You would think that with the number of years Anti-Flag drummer and co-founder, Pat Thetic, has under his belt touring and playing music, he would be reclusive like many veteran punk rockers. Yet, with more than twenty years since forming Anti-Flag, their message, their dedication, and their love for what they do hasn’t diminished one bit. Pat is still the energetic and passionate activist he was in his teens.
It was originally planned that I would be introduced to Pat via their merch guy, Josh. Instead, while waiting for Vinyl to open its doors, Pat stepped outside for a moment, and in a dangerously uncharacteristic move – probably propelled by sheer fandom and two Moscow Mules – I approached Pat, and made my introductions. It was received with a firm handshake, and a sincere smile that only comes from someone who has met countless amounts of people in his career, and yet is still genuinely enthralled by them all.
Accompanied by Punks in Vegas photographer, Anthony Constantine, we made our way to an empty table near Center Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel and proceeded to chat about, among other things, the band’s continued success this far into their career, the woes of tour as you mature, and what worries him most about the current presidential race.
First off, how is it being on tour with Leftöver Crack?
It’s been great. Actually, it’s interesting because we’ve known some of the guys from Intro5pect forever, we’ve known [Stza] Sturgeon forever, from Choking Victim to Leftöver Crack. We did a tour with Star Fucking Hipsters a couple years back. And then Brad [Logan] from F Minus. So, we know those guys from different things.
They’re not known as the most organized band.
It is disorganized. They have a level of disorganization that is amazing, but they pull it off every night. It’s funny, we were talking about the difference between their show and our show and I’m like, “Our show is a little bit more organized, their show is a little more chaotic.” But, they’re both great in their own ways. They’re different experiences.
I noticed that this tour is a lot more spaced out in terms of consecutive playing days.
I will say, as a gentlemen, I like “The Gentlemen’s Tour.” Which is, you play a couple shows, you do week or a week and a half. Then you go home for a couple weeks, then you come out and do more. The Bouncing Souls told us that. It’s called a “Gentlemen’s Tour.” Crazy fucking punk rockers go out for six weeks at a time [or] eight weeks at a time. Gentlemen go out for a week and a half and go home for a couple days, then go out and do another couple shows.
After reaching a certain level of comfortability, how do you keep things interesting on tour?
The thing that I like [is that] the people that I like in the world, the people who are interested in activism, interested in music, and making things different than the way they are today, those people in each city come out to the rock show. I get to hang out with those people every night. So when I’m home I just hangout with my cat and my fiance. When I’m on tour I get to hangout with the best people in that city, and that’s pretty amazing. Especially after the show, I’m out talking to people. I’m in the backstage a little bit because you need a break, but when you go to a show those are the people who make sense to me.
Do you believe that there’s still an element of danger in punk rock?
I do think that there’s definitely an element to punk rock that is not in the mainstream world, which is why people keep coming back to it. There’s a reason why punk rock has been around for thirty plus years. Because people are looking for that do-it-yourself self-determination, yet not crazy libertarian bullshit that Donald Trump does. There’s a space in there, a community, that people can’t find anywhere else except a punk rock show.
With all the bullshit you see in the news today, like the Klan marchers in Anaheim, do you sometimes feel like Anti-Flag’s message isn’t being heard?
It’s not my job to speak to everybody. My job is to speak to the people who are interested in what we do. We’re not here to talk to people who don’t wanna listen. Having said that, it sucks that people got hurt and I’m never a proponent of violence, but when the Klan comes into your town you should roll in hard. You should be there to stand up and say, “You’re not welcome here.”
We don’t tolerate these ideas, we don’t tolerate this hatred. I don’t think it’s good to go and beat everybody up cause that doesn’t help anybody, it doesn’t solve anything. Really, what I find with the Nazi kids that I’ve known over the years who’ve gotten out of it, it’s that violence just reinforces this belief that “I’m a Nazi, my friend’s are Nazi, everybody’s trying to attack us, we need to stick together and be even more militant.” I’m an anti-violence guy when it comes to that.
Do you feel that as a society we’re going backwards instead of forwards?
No, I think we’re going in cycles. I don’t think there’s forwards or backwards. I think cultures don’t get better, they get slightly better, they get worse. In the early 90s late 80s, there were a lot of Nazis around, a lot of right-wing skinheads. Now there seems to be a bit of a resurgence of that. It sucks. The fact that Donald Trump is not saying that David Duke is a fucking asshole and that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, that’s a little scary to me. That means that there’s still a lot of power in that belief structure still. We need to stand up against it whenever we can.
