Anti-Flag originally founded the first ever punk band from Glenshaw, Pennsylvania in 1988. At that time, Justin Sane’s sister, Lucy Fester, sang lead vocals while he backed her up on guitar and Pat Thetic played skins. However, that lineup lasted just one gig before parting ways for awhile, reconvening again in Pittsburgh in 1993 with a bass player by the name of…Andy Flag. They were known for their church background and anti-fascist America statement. Andy was replaced by Chris Head in 1997, who then switched to second guitar to allow Jamie Cock to fill on in bass, later replaced for good by fan, Chris #2 to complete the lineup in 1997.
They released their first album, Die For the Government, on New Red Archives in 1996. In 2002, they did a BYO split with The Bouncing Souls. They were picked up by fat wreck chords from 2000 to 2004, then went major with RCA from 2005 to 2009. Their latest effort and ninth album, The People or the Gun, was released through Side One Dummy records last month.
Glide’s Deborah Draisen had a chance to catch up with Pat at Warped Tour as he idly watched a daddy longlegs climb up and down his body and they discussed social change.
Pat: Your papers have seen better days…(indicating my packet of questions)
Don’t even get me started; they fell in the frigging port-a-potty, is that fucked up or what?
And you touched it! But I have some stuff with me (laughing) I have some stuff for my hands. Alright, do you find that people just don’t use the good old-fashioned mystique anymore? Like, the pseudonym is on its way out the door; what’s up? Does that take away from…
Mystique? Explain that to me.
Yeah, man, like that good ol’ pseudonym (you guys have pseudonyms).
Yeah, but we thought of them when we were 15, and we thought it was funny.
And it’s still funny. Do you think it takes away from some of the mystique, not using them now?
You know, in our style of music, mystique is not our thing. We are trying to break barriers between audience and rock band, so we’ve never tried to separate ourselves and say “Oh, we’re different than you, we’re special” in any way. We say “You know what, we’re exactly like you.” And, you know, our punk rock names were just out to be ridiculous, not to make ourselves different. It was just funny; I mean, who would call themselves “Pathetic,” you know? I did (we both laugh.)
Who else, but you, right? You’re known PETA supporters, obviously (you have a spider walking on you). How do you feel about the PETA controversy surrounding that’s going on?
What is the PETA controversy?
PETA’s catching some shit for their techniques.
Well, you know, all of us who are trying to do things that change the world are always lightning rods for controversy, so show me somebody who is trying to do real activism that isn’t getting shit on for something. That’s the way it works, so it doesn’t bother me. I mean, I’ve been told PETA’s horrible and I’ve been told PETA’s great. I believe that animals should be treated with respect. I think that factory farming is horrible – it’s not good for people and it’s not good for the animals. So, whatever you think about the specific issues with PETA, they’re out there, talking to young people about becoming vegetarian/vegan. That is changing the landscape of the food industry, and hopefully helping to have less animals being slaughtered, less people being sick, less hormones being pumped into our bodies and into our water system, so all that, to me, is good.
Absolutely! Having been raised left in the 70’s you guys, do you find that there’s actually been a backlash in the 90’s?
Yeah, for sure! I think that the kids in the 90’s and in the early part of this century have gotten more conservative. I know I’m more conservative than a lot of my mentors, and people younger than me are even more conservative than we are. So, I think it’s going to be a scary time in the next twenty years when these people grow up a little bit more, who haven’t had access to punk rock and haven’t had access to ideas like Bad Religion or NOFX or Anti-Flag or even bands like Refused. There are a lot of great bands out there that are talking about issues, and people that haven’t had access to those bands, when they get into power, we’re going to have a lot of protesting that we’re gonna need to do to ensure that everything doesn’t go into the shitter really quickly.
I agree, it’s scary. Do you find that the “bandwagon” mentality is weakening the scene?
Um, I think there are a lot of things that are weakening music right now. I don’t know whether it’s the “bandwagon” mentality, or what it is, specifically. I do know that it’s a fact that it’s all come down to two major record companies; that has weakened music immeasurably. I think that people have access to more music right now. Like, I could see a hundred bands on the internet right now, and if I wanted to, I could do what they’re doing; I could copy them very easily. That’s “bandwaggoning,” possibly, if I become just like them. That’s not helping art, that’s helping the commercialism, maybe selling more product, which is not what we’re trying to do.
That’s not what it’s supposed to be.
We’re trying to create something that’s interesting, not the same thing all the time. I think that that’s what’s happening in the world right now: because we have so much of everything, we’re just recreating it over and over again.
Yes, definitely. Do you feel a little bit more honest having returned to independent status with Gun?
No! I was more honest on a major than I was in an independent world, because I didn’t have anybody that I had to worry about. When I was on a major, my job was to hate them, and I went in hating them. Actually, they turned out to be sorta nice people, which was unfortunate.
So, my job on a major was to hate these people; they were the devil. In the independent world, you have to hold your tongue a bit more because you know that they’re your friends. You have to be a little bit more self-censoring.
Whoa, that’s interesting, I never thought about it that way before. Last one: have you ever had the satisfaction of having a fan tell you that they took social action as inspired by you guys?
Actually, without sounding like I have a big head, I get told that every day. On this tour, it’s been amazing, because we’ve been out with a lot of the PETA people, the Amnesty people and the Greenpeace people, and they bring out volunteers every day. Almost every day, I have somebody come up to me and say that they got into these organizations because they came to an Anti-Flag show or got an Anti-Flag record.
That’s what it’s all about!
Yes, but let me be clear: it’s not because of Anti-Flag that they found these things; they were already interested. Somewhere in the backs of their heads, they were looking for this type of thing, and we just happened to be there to help them to reaffirm what they were already thinking and believing, so now they’ve gone in that direction. That’s the amazing thing about what we do; we’re out here because we believe that other people feel the same way as we do, and we want to communicate with them. When we find other people who are of like minds, we all feel a bit less isolated – not as alone.
Mm-hm, that’s the point of it all, thank you, Pat (we then laugh as he refuses to shake my hand again, as it has toilet paper all over it).