Still on the tail end of a harrowing Halloween hangover, MVRemix staffer Wes Kirk sits down with Pat Thetic, drummer of the Pittsburgh punk band Anti-Flag, to shoot the shit about vomiting, goldfish and sucky emo.
MVRemix: Last night was Halloween. Did you do anything interesting?
Pat Thetic: I have an apartment, so I didn’t do any handing out of candy. We can’t, in my apartment, so I went to my mothers’ and handed out candy. There were very few people who came around. I don’t know if my mom’s neighborhood is just old or people are getting to be so uptight about Halloween or what.
MVRemix: Was tonight supposed to be a night off for you?
Pat Thetic: We were going to just fly in [to Vancouver] and relax, because it sucks to fly in and play a show the same day. We were just going to have the day off and then get ready for tomorrow, but now we’re here, so it’s a good time. Having a show, meeting people, it’s always a good time.
MVRemix: How did touring with Bad Religion come about?
Pat Thetic: They called us and they said sure. I just saw [guitarist] Brian Baker –– he was down at the protest in Washington D.C last month –– and we did some stuff with him and Rock Against Bush. We did Leeds and Reading together, so our paths have been crossing. We did Warped Tour and they were out there, so it’s nice to be able to sit down and do a whole tour with them.
MVRemix: If there was any band you could open for, or have open for you, who would it be?
Pat Thetic: Here would be a great lineup: us, Leftover Crack and Billy Bragg. Oh, yeah, you got a Leftover Crack shirt on –– they’re good people.
MVRemix: I love those guys.
Pat Thetic: We were hoping to do their last record –– they did it with Alternative Tentacles –– but we were hoping to do that last one.
MVRemix: Yeah, you guys have the label [A-F Records]. How is that going?
Pat Thetic: It’s going great. It’s a lot of fun. Getting to work with great bands is cool.
MVRemix: To launch the label, you re-released Their System Doesn’t Work For You. How did you decide that an old CD recorded with DBS, from [Vancouver], would be the right one to do it with?
Pat Thetic: Well, we got fucked over by the record label that it originally came out on, and we were like, “Screw that, we’ll just take it back and do it ourselves.” So, that’s what we did. We put out the record and said, “I guess we’re a record company now. Let’s talk to our friends and see if anybody else has any records they want to put out.” It just sort of grew from there. Putting out records is not difficult. Getting people to buy them is very difficult. And getting people to be interested in the bands that you’re working with is difficult, but actually releasing a record is not that hard.
MVRemix: At what point did Anti-Flag become a political band?
Pat Thetic: We came out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was a very politically charged punk rock town from the beginning. We were a political band from day one. The fact is that we were just interested in those ideas, so Anti-Flag was always a political band. Not every song was about a project for a new American century back in ’93 or ’92, but we had very socially-conscious ideas back then also. It really hasn’t changed much.
MVRemix: Does performing as Anti-Flag ever stop you from doing anything?
Pat Thetic: No. [Guitarist] Justin [Sane] did some solo stuff that he didn’t feel was appropriate for Anti-Flag, but then in the end I think it had an Anti-Flag feel anyway, because that’s just who we are. I don’t think it does stifle us. I think, in the end, we do what we do.
MVRemix: What headlines are really pissing you off right now?
Pat Thetic: Obviously people are starting to wake up to the fact that there were all the lies going into the second Gulf War, and the fact that they had planned that from the beginning, so that’s amazing. And they’ve finally got Scooter Libby lying, which everybody knows he had been lying, and everyone had been lying for a while, so it’s good to have people realize that is what is happening, and actually call people on their shit. Obviously the hurricanes and the disasters that have been going on. It’s just another example of how people are worried about their power and money and not about other people.
MVRemix: What’s the difference between the US military and A New Kind of Army?
Pat Thetic: What’s the difference? Truth and honesty. A New Kind of Army is based on an army that doesn’t use violence and it doesn’t exploit people and try and create empire. You know, it’s trying to say, “Gather together so you can have power and fight against the side that is trying to squash individualism and squash people’s rights to protest and peoples rights to express.” That’s what A New Kind of Army is about.
MVRemix: How would you compare recording A New Kind of Army to The Terror State?
Pat Thetic: From the outside, it may look different, but from the inside it wasn’t. The only thing that was different is that instead of recording to video cassette tapes –– which is what we recorded New Army on –– we recorded straight to a computer. And instead of me hitting the buttons for “play” and “record” on A New Kind of Army, we had another guy help us out, but that’s basically what it was. They were three of four years apart, we played probably 400-500 shows in between then, so we were probably a lot better at playing our instruments, but that’s basically it.
