At this year’s Warped Tour on August 7th I got the opportunity to sit down and speak with Pat Thetic, the drummer from the politically charged Pittsburgh punk band Anti-Flag. Pat was generally an easygoing guy with strong opinions who was open for discussion and knowledgeable on pretty much anything we threw at him. We asked his thoughts mostly about Warped Tour (which was celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this summer), the state of the music industry and the upcoming election.
As you’ve probably heard, early this year Lollapalooza announced the cancellation of it’s tour due mostly to low ticket sales, what do you think sets Warped Tour apart?
I don’t really know. I would think that the ticket price for warped tour they’ve always tried to keep it as low as possible. I don’t know if thats the same for Lollapalooza. And I think the fact you get so many bands that kids still come out to Warped Tour. Lollapalooza bands play for an hour or whatever, at Warped Tour you get about 5 bands in an hour that you can go see. So I think for the money it’s a much better value. I don’t know if kids really think that, but I think there is just so much going on… it’s like an A.D.D.fest you can’t pay attention to one. For young people thats a better thing that seems to, in just my vision of it, (Lollapalooza) seems to be slower than Warped Tour.
What do you guys in bands like about warped tour? Why’d you decide to play this year?
It’s a traveling misfits show of outcasts and fuck ups and that sort of appeals to us. The fact is that there just is a whole bunch of people who don’t know what else to do with themselves. And the family that Warped Tour has sorta created is sorta a unique one. We like that there is a place for screwed up people to hang out for the summer.
Let’s talk about The Terror State, you guys worked with Tom Morello on this album..
How did you meet up with him?
We did a tour with Rage Against The Machine in ’98-99, somewhere in there, it was The Battle of Los Angeles tour; their last tour. They called us up and said ‘Do you wanna do these shows with us’ and it was amazing and scary, ‘cuz it was like huge rooms, it was like stadiums err… arenas. So we got to know him there and when we were getting ready to record this record we were like ‘who would we like to work with?’ and the guy who has been most successful and believes the similar ideas as us and who we really like is Tom, ‘lets ask Tom to be involved’. So we sat down with him while we were on tour in LA and said ‘do you want to be apart of this?’ He said ‘yeah, I’d love to’ so it worked out, it was great.
How was it working with him?
He’s great, he’s got great ideas, he’s got influenced people and yeah he’s just an amazing person. And he’s just a cool dude other than that.
It seems like on this album you mixed more sampling into it? Did that have anything to do with Tom’s influence?
Not so much, more Tom’s influence was in the artwork and the original writing of the songs. In the end production he didn’t really have… He was like ‘yeah that sounds good’ or ‘no that doesn’t sound good’ but he didn’t come to us and say ‘you should put samples in or something.’ That was all stuff that we came up with on our own.
Alright, what do you guys think about new production methods? ProTools and Such?
Love it, can’t get enough of it. As a drummer who grew up.. There are two types of people, there’s drummers and then there’s people who play drums. I’m more of a person who plays drums than a drummer. And ProTools is able to take poor performances and make them good. But what we try and do is get ideas out, and sometimes the performance gets in the way of somebody hearing the ideas. And the beautiful thing about ProTools is that you can clean the performance so people can hear the ideas and not hear that you’re out of key, or off time, or whatever.
You don’t think it waters down things at all? Like some bands are manufactured almost, like a Britney Spears sorta thing?
Well yeah. But she’s going to have a great sounding record no matter wether ProTools is there or not, they are gonna cut tape or whatever. For those of us, who… It’s also, we can create a better record for a lot less money which in punk rock world is very important. Actually, we have a ProTools rig at home, that cost very little money and we can do editing and stuff on our own just in our own office. So yeah, it’s really sort of like the germ warfare of music it has leveled the playing field of music, so that everyone has access to really good sound if they want to. I don’t know if that analogy translated but in my mind it makes sense.
You guys are known for your politics. How do you think the things that have gone on in the last year with things like Punk Voter and MoveOn.org how do you think it’s going to play out in this election. Do you think there will be a significant change in things?
I think it will. You know the poll numbers are like well: Kerry is down by three points or two points and Bush is up by two points or three points. But what those polls are taking into account is the voters who have voted in the last presidential election. I think that through MoveOn, I think through Punk Voter and those types of things, I think there are going to be a lot of voters who have never voted before who will actively vote and I think that those people will have a great impact on the election. I’m hoping.
I’ve been saying that for a long time and I finally heard Michael Moore say it on Larry King Live and I was glad someone else is thinking it. I read an article recently how Howard Stern is going to affect voters because he’s really under fire from the FCC and they were saying that most of the people that were into him are already from liberal areas where the state was already to go to the democrats. Do you think that may be true…
That may… The thing about Howard Stern is he’s got access to millions of people. And Howard Stern saying one thing can affect a lot of people. I know that Pittsburgh, which is where we’re from, has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold but in the last election it was close and we have Howard Stern on the radio in Pittsburgh so I think that he will have an impact with, again, people who are first time voters that never felt that their voice needed to be heard.
But do you really think that things like Warped Tour and Punk Voter are really going to reach people in conservative areas? Like Texas for example.
We go to.. We’ve plays alot of shows in Texas, and we’re doing a Punk Voter swing state tour. And so we are going to focus a lot of attention in the areas where people are traditionally more conservative than liberal.
