There is breaking news off the west coast of Canada tonight. Armed with guitar picks, drumsticks and a message, A New Kind of Army has landed on the shores of British Columbia and is marching east.
Anti-Flag, a pro-peace splinter-group of the international punk rock movement, is spearheading a mission into the heart of what has been dubbed The Terror State by the band.
Based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the four non-violent insurgents were smuggled into the country by superpower Bad Religion who they are opening for on this tour of duty. Pat Thetic, a founding member, is speaking to the press ensuring Anti-Flag’s message is clear, not wanting their group to be associated with others that use force and murder in the name of peace. Namely, the US Army.
The number one 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,” says the seasoned war-drummer during a covert interview held at the legendary Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. “It’s trying to 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 people’s rights to express. That’s what A New Kind of Army is about.”
Proof that so long as there are politicians living, punk rock will not die. Anti-Flag never set out to be a political band, but it is what it is. “We came out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was a very politically-charged punk rock town from the beginning,” says Pat, describing the bands formative years. “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.”
The movement is growing, and a second show has been added to the band’s first stop of the tour, throwing members Justin Sane, Chris Head, #2 and Pat Thetic into battle an evening earlier than planned. Pat however, remains unphased, comparing playing live to throwing up. “It just comes out. It comes out fast. It comes from somewhere ¬–– not to get hippie –– but 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.”
Anti-Flag’s musical assault on ignorance and injustice is a two-wave attack, simultaneously strengthening their own side while attempting to weaken the opposition’s ability to recruit soldiers.
First, it was clear that heavy reinforcement was necessary against such strong military forces. The Anti-Flag infantry bolstered its numbers with the creation of A-F Records, a coalition of willing, like-minded bands. To launch the label, Their System Doesn’t Work for You –– a previously out-of-print split-CD with Vancouver’s DBS –– was re-released, satisfying the demands of their fans.
“Well, we got fucked over by the record label that it originally came out on, so we were like, “Screw that, we’ll just take it back and do it ourselves,” says Pat of the label’s unexpected evolution. “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.”
Second, the opposition is –– not so clearly –– using underhanded (bloody, bloody hands) methods of recruiting America’s youth in an attempt to counteract steadily-dropping enlistment numbers. Anti-Flag opened the Military Free Zone, a website that provides unnerving and unacceptable information about US military recruitment practices. “It’s very important for us to get that information out,” states Pat. “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. They think they can have health care if they join the military, or can get a college education, but that’s the myth.”
Incensed by his own thoughts, Pat describes how most who serve do not receive the education they were promised and how important taking a stand is. “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.”
For all of the screaming at the tops of lungs, the writing on the wall and the beating of drums, there is hope on the horizon; and so long as that is the case, Anti-Flag will continue to march on. “People are starting to wake up to the fact that there were all the lies going into the second Gulf War… and they’ve finally got Scooter Libby lying.” It is a fact that Pat had been sure of for a while, but grins knowing the rats been trapped. “It’s good to have people realize that is what is happening, and actually call people on their shit.”
A peaceful and positive group, Anti-Flag’s music is very loud and highly aggressive. Pat explains: “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.”
“Not to quote our lyrics, but like in ‘Seattle was a Riot,’ why do we 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.”
The world is a frustrating and fucked up place. But this revolution, this New Kind of Army led by Pat Thetic and the Anti-Flag soldiers, is hell-bent on making it a more tolerable, truthful and peaceful place. They will stop at nothing ’til victory is in hand.