Friday, February 24, 2023

Setting Goals and Finding a Mentor with Chris #2 of ANTI-FLAG

In this episode of The Rock Metal Podcast, we're chatting with Chris #2 of the band Anti-Flag about their new album ‘Lies They Tell Our Children’ out now via Spinefarm Records.

During our chat we touch on a lot of great tips for musicians, such as setting goals and finding a mentor.

‘Lies They Tell Our Children’ was produced by Jon Lundin (Good Charlotte, Senses Fail, Sleeping With Sirens).

For fans of Pennywise, Authority Zero, The Bouncing Souls, NOFX, Bad Religion.


Guest Resource - Connect with Anti-Flag!

Guest Music Video

3 Heavy Hitters

1. Set goals and build constraints around the creation of your record to help guide you and create success points

2. Reinvent your marketing strategy to fit your needs

3. Having a mentor steeped in the industry to help provide real guidance


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Show Notes // Transcript

Jon Harris: All right, Chris #2. Go ahead and say Hi to all of our beautiful listeners. 

Chris #2: Yeah. Hello. Nice to meet everyone. Or, or speak with anyone, any opportunity we have to discuss these things that we care so greatly about. And the fact that 2023 is 30 years of the band Anti-Flag, and we still have anyone who gives a fuck enough to chat with us. It means the world, though. Thanks. 

Jon Harris: Absolutely. And thank you again for coming on. Now, The Lies They Tell Our Children or Lies They Tell Our Children, I'm sorry. 13th studio album. What was the greatest moment for you producing this 

Chris #2: Yeah. Truthfully. So I think that creating the constraints that we did conceptually around the album and achieving that goal has been the most rewarding part of it. We set out from the beginning. Look, there was a dark cloud of a global pandemic over all of our heads for quite some time, and we decided as a band to not make music during those periods where we were all collectively stuck at home. And, you know, Pat's wife is a doctor and was around a lot of COVID patients and around COVID every day. Justin's father is 88 years old, and because we're professional ne'er-do-wells, he was afforded the ability to just stay at home and take care of his dad for that period of time and, you know, protect him from a disease or a virus that he was very vulnerable to. And so when we would do things like this, like a phone call every month or a zoom hang out with each other every month, we discussed or flirted with the idea of trying to write a song this way or whatever, and it was not appealing to us. It wasn't a period of history that we believed needed to be documented in that way. So we went on the road as soon as we were allowed to, and we did two months of touring, really got re-inspired, re-energized came home in December of 2021 and wrote and recorded until June of 2022. And so for a band like Anti-Flag to have six months, seven months to make an album, we haven't had that much time since we were kids. And partly because you kind of get on like an endless escalator of, the tour demands new music, so you're just pumping it out to stay on the road, to keep food on the table or whatever. And we learned how to be better stewards of that process, but it was really great to zoom out. So getting back to your question, there are a handful of songs that I think really define the concept of the album, defined this idea that we are trying to trace the issues that we all face collectively to their source and have this, perhaps it's naïve, but a belief that if we are closer to understanding how we got to where we are, we may be closer to a solution to solve those problems. And then we decided to have eight guests on the record. We decided to drop seven singles. We made eight music videos for an album of eleven songs. All, all of those ideas were kicked around in December 2021 and they came to fruition, and we didn't fail on any of them. So.  That is our success story here, is that we set an intention and we delivered on it. It is maybe one of the first lessons we learned as a band. Once we create it, it's no longer ours. And we can't dictate to people how they should feel or whether or not they will like it, or enjoy it, or interact with it in any type of redeeming way. So we tune that out. Now that it's out, it's like, it's no longer us saying what people should take from it. However, it was really great to know that we could be creative out of our comfort zone, disrupt an organization of Anti-Flag that has been so again, 30 fucking years of doing it, and we're still like, here's a new way for Anti-Flag to present these ideas. It's not just like, okay, well, we make this record with this producer who's made the other ten Anti-Flag records, and they come out this way. There's the two singles before we broke our mold, and that is rewarding to us. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, stuck at home during the pandemic, six to seven months to write a song, which yeah, you said you haven't had a chance to work like that since you were kids. I mean, touring musicians just do not have that kind of time. But as you had mentioned also as well, which is super cool. I mean, I love it. Creating constraints, setting goals, meeting those goals, having a success story to tell. And now maybe this next question gets into some of the challenges in creating this record. But I read in the EPK that you have not worked this hard since 2006. It's for the album for Blood and Empire. So take us back to 2006. What's changed?

