Last year, Anti-Flag released their ninth album, the solid ‘American Sping’. But we ain’t here to talk about that! No, we’re here to talk about 2006’s ‘For Blood and Empire’, a brilliant punk rock record if there ever was one. This was actually the first Anti-Flag record I was exposed to and it holds a special place in my heart, which makes the thought of December’s ten-year tour that much more exciting. But by the time the band arrives in our country, America will have a new president and as lead singer & rhythm guitarist Justin Sane puts it, “it will be a disaster for the American people” so the band will need a week or so holiday to get out of that headspace and we’ll be happy to supply them with said break. We recently spoke with Sane about his favourite ‘For Blood and Empire’ songs, how he perceives the record and its various topics now in 2016, and how the band will tackle the audience request part of these sets.
So my first question is a real softball question, and that’s with this tour, how do you look back on ‘For Blood And Empire’ now, ten years down the road?
I look back at this record and say that we were right. I think its often the case that when you look at the history, the progressive left is right about many issues, including war, racism, sexism, etc. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately about Australia, that gay marriage is still not legal there. Our Supreme Court has recently upheld that gay marriage is legal and it’s interesting to think about issues that people like ourselves fought for just decades ago. There was a time when black people couldn’t drink out of the same water fountain as white people, women couldn’t vote, or gay people couldn’t get married. Living in the States now, gay people are getting married and people are looking around going ‘What was the problem?’ With a lot of progressive social issues, when they eventually come to fruition, people often wonder what the original problem was and these issues are usually just a smokescreen; a distraction for politicians to hide bigger issues.
Yeah, it is bullshit that gay marriage isn’t legal here, and just recently, there’s been a lot of coverage on the plebiscite not going ahead, thankfully. That would have been such a waste much money.
Yeah, for sure, man. I mean, I live in the US so I guess I am throwing stones from a glass house [laughs]. But usually Western Europe does it first, then us and then Australia does it. But coming full circle to your first question, about how I feel about that record now, the war in the Middle East wasn’t necessary; there were no WMD’s; the president and the congress at the time were just stealing natural resources; that it was so much costly than the pro-war politicians were saying; that parts of Iraq and parts of Africa; that America would create future enemies. These are all issues we spoke about and it all came true.
We weren’t geniuses with a crystal ball; we just knew our history. That’s why I think it’s important for people to be educated and know their history because it definitely repeats itself. Politicians do say the same lies; they’ll just make new enemies. So that’s really what I’ve been thinking about with this ten-year tour coming up.
Well said, and you’re right, history does repeat itself and I want to touch on that regarding the album. As ‘For Blood And Empire’ has a very strong thematic variety to its songs, and the issues spoken about in ‘The W.T.O Kills Farmers’, ‘Confessions Of An Economic Hitman’, and ‘The Press Corpse’ – those issues are still prevalent today. It’s just the culprits of those problems have been replaced with new ones.
Right! Ultimately, what I do think it comes down to is the TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What we have is politicians creating these massive corporate giveaways. In the case of the TPP, it’s a trade agreement that was written by corporations, their lawyers, their lobbyists, and when I learned that, this giant red flag went up for me. And it should for everyone. Most of these companies never do what’s good for the workers, for the environment; only what’s good for their payday. I think the point that you just made about those songs is a really good one, an important one, and it all relates to the TPP now I think.
Yeah, that whole agreement is just so shady. When the public and the press can’t really get a look at and it’s shrouded in secrecy for so long, one has to wonder just how badly we are going to get it.
That’s right. It’s great that you know about it, as politicians were voting on it without the public knowing what’s in it. That’s insane! That’s the antithesis of democracy right there. Democracy is about transparency, about letting us know what’s happening so we can give them direction. When you hide what’s in a trade deal, it’s because the people aren’t going to like what’s in it.
Exactly right, man. Stemming from that last question, though, are there any songs, thematic intent aside, on that record that really stick out to you now?
