Article by Mary Boukouvalas
Justin Sane’s scene today is the same as it was a few months ago: the punk rock world. Though he did have a bit of a mishap in his world recently. He states: “As far as changing in my punk rock world I cut my pinky finger really bad and I’ve had to play guitar with three fingers. Now my pinky is finally better and I played with four fingers for the first time last Friday night. It’s the worst possible scenario. Totally fucked. That’s been a challenge this summer but I overcame. I powered through it”.
If Sane was not in Anti-Flag, he would be modeling the lessons of his songs. “I’d be doing something to be helping others,” Sane starts. “I think one of the best things a person can do is volunteer at a food bank. It’s such a rewarding thing to give something to people who don’t have much. And you realize what an incredible experience it is for them but even more for you, as it helps you grow as a person. So, probably something along those lines”.
Sane continues, “Poverty is a total crime, it’s really unresolved.[pullquote]”And the fact that someone lives in poverty, in today’s modern world, is just a total failure of our political and economic system”.[/pullquote] At this point in society, I totally blame it on capitalism, I think this current economic system is totally unjust, it’s completely based on greed. The human race has so far to go in so far as evolving morally, and I guess you could say spiritually if you lean in that direction, because really we are a bankrupt species – there’s so much wealth and there’s so many resources”.
Mirroring ideas from tracks Fabled World, The Great Divide and Brandenburg Gate, Sane states, “I think there is a possibility for socialism to work. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. People get caught up in these ideas that our economic system has to be all capitalism or our political model has to be all socialism or democracy. I don’t think there’s a perfect political system. I don’t think there’s an ideal economic system. I don’t think at this point of human evolution that socialism, a pure form of it, could work. I don’t know. I do think that it is possible to have a synthesis of all of these ideas and have something much better than what we have”.
Sane continues, “We see examples of socialism throughout western societies that work. There’s a lot of western societies that have health care systems that are run by the government, that are subsidized by society, by the government, there’s free education, free health care. These are programs that work. One of the most popular and successful government that came in during the Great Depression is the Medicare program and the Social Security program. Those are programs that exist in our modern day capitalist culture and they’re really successful programs and highly popular. [pullquote] So, it seems really amazing to me that you have so many people, in America, railing against socialism yet some of the most successful programs are straight up social programs. [/pullquote]So, it is possible, I believe, to have a combination of things in a way that could work. Right now we have such narrow parameters of what government can do or should and I really think the reason for that is the government right now is just serving the billionaire class. It’s bought and paid for by corporations and at this point we really need to get corporations out of our government and at that point we can start to reform government for everyone”.
Anti-Flag’s ideas and thoughts form a major part of their new release, American Spring. Included are not only the lyrics but also a collection of essays that add a deeper dimension to other punk rock records. Attached to the lyrics of Sky is Falling, is an excerpt of Zubair Reyman’s story, a 13 year old Pakistani boy who survived the drone strikes but lives with the terror, and a response by Sane that concludes with: “This is why we must resist the war mongers who profit from war but do not suffer its consequences”. Sane’s solution is simple. He states, “With war mongers, I think it starts with what we were just talking about: get corporate business out of our government. You look at any war today and it’s still about resources. It’s still about wealth and ultimately this wealth is going to this very small elite group of billionaires for the most part and I mean that’s what Afghanistan was about, when you look at Africa today, it’s a completely devastated continent and it really comes down to the resources that are there, that are being collected for corporations for this billionaire class to profit from, and you know it’s kind of a new thing that’s going to have socially responsible minerals from Africa and I think that’s really exciting. [pullquote]Ultimately to resist the war mongers, it’s important that we have a government that represents people and not corporations[/pullquote] Because ultimately these wars are being fought over resources for rich people. And that’s how we do it, it is really a hard thing to do but it is about taking our government back from this billionaire class. And I think that centralising our government to a certain degree, because local communities when they’re making decisions for themselves, are not making decisions to go to war”.
Sane’s solution would make a powerful political platform if he ever ran for office. “I would really enjoy that but I don’t think many people would vote for me, not in America. I would be a hard sell after being Anti-flag; there’s only a few places I could run and be successful”.
With tracks promoting change, equality, and resistance, it would be a hard sell.