Chris #2: Yeah, well, what changed was just obviously the pandemic, you know, reprioritized a lot of things for a lot of people, but it also was about embracing the hurdles that were in front of us, there is a - and whether or not it's supply chain issue or whether or not it is just people don't want to do the job.  It takes, like, ten months to make a record now, like, physically produce an LP because the pressing plants are so backed up. So when we saw that, okay, Anti-Flag is going to finish our album in June. If we turn it in now, you're not going to get it till January. We can just sit on these songs and hold them and go back to the traditional model. We said, no, we're on tour. We want to play these songs. So we released the first single three weeks after having a master in hand, which is not a thing, especially for a band like ours. Perhaps, it wasn't, there's probably a marketing plan that we could have sat with that would have been better, you know, but we didn't care. We you know, we this it's our 13th full length and we've done all of it that way. We, we purposefully wanted to try a different way. And what was awesome, and again, going back to a lot of your listeners being people that play music or in bands, a lot of times you record a song and then the first time you play it might be a year after you've recorded it. And so you're relearning - you're listening to yourself to relearn what you did, and that wasn't the case here. So, like, we played 'The Fight of Our Lives' and we played 'Laugh, Cry, Smile, Die' on our European tour, Summer 2022. And those two singles came out on that tour, and we had just finished recording them in May, so they were fresh in our brains. We were great at playing them. They fit right into the set. Like, that is wild to us, because usually, like I said, it's like the album's finished and about a year later, it starts to come out. There are only maybe three singles, and you're trying to work those three into the set.  This way, it felt more akin to your first record as a band that you've written and you're just playing shows on. Those are the only songs you have, so you're sharing them, and then you're like, okay, well, this one works, this one doesn't. And that perspective has been really awesome to have, especially coming out of the work that it took to make the record. 

Jon Harris: Abso-freaking-lutely, everybody who resonates with everything that Chris #2 just said, go ahead and raise your hand. How has the pandemic reprioritized things for you and anybody that you know? And then other cool things, just embracing the hurdles that have come up as a result of the pandemic, reinventing the marketing plan for your own needs. I mean, summer of 2022, Chris, you have singles coming out at the same time that you're playing them, fitting them right into the set, having that same feeling that you had when you were younger, and the only music you had to play was the stuff that you were working on --

Chris #2: Yeah.

Jon Harris: -- and usually having maybe only three singles and then trying to fit them into the set. Because the first time you're playing this song is a year after having recorded it, and then sitting there trying to remember, how in the world did I play this song?

Chris #2: Yeah. What's that guitar part, that like, you came up on a whim in the studio. You know what I mean? Like the chords or the structure, we beat that into our brains, but it's in the studio. There are a lot of magic moments, and that magic moment isn't learned. It's kind of instinctual. 

Jon Harris: Magic moments in the studio, baby. All right, Chris #2, just to remind you one more time, you've been a band for 30 freaking years. 

Chris #2: Yeah, haha.

Jon Harris: How would you define success at this stage of your career? 

Chris #2: Our success has always been measured in a different way than most. And we don't mean this in a negative or derogatory way towards anybody. Obviously, we make a list of goals. And on that list of goals is always sell a million albums, but it's also paint the White House black. And it's sometimes it's as simple as we are putting out a new album. We want to play in a city we've never played before. That that that list. We we tend to make a list of goals every year as a band or every album as a band. It it was a lesson not to name drop, but it was a lesson learned from Tom Morello when he kind of became our mentor in 1999 when we toured with Rage Against the Machine. But that lesson he gave us was simply you'll feel as if things are stagnant if you don't have something to show you a perspective that you are moving forward. And so he said, you know obviously, if everybody's goal is to only sell a million records, every album is a failure. But if you say, I wish it sells a million records, but I also want to create some tangible, real successes, then individually we feel like we're moving forward. The great success of Anti-Flag consistently comes at the live show when we meet somebody who says, especially in the United States, I was going to join the military until I found punk rock and I found your band, and now I have decided to devote my life to something else. You know, we don't, we've got a few plaques from some successes that the band has had numerically through the year. Those aren't on the wall. The thing that's on the wall in Pat's office is the Conscientious Objector letter we got from the kid who got themselves removed from the military going into the Iraq war in 2003. That's Anti-Flag success story. We meet people all over who have run for local office, who work for Amnesty International, who work for Greenpeace, who work and I'm not saying that it's Anti-Flag who did that, but it's the punk community as a whole and the empathy that is the backbone ethos of that. That's what drives people to care about more than just themselves. That's where our success is measured. Especially because, look, we live in Pittsburgh. We've been able to, we own homes here because of the band. We were on a major record label. We've played all the festivals. We've done all those things. And you have to chart your success in different ways when you are privileged with the ability to say that you have achieved further than you ever thought you would. I never thought I'd leave Pittsburgh. And so the fact that we, when we played New York City, I was like, It's over. We're fucking KISS. We did it like, what else is there to do? 

Jon Harris: Well, you're still in Pittsburgh. You're sitting there right now, right? 

