October 12, 2018 Interview – Pat Thetic of Anti-Flag
Anti-Flag do not do things lightly! For nearly the past three decades, these Pennsylvanian punks have been boldly telling it like it is in the most unfiltered and blunt lyrical nature possible. Intelligent and fun, they have made a stellar name for themselves with their brand of sociopolitical commentary packaged in upbeat, melodic, dance-able Punk songs. To know Anti-Flag is to love them, or, if you differ in political viewpoint, to hate them: there is no in-between.
Understanding that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, Anti-Flag have, in recent years, authored a pair of albums – 2015’s American Spring and 2017’s American Fall – that take a particularly harsh, though conversely optimistic at times, view at 2018 America. In a world where there is always hope, Anti-Flag are doing their part to bring about change. Their brand new offering, the acoustic American Reckoning, pairs together some of the highlights of their past two discs and places a gentle focus on the lyrical content of each piece. Now there’s no excuse to not understand the statements behind the catchy words!
In honor of the release of American Reckoning, CrypticRock recently had the honor of speaking with the band’s very intelligent, entirely jovial Drummer, Pat Thetic, to pick his brain about acoustic arrangements, cover songs, and the vibe permeating 2018 America and beyond.
CrypticRock.com – Anti-Flag have been a band for nearly thirty years now.
Pat Thetic – A long fucking time!
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) What have been some highs and lows throughout your career?
Pat Thetic – A high would probably have been Minneapolis/St. Paul, I guess it was 2012? I don’t know, my dates are wrong, but whenever they had the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Rage Against the Machine and Anti-Flag had a show in a park – until the police shut it down – in protest of the Republican National Convention. That was pretty awesome!
Lows would probably be more in our personal lives. You know, when touring and illness got in the way of Rock-n-Roll just because, when you’re a band for 30 years, there’s a lot of things that happen while you’re not at home; people die, people get sick, people think you’re an asshole. (Laughs) Oh, you can imagine over that period of time and being away as much as we are, it makes it a challenge! The Rock-n-Roll is always the fun part, it’s the things you have to deal with to get to the Rock-n-Roll which are the problems.
CrypticRock.com – American Reckoning came out on September 28th. What inspired the idea to draw from the last two albums, American Spring (2015) and American Fall (2017), to create an acoustic collection? How did you select the songs and go about creating acoustic arrangements for each?
Pat Thetic – American Spring, American Fall, we thought were sort of a two-part piece of art or whatever you want to call it; those two pieces went together. We were discussing those two records and how one is a little bit more optimistic, and American Fall is more pessimistic. We were like, “Do people really get what we’re trying to achieve with these songs?”
The idea of doing an acoustic piece and playing some of the songs from the two records came up, because when you play the songs acoustically, we’re able to get more of the nuance of the text in there; because it’s really just the text than the melody – it doesn’t have all the drums and all the other things in there to mess things up as much. So, it was sort of an idea on how to get some of these ideas out there and talk about them, because in 2017, 2018, are pretty fucked up times. We wanted to make sure our voices were clear!
CrypticRock.com – It definitely achieves that, and it really puts the lyrics in the spotlight.
Pat Thetic – Yeah, and that was the goal. Then the three cover songs are just songs that I’ve always loved. The John Lennon song, which is “Gimme Some Truth,” is a song about the Nixon era and how the lies and the corruption of the powerful, how they get away with these things and how we want to just have someone tell us the truth. That song resonated so clearly with us in 2018 with Trump and how everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie. We thought that was a good song!
Then, “For What It’s Worth” is a great song! We just did a video and we worked with an organization called Every Town, which talks about common sense gun laws. We’ve had a lot of good statements that we are able to get out there through these songs.
CrypticRock.com – The cover songs fit the original material so perfectly, it is almost as though you wrote them.
Pat Thetic – (Laughs) We did! That’s fucking awesome – I wish we would have written them!
CrypticRock.com – There are actually a couple reviews of the album where the writer did not even realize they were covers.
Pat Thetic – They’re old songs – I’m not going to be the old guy and be like, “How can you not know those are covers?” – but they’re really great songs. They have the things that Anti-Flag has always strived to do, which is get melody, excitement, and a social-political message all into a package. That’s what those songs did and that’s why we love those songs!
CrypticRock.com – They really fit flawlessly! Now, that segues us perfectly into the next question, which involves “When the Wall Falls” and “Trouble Follows Me.” Those two songs, especially, have some wonderful historical references. Here is the question: do you think those references are landing with the younger crowd, or are they just hearing catchy songs?
Pat Thetic – I don’t know. My job is to put the information out there and if they’re interested in it, they can do the research and find out about the topic. But yeah, that’s the thing: if you write a dissertation, you want people to understand exactly what you’re doing and what you’re saying. When you write a Punk Rock song, you drop Easter eggs in and hopefully people are interested enough in the topics to find out what you’re talking about; you can’t really explain everything in a three-and-a-half-minute Punk Rock tune. These are things that are interesting to us, ideas that are interesting to us, and we think that they’re a part of our culture. Hopefully someone else will be like, “Oh, I need to figure out who Emma Goldman was” and that type of thing – who these people are.
I didn’t learn about Emma Goldman until way after high school. Kids aren’t being taught about socialism and workers’ rights in high school, they’re being taught about economic theory and how capitalism is the greatest savior of humankind. Those ideas are, that’s the space that Anti-Flag lives in – that space between. There’s a whole bunch of information out there that isn’t being taught to us in schools or taught to us on Fox News or CNN. These are things that we think are also valid in our culture and we should be exploring. Hopefully Bernie Sanders is going to redefine socialism for the U.S. in the next presidential election. There are a lot of young people coming out and saying, “Yeah, maybe socialism is a good idea; maybe the idea of taking care of people and not just exploiting them is a good step.”