In The Terror State you have an pamphlet that talks about taking back the Democratic Party. What made you guys really fall along part lines? Where as in the past it’s been..
Yeah, it’s sorta a change for us and it sorta leaves a bad taste in our mouth because we’re not big Democratic party fans. That pamphlet is not actually a pro-Democrat pamphlet that was a pro-leftist pamphlet, saying get these people in the Democratic Party and move them further to the left and present an opposition to the Republican Party not just Republican-lite. In having said that, four more years of Bush is too painfull for us to accept so we are helping to get rid of Bush, not really helping to elect Kerry.
Ideally who out of the Democratic Primaries would you have preferred?
(Dennis) Kucinich is an amazing dude. Kucinich was a great guy nobody gave him any attention, nobody gave him any press and it’s difficult to get the press unless you’re winning. It was interesting because Kucinich was running all the way until the convention but nobody paid any attention to him because Kerry had already won the election.
How do you feel about Nader’s involvement in this election?
Nader. People are always trying to villianize Nader and Nader is an American hero. Nader has done more for the American people than George Bush ever has. And I don’t think Nader is the enemy, and the Democratic Party is making him out to be the enemy and the Republicans are making him out to be the enemy. I think that he’s a hero and he needs to be received that way. And it’s just tragic that everyone has made him out to be the enemy.
Do you think it’s possible that Kerry could be elected and Nader could still get 5% in this election of do you think that it’s going to be closer?
I hope so. I hope that Kerry can get elected and that Nader can get 50% of the vote. If people get to hear what Nader has to say, they are gonna… as always, the American people are intelligent people, caring people and if they hear or have access to information they make the right decisions. And thats why the Democrats and the Republicans didn’t want Nader in the debates. My goal is for Nader, if not Nader than someone with similar views as Nader having a voice and being able to get those ideas out.
Let’s jump back to a bit of the industry stuff and then I’ll let you go.
How do you guys, as a band, and you as a person feel about digital music? I don’t necessarily mean file sharing, I mean things like iTunes and stuff. I noticed that Fat and A-F Records’ content aren’t for sale there, is there a reason for this?
We are trying to be. (Editor’s note, since this interview was conducted much of A-F’s music has been added to the iTunes library) And I am interested in it, as a record company, and as a musician I want people to have access to our music. If people choose to do it digitally, I don’t care. Ultimately I want people to also have access to the information that we put in there, thats why we make records. The amazing thing about the internet age that we are in right now is that we can put out a record and then have a website that has, you know, pages and pages of information that we are passionate about. And thats an amazing thing. We don’t necessarily have to put the record out, we can just have the record come out digitally and the information be on the website. Then we’re saving resources, we’re saving trucks that have to ship around that’s an amazing world for me.”
Some bands, like Linkin Park for example have complained that it could kill the album format. That people wouldn’t listen to the whole piece and that’s what their ‘creative vision’ is.
And I understand that, but that means you have to write good music. You know Britney Spears, God bless her, she’ll be done. Because people will be like ‘alright downloaded the one song and I don’t care about the other 9 tracks of filler.’ You know, that’s our responsibility as musicians. If we can’t create songs that people want to hear, then fuck us, we’re not worth being around anyway.
That would have put someone like Lou Bega out of business.
Who’s Lou Bega? I don’t know who he is.
Oh yeah. Yeah, exactly ya know, that’ll hurt the music industry. (laughs) I don’t give a fuck about the music industry. Ya know, if the people who like what we do are the kids who buy A-F records stuff, if they want to buy it in a different format and we can… or not buy it, but get it, in a different format and we can supply it to them then that’s fine with me.
Do you think that this will lead to a break up of the major music industry?
I hope so, sure. They are consolidating and getting more and more crap. Because they are only worried about record sales and they are like ‘oh I can sell more of Jessica Simpson or whatever the fuck she is, or uh whats her.. the new one, the little one’s name..
Ashlee Simpson! Yeah so ‘we’re going to look for more people like Ashley Simpson’ Fuck that, that’s why we have independent music. Because we have people who care about music and ideas and not just about wether you can sell records or not. And I think the digital world has that ability a lot more, it levels the playing field, again.
So do you think, not necessarily for you guys, but for a different kind of band that is trying to make it big and spread there ideas. You guys are kinda ‘niche,’ you’ve expanded out of it, but do you think that it’s important to have the major labels there for bands to promote themselves, like a band like Less Than Jake.
No (laughs) I would love to not have the majors. I would love to not have radio that you have to spend two hundred thousand dollars, to get a song on the radio. I don’t wanna live in a world like that. I would much rather live in a world where ya know, if a song’s good it gets on the radio. We’re not in that world, if a songs ‘okay’ and it’s got $200,000 behind it kids have access to it.
But like a band like Rage, they kinda got their message by being on Sony.
And they probably wouldn’t have gotten as much of a following if they weren’t.
Do you think that’s important?
No, I think good music, if everybody has an internet connection in their house, which at this point, it’s not true, but in the future, if everybody has access to an internet connection and can access to good music, people will find good music and good music will find people. And you don’t need some creepy dude in New York or L.A. to tell you wether it’s good or not and that’s an amazing world for me. I’m excited about that world.