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Anti-Flag’s hardcore battles the power

Successors to Rage Against the Machine open Canadian tour here

Since Rage Against the Machine disbanded in 2000, hardcore punk listeners who like a little sociopolitical musings thrown into their music went searching for an alternative.

They found Anti-Flag.

So much so is the quartet from Pittsburgh carrying on the tradition of conscious, anti-establishment music that Rage guitarist Tom Morello himself has taken the band under his wing.

As Anti-Flag prepares to start a cross-Canada tour in Victoria, Jan. 18, guitarist/vocalist Chris Barker aka Chris #2 – alongside fellow guitarist/vocalist Justin Sane, guitarist Chris Head and drummer Pat Thetic – said he’s looking forward to bringing their Rage inspired/backed music to Canada again.

“A few times when we did play shows in Canada speaking about your current prime minister, and we were sort of met with guff,” Barker said. “Like ‘Who are you to criticize our government with the way yours is being run?’ But I think a lot of people realize that ‘Hey, we’re just curious and worried about your government and ours as well.’ And you know ultimately we’re not people of different nations but simply all citizens of one world.”

Barker said this is nothing new for Anti-Flag, defending Americans while bashing America.

“A lot of what we do when we go and play shows in other countries is sort of show that not everyone is like that,” Barker said of the current Bush administration and the southern Republican-led portion of the United States. “We’re not all ignorant idiots. The majority of us are really decent people. But yeah, it’s very difficult to find people who are untainted on their view of Americans; so it’s definitely a challenge.”

With Democrat Nancy Pelosi recently sworn in as the first female speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the second black governor in Deval Laurdine Patrick elected and congressman Keith Ellison using a Koran rather than a Bible to take the oath of office, one would think Anti-Flag would be happy. Not exactly, Barker said.

“It’s really difficult because I think a lot of people today live in this sort of Coke or Pepsi society. With us, it’s not where we’re choosing one side over the other; rather it’s voting in people who you think will represent your best interests not the corporations who paid for their campaign – whether they be Democrat, Republican or Green Party.”

All in all, Barker did acknowledge things are getting better as George W. Bush’s reign of Republican terror comes to an end.

“There has definitely been a paradigm shift that started even long before the war in Iraq and 9/11,” Barker noted. I think people are starting to realize that all these promises and actions carried out under the name of democracy and freedom are really being carried out for corporate interests. So yeah, the chickens are starting to come back to the coop.”

“I think the shift got bad enough that (Americans) started to see just how much they could be treated as a minority,” he continued. “And really abandoned by their government for personal and business interests. They’ve become more aware of these ills.”

Anti-Flag’s website currently has a “Cost Of The War in Iraq” meter running 24/7. It recently surpassed $355 billion. Barker said statistics like that and a climbing death toll of young American soldiers has started to mobilize the youth vote.

“With the Iraq war, it’s touched a lot of younger people because of those reasons,” he said. “We just want to carry on creating more awareness and energizing people – because what the government and big business want you to do is be disenfranchised.”

Corporate caution

Since 1996’s Die For The Government, Anti-Flag has put out seven records under various labels, including last year’s For Blood and Empire, which was released on RCA Records, a major corporation.

Are the band members hypocrites, bashing capitalism while receiving checks from corporate headquarters?

“It would be stupid for us to ignore that, most definitely, and say we’re immune to that corporate mandate. But we’ve taken steps to make sure all the money we make is going toward generating good things. All of our T-shirts and merchandise are made in America not overseas somewhere. The people who make them are paid proper wages. We now have our own record management in Canada; so our CD’s arent imported. They’re more affordable for people who want to listen to them and the money goes to Canada.”

Barker added that his band isn’t out to convert the non-believers. He just hopes music lovers pass by American Idol singers for the punk section.

“There’s a place for shitty music because then you know what’s good music,” he said. “If I can be a part of taking money away from artists like Clay Aiken, that’s good. For us, we kind of need bands like ’N Sync to show us and make us realize just how shallow some can be. And it does in a way inspire us to do what we do.”

“I honestly think if people are given the proper chance, they will turn to the right music,” he continued. “If you look at the track record of rock ’n’ roll – Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen – people want that substance if they know how to get it, and if society doesn’t corner them into listening to a certain type of music.”

Anti-Flag – with Billy Talent, Rise Against and Moneen – plays the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre Thursday, Jan. 18. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.

Tickets may still be available online at http://www.selectyourtickets.com.

patrickb@vicnews.com

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