Decade: Anti-Flag - A 20 Year Celebration

by Zack Zarrillo - May 14, 2013

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Our PropertyOfZack the Decade feature has been incredibly fun for us to launch over the past few months to celebrate ten year anniversaries of some of our favorite albums. Today’s feature is going to be a little different though. Anti-Flag are not celebrating a ten year album anniversary this year, but they are celebrating a 20 year anniversary as a band. We’re helping them do that today.

We have commentary from Anti-Flag themselves, Man Overboard, Code Orange Kids, Pentimento, Skinny Lister, The Braces, The Architects, Blacklist Royals, and Modern Baseball on multiple aspects of AF’s career over the past 20 years, and we think it’s pretty special.

SideOneDummy Records is also being incredibly rad and offering POZ viewers 20% off on their entire webstore until Thursday, May 16th with the code “POZ.” So check out the webstore here, AF’s 20 year anniversary tour dates here, and the whole Decade feature below!

Skinny Lister on Anti-Flag’s influence
Anti-Flag has a way of inspiring not just their fans, but their friends as well. I fell in love with Anti-Flag in high school and for years they were the anthem of my youth. Later while playing in The A.K.A.s, I got to meet them and tour with them and was happy to learn that the quality of people in the band ran just as deep as the quality of their music. Anti-Flag will always be a band for the people, and I am honored to call them friends. - Michael Camino (@skinnylister)
 
Code Orange Kids on A New Kind of Army
The first punk CD I ever owned was Anti-Flag’s A New Kind of Army. One of the first shows I went to was getting to see Anti-Flag in Pittsburgh. Both of these experiences shaped my musical palette as a lil’ guy. I read up on social issues and got in the push pit. It was tight. – Jami Morgan (@codeorangekids)

If there is one thing you wanted people to know about AF that they do not already know, what would it be?
Chris #2: We have fun. A lot of fun! We believe that being in a band should be fun. Not everything is about the politics of the band. That’s why we chose music. Because we are humans, we enjoy life, we want others to as well. In conjunction with that we believe that having a social conscience is important and making a statement is necessary to create change in the world. The truth is that people can have great lives and reach success without fucking over each other and the planet. 
 
Modern Baseball on Chris #2’s bass riffs
My first exposure to Anti-Flag was when I was about 12 or 13 and I first discovered Fat Wreck’s Rock Against Bush comps with the band’s “School For Assassins” on it. After hearing that track, they quickly became one of my favorite bands because they were playing cool punk rock and singing about stuff they were super passionate about, which is a trait that was somewhat lacking in punk bands at the time. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been listening to Die For Your Government and The Terror State for about eight years now and even crazier to think they had been a band for twelve years before that. Not too many bands have it in them to put out records with such energy for so long. When I first started playing bass, Chris #2 was one of my favorite bassists and hell - he still is. Dude rips awesome bass lines left and right in a way that no one else can, which totally sets Anti-Flag from other punk bands like them. I mean, just listen to “Turncoat.” That last chorus is like insane bass riffage. I wish I was that good. Anyway, my point is I love that band and I’m super stoked that they’ve been around this long and I’m even more stoked to see them again at Bled Fest this year. – Ian Farmer (@modernbaseball)

If you could change one thing about your career what would you alter?
Chris #2: That’s interesting. I don’t like to really entertain scenarios like this because no matter what you’ve done, unless its harm someone physically, most of what happens in a music career is based on creative instinct and what is right for you at the time. So, it’s easy to have hindsight, but the butterfly effect of that change could alter everything else. One thing that nags us is that we should have trimmed the fat on some early songs. Some are way too long! 

