Drummer Pat Thetic of political punk band Anti-Flag was interviewed on The Vans Warped Tour. Read on as he candidly chats about veganism, the U.S. government, and the band’s 10th studio release The People or the Gun.
How is Anti-Flag’s new album The People or the Gun different from the last few releases?
This album was significantly different. We built a recording studio in our practice room in Pittsburg. We didn’t use a producer or an engineer. We did it all ourselves, which was good because we didn’t deal with any bullshit. We just wrote the songs, liked the way we wrote them and didn’t have to explain to anybody else why we wrote the way we did and recorded them. So I think the record has an aggressive, in-your-face type of feel, which is what we are going for.
You had problems with producers in the past?
You know, we were lucky with our producers. They’ve all been pretty accommodating, but the interesting thing about that is even good producers who don’t cause too many problems still have influence and still take the record in a different direction. That’s what you pay them for – to take it in a different direction than you would originally.
I’m a firm believer that we know what we’re doing. We’ve known for a long time and we don’t need anybody else to be in the mix. We can do it ourselves. Who knows? Maybe next record we’ll be like, “Eh, we don’t have any good ideas. Let’s bring somebody else in.”
The band has recorded so many albums. It makes sense you would have a grasp on the process.
That’s the way we recorded the first two or three records, too. It just felt good – 4 dudes in a room playing music we like and doing it because we wanna do it.
What is the meaning behind the album title The People or the Gun?
It means to me that every day people are making decisions in the world based on money, power, greed and corruption. I consider that to be on the “guns” side because that’s not for the good of people. They’re doing that for the good themselves, for greed and all that shit you don’t wanna be involved in.
We all need to make the decision of which side are we on? Are you on the side of greed? Destroying the environment, eating animals and killing people in Iraq for oil? Or are you on the side of the people who are trying to make a living, have families and be responsible, healthy and happy.
This record doesn’t have much of a theme as some of the other records did. Obviously, we were writing it as Bush was leaving office, so there was some mention of that.
There’s also some mention of the economic collapse The Bush Administration facilitated with greed. There’s a lot of talk about the economy suffering and dying. The fact that the capitalist economy – you’re out for yourself and you don’t have to worry about anything else: the environment, animals and the next generation. It’s all about making as much money right now as you possibly can. Hopefully that has died. Hopefully the population and the majority of people realized that’s not going to make us happier or safer. That’s a lot of what the record is about.
With Obama now in office, do you think we are headed in a more positive direction?
I hope so. The thing I’ve learned in the past 18 years of activism is change doesn’t happen quickly. Change takes time and I think people have realized that. Corporations that are only worried about their stock price are not going to help us live better, healthier, happier lives. I think we’ve learned that and hopefully we’ll move into a direction of, “I don’t need a Hummer that gets 12 miles to the gallon if I have a small penis to compensate for that. I don’t need to have 13 houses just because I can.” Each of those things takes a lot of resources. When you pay for them on credit card, you don’t really have the money and things will eventually collapse. I think people are smarter than they were two years ago. I’m hoping they are because greedy people blew all their life-savings away.
I think Obama has tried to go in better directions. He hasn’t succeeded. He said he was going to close Guantanamo Bay. He hasn’t done that yet. We’re trying to get more rights for gay people. He hasn’t really gone through on that one. So I think we are moving in a direction that is good, but we haven’t seen the outcomes we’re hoping for.
Like you mentioned before, it takes time.
It does take time. He has some environmental initiatives. One just passed the House yesterday. Hopefully it can pass the Senate, so we can get some better legislation for environmental issues.
Do you have a particular memory that sticks out in mind while recording?
My favorite memory was getting up and not being in LA or somewhere else. I got up in my own bed, got in my own car, drove over, sat behind the drums and played music. I don’t think you need to be in LA or another city to make a record.
The last two albums (For Blood and Empire, The Bright Lights of America) were released under major label RCA. Were those albums recorded in Los Angeles?
We recorded one record in LA and one record in Lexington, Kent., which was nice place, but once again wasn’t home. I’d rather be home.
That’s quite random. Why Kentucky?
The label actually had this really neat studio in Lexington, in the middle of nowhere. The nice thing about Kentucky was at night. I had my motorcycle, so I would go and ride through all the horse farms. It was a big horse breeding area, I guess. So it was very nice at 2:00 in the morning to ride my motorcycle in the middle of the night.
Who would’ve thought…
[Laughs.] Those are the joys. You got to find the small pleasures somewhere.
You were under contract by RCA. Why go back to an indie?
It was in the plan. We always knew we were going to do another record on an indie. The major, our agreement was over. They didn’t want us and we didn’t want them. We decided to go and work with Side One Dummy, so it was good.
The People or the Gun is Anti-Flag’s tenth studio release. How do you remain relevant after all these years?
It’s not about remaining relevant. It’s about caring about what you do. The great thing that we have is the four of us have been doing this for 10 years now. We actually enjoy being around each other – most times. We really enjoy making music together, so we’re gonna make music whether anybody cares or not. We just like doing it, so we’re gonna to continue to do it.
You can never control whether you’re relevant or not. All you can do is be passionate with what you do and we still love what we do.
So now you are back on The Warped Tour again.
We are! We are here! The whole summer again…
What does this tour mean to you?
It means a long tour over the summer! [Laughs.]
The interesting thing about The Warped Tour is it’s a community of misfits and fuck-ups. We’re all a mess. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we all found this music and this community of people. This is a carnival of fuck-ups driving around the country playing music and doing stuff we love. That’s sort of a neat experience. You don’t get that in other places.
Since Anti-Flag’s inception, the band has been immensely active in different organizations and causes. What issues are you currently involved with?
Specifically now, we’re working with Amnesty International on the Immigrants Rights Campaign. Right now, the U.S. government has got a lot of immigrants in prison and even if you have no heart at all and all you care about is money, keeping non-violent, non-threatening people in prison doesn’t make any sense. It costs a lot of money to keep them in prison. There are other ways of dealing with immigrants and people who just happen to be born in another place, so they can’t live in the states, which is just crap for me anyways because I think people should be allowed to go anywhere they wanna go.
When they’re put in these prisons and detention centers, they don’t get a trial. They don’t have any rights. Again, I don’t think just because you’re born in the U.S., you have rights and if you’re born in Tijuana, you have no rights. I think that’s crap. I think everybody has human rights that are given to us by our creator, as it says in The Bill of Rights. We all need to realize that no matter where you’re born, you have these rights. It’s not a good thing for them, for us as a culture and for us economically to keep them in detention centers. That’s the one thing we’re doing with Amnesty International.
We’re also doing PETA Campaigns in Germany for Meat Is Not Green because it costs, again, a lot of resources to make meat, when you can grow vegetables with a lot less resources. Since we’re all right now trying to conserve energy, it makes more sense to be a vegan or vegetarian than it does to eat meat.
I’m vegan, yes.
Has it been difficult maintaining that lifestyle?
No, it’s actually very easy. When I’m home, it’s really easy. When I’m on tour, it gets difficult when I’m in places like Japan or Russia, where I don’t speak the language and it’s more difficult to communicate with people.
I find meat to be pretty disgusting, so I’ve never liked meat even as a kid, so it’s not difficult for me at all.
What’s your favorite vegan dish?
My favorite vegan dish? Vegan chocolate chip cookies! I just had about 10 of them in the bus. [Laughs.]
I love broccoli and rice, just vegetables. I’m a big fan of vegetables, a little oil and salt – delicious!
Interview By: Jeanette Nguyen