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ANTI FLAG – Interview with Justin Sane

“Every day I ask myself how can I do just one thing to end someone else’s suffering with just one action that I’m taking.” Justin Sane, ANTI FLAG

Interviewed by TIM AMOROSO – written by SILVIE MIETZEKATZE

When ANTI FLAG started in the late 1980’s in Pittsburgh, we needed them. All those years later – politics were a mess and this band sang about it. England had THE CLASH and the USA had and still has ANTI FLAG. No other band has critiqued the government with more powerful music that managed to stay true to their roots and were able to get enough airplay that most punk kids all over the country still know who they are. The message of ANTI FLAG is clear, anti imperialism, anti war and pretty much against any kind of social injustice. Hitting right into the nerve of the time – filling their music with serious messages and packed in radio friendly punk rock tunes. Throughout all these years, everything I had heard about them was positive. They stayed true to what they wrote. Everyone who has worked or met this band – no matter if they are fans or writers, other musicians or booking agents … or where I come from Germany – have always said that they are one of the nicest bands they had ever met. That is probably one of their secrets, how they stayed successful and level headed for all these years, gaining international success and were picked up by large punk record labels like FAT WRECK RECORDS and SIDE ONE DUMMY.
ANTI FLAG started nearly thirty years ago and today this world and country is experiencing a explosion of people that are openly racist or bigots. The world seems to be a mess but everyone is also talking about politics.
ANTI FLAG are needed more than ever and they do not disappoint. They are still here and they do not seem to go away – they just released another punk rock masterpiece called “AMERICAN FALL” and if this is the first record you have ever heard by them, you won’t even guess that these guys have been around for a long time living through multiple presidents and problems that the country and the world had encountered. Their energy level can compete with every new band out there, and the elven songs are meant to shake you awake to let you know that you’re not alone and everyone can make an impact, no matter how small that seems – everything and everyone counts. Co produced by Benji Madden from Good Charlotte – ANTI FLAG deliver as usual a great punk rock record with lyrics that go deep into your heart and leaves you question everything around you.
TIM AMOROS editor/writer of NO COVER and radio host of THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT SHOW produced a really wonderful insightful and personal interview with ANTI FLAG’S humble lead singer JUSTIN SANE. JUSTIN SANE, seems like one of the nicest rock n roll lead singer out there with zero rock star attitude – who is concerned about others… He told him that the main message of their latest album “AMERICAN FALL” is to stand against all these bigoted people that are pretty much against everyone who is different and Justin has many friends and family of different races, genders and sexual orientations – so this is very personal for him.

But please read up and find out for yourself what JUSTIN and TIM have to say about the political state of this country and what you can do to make a change.

JUSTIN: ….” These people have a right to be scared. They should be scared.” What blew my mind and why we wrote “American Attraction in just a few months Donald Trump has rolled back 30 years of environmental regulation in the US. Our planet is racing towards a climate disaster”
TIM: The United States. some would say, we are the leader of the free world – but it seems, that we are going in a direction that money is more important than human lives.”
JUSTIN: I couldn’t agree more. American Attraction is about exactly that…and when the president gives a speech how often do we hear him say
“ I’m very successful I made a lot of money” …..what he is doing when he says that is, that one of the most important things in our society is the amount of wealth that you have. And that people should be admired for that and that’s something we should adapt as a value. If you start to hold the believe that wealth is more of a value over people, that’s when you get Charlottesville, that’s when you get the shooting in Las Vegas…the shooting in the church in Texas…
What is happening, is that society is not valuing our human relationships, we are not valuing coming together as a community – taking care and supporting one another. Instead we are making society to be a competition and at 
the end of every competition there is a loser, somebody lost and that means that there are people who are not connected to other people. They are isolated, they fell like that they are left alone – left behind and they get angry and than that can resolve in tragedies.….”

TIM: On a strictly strategic level, what do you think can we do? What do you think it would take for human beings to value other humans again? Does it have to be a tragedy like a mass shooting? Cause the way that I look at it is – everybody for the most part does not have eyes that are really open to the bigger problems of the earth. What can we do? Cause I’ve done a lot and I’m at a change of my life, where I’m ready to give up my job – to become a teacher. I do not know how else I can help. I am very active in my community – I preach love, I preach respect and not in a religious way but in a human respect kind of way. ….
JUSTIN: That is really amazing of you and I think what you’re really doing is what needs to happen. The first step is for people to step back and take a good look at the live that they are living and ask themselves – “Am I’m happy? In the society as it is right now?” And most people probably will answer that with
“no – I’m running my ass off – I’m just threating water. And I’m stalling my feelings with alcohol and drugs, or anti depressants which fucking sucks”
So… I do this check with myself a lot, cause – believe it or not I know there is so much power in our society from all the messages we receive and the things we are surrounded every day and see on TV and it’s always geared towards THIS MESSAGE … to buy the newest things or the shinier things and to get more and get more and more….
TIM: consume, consume, consume…
JUSTIN: yeah exactly, and as soon as I realize fell into that trap I start to get anxious and I start to not feel good, you know. It’s a hard thing to be immune to those messages. But it’s important to look at your life and find alternatives…
Actually, I am pretty optimistic believe it or not…I know there are some huge backlashes with Trump and in the values that he stands for, but there were so many people that came to our last tour that told me that before the last election they were apathetic, sleepwalking or didn’t really care….but now they do. And I think Donald Trump is a big wake up call for a lot of people. We are seeing a lot of debates that are taking place as a result of his presidency that needed to take place. Things like sexual harassment, sexism, racism….and things that we never usually talk openly as a society about. The things that had been swept under a rug….but these were things that happened even before Donald Trump. He is not the disease – he is a symptom. So to answer your question, not just one person like a possible next leader will make it better. It’s harder than that, so what you are talking about and what YOU are doing is admirable and I think it is spot on. You made a decision to reward your life,m to have an impact on other peoples lives and that’s really what it’s gonna take. I don’t think it is reasonable that every single person can know about every single injustice – it’s impossible. But if we look around in our communities, we can have an impact on the planet….I’ve been involved or around activism long enough, change doesn’t just come over night…it’s a war and a lot of battles, and many battles are lost. But my hope for people is, that they always will pay attention enough that Donald Trumps’ presidency won’t repeat. But let’s be honest there were problems with Bush and there were problems with Obama and Trump is just a symptom of problems that we had in our society.

