In the build up to the US presidential election Room Thirteen took some time out with Chris #2 the bassist of US politi-punk rockers Anti Flag to get his views on the election, WikiLeaks, and the changes he has noticed during Anti-Flags two decades in the punk scene.


R13: What are your opinions on Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden and the work he has done at WikiLeaks?
Chris #2: That's a really tough one because the WikiLeaks movement is vital and very important to the assimilation of all sides of the story. However, issues of rape are not to be dealt with lightly. So I believe, from what I understand of what I have heard, that he has said he will go to Sweden and face the trial if they can assure him that he wont be handed over to the United States.

R13: What would he be tried for if he was taken over to the United States?
Chris #2: He would be tried for treason.
R13: How would that be punishable?
Chris #2: It could be punishable by death depending upon where he was tried. Or they just send him to Guantanimoe Bay and we never hear from him again. There is an NDAA law they have just passed where they can hold you and detain you without a proper trial, without a proper conviction, and without bringing the charges that they have against you public. So they have created laws to silence human beings like Julian Assange. So it is definitely a difficult one for me because I am a person that truly believes that the injustice of rape should be payable properly and definitely delved into. I think he is not above the exception.

R13: He currently has asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain, but as soon as he steps outside they will arrest him and take him to Sweden.
Chris #2: I've read that there has been a person who has been in an embassy for 15 years! A member of a church, a Bishop or something like that.
R13: So do you envisage Julain Assange living in the Ecuadorian embassy indefinitely?
Chris #2: I don't know.

R13: Will he continue his work with WikiLeaks whilst staying there? What is his future?
Chris #2: To be honest I have no clue. I know very limited bits about how you can stay in an embassy. I don't understand how that works properly. But I do know that if he is suspected of rape in a country that he should be trialled there, and I do know that he shouldn't go to America! (laughs)
R13: So ideally he goes to Sweden and gets a fair trial there.
Chris #2: Yeah.

R13: What do you think of the treatment of Bradley Manning?
Chris #2: I think that is the American equivalent of what is happening to Pussy Riot. It is definitely a story that needs far greater attention, specifically in America.

R13: How do you think these two individuals portray America to the eyes of the world? And how do you think they portray America to they eyes of the Americans?
Chris #2: Well unfortunately to the eyes of the Americans, it's a story that is too complex for the American media to tell. The outside world have understood it as, you know, people furthering their belief that American imperialism exists. Obviously further reaffirming that the wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan were not about ending terrorism, but were about benefiting the corporations that funded those wars. So it is not necessarily a new story, it's just further reaffirming the story that has been told before.

R13: In that case, where would you recommend that American people get their news and media from?
Chris #2: I believe democracynow.org is probably the most righteous news source available on the internet, and you have the indie media sites. Indiemedia.org has chapters in every city around the globe pretty much. Not only can you find out global issues you can find out what is happening locally, and I believe that is where real power and real change comes from; on these local levels where you can see things happening in your own town and extrapolate on that and bring that to the rest of the world. That for me is what the politics of punk rock are about and what the politics of our band are about. It is kind of the basis of the idealism that we have as individuals.

R13: What do you think about the job Obama has done over the past four years?
Chris #2: It is frustrating because I feel like there was much opportunity lost with Barak Obama. There was a fever and a groundswell when he was elected that I have never seen in my life. I was at the inauguration of Obama and there were more people there celebrating Obama than you can fathom. I was there at the 2nd inauguration of Bush, but for a different reason!

R13: Wow would you describe the change of atmosphere? What was it like being in both situations?
Chris #2: We have done two shows on inauguration day, we called them Demand in DC Festivals. It is simply a bunch of friends bands come together and we do an art show and the bands obviously play. Then after we go to the inauguration either in the form of protest or in the form of just seeing what's shaking down!

R13: So rather than going in Celebration of Obama's inauguration, you went to just see what was going on?
Chris #2: Essentially yes. I mean, there were still wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that issue of health care and that promise he has made, the promise of shutting down Guantanamo Bay that he made for his election. We were going there to tell him that we didn't forget he made those promises, and we still haven't forgot. The withdrawal of troops from Iraq is a great positive. The slow removal from troops in Afghanistan I see as positive as well. I do not believe the Iraq war is over until the corporate mercenaries that are in place there are removed, and I believe the same for Afghanistan. He promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay: day one, he signed a paper saying he would. Guantanamo Bay is open and functioning, and thriving right now. He had promised healthcare for all, and all he did was introduce a healthcare debate that has set us back. Verses taking it to The Republicans, using the public mandate that, essentially, was given to him and going for it. He tried to be diplomatic with people who don't know how to be diplomatic. I think that was very nave but I also think that he was placating to the corporations that run our government. It is unfortunate to see something with so much promise, someone who when I see and hear him speak I actually believe it, and then the other action happens, and I feel confused and unsure. I still believe that he is the definitive political figure and will go down in history progressing America. It is just I feel like he could have progressed America very far, and essentially he is making headway in small steps. Whitehouse gardens and the way we eat, you know that those are important issues but goddammit! Where is our universal education and universal healthcare? This is the man who is supposed to bring that and he has fallen on his face on these issues!

