R13: How did the Punks ‘N’ Pins show with Less Then Jake come to be?
PT: We’ve done a lot of touring with Less Than Jake over the years; they’re good dudes in a great band so we like playing shows with them wherever we can. We were both here at the same time so we linked up to do some shows.
R13: You released your latest album; ‘American Spring’ earlier this year, have you been pleased with the response to it?
PT: Absolutely; it has been great. We were in Blackpool for Rebellion Fest, we didn’t think that would be a group of people that knew the new material as people generally only care about the older stuff but they were singing along with the new stuff just as loud as the were singing along with the old stuff which was really nice.
R13: ‘American Spring’ was released through Spinefarm Records, how did you become involved with them?
PT: We were looking for a new label and a new group of people to work with, we are not very loyal to record companies and I’m not a big record company guy.
R13: Well, they’re not the most loyal of people.
PT: Exactly, so we are always looking for new people with new ideas and new ways of releasing music and we found Spinefarm.
R13: Are they treating you well so far?
PT: So far so good… I can’t say anything bad because they’re right here! But seriously, they’ve been really great and it’s been really good so far.
R13: Tim Armstrong and Tom Morello appear on the tracks ‘Brandenburg Gate’ and ‘Without End’ respectively. How did this come about, were the songs written specifically with these musicians in mind?
PT: No, no, no, we’ve known Tom Morello for years as we did a tour with Rage Against The Machine, Tom also did some touring with us with this acoustic thing; The Night Watchman so we have worked with him off and on for the last 15 years.
We wrote Brandenburg Gate and thought it would be great if Tim sung on it as we’ve toured with him before, so we reached out to him, played him the song, he liked it and sang on it which was really awesome.
R13: Did you feel additional pressure with the album as it was the first you’d released after your 20 year anniversary as a band?
PT: No, every record that we create we try to achieve something and this one was no different. With this record we wanted to make sure the artwork and the music all came together so we spent a lot of time and energy on the artwork and the packaging.
R13: The artwork is amazing, it struck me more than artwork on other releases have for a long time. Really powerful, so well done guys!
PT: Thank you! I’m glad it made sense to you; we thought it was powerful too and a good statement to make.
R13: In your mind, which is the most powerful song on the album?
PT: That’s a good question, I like The Debate Is Over; when we were writing that song it gave me a good feeling. I like the way the song moves, I like the performances on the song and I like the topic the song’s about so that one makes me happy.
R13: Police brutality thing and mishandling of justice is a major theme throughout the album, you recorded “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” on that issue specifically. Why is that topic important for you?
PT: It has been important to us for years, it is unfortunate that in the 1990’s we wrote a song called Fuck Police Brutality due to a situation in Pittsburgh where police killed an African-American gentleman. The punk rock community has been aware of the violence police perpetrate on young black men for years, now in the US the mainstream has realized it is a problem as well, hopefully that awareness will create some change and impact.
It’s amazing that over the last 20 years that the punk rock community was aware of it but no-one else, but now people are taking notice.
R13: Is it frustrating for you that so many of the same issues you sing about keep on happening?
PT: Obviously I would rather things change but the interesting thing we’ve learned from being part of an activist community for so long is that political change is sort of like a fashion; it comes into being and then goes away but you always have to have these groups of people who are there for that to happen.
It is frustrating that we are all working all the time towards social justice issues but the hard work is waiting for that time in history where things can really change. Hopefully, this is now the time where things really change in the way police departments use people in general but young black males, for sure.
R13: It seems crazy to me when you see facts such as there being more police killings in the US in one month than the UK has had in over 100 years, I know the US is a much bigger country with a much bigger population but not to that extent.
PT: Oh yeah, they’re killing two or three people a day, it is just fucked up. The NRA and gun culture is ruining the country’s culture as well. The fact that as Americans we tolerate a white male going into a place every couple of weeks and killing four or five people at a time is fucked up; there needs to be something done about that whether it’s getting rid of guns, I don’t know but something needs to happen. More money needs to be put into mental health.
R13: Moving back to a lighter subject; we briefly mentioned earlier that Anti-Flag have been around for over twenty years which is no mean feat, what are the biggest factors to keeping the band together and keeping the passion alive for creating music?
PT: Two things, one we really love playing music, as a group we are very passionate about the music we create and two, the fact that we like each other generally.
R13: That would help!
PT: Yeah, there’s a lot of really great bands who hate each other and if there’s not enough money to motivate them to be there then they give up. We actually really like being around each other, I don’t necessary like being around each other for four or five weeks at a time but for two or three weeks we like to be being around each other.
R13: It’s like being on holiday with friends, right?
PT: Yeah, I actually call touring ‘Urban Camping’; every tour is like urban camping with your friends, punctuated by rock shows but most of the time we are just urban camping.
R13: Do you struggle to readjust to life at home after being a period of urban camping?
PT: Yes, the one experience which is the funniest thing for me was playing a sold-out show in Pittsburgh to 1000 people or whatever a couple of years ago, it was my hometown so I went home to my own home to go to bed. My girlfriend was drunk, the cat pissed on the floor so I had a get up and clean the cat piss on the floor, I was like “I was cool 20 minutes ago and now I’m cleaning up cat piss!”. It is a little bit of a transition to go back home, just a minute ago Buddy from Less Than Jake was saying “it is amazing when I go out sometimes that I have to pay for beer, when I’m on tour I don’t pay for beer, beer is expensive!”, it is definitely a weird transition to go from our lives on tour, playing music to going home and doing regular things. Having said that, I don’t drink beer so I don’t know how much beer costs either way, but is definitely a different existence when you’re home to being on tour.
R13: Well, Buddy better hope he doesn’t have to buy any beer in London because it is definitely expensive here!
PT: Yeah, I can imagine it’s really expensive here for sure!
R13: How do you ensure that every live experience differs from the last, either for yourself or your fans?
PT: We try to include something for everyone, we don’t change the set list that much as we have so many songs we are trying to fit in, we try and include songs that were important to people in the mid-nineties, if people caught us in early 2000 there’s some songs for them. We try and get all the songs, but the idea of a bunch of people in one room who are interested in social justice, activism, interested in making things different, is pretty amazing to me and that is what keeps me interested in continuing to be here. It is hard to find those people in real life but when there is a punk rock show, it is like a magnet, it draws people who are willing to do the work and who are passionate about issues to one place and that is important to me.
R13: What advice would you give to the kids coming out who’d like to get more involved in social justice or activism?
PT: When we were young, every record that you’d buy would have a list of organisations and ways of getting involved with such things; over the last however many years the internet has come along and it has changed everything so artist don’t do that any more. On this record we realised that people can find it if they know what they’re looking for, so on this record we put in a bunch of organisations that we like or we support, or that we think are doing good work so that is a place people can look if they are interested in activism or changing things in their own lives and other people’s lives.
R13: I know we are short of time, so I’ll start wrapping things up. What can we expect to see from Anti-Flag for the rest of 2015?
PT: We head to China and South-East Asia before going out to Australia with Pennywise, then we come back to the Europe for a headline run in October and November so we’ll back on the island playing shows in the next few months.
R13: Awesome, thanks for your time and we’ll look forward to seeing you later in the year.
R13: How did the Punks ‘N’ Pins show with Less Then Jake come to be?