Ich denke, Anti-Flag muss man nun wirklich nicht mehr vorstellen. Die Jungs sind mittlerweile seit 20 Jahren im Geschäft und zählen zu den erfolgreichsten Polit-Punkbands. Wer sie schon mal live gesehen hat, weiß was für eine Energie von der Bühne kommt und sich aufs Publikum niederschlägt. Wir haben uns beim Vainstream mit Sänger und Gitarrist Justin Sane getroffen. Dieser zeigte sich nicht nur als sehr sympathisch sondern auch ziemlich gesprächig.
You’re just coming from a signing session you did at the Amnisty International booth. I really love that everywhere you play, you try to do something special for charity projects. So where did this connection with Amnesty International came from. Was it your idea or did they asked you?
Well when we do go out on tour we usually try to do more than just playing music. Music is a passion but it’s also the vehicle that brings people together and that’s great. But it’s also an opportunity for us to open somebodies minds and somebodys eys up to something that’s important. Personally, a big part of the reason I got interested in politics are bands like The Clash, The Dead Kennedys or Minor Threat which have been a big influence on me. As a result of that, I know that music can inspire people and it an educate. I’m a living example for that.
So with Amnesty, we’ve had a relationship for a long time now. Everytime we’re going out on tour, we kind of give them a big heads up and tell them, if they’re working on a project of which they think they can involve us, they should let us know. Like the Toast for Freedom Project, which is a benefit song which should raise awareness for the rights of Pussy Riot. Amnesty International is working hard to get them freed from prison in Russia. They’ve been put into prison for their political believes and their political expressions. So it made perfect sense for us to team up with Amnisty International to work on this issue.
I think that for me, the most important thing about Amnisty International is the fact, that they often succed, at freeing people or saving peoples lives, when noone else can. Because when prime ministers, presidents, politicians and celebreties fail, they succeed. And that’s why they’re so important: The literally save peoples lives. It’s always an honour to work with them.
And of course signing sessions are the best. There are always the kids where you can give high fives, it’s fun. I love meeting the kids and meeting people at shows. It’s the best part of what we do to make the relationship to the fans we have. And at least, 50 of those kids here have I met before. You get to know them and that’s really cool.
Talking about Toast to Freedom, where came the idea come from. Was it something you had in mind or did Amnesty International ask you?
The guy who produced it, The Ocean, he is really an amazing person, really inspirational and he came to one of our Pussy Riots concerts that we did in Berlin. And he said „Hey I work for Amnesty International, I feel like you guys would be really cool to record a song that someone else wrote in dedication to Amnesty International“. He send us to Hansa-Studios when we had a day off to record the song. It was cool because we were on tour with Billy Talent. I just asked „Ddo you want to do this song with us?“ And I went to Ingo Donot and THEN I went to Bernd from the Beatsteaks. It was just a punk rock collective to record this song. I think it is really special.
And you’ve really made a good job with this reinterpretation
It’s out for a few months now. How was the feedback. Can you tell me somthing about this?
The feedbacks were amazing. I don’t know any download numbers, I just know „a lot“. The 7“ sold through very quickly. I don’t think there are any left. If somebody wants one, you could probably hire a private detective, and he could find someone who has it, then you could hire ninja assassins, they could kill that person to then get the 7“ from them. And that’s a good way to go about it.
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Anti-Flag exist for 20 years right now. That’s an amazing achievement. To celebrate this, you’re releasing a pack of 7“ records on which you rerecorded some of your songs. What can we expect from this package?
With 20 years, after a lot of broken bones and hurt knees, bad backs, we decided we should do something to take a memory out of all these things. We were listening to these old songs and it was really cool to see, how the band changed, what we were focussing and what we’re focussing now. The fun part about the old songs was, that we took an old songs, and reworked it to record it so that it’ll sound like we sound now. We took songs we thought are musically or lyrically something special and we decided to choose a new direction to take the songs with. It’s nice because the pressure for writing a song is not there but the creative part like taking something and reshaping it is a really cool process. So it’s two songs per 7“ and a total of 12 songs in a whole package. And people could sign up for special content, digital songs or video content. It’s really cool and I hope people will check it out.
For this package you invited some guest bands to be on the B-Sides. Is there a special reason why you made them a part of the singles?
