I always wanted to produce a Punk album, but this isn’t it.
Anti-Flag are intrinsically a Punk band, but on this album, they wanted to put unexplored territory into play. I was the playground supervisor.
All my Bowie albums started out as one thing and ended up as another. One thing I guess my generation has taught me is to go with the flow. I would say most groups want to work with me for the Bowie/T. Rex connection; however this meeting of minds was a result of Anti-Flag digging my one Morrissey album, Ringleader of the Tormentors. They loved the arrangements, the strings and especially the orchestral percussion; why not have these things on a Punk album?
The way I work, I let the song define itself and I let it tell me what it needs to become a classic recording (well, that’s the plan). Anti-Flag wanted to create something deeper for their lyrics. They worked very hard on this concept before we ever met. I pushed the band and they pushed me to come up with the best possible interpretations and takes of each song. I wanted the band to play as much of their own ideas with the minimum involvement of session musicians. We hired almost every piece of percussion from the University of Kentucky and the band played timpani, tubular bells, piatti (orchestral hand cymbals), glockenspiel and a myriad of Latin American hand percussion. We used only four local musicians, two cellists and two brass players (sweet, sweet people) who played the parts none of us could play ourselves. I played keyboards and whatever. Our technicians, engineers Mario and Tim joined the “Choir of Dissention.” Our children’s choir was composed of kids from family and friends. Even after a 14 hour work day, there was still energy to be burned shooting pool, the inevitable table tennis tournament and soaking in the hot tub (two schools of thought there – some of us wore swimsuits some didn’t).
In a day where politics are a very real and gut-wrenching way of life, Pittsburgh based Anti-Flag came to my attention as a group of musicians who give a damn, put their money where their mouth is and have the balls to commit. Even their name is a spit in the face to the Institution (although it is obliquely patriotic). My generation is known for its a-political response to all that is corrupt. To quote Dylan, “Whoever you vote for the government always gets in,” and, “To live outside the law you must be honest.” These feelings don’t wash with this generation. Politics and policies are proactive events in the daily lives of Anti-Flag.
Anti-Flag don’t use their politics to promote a record. They are their politics! They have taken it as their lives mission to work with many organizations including Amnesty International, ACLU, World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, Axis of Justice, Student Peace Action, the African Well Fund, Music For America, Planned Parenthood and PETA. They are strong advocates for animal rights, one payer universal healthcare, conscientious objectors, prison reform and freedom for political prisoners. They have stood alongside Michael Moore, Gloria Steinem, MP George Galloway, Billy Bragg, and Congressman Jim McDermott as non-violent reformists. Anti-Flag also toured with a petition for Amnesty International's Music for Human Rights Campaign to assist in freeing Eritrean singer Helen Berhane. They have raised money for numerous charities, most recently donating tour proceeds to the African Well Fund. Anti-Flag have started two nonprofit organizations out of their own pocket, the most notable being www.militaryfreezone.org. The goal of MilitaryFreeZone.org is to make people aware of the sometimes aggressive tactics around military recruitment in high schools and universities, which increased because of a little known provision in the No Child Left Behind Act. This provision grants the military access to the private records of students across the country without their knowledge. You can watch a MilitaryFreeZone documentary at www.militaryfreezone.org.
On a more personal note -- bassist Chris #2's family experienced the horror of losing a family member when his sister fell victim to violent crime, leaving behind a young daughter and son. Anti-Flag put together a benefit EP in hopes it would help others who have gone through similar situations. The proceeds went to The Center for Victims of Violence and Crime (a local Pittsburgh organization that helps and supports victims and families who are dealing with the effects of violent crime, www.cvvc.org).
Chris #2’s personal tragedy also opened a well of emotion for the other members of the group. Everyone felt, after years of fighting the good fight, that it was time to be open about all their personal upheavals, making this collection of songs very personal.
Anti-Flag are real people. They are talented musicians who cherish equality and peace for everyone. This album contains bold music and strong messages. In the middle of a work day, when we’re putting the finishing touches on songs about political prisoners and child molestation and being über- perfectionists at it, it would come as a sigh of relief to hear lead singer Justin Sane say, “I’ve got to make some warm soy milk.”