Interview: Anti-Flag talk to Tinnitus Attacks

Last Friday, Anti-Flag turned the club Unversum in Stuttgart into a sauna. Before they hit they stage, Chris #2 and Pat Thetic took the time to talk to Tinnitus Attacks. An interview about their way to the new album, politics - and the future. 

 Tinnitus Attacks: Let’s talk about your new album „The General Strike“. It sounds much rawer than former ones and many think it’s the best since „The Terror State“. What was different this time during the songwriting and the recording?

Chris #2: First of all, that’s very kind of you. The Bright Lights of America and The People Or The Gun – we put them out so fast, there was no time in between making albums and touring. It’s not like they’re bad records or not Anti-Flag records. I just think they weren’t definitive in our bands life. We said to ourselves: We can play Songs from Die For Your Government and Underground Network, Terror State and For Blood and Empire. People wanna hear those songs. We could tour on those records for the rest of our lives. There’s bands that put out only one record and they’re still able to tour forever. We didn’t need to make another album. So we said if we’re gonna make a new album, we’re gonna make sure it’s the best in a very long time.  We wanted to maintain what we built...

(Pat comes in, Chris stops talking, handshakes, Pat pulls up a chair and sits down.)

Chris #2 (left) and Daniel Drescher (Tinnitus Attacks)
during the interview.                     Fotos: Melanie Braith
Chris #2: This conscious decision to take time off and to work on the album – it came back to us: There’s no band that sounds like Anti-Flag. There’s no band right now really saying the things we say. So we just kind of embraced it. Instad of heeding idle chatter and things yelled at us from afar, that bands that have been around for a certain time have to do certain things, we just ignored it all. We said to each other: Lets make the best Anti-Flag record that we can make. We worked on it for two years.

Tinnitus Attacks: What’s the intention behind the album?

Pat Thetic: There is revolution that’s happened all over the world in the last three years. This record is a statement about that. It’s not creating revolution, it’s not making anything. It’s inspired by the growing axe of people around the world who really stepped up and decided they’re ready for change in their cities and countries.

Tinnitus Attacks: There’s the Song „1915“ in which you commemorate Joe Hill. Are there modern day Joe Hills that you look up to?

Pat Thetic: There are. They just haven’t been shot yet.

Chris #2: The interesting thing is that he was condesdencent of the fact he was worth more to the movement dead }an he was alive. I’m not sure I really know aynone right now who would say „the world is better off without me, people will be inspired by my death.“

Pat Thetic: Not in the US right now.

Chris #2:  There are certainly people with that amount of conviction in the world for sure. I’m just saying whether or not anyone of us in this room would do that – I don’t know. But I do think that Joe Hill is tremendously important because he gives you the ability to look backwards and learn how to go forwards. If we don’t do that, we’re gonna repeat a lot of mistakes. It’s a clichee idea that you’ll be forced to repeat history if you don’t face it but it’s a true statement.

Pat Thatic: The next Joe Hill will come out of a workers movement, a leftist movement for sure. History will always find somebody to be that person. It’s happened over and over again. That person will happen again. Hopefully they won’t have to die to become a hero of the movement. But history usually shows they do have to die. If it’s you I’ll come to your funeral.

Tinnitus Attacks: That’s nice, thanks. Now, everybody was like „Oh, they sound like The Clash now“ talking about The General Strike. Did that just happen or was it somewhat intended?

Chris #2: Yeah, absolutely (with an ironic voice). We tried to sound like The Clash on every record but we’re apparently getting better at it. No, I mean our favorite records are our favorite records. Our favorite bands are our favorite bands. We’re always going to be influenced by what’s going on. I do think that perhaps there is a bit more of a Clash vibe on this record because we were making a conscious effort to go back to what inspired us to pick up instruments in the first place. And that was the Clash’s selftitled record. That was Dead Kennedys „Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death“. That were core albums that caused each one of us to say „I wanna play music“. We were certainly going back to these things when we were writing the album.

Chris#2 (right) and Pat Thetic (middle) during the interview
 with Tinnitus Attacks.                          Foto: Melanie Braith
Tinnitus Attacks: I think „This Is The New Sound“ – my favorite track on the record – sounds especially Clashy. The video got a lot of attention. Are you planning on working with Amnesty International again? 

Pat Thetic: We always work with AI. Over the years we’ve done a lot of work with them. The great thing about Amnesty is they’re one of the organizations that get shit done and actually save peoples lives. There are some places where we can’t work with Amnesty cause we’re a little too inflammatory. But there’s other places we fit in well and any time we can work with them we do it. We have an open dialogue. They have a really great music person.

Chris #2: Yeah, she helps us out a lot. They’re gonna be at a festival that we’re putting on in the UK, called Anti-Fest. They’ll be tabeling there and hopefully getting some volunteers and garnering some support for some really positive work they do.

Tinnitus Attacks: Your new record was also inspired by the occupy movement. There are people who criticize this rather new movement. Why do you think it’s worth supporting?

Political statements are a part of the bands message.
                                                         Foto: Daniel Drescher 
Pat Thetic: It’s coming out of the frustration of people who had jobs and no haven’t, people who had health care and now can’t afford it. That frustration was being expressed in the occupy movement. About the end goal of occupy we’re not really sure. I thin it’s still evolving. But any time people are willing to take to the streets and express their dissatisfaction with power and the government, we’ll support it.

