Anti-Flag Interview - Justin Sane | ThePunkSite.com
Shaw Conference Centre - Edmonton, Alberta
Thursday, December 6th, 2007
just finished recording their new CD, The Bright Lights of America,
and it's plain to see they're excited about it. During every stop on their cross-Canada
tour with Alexisonfire, Saosin
and The Bled, the band is holding a listening party for a select
few winners to give them a sneak peak at a handful of songs from the new record.
I was able to sit in on the listening party during their Edmonton stop and the
five songs I heard were rather impressive, albeit slightly different for Anti-Flag. Once the band finished showing their songs to the lucky fans, Justin Sane
sat and talked to me about the new thirteen song record (which clocks in at about
fifty two minutes long). Among other things, he talked about the recording process, working with
Tony Visconti and some the topics they wrote about this time around. After listening
to him talk about the record and hearing the few cuts I did, I'm definitely looking
forward to sitting down and listening to the whole record front to back.
Starting with the basics, you guys have been on this tour with Alexisonfire,
Saosin and the Bled for around a week now; how’s that going?
Justin: Great. A great tour.
Bobby: Has there been any really memorable moments from it so far?
Justin: It’s just been very memorable to be on stage and see so many
people rocking together in such a positive manner. It’s been really exciting
playing for all these people.
Bobby: You guys had to postpone your show in Calgary from Monday until yesterday,
Justin: On the highway that we were taking from Vancouver to Calgary there
were four major avalanches and we couldn’t get by. There were two avalanches
behind us and two in front of us; so we got stuck in the town of Golden. It
was a jam.
Bobby: What did you guys do when you were stranded in Golden?
Justin: Nothing. It was brutal. I tried to catch up on some letters. There
was not much to do.
Bobby: Alexisonfire were saying they met a lot of truckers who were stuck
when they were stranded there; did you have any interesting conversations?
Justin: I did actually. I talked to a lot of truckers; I talked to a lot of
nice people. That was the upside of it; there were a lot of cool people. We
hung out in a rest stop and yeah, met some cool people there.
Bobby: You guys seem to always be touring Canada in the winter. You’re
here now, you were here in January, the year before that in November. Why do
you always decide to tour Canada in the middle of winter with all the ice and
Justin: Because God hates us. That simple. We’re paying for the sins
of our fathers probably.
Bobby: In January you guys are doing a tour of Australia and New Zealand which
is a big contrast to the weather outside, are you excited for that?
Justin: Yeah, it’s gonna be nice because it’s the dead of summer
in Australia when it’s the dead of winter here. It’s gonna be a
nice contrast. To be honest with you though, I like the snow, I like the winter.
I grew up in a place with snow and ice and I appreciate all the seasons so
for me its fun to come here. One of the things that happened at that rest stop
was that there were little kids with sleds and I just went riding. That was
Bobby: I haven’t sled in so long but it’s so much fun
Justin: It is. I didn’t have the proper clothes for it that was the
Bobby: I remember when I saw you guys back in January at Rexall Place, when
you opened up for Billy Talent and Rise Against, you guys opened up by far
the biggest circle pit I have ever been a part of and ever seen. Did you do
that at all the shows?
Justin: Not at every single show but we often do. I like the circle pit because
I feel like it’s an equal opportunity dance move. It’s one of those
things were you don’t have to be tough, you don’t have to be strong,
everybody moves in a circle and if somebody falls down, people help them up.
It’s a lot of fun running around like that so that being the case it’s
a lot of fun. So it’s why I like doing that. I think that everybody should
be able to have an equally good time at a show and in that respect I think
the circle pit allows that to happen.
Bobby: You guys recently released the benefit EP, “A Benefit For Victims
of Violent Crimes,” how has the reaction been to that so far?
Justin: So far so good.
Bobby: You guys were able to release it on A-F Records as opposed to RCA,
why did you decide to release it on your own label?
Justin: Well, in our deal with RCA, from the beginning it was understood that
we wanted to release some things on our label. That was an issue that was really
close to our hearts so it was something that we wanted to keep close to home.