What does a Donald Trump presidency mean to Anti-Flag in terms of things to write about?
That’s been the joke. In the 70s and 80s we had Reagan, and he was an asshole, and that made great punk rock. I’d rather have shitty punk rock than Donald Trump be president.
As a musician, do you ever have the urge to dabble in other types of music?
No, I have no skill other than hitting hard and fast. When we were kids I didn’t wanna be a drummer, I wanted to be in a band, and I was worse at everything else than I was at drums. Justin, he could play guitar, he could play bass he could do other things. So, whoever we could find to be in a band with us if we found a bass player, Justin would play guitar. If we found a guitar player Justin would play bass. Justin’s actually a better drummer. Both Justin and #2 are better drummers than I am but they have to do those things cause all I can do is play drums.
If there were no Anti-Flag, and you weren’t a drummer in a punk band, how would you express your activism?
That’s a great question. The reality is that nobody gives a fuck what I have to say when I’m not playing drums. We’ve learned that over the years. So it’s much harder to make statements. But, if you are around me for any length of time you will realize that even in conversation I will tell you the things that I believe, whether you wanna hear it or not. So, I think that I would be annoying a lot of people because I don’t have the outlet to talk about the things that are important to me.
When you joined Anti-Flag, was it because they shared the same ideologies as you or did you learn that with time?
No, we we’re just angry and we saw injustice. We saw the stupidity of nationalism and the first Gulf War, and that was a way of channeling our anger and frustration. As we continued and as we were around much more intelligent people than we were, we were educated on a lot of issues and a lot of things. That definitely colored how we see the world.
What were some of the bands that gave you that education?
It wasn’t bands we went on tour with it was bands from Pittsburgh: The Bad Genes, Submachine, Aus-Rotten, Behind Enemy Lines. We went on tour with bands like the U.K. Subs, Charlie Harper was an old punk rocker. Listening to Thomas from Strike Anywhere, Tim and Joe from Rise Against. Over the years you just are interacting with intelligent people. Not to mention Tom Morello.
There’s amazing people we’ve had the chance to interact with over the years who educated us and introduced us to issues that are very important to us today. When you look at a band like Anti-Flag, or Bad Religion, even NOFX, Fat Mike or Greg Graffin you’re like “well, he knew all this stuff since he was born.” He didn’t, somebody had to tell him. When you become interested in politics and activism, there is a constant stream of other people who tell you about the struggles that they are fighting in their local town, or in their country or what they’re doing. That education process is very important.
You get the opportunity to travel the world playing music. With what you’ve seen in other countries, how fucked is the U.S. by comparison?
What is amazing to me is that we’ve been in Thailand, we’ve been in Malaysia, we’ve been in Australia, in Germany, we’ve been in Russia. There’s a documentary about North Korea and how fucked up and crazy North Korea is, and how the people in North Korea think it’s the greatest place in the world. They’ve been told through their media that everywhere else is shit but North Korea is amazing. We in the US look and that and think, “look how backwards that is, I can’t believe that those North Koreans are so manipulated and brainwashed into believing that.”
The reality is that we’re the same way. We were watching Fox News last night just to see what the enemy is thinking, and they went through this whole propaganda thing at like three o’clock in the morning with the American flag with this music, and soldiers. And I’m like, “It’s just like we’re in North Korea, this propaganda.” In a lot of other countries the media at like 12 a.m. will shut down and they’ll play the national anthem, and they’ll play propaganda images and music. This is what Fox News is doing.
When you live in a small town in the US, you have no concept of everything else outside the US. You think the US does everything better than everywhere else. If you get out of the US you see that there are interesting, good things about the US, but there’s also a lot of bullshit. If you can separate those two things than you are a much more rational human being.
It’s amazing when you go to other countries and you’re like, “Why is there not homeless people in all these other places.” We have a huge homeless population. Why are we battling these immigrant issues? You go to other countries and they don’t have this issue. Europe right now has an immigrant issues only because we’ve been blowing up people in Syria, and the Middle East, for 15 years. Look at where you live from the outside and it’s a very different picture.
Pat Thetic photos by Anthony Constantine and Steven Matview
You can purchase Anti-Flag’s latest full length, ‘American Spring,’ as well as their ‘Live at 11th Street Records’ digital release, right now via Spinefarm Records.