Instead of selling out, Anti-Flag remains sociopolitically involved as one of the most left-wing political bands in history. Having embarked on a 20th anniversary tour, the band comes to the Troubadour for two shows Monday and Tuesday nights.
Punk rockers are cool and all, but punk rockers with a mission have become a rare and cherished thing. Instead of wasting dough on a material image, Anti-Flag has always invested in the improvement of society. Since the Pittsburgh-bred group formed in 1988, it has raised awareness through anti-war activism, and has promoted preserving human rights. The band got started with three members: Justin Sane on guitars and vocals, Andy Flag on bass and Pat Thetic on drums.
Anti-Flag’s mission is to battle oppression, out injustice and incite change. It continually works with political groups like Democracy Now and Occupy Together, and most recently with PETA and Greenpeace on the “The Economy Sucks Let’s Party” tour.
“We just did a song with Amnesty International called ‘Toast To Freedom’ that we covered,” said Thetic. “Other bands have done it but we were asked to do more of a punk rock version. We’ve worked with A.I. on a lot of issues, but this song is about the fact that no matter where you are in the world, there’s gonna be some jack-ass who wants you to fight for his power or his wealth whether you’re in the states or Iraq or Libya.
“Last year we were working on a project to raise awareness for a band called Pussy Riot out of Russia, in jail for speaking out against their political system. They still need to be supported in their struggle. We all should be able to do what we want no matter who we love.”
Anti-Flag should feel right at home for the Troubadour shows. We spoke with Thetic about some of West Hollywood’s more progressive political policies, bans and beliefs.
Same-sex marriage: The year 2008 marked the end of legal same-sex marriages in California. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the appeal by June 2013.
Thetic: “It’s amazing how people are afraid of gay marriage, it’s inconceivable to me. I like to think that people are not that evil that they don’t want gay people to be happy. I just think that they don’t know anybody who lives a different lifestyle. If you have a family member who is gay, then you realize that they’re just like everybody else, and should have the same opportunities and rights.”
Fur ban: Much to the delight of local animal lovers, 2011 brought the West Hollywood fur ban.
Thetic: “Being vegan for the last 10 years, I’m a very big supporter of not using fur. I don’t wear any leather or use fur. The only reason people are using fur now is as a status symbol. There are much better synthetics to be used to stay warm, so if you’re gonna use the death and suffering of another creature to make yourself look cool, I think that’s pretty stupid. I think we should have a fur ban everywhere.”
The year 2012 offered WeHo’ans a “Mayan apocalypse,” as well as bans on public smoking and single-use plastic bags.
Public smoking ban: “Cigarette companies are some of the most evil companies in the world. Cigarette companies and oil companies are the worst of the worst. They make profit off of other people’s suffering and addictions, that’s pretty fucked up. I’m in favor of not having smoking anywhere,” Thetic said.
Plastic bag ban: “I’m in favor of getting rid of the plastic, we just have to make sure it’s done in a way that it’s actually working. I know a lot of people use grocery bags for cat litter and things like that, they’re a relatively thin plastic. And if you use a Glad trash bag for that, it’s a much thicker plastic and uses more plastic. As long as people are making a conscious choice for the betterment of themselves and the environment and the world, then I’m in favor of it. If everybody used re-useable bags and put the cat litter in decomposable bags, then that would be best for everybody,” Thetic said.
Handgun ban: In 1996, West Hollywood banned the sale of small handguns, known as “Saturday Night Specials.” It was the first such law introduced in the nation, and played a pioneering role in leading to 31 other cities passing similar legislation. As a native Pennsylvanian, Thetic grew up within a culture of sport hunting. “I’ve been trained since I was very young how to use guns,” Thetic said.
Thetic: “I don’t think you need an M16 to shoot a deer, I don’t think most people shoot a deer with a handgun. However, I do believe that governments are threatened by an armed population and think that is helpful. We should have central locations, such as armories — we have them in Pennsylvania — where the population can have access to weapons and be trained how to use weapons. But to not have them in their homes … There is a value for an armed population, sooner or later, there is going to be a tyrant that is going to need to be deposed. In all governments and in all cultures, over time it happens.”
As for this week in WeHo, Thetic said the band promises to play from its entire catalogue, which doesn’t narrow it down too much (the group’s written 120 to 130 songs over the years).
“West Hollywood is a very progressive place, so that’s the kind of place that we most feel at home,” he said.