R13: For the next four years in America who do you want to see in power? Not just Romney/Obama but could you talk about other lesser known candidates like Stuart Alexander, Gary Johnson etc.
Chris #2: Essentially, seeing a third party candidate in America is what we hope for. Unfortunately that is not going to happen right now. I believe that Obama is going to win, I believe that it is going to be closer than people want it to be, and closer than it should be. But thankfully, continually, the republican congress and the Romney campaign and the Romney people are continuing to bug them out. Like the other day, he made some joke about no one ever needing his birth certificate! That has got a lot of traction in the press. As it should. He is ignorant, he's arrogant, and he is wrong for humanity. These people care so little about the American people, and they care so much about money and the corporations that fund their policies, that their priorities are so out of whack that I can't fathom them getting elected into office. So that is my wish: I hope he (Obama) is re-elected and that he gets out some sort of sabre and gets done all the things I hoped he would do.

R13: Would you say you are still optimistic?
Chris #2: I have to be. Being in the band and touring and travelling and meeting so many people that care more than about themselves, and care more than about the things that we are told we are supposed to care about- that further reaffirms my optimism. I think that I am in a very advantageous situation where I get to interact with people around the world who care. It allows me to say that 'we've got a shot'.

R13: Tripp Underwood from The Unseen said in his book 'So This Is Readin?' that back in the day "punk groups became our friends and we helped each other out. We'd invite a band to Boston one week and they'd return the favour the next. There was never a sense of competition back then. Now that punk is a big business there is a much more cut-throat way of doing things; bands are stepping over people instead of walking with them to get ahead". Would you agree with that?
Chris #2: I would say we are going back to the way it was. I think that the mainstream success of what we were all doing in the early 2000's that led to a lot of bands being born out of wanting that success. Fortunately we have always done things ourselves.

R13: Even when you signed to RCA?
Chris #2: Yeah. We were putting out our own vinyl when we were on RCA. We were still working with the same booking agents and things like that.

R13: So for Anti-Flag things have perhaps stayed the same over the years but how would you say the punk rock scene in general has changed over the years?
Chris #2: That is kind of what I was getting at. It kind of exploded in those early 2000's and became financially viable and that led to people stepping over each other to get to that money. But right now punk is at the bottom of the pyramid again. Because of that you are seeing these bands like Touche Amore, Title Fight and Menzingers, Tigers Jaw, these are bands rebuilding the community. Brining that aspect of 'we play music because we wanna play music', and 'there is only 200 people here and we are not going to retire on that', and 'why be competitive with each other?'. That is what this new wave of glam metal bands that are out existing in the world- that's all they are doing! They keep fucking each other over. They are not building anything real with their audience or with the bands that they play with. We just did 4 weeks of Warped Tour, we saw it every day. Warped Tour is a place that Anti-Flag thrives. We had really great summer with great shows because there are still young people, that care about music, who are coming to that show. But there are a lot of bands on that tour that are misogynistic, they don't give a fuck about anything but themselves. Thankfully that becoming more popular has reinvigorated the punk scene to have the antithesis of that. It will always be that. Even when it was what Tripp was speaking about, we still didn't feel good about it. We at least had a conscious about it. When real money is involved, real decisions need to be made, and sometimes your friends fall on the wrong side of those decisions. Hopefully you are all strong and good enough people that you can all sort it out in the end. It's difficult, whenever we were trading shows with The Unseen, there was only ever 100-200 people at those shows and it was more easy to manage that situation. In 2006, when we would play Boston there were 1500 people coming to those shows and that's real money that you have to go to the next town, "we're trying to go to Europe" at that time. You start to look into how to use the money properly and how to not just fuck it all up. It's a lot different to when you are playing in front of 200 people when you would just be like "all right lets split it 3 ways, lets go!". But speaking of that we have been talking with some friends about doing a tour where it is just 3 of the same sized bands and we'd just split the money every night and get it back to that.

R13: Would that be a rotating headliner tour?
Chris #2: Yeah.
R13: Can you reveal who that would be with?
Chris #2: No (Laughter all round). No I cannot.

R13: A lot of the bands I have spoken to do not make much money from records, the only money they do make from them has to go back into making the next record. A lot of bands make their money off merch and T-shirts, with more and more people starting up their own clothing companies as well. How has being able to make money as a band changed over the years?
Chris #2: Well we never started the band to make money.
R13: But you need to make enough to continue surely?
Chris #2: Well when the money started to come in, it was 'how do you reinvest in the band'? And that has always been the policy of Anti-Flag. I know a lot of bands, and I have got friends in those bands, it's not an improper way of doing things but, the money comes in, they divide it four ways and then they go home, but Anti-Flag have always divided it by five. So the band makes as much as every individual member. You never know when the band is going to need (money for) something to do.

R13: So would that money be used to replace broken equipment or if the van or bus breaks down?
Chris #2: Yeah, all of it and operating expenses. We run a record label. We have people that work very hard for us, that keep things on track, and we want to make sure that everyone is compensated fairly, everyone is realising that there is value in this, and continuing to do it. For us, obviously, record sales are down, as they are for everybody else. Maybe you have to play a few more shows, but I also know that you will just fuck yourself if you keep coming back to the place over and over again. You need to create some 'want' for you to be there. (You cannot be like) "Okay we have to tour this city 5 times just to make the same money as we did last year"- Just suck it up. You are not going to make as much money as you made last year, learn how to survive. We don't need to tour in a bus, we have toured in a van before, we'll tour in a van now. We were in a sprinter van for Leeds and Reading. You figure it out, you make it work. You can't have too much pride. When you have that kind of pride where you are like "I need this set up, I need this guitar tech etc.", it's just like 'man you are going to hate your life!' Have fun with everything you are doing and you will find a way to continue and make it work. That's what we try to do.

The US presidential election is to be held on Tuesday, November 6th 2012. Anti-Flags have just celebrated 19 years as a band by playing a special set consisting of songs from their first four records.