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment over the last 20 years?
Chris #2: Personally, when I think about it, I know that Anti-Flag changed some people’s lives for the better. To me there is little else about the band that compares with that fact. I can’t tell you how many people over the years have told me that they were going to join the military but didn’t because they found our band. Or they discovered politics and activism when they were young because of Anti-Flag and as a result they dedicated themselves to working in a field or profession that focuses on helping the less fortunate, dispossessed, or most vulnerable in our society. These days all kinds of “older” punk rockers approach me at our shows who are lawyers at the ACLU, doctors who work with the poor, community organizers, environmental activists, peace activists, you name it, and they’ll say, “I am who I am today and I do what I do because I found your band when I was young and it made me give a fuck about the world.” Those conversations are amazingly inspirational and remind me that there’s a lot of value in the existence of Anti-Flag beyond the music we’ve written or the songs we perform. When we started the band 20 years ago I could have never imagined that the band would have that kind of impact on people’s lives and that knowledge really inspires me to keep doing what we do.  
 
Also, considering the intense amount of ups and downs we’ve been through collectively and individually, just staying together for 20 years is a massive accomplishment. I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go in 20 years but somehow, be it with duct tape, blood, sweat or tears, we managed to keep the band together and be successful musically and in our own small way as a force for creating positive change in the world. 

Blacklist Royals on Anti-Flag’s off-the-wall live shows
Growing up in West Virginia, I used to drive up to Pittsburgh and see Anti-Flag at Club Laga as a teenager, their hometown shows back then were pretty off the wall and it’s crazy to see how far they ended up taking that. The older I get the more I’m struck by not only how dedicated they’ve been to the various causes they’ve supported over the years, but also how great their live shows continue to be and how they managed to keep their values and legacy in-tact even when treading into major label waters. A total inspiration on all levels. – Nat Rufus (@blacklistroyals)

The Swellers on Anti-Flag’s longevity and kindness
It’s crazy thinking about how I’ve been into Anti Flag for over ten years. It’s even crazier thinking about them being around for twenty. I still remember in eighth grade my brother Nick and I were jamming with our punk friend Justin. He was one of the first real “punks” we were friends with and could only play a few bass lines. Turns out most of them were Anti Flag bass lines. We used to jam to Underground Network and get so hyped up. We were already into political music like Good Riddance, Dead Kennedys and some other bands, but for some reason Anti Flag was just so in your face with their message. Our band, The Swellers, started the next year and we even had a political ska/punk song. I think al three of us had the same Anti Flag shirt and wore it at shows nonstop. I still remember having a faux hawk with temporary red hair dye (permanent was a commitment, man) and I sat down during the pledge of allegiance at one of our school assembly. A baby punk was born.

Over the years it was really crazy watching how damn huge AF were growing in popularity. Seeing them Main Stage at Warped Tour then out of nowhere seeing them on MTV. It was pretty crazy. Years later we were asked to do a European Tour with them and they ended up being some of the best dudes. They let us use their gear when we were in a bind, they always offered us whatever was theirs, and they just hung out. I like to consider Chris #2 one of my favorite band buddies and it’s strange thinking back to the day I first heard them that one day we would be liking each other’s Instagram pictures. Punx oi oi oi forever. - Jono Diener (@theswellers)

The Architects on Anti-Flag’s hockey obsession and principles.
For twenty years Anti-Flag have not only been one of those bands that tours, makes records and starts circle-pits; they have also been one of the very very few bands that lives their commitment to their own principles. For most bands or entertainers, the path of least resistance is a clever t-shirt, a sticker on a guitar or retweeting something they saw on Huffington Post – a triangulated public relations gesture to align themselves with the momentum of the times. Anti-Flag are real. Long before any celebrities gave a public shit about the war on terror, corporate oligarchy, or neo-con imperialism; long before any American politician or pundit had located the balls to stand up for the rights of workers, Anti-Flag did. They were there before it was cool to be there. And when they are all bouncing their grandkids on their knees, that pastoral scene will almost certainly be taking place right there, on the acre or so of heartfelt principal that they staked out twenty years ago. In this cynical, opportunistic day and age, that is not just admirable or laudable, it’s fucking heroic. 
 