MVRemix: How important would you say the Internet has been in helping you achieve what you want to with Anti-Flag?
Pat Thetic: The internet is very influential in the history of Anti-Flag. Right when we started playing music, we used the Internet to book all of our tours and that. In ’92 to ’93, the Internet was just starting to become available to the young people, and at least I just started to become aware of it while I was in college, so we were able to use that to communicate with people to book tours. Then as time has gone on, we have just been able to communicate directly with people. Rather than having to use a record company to communicate, or a zine or a radio station, now we can communicate with people without the censorship and the distorting of our message or our ideas. So that’s an amazing opportunity, to be able to do that. Not that zines aren’t great, but then it has to go from me to you to the fans, whereas with the Internet it goes from me in and out. Which is an amazingly great option to have.
MVRemix: Why is positive music that promotes peace, above all things, so loud and aggressive?
Pat Thetic: That’s a good question. Because as we’ve gotten older, and as we’ve gone through life, we have realized the things that are important to us, and we are willing to fight tooth and nail for those things. I think that the frustration that those things are not readily available is what comes out in the music. Why is it that we are fighting a war to promote peace? That makes no sense. That type of thing angers me specifically, but all of us, to no end. Not to quote our lyrics, but like in “Seattle was a Riot,” why do we have to have to protest and throw bricks through windows just to get anybody to listen to what the people want. That’s just the fucked up world that we live in and that frustrates us to no end.
MVRemix: When you’re not protesting or playing punk, what do you do for fun or to relax?
Pat Thetic: I have goldfish. I… actually, I don’t raise gold fish. I just try to keep them alive. And I have a motorcycle, and I get to ride that every once and a while.
MVRemix: What kind?
Pat Thetic: It’s a Kawasaki –– cheap crappy one. A 650. The reality is that between playing, and the record label, and Anti-Flag, and the Military Free Zone, and Underground Action Alliance, we haven’t had a whole lot of time for other things, but when I do get a couple minutes, my goldfish make me really happy.
MVRemix: What type of response have you seen to the Military Free Zone?
Pat Thetic: It’s been great. It’s been really amazing. A lot of people were not aware. I don’t know if it’s an issue in Canada, but in the States, military recruiting is definitely a big issue, and how they do it and how they are swindling young people into joining the military [is] through lies and coercion. So it’s very important for us to get that information out. People that come from my community, punk rock kids who don’t necessarily go to college, who don’t necessarily have a lot of money, are the ones who are –– through the poverty draft –– joining because they don’t have health care and they can have health care if they join the military, or can get a college education, at least they think, but that’s the myth. The reality is that most military people are not able to get a college education after their service, so that’s very important to us. I am a firm believer that when they come to us and say “We want you to fight wars,” and we say “Fuck you, we’re not going to fight,” then that makes it much more difficult for people to wage these wars and kill innocent people and other people like us.
MVRemix: What is your onstage philosophy, or how do you approach a live show?
Pat Thetic: It’s like throwing up. It just comes out. It comes out fast. It comes from somewhere ¬–– not to get hippie –– it comes from somewhere deep inside. It’s like vomiting, you do it for 30 minutes, then you can go off and you feel better that you got it out.
MVRemix: Have you seen any good shows lately, or have you been to busy touring?
Pat Thetic: I have. I saw Strike Anywhere a couple months ago and I love that band. They’re a great band. And the other day I saw The Codes who are on A-F Records, but those are the only shows I’ve had a chance to see. Before that, I was on tour, so those aren’t real shows, those are me playing shows. Those are the cool shows I’ve seen recently.
MVRemix: Does emo still suck?
Pat Thetic: Sure. I’ll tell you the story of that song. When we were young we couldn’t afford cases so we went to the Goodwill and bought suitcases to put our banner in and stuff. I was afraid for some reason that someone would steal our suitcase when we went to rock shows, and it didn’t occur to me to put our band name on it. I just thought who else would we be playing with and I thought, “Emo bands,” so I wrote “Emo Sux.” And then I thought, “Hardline bands,” so I wrote “Hardline Sux.” I wrote this all over just to be obnoxious and to be a dick and then Justin saw it and thought it was funny and said we should write a song about that. So that’s where that song [Indie Sux, Hard-Line Sux, Emo Sux, You Suck!] came from. Emo doesn’t really suck. If that’s what you’re into that’s great. It’s just a funny song.
MVRemix: What is next for Anti-Flag?
Pat Thetic: We are in the process of finishing the mixing of our record now, and then we do this tour, we take December off, in January we go to Europe and after that we come back to the states in March and tour because our album comes out in March. We are going to be busy until next year this time.