TIM: For many years now there has been a takeover of corporate America and my question to you is in two parts. Hillary if she had been elected, would it be any different? And do you think just maybe because by electing Donald Trump it’s pushing us in the right direction faster?
JUSTIN: Well the corporate take over is real. Go to any strip mall in America and you see that they’re all the same and owned by the same people. …when you tour all over the country, every city just looks the same. The profits go to a very small group of people. The corporate takeover under Hillary wouldn’t be any different. than the corporate takeover under Trump. A lot of people though see him as the anti establishment, because he hasn’t approached politics in the traditional way, but Donald Trump is as main stream as status quo as there is. He might as well be living on wall street. Corporate America is Donald Trump. He is not the anti establishment, he is a Billionaire. (laughs)
….on a personal level though …. there are people under Donald Trump that are hurt right now and I truly believe that they wouldn’t be hurt under Hillary Clinton….I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton in any way but I don’t believe that under Hillary ICE agents would be breaking into homes of undocumented immigrants and tearing families apart, or the prosecution of Muslims, or the murder of African Americans. With Donald trump it is going backwards. The idea that we need him for a shock value to make things better is a very hard one for me to get behind on, because I see it and I know some of the people that have been effected by him. The trans community feels so hopeless that some of them even consider to kill themselves. Those are real lives. We could have made progress without him becoming president. But I cannot honestly answer that question because I honestly don’t know….now it comes just down to the point to get on our feet and start pushing back…

TIM AMOROSO: Going back to the corporate takeover, do you feel that – we are turning into corporate slaves – we as Americans? The political leaders as included?
JUSTIN: I think the political leaders always had been part of this. Some of them sold out all the way and some of them just sold out a little bit…- I take better over worse any day. But for example Ralph Nader talked about this back in the day in the early nineties, and that is why he ran as a candidate because he used to go the offices on capitol hill and talk to them on the issues that effected citizens and sometimes they would hear him out and sometimes they would make a positive change. He said that there came day though when nobody would talk to him anymore and he realized that these politicians were totally bought and that’s why he ran for president…and some people made him responsible for the election of George Bush over Al Gore…you know my assessment wasn’t that Ralph Nader was the deciding factor. – I think Al Gore didn’t offer a good alternative for the American people, because he was also just bought in, So when it comes down to a personal level, since we are living in a corporate state, at this point to a certain degree we are all controlled by that corporate way. It takes energy and effort to work around it. It’s a personal choice if you want to do that and how you want to do that. Good luck to find a pair of shoes that weren’t made in China or a smart phone… we are all caught up in it But we all can make choice….So every day I ask myself how can I do just one thing to end someone else’s suffer in just one action that I’m taking. And it might seem like a very small thing but for me it’s very important. That’s why I respect organizations like Amnesty International, because they free people in very horrible conditions and in situations of social injustice because of their political thought. And they put so much pressure on these oppressors and sometimes you might think I’m just one person and I can’t do that much….but we can still make the world better for some people and that’s very valuable.

TIM AMOROSO: When all is said and done and the book of Justin Sane is closed, what do you want the world to remember you by. What would you have liked to have done and contributed to the earth?
JUSTIN: There are a couple of things with every record I made there is a place where I would plant my flag in the sand of history. And the people that look back in history and trying to understand who I was, can listen to my records and get a sense. …That’s why I got into punk rock because of the empathy for other people and I want people to remember me, as someone who was empathetic. Also during the golf war, people will see that there were others who resisted as same as now during the Trump presidency and they can look back to that and see people like me. Hopefully, I contributed to end someone else’s suffering in some ways.

