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Anti-Flag Fights for Punk Rock; Speaks Out Against Police Brutality

todayFebruary 4, 2015 12

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Interview by Mathew Zuniga

Anti-Flag feat
Anti-Flag concert. Photo by Mathew Zuniga

As one of the original founding members of the punk band Anti-flag, drummer Pat Thetic remains in still today. Anti-flag was formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1988 and has since been known for their politically fueled songs as well as strong views on war and those in power. The band kicked off 2015 with a tour supporting the punk band Pennywise. The tour brought Anti-flag through Austin where I caught up with Pat Thetic.

Mathew: This is the second show so far supporting Pennywise, how has it been so far?

Pat: Its been good! We have done a lot of tours with Pennywise over the years, so it’s only the second show of this tour but we’ve played with them a number of times.

M: How long have you known Pennywise?

P: Well they have been around forever so, as a band we have only known them for the last 10 years, but as kids that have gone to shows we have known about them since the early 90’s late 80’s.

M: So, recent events regarding police such as with Eric Garner and with Ferguson, how does this affect Anti-flag as a band?

P: It doesn’t really affect Anti-flag as a band but it does as people, it makes us angry. We’ve lived through years and years of this. There is a song we wrote in the early 90’s called “F**k Police Brutality” which is about a police brutality situation in Pittsburgh, we also had another song on one of the other records about police brutality, because the Pittsburgh police killed a guy in the late 90’s. The FBI had to come in and watch over the Pittsburgh police because it was in such a mess and we still have a police review board and things like that, which I think every police force should have. Pittsburgh has had some problems with police brutality and these situations right now are just a continuation of when you give people ultimate power they abuse it, that’s what happens. We need to have the checks and balances that keep the police realizing that they are working for the population.

M: Do events like these inspire the band to write music and write songs or to perform any harder than usual?

P: Not any more than usual, but there are a lot of things in life that inspire us. When people are abused, or when people are taken advantaged of, or the powerful are getting away with things, that is always something that makes us angry as people and probably will come out in the music at some point.

M: Like you said with “F**k Police Brutality,” do you think recent events make that song as relevant as it ever was?

P: Well yeah, thats the reality with all these things. One of the things I’ve learned in the time that I’ve been in this band and been a thinking adult human being is that people in power never give up their power. They are always trying to amass more. So places like police forces and things like that, are never allowing other people to look at their business, and to have checks and balances to their power. They always want to have more power. So, it’s just another example of that happening and Anti-flag has always been singing about that and talking about that, that we need to have checks and balances to people in power.

M: Would you say those songs, like “F**k Police Brutality” off your debut album back in 1996 still embody your current belief system?

P: Yes. I would say that our expression of the ideas might be a little bit more nuanced than that song, but we will still play that song and we will probably play that song tonight. It is an expression of frustration of being abused and people abusing their power.

M: Have your views on government and or war changed since starting in Anti-flag over 20 years ago?

P: No, actually they have probably gotten to be more aggressive, because we’ve seen over the last 20 years how war has not gotten us anywhere and only has been destroying people, economies and the environment. I think we are more militant about the fact that violence used by any nation is bad. There is a theme running through these questions and it is, that when people have power without being checked they do really s**ty evil things and a perfect example of it is the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military had all this power and they started raping and torturing prisoners and that is a really f***ed up thing and that’s what happens when evil people get a lot of power.

M: Changing the subject a bit, back in the fall of 2014 a punk band Joyce Manor had several incidents of stage divers injuring female crowd members, so Joyce Manor took it upon themselves to stop stage diving by stopping mid set and calling out stage divers. Do you believe a person who has paid for a ticket has a right to enjoy the show however they please or does the band have a say in how the crowd should behave?

P: The band definitely has a responsibility to make sure that everybody at the show is having a good time and not getting beat up. But, having said that if you want to be in the front row there are some consequences of that, if you want to be in the back and just hang out and watch the show then that’s cool too. I’m not there to tell people that they can’t stage dive and not have a good time but at the same time if you’re gonna beat somebody up and take advantage of somebody we’re gonna say something about that.

M: So, your opinion on stage diving and mosh pits would be?

P: Have a good time and remember that we are all there to have a good time together. I will also say if you’re an a**hole we’re gonna tell you to get the f**k out.

M: In recent years Warped Tour has forbidden bands to from encouraging mosh pits and things of that nature, what’s your opinion on that?

P: That’s all legal stuff they are afraid of lawsuits and stuff like that. I get it, but it’s punk rock man! If you don’t wanna be part of the circle pit, get out of the way.

M: A lot of “older punks” say the tour isn’t the tour it used to be because the bands on the tour aren’t necessarily punk, how do you feel about that?

P: I think everything changes. I don’t think Warped Tour is the same tour it used to be but I don’t think any of us are the same we used to be 15 years ago. Everything is changing all the time and if you don’t like the way Warped Tour is now, create your own tour and go out and do it. That’s the beauty of punk rock, we never are here because somebody allows us to do something, we’re here because we create something. If you don’t like it, create something better. I’m not defending Warped Tour, I think Warped Tour should do whatever they want, I’m just saying if you don’t like what’s going on whether its Warped Tour or anything go do it and create it yourself.

M: My last question is, what does punk mean to you?

P: Means not waiting for anybody else to create it and doing it yourself and standing up against things you think should be changed.

You can keep up with Pat Thetic and Anti-flag via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/anti.flag.official) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/anti_flag)

To learn more about Joyce Manor and their stage diving controversy visit:

http://www.punknews.org/article/56103/joyce-manor-stage-diving-stance-creates-controversy

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