Canada’s Propagandhi have been one of punk rocks most politically out-spoken bands for well over two decades now. Their last album, 2012’s ‘Failed States’ – while not quite as specific as previous releases – was just as dynamic, aggressive, and as pissed-off as anything else the band has done in their career. With their headlining tour hitting our shores this May/June, Killyourstereo.com spoke with drummer and co-founding member, Jord Samolesky.
Hello Jord, how are you?
Pretty good man, thanks, but it’s fucking cold though! It’s the coldest winter on record in about a hundred and ten years over here so it’s a very odd thing to experience while the rest of the world is burning.
With regards to the last couple of tours you’ve done over here, how were those experiences for the band?
Oh, they’ve been great, it’s always been a good opportunity. We’ve had the chance to meet and make good friends with people over there. Touring there is always a lot of fun, and the people are usually pretty nice, except for a few… isolated incidents of extreme violence. Outside of that, it’s always a blast. I’m always excited to go to places were we’ve been hooked up with a lot of other great bands to play with. It’s a pleasure to come back over for sure.
With the set list for this tour, have you guys planned it in advance, or do you wing it and write up a list days before a show? And will you be trying to cover all albums or the biggest ones in this set?
We tend to focus more on the album that we’re touring on obviously. That one being Failed States, and we’ll be definitely playing a lot of tunes from that. We do try to play stuff from each album and then we’ll have a look back and see what we mainly played last time we were in Australia. That way we can not double up on certain songs, and try and get some older songs into the set. We’ll practice around twenty five songs, so when we’re in the same town for multiple dates, which we are for Melbourne, we’ll try to switch it up. And if we have any requests, then we’ll be able to pull something out of the bag.
Fans will be happy to hear that about the sets I’m sure. What has been the biggest influence, or influences, on the band?
I think that the biggest influence was that each of us in the band just has such a great appreciation for music. You know, we’re still keen on people making music and when it hits home, I think there is nothing greater in life than liking and appreciating something that you’re really into. I just feel like it’s such a privilege to still go on all these tours and we’re all just trying to seize the moment. We take it pretty seriously on our end, we do try and have fun with it, but we do put our time into practicing and keeping it interesting and fresh.
On a more individual note, what’s been the biggest influence on your drumming?
I have so many now. I kind of got into music in my mid-teen, metal phase and then I got into all kinds of underground music. Like I was listening to Heaven & Hell and Mob Rules the other day, and some of that drumming is stuff that I loved so much, and then there’s the drumming from Western Canadian bands like DUI and S.N.F.U with these amazing drummers that I saw play in the late 80’s when I was getting into punk music. I can’t say that I have one specific influence, it’s just more of a humility thing for me. These days, I think I’m listening to stuff that inspired me early on, I’ve been going back to more of that stuff now.
What pushed you guys to talk about issues such as human rights abuses, animal rights, global injustice and so forth? Was that mainly Chris, or the band as a whole to take it in that direction?
I think that goes back to the earlier influences. When we were first picking up our instruments and learning them, we were following bands like MDC, Dead Kennedy’s and it was that underground, social political side of the punk scene that was so angry, and it just resonated with us as we were coming of age. I think we identified with that music that had that social conscious to it, and that was a big part of us forming the band. It was like the initial blueprint, like if you could imagine a couple of hoser Canadians playing guitar and drums in their mum and dad’s basements, trying to learn all this stuff and educate ourselves about things in the world. It was us trying to basically add our little contribution by spreading the word of all these causes. It’s something that we see as a basic, obligatory point when we have the privilege and ability to reach people in countries like America, Canada and Australia, who all have pretty ugly histories, and to try and overcome these issues and all the environmental problems hitting us today. It’s the very least we could do.
Aside from discussing these global issues in your songs, what does the band do for activist groups and movements outside of the band for those who don’t know?
Todd [Kalowski, bass] spent a lot of time working with an organisation here in Winnipeg that welcomed newcomers to the city and sets them up with contacts and places for new Canadians to settle in. I was involved with a radical advocacy group on border control issues called No One Is Illegal. I also did that in Winnipeg and we had a network with other cities that were embroiled in that struggle. A lot of activist groups now though gain a lot of fame and have success for a couple of years and the memberships are mainly young kids who are students, so it is kinda hard to have any continuity with them. No One Is Illegal turned into another area I worked with, which was about the relations between Canada and the country of Haiti. Canada was involved with a political over throw of the government there a number of years ago, which was a progressive, democratic government. When that happened it drove me nuts that Canada was involved with this coup d’état that wasn’t getting any representation in the mainstream media. Essentially, what it turned into was bringing people out from Haiti to tell their side of the story. We’d arrange for venues to have film makers and authors of the subject come to Winnipeg to discuss it, and try to engage alternative and underground media and carve out a space for that story to be told. We also did some fund raising for on the ground work and media projects, and at this point we help sustain a website used by journalists and reporters around the world, called canadahaitiaction.ca for anyone who’s interested. Family and other things have prevented me from engaging with that work as much as I would want to, but I plan to get back into it later this year.
That’s really good to hear, knowing that this the music just talk, but that there’s also still some action going on behind the scenes.
Yeah, and Chris [Hannah, guitar/vocals] does a podcast with a friend of ours up here where they’re doing an alternative media project and interviewing a lot of great and interesting people who are working on some really good projects. This kind of stuff is what we feel is the core area of our band. One side is the love for this kind of music, sound and scene and the other is the work for these issues that ultimately concern us all. When we’re able to do that kind of work outside of the band, it’s such a worthwhile thing, despite how fucking busy life can be sometimes [laughs].
Propagandhi tour Australia this May/June. Dates and details here.