Chris #2: I also think the zero end goal is why it’s so important. It’s like many of the greatest battles in civil rights. If you say this battle is for gay marriage, you don’t just decide that it’s over. You’re fighting for equality. Or talking about segregation in the States and the racial movements we had at that time period. It’s wasn’t like „Ok, schools are integrated now, racism is over“. I think with the occupy movement you can’t say it’s a movement standing against greed, so once everybody has health care it’s over. That’s one of the things that’s so inspiring. It’s not „Hey, we're here to end the war and when it’s over we go home.“

Tinnitus Attacks. Talking about politics: What do you expect from the presidential elections?

Chris #2: I’ll expect that Obama wins.

Pat Thetic: I expect a lot of money to be spent. I expect a lot of things will happen but will leave no consequence.

Chris #2: We’ll hear the word abortion a lot.

Pat Thetic: Yeah, and everyobody will be afraid of gay marriage. And then I think Obama is gonna win. And I am hoping – I was hopeful last time – that there will be change. Obama at least pretends to be on our team. More than any politician has been in the last 30 years. Whether he’s really on our team I don’t know. He hasn’t expressed it as much as I hoped he would.

Chris #2: We’re optimists. I’m hopeful that with it being a second term and having an expiration date on his presidency put in place that he can push some shit through that helps the country and in turn helps the world. If not, we’re not gonna be like „Obama won, let’s go away“. There’s a lot to sing about and a lot to conjugate about.

Pat Thetic: People always say we’re a George W. Bush band. But we’re actually a George Bush One Band.

Chris #2: Bill Clinton, too.

Later that night: Anti-Flag hit the Stage.
                                                                Foto: Daniel Drescher
Pat Thetic: George Bush One, Bill Clinton Band, George Bush Two...and Obama. And so as the political landscape changes, the name of who’s in the White House changes, but the power wars that are fought, the power massing in the hands of a few and we still don’t have health care. So that are things that we will still fight against.

Tinnitus Attacks: Punk comes from a time when the world seemed simpler. The world of today is complex. Pop songs are simple. What answer can this music still give today?

Pat Thetic: Punkrock is never about giving answers, it never was able to. You can’t solve world problems in a three minute song and screaming through most of it. But what you can do with Rock’n’Roll and art in a broder sense is to inspire people that can make real change. And we’re inspired by them. It’s a feedback cycle. We’re inspired by the people in the streets. They – on some level, not necessarily inspired by us – are inspired by music and culutre. That gives another ten kids to hit the streets. Hopefully that cycle will go on and more people will be in the streets and more great music is created.

Chris #2: Punkrock to me isn’t about a band or sound or how you look or dress. All those things on the surface you think of when you say Punkrock. For me it is a place where people can be themselves. And providing that forum is what makes us a Punkrock band. We believe that all people should be treated equally. We try to create a space for that at our show. That to me is the idea of punkrock.

Tinnitus Attacks: You speak out against injustice of all kinds. How does this affect your daily life?

Pat Thetic: Actually it affects us in our private lives in ways you can’t imagine and I won’t explain to you. But I will tell you a story. I live in a very traditional Jewish Neighbourhood. They don’t do certain things on the Sabbath, work especially. For example they have electric lights that go on and off so they don’t have to do work by turning the light on. Culturally, that’s their deal. Within my neighbourhood there are a lot of non-Jews that think that that belief structure is stupid and weird. Me, because I come from Punkrock, I have restrictions of my own life. Being vegan, not eating certaing things, just like kosher – that makes perfect sense to me. Coming from the world of Punkrock I understand crazy belief structures cause I have my own crazy belief structures. And so those ideals I have because of Punkrock have an impact on my life.

Tinnitus Attacks: What’s it like being back at an indie label?

Chris #2: There’s no difference, to be honest. We’ve known Joe and Bill who run Side One Dummy for a very long time so transitioning from a major to them was easy. It’s nice to know the people who work there. When we were on the major it was a strange transition period. A lot of people were getting fired. The people that we signed with were no longer there when we put out a second record. That was kind of fucked. We never experienced something like that as a band. But we’ve been on indie labels that are shit. Majors were ok. They let us be the band we wanted to be.  They didn’t try to fuck with us. And we got them to spend a lot of money on some shit we thought was pretty cool. If anything, we were more condescend about the money we got Fat Mike to spend or Joe and Bill. When it was Sony money, we came up with as many crazy ideas as we could. (Pat laughs out loud). We hired friends to launch some cool campaigns like Military Free Zone. That was all paid for...

Pat Thetic: the devils money.

Chris #2: We got more good out of it than we got bad out of it. What’s better about being back with Side One Dummy: There’s a abilty to make records that are pertinent and topical and refer to what happens now much faster. On a major they had a lot of channels of how they released albums it was a litlle more difficult to be fluid. Now we have a studio of our own, do what we wanna do at our own pace.

Tinnitus Attacks: What about future plans? Are you already thinking of a new record?

Pat Thetic: No, we’re on tour for the next four five months. Afer that I’m gonna feed my gold fish for a while. Then we’ll go on tour for some more and than we’ll talk the things after that.

Tinnitus Attacks: Is there an age limit for Punkrock?

Pat Thetic: How old are YOU?! (lacht)

Tinnitus Attacks: Too old for this, actually, if you ask my parents.

Chris #2: I don’t think there’s an age limit. We have a lot of friends that are older than us and still putting out great records. We like our new record and we’ll tour a lot to make people hear it. That’s the goal.

Tinnitus Attacks: Thanks for taking your time.

There are a bunch of pics from the gig here and a concert review here. Tinnitus Attacks on Facebook and on Twitter. Follow me for daily updates.