Chris #2: Yes. I've been on an airplane. My mom is an Italian immigrant. She came to America when she was 13, and we would go to Italy when I was a little kid. I remember going when I was ten, I believe that was the only airplane I'd ever been on was holding her hand. And then this shitty punk band took with me all around the world, and so that's far greater of an opportunity, especially from Justin and I in particular in the band. We grew up very poor. I'm the youngest of three kids. He's the youngest of nine. His father is an immigrant from Ireland. My mother an immigrant from Italy. We have a lot of similarities that kind of brought us together, and that also, I think, shaped the politics of the band. Growing up in Pittsburgh, a city that was impoverished, a city that was forgotten by the industry that built it up, and we grew up in those decades where there was nothing. Now it's quite affluent. There's Google offices here and Apple offices here, and the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon are tremendously important spaces of higher education in the United States. So that's brought a lot of new energy and money to the city. But when we grew up, I remember my uncle losing his job at the steel mill because they shut it down in Monaca, Pennsylvania. That kind of stuff will shape you, and that blue collar ethic will make you look at the world through a different pair of lenses. And I think that that's why a lot of the music, almost all of the music, aside from maybe Christina Aguilera that's come out of Pittsburgh, has a political tinge to it. Even Rusted Root, who are a hippie band. 'Send Me On My Way' was their big song. They were doing benefit shows for parts of the world that we had never heard of. Aus-Rotten, The Bad Genes, Anti-Flag. The punk scene was political in Pittsburgh. And so that's why we are the way we are. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, not bad for a shitty punk band that took you all over the world, correct? 

Chris #2: Yes. Yeah.

Jon Harris: But you definitely mentioned some great things for everybody listening in, grabbing a mentor I mean, obviously, Tom Morello in 1999 would be somebody to listen to, that's for sure. So grabbing a mentor in the industry who steeped in, who can give you some perspective and yeah, so that things don't feel stagnant, because how many people listening in are saying, yeah, I'd love to be able to own a home off of my six strings or my four strings or my snare drum, play festivals. that'd be cool. But once you get there, what's next? And I think that was a great piece of advice. And my next question, Chris, is what's the number one thing you want people listening to do? 

Chris #2: I think the hardest thing to spread in this world is empathy. Often people don't think about others until they're faced with the situation of difficulty. You see it in American politics all the time. The Republican senator doesn't give a damn about gay rights until they find out they have a gay son. Often it is, you know, and I saw it with my own mother. My sister who passed passed away, was killed in 2007. She had an interracial relationship. Her daughter is half black. My mom wasn't openly racist, but I think had a lot of taught and inherited racism coming from where she came from. And then all of a sudden she had to be the grandmother of a person who was black. And then faced with that, had to have a reckoning with her own morality. And now I've seen her stand up to racism in ways that blow me away, and I wish I had as much passion and fight in myself as she does. And so, I think that right now we have a crisis of empathy. And so the greatest bit of advice the you want to be a revolutionary in 2023? Be kind. I mean, it's a radical, a radical space to be in. The status quo of our cultures is the economy of the United States is predicated on war and sending weaponry around the world. Our planet is dying because corporations are choosing profit over people and the planet itself, everything on our television screen is telling us that we're not good enough and that maybe if we buy this pair of pants, someone's going to fuck us. Or if we you know --

Jon Harris: That's all I had to do, Chris? 

Chris #2: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. You got pimples on your face. You're not good enough, whatever it might be. And so consistently, we are being beaten down into a place that doesn't allow us to have empathy. And partly it's because a lot of people are working so hard that they don't have time. The economic constraints of our society are such that if you miss a day's work, some people are behind the eight ball there. And so how are you going to have time and space in your day to care about someone else when you're struggling so much? So I think that those of us that are in these places of privilege where we are afforded those opportunities, we need to inject that empathy wherever we can. So again, it's an act of resistance to share commonality and find commonality with people right now. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. Spread empathy, baby. There's an empathy crisis here in 2023, and I completely agree, especially after what we saw in the pandemic. 

Chris #2: Yeah.

Jon Harris: Did it ever get better? Who knows? But I guess we'll stay tuned to find out. But this record is absolutely incredible. Chris, for everybody listening in right now, head over to, and I'll have the eight music videos all right there for you, as well as the show notes for day, as well as three heavy hitters from I mean, so many amazing things were said today. We'll narrow it down to three. I guess we'll call them heavy hitters. Three heavy hitters and otherwise. Chris, thank you so much for coming on today. 

Chris #2: Yeah, it was an absolute honour. And you're very good at what you do. Congratulations. Go get them. 

Jon Harris: Well, thank you. 

Chris #2: Yeah. Thank you. You look like you spent time and energy on it, and that's good. Anybody who's got a laptop has a podcast right now, so it's nice to do ones that are done well and you know, have an intention, and I think that we need more of that in this world. So, kudos, my friend. 


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