Published: Sunday, January 2, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 7, 2005 at 6:52 p.m.
We stood waiting in the empty club for nearly half an hour after the appointed time, our only company a gigantic bouncer telling stories of people getting their heads blown off and throwing kids our the side door of The Masquerade. He nervously twisted a full bottle of water until it leaked from the still-sealed top and he had cut it in half with his gargantuan hands.
Finally, Anti-Flag's lead singer, Justin Sane led us back to the small green room lined with old couches smelling of wet clothes. A catering table in the corner was lined with peanut butter and salsa with vegetables and potato chips. He politely asked who owned the half-empty soda can and Styrofoam food box before he removed them from the top of a plain black chair and slid it inches away from the couch where I sat. His face was no more than 18 inches from my own.
Justin Sane: So, what've you got?
24-7: I got tons of shit.
JS: All right, go for it.
24-7: So, I like the new album, but one thing that I thought that was a lot different was the bass. There always used to be that bouncy, high-treble bass in the background. Where did that go?
JS: Number 2 decided he wanted a more full, smooth bass sound on the record, so that's where it went. So, do you like the old bass more?
24-7: Oh, I like them both.
JS: I think we just wanted to try something different. We were trying out some different sounds on this record. It seems like a lot of people go with the high-treble bass. Just trying to do a kind of different sound, something more unique, you know?
24-7: And I like how the background vocals came out, they seem a lot fuller.
JS: Yeah. I think because we had a better engineer, for one, and for two, we just had better singers. We're better singers overall and it made a difference.
24-7: I haven't seem them around yet, you guys have been playing with Against Me! how long?
JS: A long time, like 30 shows.
24-7: Are they staying all the way through to Germany, and all of that?
JS: No, through the shows in the states, that's it.
24-7: So, why them? They seem to have such a difference in style.
JS: If you ever look at the roster of bands that we've toured with in the past, it's something that we try to do. We think it's more interesting to try to bring different kinds of music together and intertwine them with each other. You know, expose people to different things. To me, that's what makes the world interesting: differences. But also, because we play the kind of music that Anti-Flag plays doesn't mean we don't listen to other kinds of music as well. And, philosophically, I think we're very much all on the same page, so it make sense, bringing these guys on the tour.
24-7: Well, what other stuff are you listening to right now?
JS: Uh, Saves the Day, Johnny Cash, Hot Water Music.
24-7: The video you have for "Turncoat," it's on Mtv.com. Why is it on Mtv.com?
JS: Well, they offered to premiere it on Mtv.com. If you're familiar with Anti-Flag at all, you'll know the goal of Anti-Flag has always been to reach as many people as we possibly could. We can have a video on Mtv, and we thought that, if we can make a statement with that video, then we're going to do that. Our goal with the video is to put the words "turncoat, killer, liar, thief" about George Bush in a video where a lot of people would see it. And hopefully, that would inspire those people to ask questions as to why we say those things, and you can find those answers at our Web site.
24-7: And all the stuff I've always heard you guys sing about corporate America, you don't see that as any bit of a problem working with Mtv?
JS: Well, I think that you have to weigh the pros and cons, you know? If there's more you can get out if than you think it's hurting, then I think it's the way to go. Everything we do, we're always making decisions based on those things, weighing out the odds. Do we reach a lot of people? Are we saying something meaningful to a lot of people? Or, if we do this, are we just being used by the entertainment industry just so they can get good ratings? We thought, like, there were more pros than cons. And you know it's the same thing with doing something like Warped Tour. You do the Warped Tour and it's sponsored by Vans, and Vans makes shoes in China with slave labor. I don't support that and I don't wear Vans shoes. But, in token, a lot of kids have never been exposed to ideas that Anti-Flag sings about. The idea that there should be no standing armies in the world, the reasons why George Bush is a liar in our eyes regarding Iraq. So, those kids at that show, those are the people we really need to reach. A lot of those kids are not the kind of kids who have heard about those kinds of concepts before. And we're always weighing the pros and cons to see if we can get more out of it than it's taking out of us.
24-7: So, more of using the system, despite it's bad points, to further what you've got?