Bobby: Did RCA care that you guys were releasing it on your label or was it
just part of the deal like you said?
Justin: Well, it was part of the deal but RCA was also quite supportive of
it because they thought it was an important piece. We did it for a very good
cause because of personal tragedy and RCA were actually really supportive and
Bobby: That’s good. Let’s talk a bit about the new album,
The Bright Lights of America, do you have a release date set for that yet?
Justin: Mid March.
Bobby: The title, Bright Lights of America, is a pretty big contrast
to your last two albums, the Terror State and For Blood and Empire. There’s
quite a different connotation to it, was that it intentional? What is the
behind The Bright Lights of America title?
Justin: I think it’s a statement about America’s place in the
world right now. There are bright points of America and there are other bright
points of America – some of them are good and some of them are bad. The
name, to me, is sort of ambiguous of purpose. People can look for the good
and the bad themselves and make up their mind themselves.
Bobby: How did the recording go? What was it like working with Tony
Visconti? I mean, he’s worked with David Bowie, Morrissey, Paul McCartney,
what was it like working with him?
Justin: It was really interesting. We had ideas of things we wanted to do
before we made the record and working with Tony Visconti we knew we were working
with somebody who would know how to execute those ideas. We wanted to bring
some new elements to punk rock. We brought in cello players, we brought in
brass players, we brought in a lot of orchestral instruments – you know,
timpani drums, and tubular bells. We even have a children’s choir on
the record made out of our families’ nieces and nephews. It’s a
very personal record in general. We wanted to expand in new ways and include
new people in what we were doing. We felt like Tony Visconti was somebody who
had experience with trying to do those things and would be able to help us
supervise. What we tried to do too though was play as many instruments as we
possibly could. So rather than bringing in players from the symphony to bang
on the timpani, we wanted to play them ourselves. Again, because we’ve
never done that before, we thought it would be helpful to have somebody who
Bobby: I was talking to Pat when you guys were here in January and
I asked him about the horns, the trumpets, on Hymn For The Dead and he was
a lot of things you guys wanted to do on Blood and Empire and you just said
you were able to add a lot of new elements to this new album – The Bright
Lights of America – like the choir, the timpani drums, the orchestra,
were you able to get everything you wanted in this time?
Justin: Yeah, yeah, this was a different experience. For Blood and Empire
there were elements that we tried to record that didn’t work so we didn’t
use them and on this record they worked. They make sense, they’re recorded
well, they fit, and I would say that’s the major difference between where
we got to with the final product on this record versus the last.
Bobby: At the same time, you have all these added elements to the
songs do you think it’s going to make it more difficult to convey the songs live?
Because you won’t have the children choir, the timpani, the cellos, the
drums; do you think that will be more difficult while you’re doing it
Justin: Well live, that’s what I really love about studio and live,
I’ve always seen those as two different mediums. I think the studio is
a place to shoot for the stars and to do things you could never possibly pull
off in any other medium; and then live is a time to just go out and have wild,
raw energy and just convey your emotions to the audience through energy and
through the excitement of the audience. So it’s not something that really
Bobby: You guys were saying earlier in the listening party how a lot of the
record was recorded live off the floor. Did you record all the extra elements
live too or just the main part of it?
Justin: Well, we didn’t use a click track, I don’t think, on any
of the record. So just right there it’s very different than the last
couple records. Most of the takes are recorded while we were playing together
and that’s what we were referring to in that respect. I think it gives
it more of an energetic feel in general.
Bobby: More realistic too because it’s not going to be perfectly
Justin: There are a lot of records, I think, where a lot of the energy, the
life is just sucked out of the record because everything is so perfect and
we didn’t want our record to be like that.
Bobby: In one interview, #2 said that you guys wouldn’t be talking about
the George Bush administration, the war in Iraq or corporate globalization
because you’ve talked about it all before and he said you’d be
going onto new things, new topics for this record – what type of topics
did you touch on?