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Oh boy, if we get into that, we’ll be here forever! (Laughs)
Pat Thetic – (Laughs) Those are my thoughts! You don’t have to go there, but that’s my thoughts. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – Well, that plays perfectly into the next question. With the current political climate being so hostile and people being so painfully hypersensitive, has the band had any issues while touring, or is Anti-Flag enough of a known commodity that audiences kind of know what to expect from the band?
Pat Thetic – I think at this point people know what we’re about. I think, in 2018, most people think that Donald Trump is a piece of shit – or the majority of people. There’s much less friction that we’re getting now than we got in the early ‘90s or mid-’90s. I think that’s also because people understand who we are and what our point-of-view is, whereas then they didn’t know who we were and what we were talking about. I think there is less friction now, but that also means that there’s less opportunity to change people’s minds or expose people to new information. They’ve already decided what camp they’re in: that is the camp they’re in and they’re not willing to change. Whereas, in the past, the camps might have been a little bit more blurry; but now the camps are pretty well-established.
The year 2018 is an experiment on propaganda and media and how, if you say inaccurate things over and over again, they become truth. We’ve known this for years! Now, we’re in a situation where, you say it on Twitter – it’s a lie, it’s clearly a lie. You say it again on Fox News, and then you say, “Well, it was reported on Fox News, it must be true!” This vacuum chamber of misinformation is amazing! It’s happening in real time and, as a culture, we’re prone to believe, to not be able to fight against it effectively; we haven’t figured out the strategies to fight against it yet. The whole debate about what is truthfulness – if you say it on Fox News enough it must be true – is the reality of 2018. We’ll figure it out – I have faith in us!
CrypticRock.com – That is a very positive outlook! With everyone so very divided and definitely already in their own camps, does that leave you having to push further and harder to get a reaction out of people, or is there simply more material to write about now?
Pat Thetic – Right now, the music is less about the reaction, more about the kids who are realizing they are not alone in their opposition. There have been times in our lives where, with the Gulf War, everybody was on-board with the Gulf War and there were very few of us who were outsiders in saying, “This is bullshit!” History has proven us to be correct. That was a time when we were coming up against a lot of resistance and people were fighting back. Now, people are just like, “I can’t believe this is happening! I want to be in a room full of people who feel a similar way to me, and realize that I’m not crazy. That when I hear this guy telling us lies over and over again, that I’m not the only one who thinks this.”
I think that’s sort of what’s going on right now. However, we could have a horrific terrorist attack in the next couple of days and, the next thing you know, we could be in another world where Trump can do no wrong and he’s god’s savior to America. It could be really bad! He could start rounding people up and putting them in camps. Those types of things, what we learned after September 11th – it doesn’t take very much for those beliefs to come into the American consciousness and they can move very quickly!
He’s just looking for a Pearl Harbor-esque event, which is the language that they use. You have the burning of the Reichstag, you have Pearl Harbor, you have September 11th; you have all these large, shift-mark events that allow people to take power. You have the sinking of the Lusitania – so many things that happen. Luckily, so far, it’s amazing that we haven’t had one of those things in the U.S. – if you disregard the conspiracy theories. Just on the nature of history, there’s one of those events every couple years and Trump can very easily maximize that for his benefit.
CrypticRock.com – Let’s hope that doesn’t happen! Okay, so you are currently out on the road as we speak, finishing up a run with Rise Against and AFI. Next, you head to Europe with Silverstein. How has the tour been and what should European fans expect?
Pat Thetic – The shows have been awesome. It’s been a lot of fun to play with Rise Against and AFI, because we’ve known all of them for years through touring and just being fans. The great thing about the European tour is that we haven’t headlined Europe for, maybe, two to three-years – we’ve been doing festivals and things like that. So, it’s the first time in a while and we’re going to be doing a headline European tour, and we’re going to be able to play some of the songs that we haven’t had the time to play in the past couple of years. We’re excited about that, to be able to dig out stuff – deeper songs and play some things that we haven’t traditionally played or haven’t had the time to fit into the set. We’re excited about that!
CrypticRock.com – That’s awesome! When you get to Europe, will you not want to come back? (Laughs)
Pat Thetic – (Laughs) Well. That’s the weird thing about home: you always want to go home. Your home may be completely fucked up, but there’s something about it that you always sort of want to go home to. (Laughs) So, yeah. There’s a reality that it doesn’t have to be as fucked up as it is, but it’s always good to go home and see your friends and family.
CrypticRock.com – Very true. Once the European run is over, after you catch up on your sleep, what’s next? Will you be starting on a new album?
Pat Thetic – Yep! The next thing would be writing new material for a new record. Probably do that over the winter, so we don’t have to be out touring in the snow; stay at home and write some new songs.
CrypticRock.com – You have plenty of material to work with! (Laughs) Okay, last question. At CrypticRock, we cover music as well as films – particularly Horror and Science Fiction. Are you a fan of either genre and, if so, do you have any favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Pat Thetic – I am not and I apologize that I’m not cool! I was always a weird kid, in that, that stuff scared the shit out of me, so I wasn’t able to see it, the sort of the campiness of it – I just thought it was straight-up scary shit. I was like, “My life sucks, I don’t need any more of this shitty stuff in my life!” (Laughs) That was always my perspective on it. Our drum tech, Stevie, he’s a big Horror guy: he does the Halloween scare-houses and everything and he loves all that stuff. So, I’m exposed to it a lot, but I don’t have any favorites. I apologize.
CrypticRock.com – That’s okay, no need to apologize. Just remember that nowadays anything real-life is far scarier than what you might encounter in a Horror film. (Laughs)
Pat Thetic – (Laughs) Exactly! That is the truth!