Interview with Anti-Flag bassist/vocalist Chris #2 | By Michael Pementel

Punk has always been used as a weapon against political corruption. America finds itself full of real life horrors on an almost daily basis. With a racist, neo-fascist president and hate groups popping up more frequently to swarm the streets, it’s no wonder why Anti-Flag have titled their 10th studio record – out via Spinefarm Records on Nov. 3 – American Fall.

Bassist and vocalist Chris #2—formally Chris Barker, or Chris Dos if you prefer—says that what makes American Fall unique compared to Anti-Flag’s previous work is “our current cultural state,” as well as “the normalization of bigotry via the White House, the status quo corporate rule of politicians, and our challenge to them with these songs.

When asked what political work gets him geared up and motivated, the bassist shares, “Obviously, punk rock like The Clash, Dead Kennedys, and Bad Religion.” Music also led him toward other arenas that helped develop his political thinking, influencing his lifestyle and decisions. “[The music] transferred into Howard Zinn and [Noam] Chomsky, then to the show where I saw and interacted with members of PETA, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and now, Sea Shepherd [Conservation Society],” he recalls. “That extrapolated into all factions of life: the things I eat, the way I spend my money, and the hope to create a lasting piece of art that shows our community was on the right side of history.”

Growing up in Pittsburgh and seeing how his family and others around him were treated also affected Chris #2’s political outlook. He cites “the way our local cops treated [my brother] and our community—spoiler alert: they were fucking pigs. My family being immigrants—my mother came on a boat from Italy when she was 13, and they worked at the steel mills in Pittsburgh or the airport service industry. Those mill jobs were shipped overseas in [search] of cheap labor, and that greatly politicized me at a young age.”

Given the fear and terror taking hold in the U.S., Chris #2 strives to spread positivity and create work that will be remembered. “The goal is always to use a record as a document,” he states, “to hope that it proves, when people look back on 2017, that there was a community that was on the right side of history: one based on empathy over apathy, on optimism over cynicism.”

He stresses this idea of empathy, asserting that punk relies on it. “Punk rock isn’t a musical style or genre in my opinion,” he explains. “It’s far more aesthetic or ethic, so there is no ‘punk rock’ without empathy. That’s just music. And as far as I’m concerned, our phones, laptops, and jukeboxes are filled with songs that remind you that the deck is stacked against you. We’re only interested in pushing empathy over apathy, optimism over cynicism. That is what punk rock means to me and what separates it from other mediums when delivering messages.”

When people feel like everything is stacked against them, they tend to look to those who they admire and respect for wisdom and guidance. Chris #2 sees it as his responsibility to find what binds us together, not push an agenda. “We can only and should only be true to ourselves,” he says. “I learned a long time ago to not speak for another or to give a mantra that all should follow, but to look for the good in each situation and try to empathize and speak with people. That is our only responsibility: to share empathy.”

“I’ll just say, in every aspect of the band, we are trying to leave things better than we found them,” he concludes. “From the [organizations] we champion to the benefit shows we play to any time we can be activists in our daily lives—the band and the songs and the art are not disconnected from who we are as people. They’re one and the same.”

Purchase American Fall here.

Photo by Alan Snodgrass

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