Hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, Anti-Flag is known for their outspoken views on American government and activist movements.
Anti-Flag was formed in 1988 by singer/guitarist Justin Sane and drummer Pat Thetic. During the band's early years, various guitarists and bassists moved in and out of the band, including Justin's sister, Lucy Fester (aka Lucy Geever-Conroy) formerly of Chicago band Toothpaste. The band failed to solidify, and it fell apart after playing just one show. In 1993, Justin and Pat reformed the band, now with Andy Flag on bass.
Anti-Flag have been involved with activism throughout their musical career. This has included starting the activism groups The Underground Action Alliance, Military Free Zone (A group to protest a clause in the No Child Left Behind Act, which gave military recruiters automatic access to student's personal details) and The Bright Lights.
They have been involved in performing at multiple protests, these included two in support of Rage Against The Machine.
The most recent protest they performed at was outside the National Republican Convention in 2009, they were supposed to be the last band to play but they had been touring with Rage Against The Machine and had decided it would be a good idea to get them involved since they had a long history of getting involved in related events. When officials found out they were going to perform, they shut down the stages power and the band performed two songs using megaphones.
They also regularly support political organisations which include: Democracy Now! the latest headlines from which can be found on the band's homepage. PETA,whom are one of the sponsors of their 2010 'The Economy Sucks Let's Party' tour. Amnesty International, whom the band donated money from the sale of The People And The Gun to and who are one of the sponsors of their 2010 the Economy Sucks Lets Party Tour. Greenpeace, whom the band worked in conjunction with in order to persuade world leaders to attend the climate conference in Copenhagen and whom are one of the sponsors of their The Economy Sucks Lets Party Tour.
The Gun Star is the symbol for the band Anti-Flag, designed by Anti-Flag guitarist Chris Head. It was first used on the cover of the album Mobalize. It was later used on merchandise. It is made up of a number of broken M-16 rifles in the form of a star shape. It is not infrequent for fans of Anti-Flag to get a Gun Star tattoo. Also, they used the O & X superposed symbols on Die for the Government LP frequently.
What are your name and instruments you play?
Justin: I’m Justin Sane and I play guitar for anti-flag.
Chris: I’m Chris (number two) and I'm the bass player for Anti-Flag, and I like baby carrots.
How did you guys start out?
Justin: We’re from Pittsburg, PA. Basically the drummer and I started the band ten years ago—we were just a couple kids with nothing better to do. Most of the other kids were just doing drugs and getting fucked up and being idiots, and we wanted to do something different and play music.
So you guys are straight-edge?
Justin: I wouldn’t classify us as straight-edge. I don’t use drugs or alcohol, but it’s a personal choice; I just chose not to do those things.
Chris: I mean you gotta do whatever gets you through the day, as long as you’re not causing harm to anyone else. But we feel a lot of negative energy gets attached to labels, but yea, we do what we need to do to get us through the day...
Justin: …and for us that basically is just staying straight.
How did you conceive the name of your band?
Justin: Well the idea behind Anti-Flag is to bring down the false barriers that are put in place by people in power around the world. We think that Patriotism and Nationalism—they’re imaginary boundaries that are being set up by the people in power that divide the masses. We want to break down those barriers and bring people together. Instead of having different flags around the world, to have people united under one flag.
Chris: Again its one of those things where it’s open for interpretation. The way I see it is everyone should be anti-flag. Everyone has a part of what the band is. We could end it tomorrow if the world chose to view human beings for what they are, and treat human beings the way they should be treated. At that point, there would be no necessity for anti-flag. Until that day comes, we’re going to use our music and our ideas to reach people Anti-flag is not a name, it’s a value.
Justin: It’s the idea of seeing people as human beings—not as a religion, or as nationalities—not as cowards or hero’s, that’s the idea behind anti-flag
I know a lot of your songs are politically based, why is that so?
Justin: Well, to me it’s like any other political publication, except with music instead of print. The reason behind the political lyrics is that there are more social issues around the world that effects everyone’s life—not only everyone’s life, but the world as a whole—psychologically, so I think its important that we are in control of what’s going on around the world, and move things in a positive direction. I don’t think the leaders of this world rather, people in power (I don’t really like to call them leaders because, they don’t lead by example, in fact, I don’t think they lead at all) abuse those powers, and I believe they use the masses of the world to keep themselves in power, and to gain more power. So with these abuses in place, we defiantly want to make a statement against those kinds of obscenities and offer an alternative solution or resolution.
Who has been an influence on you, past or present?
Justin: Someone who I really look up to is Billy Brag. I really love Billy Brag. One of the things he really advocates is humanitarianism; that’s something I’ve learned from him and try to make conscious in my life. I try to treat people how I would like to be treated; when I see something wrong, I take the side of right, make a statement and try to make an impact.
If you could influence your fans, with one statement, what would it be?
Justin: Well if there’s one main message it’s treat people like human beings—act like brother and sister, and discard any adversarial thoughts of hatred due to differences (be it nationality, religious belief, or sexuality).
Chris: I think that right now the Government and the businesses of the United States don’t view people as individuals, but instead, as a group. I believe that thought process is a profound problem; we hope to convey that.
Tell us about the album you're currently working on?
Justin: We’re working with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. The new CD will be released soon on Fat Wreck Chords.
Justin: Well Mobilize is a new release on our label, AF Records (http://www.a-frecords.com/). Mobilize contains a free sampler with A-F bands. Included on the sampler is my solo project, Justin Sane: Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Justice—it’s along the lines of Billy Brag, lots of love songs. The sampler also contains two songs from #2’s band Whatever it Takes: “Stars and Skulls”.
What has been your best tour thus far?
Chris: I would have to say this tour with the Bouncing Souls and The Mobilize for Peace Tour. That was a really great tour to do because it was right after September 11th and we weren’t sure how the world would look at Anti-Flag. We went out and basically had the best shows we ever had. It was refreshing to see people uniting and thinking about the world as a whole verses just crime for bloodshed. It was heartening to see people asking why September 11th happened versus trying to blow people up or go over and kill someone due to outright hostility...
Justin: …not only asking why September 11th happened, but resolving the problems at hand, as well as deep-rooted problems. The anti-violence movement was really very exciting to witness. We didn’t know what it was going to be like. There were a lot of kids who thought that George Bush was not doing a good job, and that violence was a horrible solution to violence. It was really magnificent to go out there and find others like us, and to feel the unity of people that were feeling this way.
Chris: Every time you turn on the TV, there were messages of retaliation—of let’s go bomb them…
Justin: …Which is pretty much how it is now—it’s still that way. Kids went to the shows and saw that there were a thousand kids who felt the same way they did; they recognized that they were not the only ones who saw the hypocrisy in bombing Afghanistan. So at that point, yea, it was very exciting.
Why do you take that stance?
Justin: I think we are all connected and that we come from the earth. We are all a part of the earth. It is important to have respect in the way we treat the earth, and in the way we treat each other. I think it will all come around indefinitely.
Interview by Roya Butler