Then there are the ideas behind the tracks. Whether the ideas of the essays within the American Spring release inspire the songs or influence them during the writing process varies. Sane states: “I think it’s probably 50-50. For example, Sky Is Falling Down, I’d already started to write, and I knew it was about drone strikes, and then in the second verse there is a quote in it. [pullquote]The quote in the song comes from a special I saw on Syria: ‘There’s no help coming because no one cares. The world just sits by, waiting for us to die…’. [/pullquote]That was about the current conflict in Syria and how this village of rebels and were cut off from the rest of the world and the government was slowly bombing and starving them to death. At times, they’ll be essays or something that 100% influences the lyrics or sometimes I have an idea and from that idea I come across other things that influence the song”.
There were trials with the writing process as well. “Musically, Sky Is Falling Down was pretty challenging because I had a chorus that played in a certain way and I realised it was a different song and I really loved it the way I wrote it originally but it would’ve been plagiarism. I kept the lyrics but I had to completely change the music that was kind of hard for me because I really enjoy it, I really loved it with the other melody that I had originally, but I had to completely break ties with that and that was kind of heartbreaking for me. It was a riff by Rise Against actually and I put the lyrics to it and I was like ‘Wow this is great’ and then I was like ‘Wait a minute this sounds like something else’ and then I checked and I had a sense of what it was. [pullquote]I went through a few songs and I went ‘Fuck it is one of their songs’. I had to completely change it.[/pullquote] I think when you write something and it sounds really good, it’s really hard to let go. And obviously I don’t want to rip off somebody else’s song. I think bands do that, by accident. I know I’ve done it and I know some people tell me they have done it. I think because you’re really heavily influenced by your peers, but I do try to avoid doing that because in a way it pushes you to find something new and that’s more creative in its self and I think honestly the song turned out better because I had to find another way of doing it. But making that initial break was hard”.
Sane also explores the nature of fun on American Spring with a list of books by authors such as Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski,Patti Smith, and Keith Richards, next to the lyrics of Set Yourself On Fire. Sane states, “I think those are books about people who really enjoy life in a really intense way, really passionate about life even if life is a bit hard and a struggle. And after writing that song I just feel like that song though it really wasn’t inspired by any of those books, it felt like the song could’ve been a soundtrack for anyone of those books. For me this song was kind of autobiographical, and it’s sort of just looking back on my life and realising all the times that I did take a chance and do something crazy, those are the times you look back on your life and remember. Anti-flag is obviously intrinsically a political unit know you know but by the same token even though it’s a political band, I think the relationships we have with in the band and the experiences we have in life are important. It’s important to have fun and to be crazy”.
[pullquote]As the self-confessed “party guy” in Anti-Flag, Sane states, “I hope there’s a couple of reckless nights left in my future and I hope I survive them”. [/pullquote]Bearing that in mind, Sane discusses the upcoming Pennywise and Anti-Flag Australian tour: “It’s going to be total chaos. We are going to come out on fire; I know we are. We have been all summer. We’re playing the best we’ve played, we put on the best shows ever, and there is a lot of spontaneity and a tonne of fun. As a band we’re really enjoying being on stage right now and I think it’s gonna be awesome. I’m really excited. We are all really excited to be going to Australia”.
The American Spring is now. As for the Australian Spring, Sane concludes: “There’s always a possibility for change, even if it’s a small change. Even if people come to the show and feel a bit more inspired to treat people in their everyday lives better. Right there is change. For me that will be a goal and we will see where that will take us”.
Catch Anti-Flag on their Australian tour with Pennywise:
23 SEPTEMBER ’15 – Brisbane, AU – The Tivoli – TICKETS
24 SEPTEMBER ’15 – Gold Coast, AU – Coolangatta Hotel – TICKETS
25 SEPTEMBER ’15 – Newcastle, AU – Panthers – TICKETS
26 SEPTEMBER ’15 – Sydney, AU – The Roundhouse – TICKETS
28 SEPTEMBER ’15 – Melbourne, AU – 170 Russell – SOLD OUT!
29 SEPTEMBER ’15 – Melbourne, AU – 170 Russell – TICKETS
30 SEPTEMBER ’15 – Adelaide, AU – HQ – TICKETS
1 OCTOBER ’15 – Fremantle, AU – Metropolis – TICKETS
American Spring, Anti-Flag’s Spinefarm Records/Caroline Australia debut, is out now: http://americanspring.net
Read Mary Boukouvalas’ previous interview with Justin Sane here.