Well, I have two thoughts that I’ll drop on you now. One is The Press Corpse, and for me, that’s one of the best songs on the record and probably one of the best Anti-Flag songs period. If we’re going to talk about the topics being relevant, that song is just so relative; the idea that the media is controlled by a very, very small group of people, one being Australia’s very own Rupert Murdoch. He has a great deal of power to direct his media outlets to present a certain belief. I do believe that most people are good and that they want good things for other people, but we can only make choices based on the information presented. The TPP is a great example of this. I watch CNN a lot of the time and I’ve only seen CNN cover the TPP once and that was Obama, who is pro-TPP and they’ve neve provided a counter opinion. At the Democratic Convention, while there were speakers on TV, audience members were holding up signs saying “NO TPP”, so you’d think the media would see that and maybe go talk to some other people about this issue. So I think that that song speaks to the way politicians do things counter to the public’s interest and musically, I also really like it.
It’s interesting. We’ve been practicing these songs a lot as some of them we rarely played live, just because we have so many songs and many fall through the cracks. So it’s been fun for me lately as there’s a song called State Funeral that I’ve recently rediscovered and I love it. I also think that Hymn For The Dead is a great song, and of course, This Is The End (For You My Friend) is one of our biggest songs. So there are a lot that I really enjoy musically and many I enjoy playing now. When I think about what those songs were written about, it makes me even more excited.
Good to hear, Justin. ‘For Blood and Empire’ was actually the first Anti-Flag record I listened to and I just love ‘Cities Burn’, so to see that song live now will be great.
Oh, cool! We do play that song a lot live and it’s actually one of my favorite songs to play live for the sing-along aspects. One thing to keep in mind and something that I should mention, I started going to punk shows when I was really young with my brothers and sisters. What attracted me to the shows was that they were fun. Even when I went to see bands that were serious or political, like The Exploited or Dead Kennedy’s, the shows were still a great time. So even though Anti-Flag has a lot of serious content, the number one thing is that they’re a good time. We want the people to have fun and we want to have fun ourselves.
So I do think there is this misconception that our shows are this serious lecture or something [laughs]. Yes, there are some serious songs, but at the end of the night, we want to create a place for people to come and have a good time. That’s what punk rock is to me; a place for like-minded people. Every show we play, we take time during our set to ask that you shake the hand of the person next to you and to introduce yourself because our mission is to help people make new friends. We think that punk rock is so much bigger than just a band or a few songs or a T-shirt.
Yeah, so that’s cool actually. And it’s got to be fun! Finally, just on these shows, I wanted to ask about the audience request part of this tour. How’s that going to work and how do you prepare for that with so many songs?
Oh, it’s just going to be a battle royale. Anyone who shouts out a song is going to get a Viking weapon, we’ll chuck them in a steel cage and the last one out alive, gets to pick the song [laughs]. But no, we did do an all-request set in Australia a few years back in Queensland, totally off the cuff, and it was one of the most memorable shows for me.
But if someone calls out a song from some compilation from 1999, we’ll just be like fuck off; there’s no way we’re doing that! We probably wouldn’t remember how the songs sound like. Funnily enough, as far as remembering how a song goes, the weakest link there would be our drummer, Pat. He often can’t remember a lot of our older songs. So we won’t be able to play every song requested, but you never know! I’m really excited about that aspect of the tour.
Well, I’m hoping if I shout out ‘Rank N’ File’ or ‘Go West’, you guys will play them…
You know, I do know that we could do both of those songs live. They may be a little shaky but sometimes, that’s the best way to see it!
For sure! Well, thanks so much for your time today Justin, hope the rest of your day and the rest of these interviews go well!
Hey, thanks a lot, man! Have a good day and we’ll see you at one of the shows!
Tickets for Anti-Flag’s ‘For Blood And Empire ten-year anniversary tour are on sale now via Destroy All Lines.
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