Justin: I think we will always touch on those topics because we sing about
things that are relevant and those things are relevant but we’re not
speaking about those things as directly. I think we’re telling stories
from a more personal point of view and I think, for example, on the song America,
I’m looking at where people are in their own lives and how they got there
and what aspect of our society drove them to end up in that place. We talk
about kids who are cutters and what is it about our society that makes you
be a cutter? What is it about our society that makes you feel like you’ve
got to be wasted and on drugs to escape every day life? I think people do those
things as a refection of society and the influence that society has had over
them. That’s a different approach than the previous records where we’ve
been talking more from a very intense, political view point of the world. This
is more of a personal politics of the world. Then there’s some other
songs, like I wrote a song called Go West and the song’s just about my
life and how I ended up being where I am today. It’s a song about following
your bliss even though the road is kind of rocky and sometimes it’s a
little scary but it’s a song that talks about not being afraid to take
a chance and try things you think you could never possibly succeed at.
Bobby: You guys recorded eighteen songs from the CD and thirteen made the
cut, so what happened to those other five?
Justin: We’ll put them out in different places.
Bobby: You guys also released the first cut from the CD on the recent on Christmas
Fat Wreck Chords compilation, are you still working with Fat Wreck Chords?
Justin: They’re good friends and they’ll always remain good friends.
We’ve put out a lot of records on a lot of different labels because we
have a lot of friends on a lot of different labels and its fun to work with
your friends. Even with signing to RCA we’ve found ways to still stay
connected with our friends and work with our friends because it makes doing
what we do fun.
Bobby: It’s been four or five years now since Love, Life and
the Pursuit of Happiness came out, do you have any other plans to do another
Justin: Yeah, you know, I’ve been asked more questions about that on
this tour than ever. About two months ago I broke my finger and it was unfortunate
that I did because I was getting ready to record solo songs at that time. It’s
this finger, it’s still not quite right, I have a hard time bending it
but it’s getting better. When I play live I wear a splint on it so I’m
playing guitar with three fingers on this tour. But I would like to record
a new solo record and get it out. It’s very difficult with Anti-Flag’s
schedule and A-F Records, there are a lot of responsibilities I have to cover
there but I would like to.
Bobby: I guess just a few more questions. Right now we’re getting to
the end of December, Christmas is coming up, what’s on your wish list
for this year?
Justin: That’s a good question *laughs*. You know, it’s funny,
my girlfriend and I were talking about what we wanted for Christmas and we
decided that neither of us really wanted anything. I would really just like
some peace and quiet, a little bit of a break, a nice vacation. It seems like
I haven’t had much of a break for the last couple years. I could use
a little time off. I think that I’ve disappeared a little bit from our
website and interviews and things like that probably just because I’m
feeling a little burnt out. I’m finally getting reinvigorated but it’s
taking some time.
Bobby: Also, with the end of the year coming up people are working on their
year end lists, their top ten lists; what have been some of your favourite
CDs of 2007?
Justin: The new Bruce Springsteen record is pretty awesome. I just went and
saw him, it was really great. I’ve been listening to Ted Leo a good bit,
I don’t know if that record came out last year or this year though. Dead
To Me, I like their new record a lot.
Bobby: Cuban Ballerina?
Justin: Yeah. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else that
tops my list of bad ass rock and roll records… I guess that’s about
Bobby: Okay, one final question: what do you like about Dr. Bob? (Dr. Bob
is a local dentist in Edmonton who does free dentistry for touring punk rock
bands who come through town.)
Justin: Dr. Bob does a very good job at cleaning teeth; but he’s just
a bad ass dude. He’s really, really nice. It’s great whenever people
give back to others. It was interesting talking to him today just because he
reminded me off a lot of things that we’ve done as a band, as Anti-Flag,
and things that don’t necessarily stand out to me because they’re
just things that, to me, are every day part of my life. He was talking about
ways for him to give back and it was very inspirational. It was really insightful,
really good person.
Bobby: Thank you very much, do you have any final thoughts you’d
like to add?
Justin: New record out March, hopefully we’ll be in Canada lots, we
like it here.