The conversations starts to go into the NETFLIX SHOW STRANGER THINGS and how both JUSTIN and TIM love the way how they recreated the 80ties so detailed oriented and that they even had used a song of the Oxnard punks – ILL REPUTE.
JUSTIN talks about how this show reminds him that the eighties were a time of absurdity – a transition in culture. He goes back to some memories of his childhood and how even with everything that is going on there has been big progresses that had happened from that time on..…
JUSTIN: “….when you ask yourself if we have done anything, than THIS will attest to it. In my neighborhood for example, when I was a little kid and if you were a black kid during that time you’d probably would have gotten beat up and now in the same neighborhood and there are all kinds of people now. I look around and there is this white guy tutoring this black kid and I think to myself that is so awesome. Things have changed and it’s great. Or when I was young – homophobia was just off the charts
That reminds me when we did the WARPED TOUR in 2010. After a show we usually get to hang out with fans – that is the best part of the tour and very refreshing part of the day. THE WARPED TOUR WAS cool but what changed or what was really special at the one in 2010 was that there were a couple of trans kids that came to our tent and it was so cool to me, cause I know that all those other years these kids were there but they were not openly out t.
It is amazing that in certain areas we are making progress. It might not be everywhere yet, but we came a long way and kids like that know that they have allies out there. And THAT was the most inspiring thing that happened to me during that summer.

TIM: What do you think makes punk rock so special?
I was in the military and I got out and sort of thought to myself what can I do now…. I wanted to be a WWF superstar that was my thing.
But then I ended up having a kid and then I decided I was getting into radio. I started the radio show and we started the magazine. But I do remember in the beginning when we hosted the show the ROCK guys were usually dicks, and the METAL guys were also dicks – you know at our radio station we do everything from country, to hip hop to everything in between but one community was treating us like gold. The punk rock community loves, they are not afraid to love, to cry or to hug you and invite in the outcasts. Not only that, but when they are inviting us in, they treat everyone good cause their community is so strong. Yet society shuns them because they are so different. I was in South America when I was in the military and even the punk rock scene out there is just as awesome…What do you think is the main reason why they are that way…?
JUSTIN: It doesn’t surprise me that you were in the military, especially when I hear how altruistic you are and the way you are thinking about your life and how you want to help people. I find the most altruistic people, especially in the punk scene – are people that had been in the military. I have an aversion against the military because what politicians do with people like you. People like you sign up in believing you are doing good and they take you and use you to fight for oil. Then you come back and think – “that was fucked that wasn’t what I was standing for” and that’s my aversion – and I try to discourage people to join the military. I just wanted to say that, it is amazing to talk you because you are so altruistic, so passionate and you want to do good…..
With the punk community and the openness of it – it’s the result of people who fought on the outside and people who were attracted to punk rock , because they were misfits in one way or another. Some of them were Misfits because they gave a fuck more about others than themselves. As a result of that, they find bands like MINOR THREAT, or PROPAGANDHI or BAD RELIGION or RISE AGAINST…cause they talk about giving a fuck, and being open to other people, and standing behind them , giving people who can’t fight for themselves. They give them a voice. And the number one message with our new record AMERICAN FALL is, that it is a record with the meaning of solidarity, it’s a record about giving a voice to people who don’t have a voice and it is about letting people who are being prosecuted know – that we are here and we are not going away. We are going to fight for you until our dying breath. If you’re one of the people who is victimized by Donald Trump – don’t worry we got your back….
Some people out there in punk rock for example, they might not be as much as us into politics but they love ANTI FLAG because we give the middle finger to the man…
Punk rock saved my life, if somebody saves your life – you respect that person – you honor them. When I see someone else who is into punk rock – I know I can go and talk to them and there is going to be a common ground. Punk has something special to bring people together under that set of commonality…
TIM: In our community, here in Ventura County, the punk rock scene was the first one that wanted to do something for HOUSTON massacre – and the first ones who wanted to do something for the Vegas shooting… you look at everyone there and they look like they haven’t showered for weeks at the event – but I am so inspired by them by the community by how they love people. And we have great leaders here in punk rock …people like Tony Cortez from ILL REPUTE for example… he is a big leader in our community and in a lot of other corner stones there. It’s just awesome…
JUSTIN: Exactly. Punk taught us to be leaders without even knowing what was happening. The whole DIY ethic and the idea that if you don’t have it you just gotta figure out how to do it…
TIM: …story of my life…
JUSTIN: Yeah it teaches you to be a problem solver. So one day you wake up and everyone is just looking at you, asking you, what are we going to do? that’s when you know ,you are the one who has to figure that out. That’s really cool, there is a teaching process in it…that’s maybe why so many punks started businesses, because it’s a cool thing, there is never a “I can’t do it” – it’s always a “ let’s figure out how to do it”….
TIM: Thank you Justin, this was an awesome conversation and I wish you nothing but success with this album and the tour. I can see the light in your heart shining and I wish you everything that your heart desires.
JUSTIN: Right there with you! When you asked me if earlier if I have any hope…I wasn’t sure but after talking to you …I’m like yeah people like you give me so much hope! And that’s what happens, that’s why I stay optimistic and never give up….it was wonderful to talk to you and I really appreciate it…


ANTI FLAG’S LATEST ALBUM: AMERICAN FALL – Spinefarm Records 11/3/2017 realease date

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