Yes because when we were young and starting out other bands were out the for 20 years, helped us along to be a band and taught us how to be a band. A lot of them told us what is really important for us today like how we should treat people. Punk rock is this little family and it’s important that we help eachother out. And to think bigger, the whole human racist is kind of a big family and should help eachother out. So what we decided to do is, include on each B-Side of each 7“ songs of younger bands we think are really cool. And just trying to help them along on their journey of being a band. And they’re from all over the place. Some of them are from the States, some of them are from Germany and we have a band from Mexico.
As a political band, do you choose the songs for your setlists according to the country you’re playing in? So do the songs match the political situation of the area you’re playing?
Oh that’s a great question. We have certainly have done that based on the places we have been. For example in Hungary. It’s a very strict government, a dictatorship and we did pick specific songs and talked about that on stage before those songs. Sometimes that is something what we do.
Besides human rights campaigns you also supported the animal rights organisation PETA. Do you think there’s a big difference between animal and human rights?
I think that we really have to be carefull about eating animals. It’s really easy to desensitise a living creature. I mean the nazis did it with the jews right? I mean people are able to do that with cows. This is a very slippery slope and I don’t think there’s a big difference. Especially if you take a look at the farming conditions, how cows are raised or pigs. They have really horrible lifes and then they get killed. I wouldn’t wanna be in that position, where I support an industry that puts living things in that position. I’m a vegetarian, I have a lot of friends who aren’t, and that’s ok, but I encourage people to think about it. And of course if you are an environmentalist, being a vegetarian is the most green thing that you can do. It’s amazing because actually cows are one of the biggest producers of green house gas factory farms. Another issue is the run off from all of the fecal from the farms, it pollutes a lot of water. It is really really horrible for our water, for our oceans and rivers. There are lot of reasons beyond the cruelty to animals to be a vegetarian. Finally it is the most healthy thing that you can do. There are so many studies out there which show that being vegan is the most healthy thing for your heart, for your blood pressure and I’m pretty skinny and I think there’s a reason for that. (laughing)
There’s a movie actually, it’s called „Forks over Knives“ and it’s really interesting. It just talks about researches from such doctors which show how healthy it is to go vegan. Not only that it’s healthy, these doctors have patients who had heart attacs or cancer and they change their diet, put them on a whole foods, vegan diet and people who should die, get well and live. You watch it and you can’t believe it. It’s like a miracle. There’s another great food documentary called „Fat, Sick And Almost Deadd“. It’s about this guy who only drinks juice for 90 days. And goes from a fat an unhealthy condition to really skinny and super healthy. You should check that out.
In 20 years a lot of things happened. What is the biggest mistake you made on stage which was your fault?
Don’t let me even start it. (laughing)
The list is so big. How many hours do we have for this interview? Two huge mistages which were both my fault:
The first one not totally my fault but a little bit, the stage was very dark and the stage outline wasn’t marked at all. I thought I had more space on the stage than I did and the lights were down, I walked, I walked of the stage and I broke my jaw. That was a bad day. (laughing)
The other time was when I went into the crowd, to get some guy who was kind of a jerk and throw him out of the show and I broke my shoulder. That was a bad day too. And I shouldn’t have done that. I should have just let the security do their job. But I got him! When I jumped out to get him, the security guard didn’t knew I was in the band and he grabbed my leg. So instead of just jumping out I fell to the ground. And for some reason both happened in the UK.
What was cool about that, that the UK have a better health system and my medical bill was free, which was really nice. And I couldn’t believe it. If you go to america and you go to the hospital, the whole time you’re just thinking how you will be going bankrupt because of the medical bill. So when I was leaving the hospital in the UK I was like „how much do I have to pay?“ and they answered „oh no you can go“. And I couldn’t believe it. It was a real insight in how fucked the US are with their health care system.
On the other hand, is there a great story in your band history. A story which makes you smile when you think about it?
I pretty much never had a good time when playing in a band ever. (laughing)
Last year we played at midnight for 350,000 people. That was a really good day, that was cool. But what makes me really smile or laugh: My very first rock concert. When I grew up I was so punk rock. I only went to basement shows. I never went to a festival like this here. So the first big concert I ever went to was when we were asked to play before Rage Against The Machine. It was in the Philadelphia Spectrum, which is where the Hockey-Team plays, a big arena. The first time I saw a rock show was when I walked out on stage to play. That was fucking crazy. (laughing) I’ll never forget that.
Thanks Justin for this funny interview!
Das Interview führte Joscha Häring.
Fotos: Joscha Häring @ Vainstream 2013.