JS: Yeah, we can certainly go on Warped Tour and talk about slave labor issues and talk about shop labor issues and encourage people in that way as well. I don't think it's that black and white in that we do that. But, to put it in those terms, yeah.
24-7: With all the different viewpoints, all the different crowds that are coming to these shows, is there any significant amount of people standing in the corner sulking, not liking something that's going on, or maybe someone rejecting your views over another one that another band is putting out there?
JS: Well, if there is, that's okay. We're not here to tell people what to think. The goal of Anti-Flag has always been to put ideas out there and let people think about those ideas. Hopefully they're going to relate to the things we're saying. If they don't, they're free to have a difference of opinion. I think that if someone's coming to this show and they're getting pissed off by what we're saying or what another band is saying, that's good. Because, it's the idea to get people thinking about things, trying to kill some of that complacency and apathy that so many people have. Now, if it goes to the next step where somebody will act out violently, that's not acceptable. As long as it's in the context of a conversation and a dialogue, I think that's really great.
24-7: On opinions: I can tell you're not big fans of the war, and neither am I. So, when is a war justified?
JS: Well, I think a military action can be justified when it's actually a unilateral thing, when it's unilaterally agreed that major human rights have been taken away from someone, or someone is being hurt. Or, possibly a military action could be justified with some kind of third-world disaster or something like that. But, the George Bush war was not unilaterally agreed upon. Many nations didn't support it and much of the public of many nations, including the United States didn't support it. So, a coalition of the willing is not a coalition of the world.
24-7: And a coalition of the willing won't always give you valid justification.
JS: No, it's true, it's very true. I don't think that the first Iraq war was necessarily justified either. It would be impossible for me to say `Here's steps one, two and three as to what justifies warfare.' I really don't think that any warfare is ever justifiable, but I think that there are certain circumstances, for instance, Rwanda, when there was mass genocide taking place. I think it made sense for the United Nations to go in there and police that situation. Unfortunately it didn't happen until it was almost over. There's circumstances, but overall I don't accept killing and violence as a solution to any end. I don't think Osama Bin Laden having people fly airplanes into buildings is right, and I don't think bombing Afghanistan and Iraq in response to that is right either.
24-7: But, I don't know what we could ever do to stop our country. What would you say is a reasonable thing to do?
JS: I think that unfortunately it comes down to ignorance. If you saw that poll recently that people who get their news from Fox News about the Iraq war, they were the least informed about the war, and the least informed about the facts. I think that kind of sums it up right there. And that's why I think it's so important to have grassroots media and encourage people to be educated. But you're right, we are fighting ourselves now because the leaders of this country do not want an educated public. They want a public that can work in service industry jobs, they need to be able to read to a certain extent, and beyond that, they don't want people to be educated. Because, when people become educated, they start to get information in other places. I think that's why George Bush just signed $87 billion over for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan versus signing $87 billion for education. And that's why we do what we do. Our hope is that, maybe we only influence 100 kids in every city or maybe 1,000 in every city. If we can educate them to some of the things that we see going on and some of the things we believe are going on, maybe those kids won't sign up for the army and go get their legs blown off in Iraq. I think it's up to everybody to do what they think they can do in their small way. Maybe it's making flyers and posting them up in your neighborhood, or whether it's tabling at events, taking information to events and having a dialogue with people, whether it's writing an article for Indymedia.org or whether it is starting your own Web site and trying to get information out there. The reality is that the mainstream media doesn't always tell all of the facts, and the only way I think we can achieve real change is when enough people know what is going on and feel the need to act for change, and that's why we do what we do. I do think we're fighting an uphill battle, and it is scary. I mean, we had how many people protest in Washington D.C. before they invaded Iraq, and Bush went ahead and did what he did anyway. But, the reality is that' it's up to us to vote his ass out of office in November. That's another thing we're doing out here, trying to encourage people to vote. Hopefully, the next guy that comes in, I don't think he's going to be that much better than Bush, but hopefully he won't be sending troops over to Iraq to die for oil or water or whatever it is over in Iraq.
24-7: A lot of people say that the Democrats are just writing off the '04 election. What do you think about that Democratic stance?