My experience with them personally from the Vans Warped Tour and a few other touring situations has always been fun. They are sweet, genuine guys who smile easily, play their asses off for the kids every night and love hockey. I don’t think I will ever understand hockey, but seeing the men of Anti-Flag bouncing in their chairs and screaming backstage in Montreal on the MCR tour when the Penguins won that night totally transcends my need to understand. It was great to just be happy for them. May Anti-Flag keep grinding it out for another twenty years and may the Penguins win the Stanley Cup (or whatever). – Brandon Phillips (@thearchitectskc)

Over the last twenty years, what have been your highlights from touring?
Chris #2: This last year we visited so many new places. We had our most successful run ever in mainland Europe. So to still see progress at this stage is incredible. Over the year highlights, just off the top of our heads…Opening for Rage Against The Machine in Philly when the cops had the arena surrounded in protest of Rage’s and our support of Mumia Abu Jamal. 
Justin: That was my first time ever going to an arena rock show and I was playing it! That was an experience! Haha! Up to then I’d only ever gone to small club or basement gigs.
Chris #2: Playing outside the RNC in Minneapolis was insane - again an experience we shared with Rage Against The Machine and again the police were out in their ugliest form. We played on a flat bed truck in the dead of winter in the falling snow at Pittsburgh’s largest anti-Iraq war demonstration. 2012 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, the hottest punk show ever. Last summer we headlined a night at a festival in Poland for over 250,000 people. Signing to Fat Wreck Chords was a massive and important step for us. There are so many more, we could spend all day on this but the best thing that has happened to us as a result of the band is the friendships we’ve made all over the world. Ultimately it’s the people we meet who inspire us to keep doing what we do. 

Man Overboard on how Anti-Flag interacts with fans
Anti-Flag was one of the first bands that I went to see that made me question everything from politics to school to concert promoters to everything in between. But the most important thing I learned from them was not just being a band but being something more. A-F Records quickly became one of my favorite labels and I bought albums from a bunch of bands they released. It was great because there was a label that had my taste built in and usually when I would go see Anti-Flag live, they would have some of these bands with them. I would send them a letter in the mail and I would always get a response and it always had free stickers in it. They taught me how to build a community around a band and label and how to treat fans properly so they feel appreciated. Anti-Flag is one of the smartest bands and Man Overboard wouldn’t be the band we are without their influence!” - Justin Collier (@manoverboardnj)

Pentimento on Anti-Flag in the underground punk scene
Anti-Flag was one of the first bands that I listened to in the underground punk scene. “Die For Your Government” was an anthem for me and all of my friends. I can’t even remember how many flags we turned upside down and defaced with a X-ed out circle over the stars. They really knew how to kickstart that teenage angst. They brought out a ton of feelings, at that point in my life, that I had never felt before when listening to music. Anti-Flag made me angry and I loved it. I remember when that gun didn’t mean “Defend Pop Punk” but meant Mobilize, A New Kind Of Army.” - Vinny Caito (@pentimentony)

In your opinion, how do you think music has changed since you started? How have you adjusted to that?
Chris #2: We started recording to tape, now everything can be done inside the box on a computer. That alone is a huge technological leap forward that made the entire process different and easier. Sonically the band has gotten better. We can play our instruments and sing so much better than when we started. 

I think over our span we saw ourselves get distracted sometimes. Put expectations first. But specifically with our last record, we had a full conversation about why we are still doing this. It came back to our love of a specific way anti-flag writes, sounds and performs. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel or ourselves. We are trying to put out the best representation of ourselves possible. 

The Braces on Anti-Flag’s political views
Anti-Flag was a band that aligned perfectly with my over exertion of anger and frustration with the way I saw the world and the way I knew the world should be when I was in high school. While I am not as overtly vocal about it as I was back then and later as a poli-sci major, I still get angry about everything involved with dishonesty, corruption and the unjust use of political and corporate power. Anti-Flag get a lot of flack for standing up for what’s right and never watering down their message, but when it comes down to it they have consistently put out some of the most relevant and potent music in contemporary punk rock and those bass lines though. - Zack Sekuler (@thebraces)
 
What do you see yourself aiming for and accomplishing in the future?
Chris #2: Continuing to push people to focus on humanity. We always set out to get our songs heard by as many people as possible. That’s why we still do things like the Warped Tour. Our enthusiasm is contagious and I think that’s why we flourish in those arenas. It’s also incredibly exciting to have people just finding out about our band. That there are still new ears is what drives us. 

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