JS: Oh, I think that the Democrats want to win. I don't think the Democrats want to go too far out of the status quo, though. I don't think the Democrats are that different from the Republicans overall. I don't think Gore would have invaded Iraq, but I don't think Gore would have been much better on the environment or social service than George Bush has been.
24-7: I was thinking, you guys play music, and, besides inspiring thousands of kids, music's just music, just like flying a flag's and empty gesture unless you're doing something about it, so what else are you guys doing?
JS: I would say that that is our main form of action, playing. But, we were at the anti-war protest in D.C., in Pittsburgh we've been involved in a lot of different organizing protests, we do a lot of that kind of stuff. We started our own non-profit underground action alliance. The idea with it is to give kids an outlet where they can learn to be activists or take part in activism, and you can check that out on the Web at undergroundactionallicance.org, and that's slowly coming along. We're on tour, we're working on that, so it's coming along, but the idea of that is we have kids coming to shows, and they're like `Where can I go to get involved and get ideas of what I can do in my community?" And we can't just talk about it and have nothing for people to act onso, that's why we started U.A.A.
24-7: There's so many issues, how do you guys decide what to write on?
JS: Yeah, it's hard. For me, usually when I see something, I just try to pick out a few things that are really, really important to me. The things in the record are usually the things that are really charging us at that particular time. And we can't hit everything. For instance, we were crossing the border one time, and I was watching all these Americans flowing in and out of Mexico. And there's all these poor Mexicans who have to put their lives on the line to cross the border, and so I wrote the song "Tearing Down the Borders." It so overwhelming, and one of the things I really want to write about is Wal-Mart. We had a song about the School of the Americas and we had to cut that song from the record.
24-7: Why'd you have to cut it?
JS: Well, we didn't have to cut it, but we chose to cut it. We thought it could be more impactful, and we could do a better job. What we're hoping to do is work on it and finish it, and we're going to put out a full EP on the School of the Americas. So, that was a compromise. And, for the reason you were talking about. There's so many issues, and we didn't want to overwhelm people. We felt like we had enough on it [The Terror State].
JS: Anything else? One last question?
24-7: How old are you guys?
24-7: Bullshit! (everyone laughs) I'm not going to get an answer to that, am I?
JS: We did an article with the college wire service and we had to write down all our names and ages and it got to me and everyone had written down 19, and it was just funny. No really good reason, it's just a good time.
JS: I guess, coming up, I can say what we're doing. We're going to go to the northeast and do that, and Canada, and then we're going to go to Europe, and then we're going to take some time off, like a month and a half. Then we're going to do more European dates and then Warped Tour. Then we're going to take a break, I hope.
24-7: Are you doing anything fun for that month and a half?
JS: For me, at this point, fun has become staying at home, just being in my house because I'm never there. And when I'm there it's like, hey, I have a place to be. I was thinking over Christmas maybe doing another solo, but I don't know if I'll have time. Get all my songs together and make them sound good. That's what I'd like to do. I'd like to spend a week with a nice, quiet girl and hang out. That's what I would consider a successful time off. Watching Jimmy Stewart movies and Gregory Peck. Have you ever seen "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit"? That's one of my favorite movies. I've watched it like 1,000 times. And, of course, I'll watch "It's a Wonderful Life" on the holidays.
24-7: Do you ever see yourself living outside the U.S.?
JS: Yeah, but I'd really have to know the language well. I'm a person that gets really frustrated. When we're in Europe, we're in like 12 different countries in 3 weeks. There's no way you speak the language of all those countries unless you're a genius, and I'm not a genius. When you're done, you just can't wait to go somewhere where the speak your language. You meet people and you know they've got something to say to each other, but it's so hard. You can't even go into a restaurant and say `Hey, can I order some French fries?' or whatever. And just to say `Don't put mayonnaise on that,' it's totally frustrating. I've been working on Italian, and I can see myself living in Italy. I like Italy a lot. I would love to live in the U.K. or Ireland, but it's too cold.
JS: Well, thank you.
24-7: No, really, thank you.
This article originally appeared on Gainesville24-7.com in Jan. 2003.
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