INTERVIEW: Against Me
How Many Bricks Must Be Thrown? (No Idea Records)
Photographs By: Marika & Rebecca North
It's the 24th of March 2003. Our country's politics on television (and in print) is easily mistakable as another episode of Jack Ass, this being worse because Bush isn't the one getting injured. I sat down with Against Me from Gainesville, Florida after an electrifying show in Nuremberg, Germany. The punks at the show went wild, as per tons of energy and the equivalent of good Czech beer is wont to do. The anti-American fervor in the European press and in the streets is at an almost fevered pitch; I, myself am starting to tell those that ask that I am Canadian. Just to avoid the stress and embarrassment of being American at the moment. Against Me is a very American band, in so far as using their right of free speech (how ever long that lasts). The sentiment at both the Dresden and Nuremberg (historically Nuremberg was a Nazi gathering spot for pro-war rallies and Dresden was decimated during an allied bombing often referred to by Kurt Vonnegut as 'the firestorms' in his book Slaughter House Five) shows for a political, beer swigging, punk band with a flair for classic 50's rock songwriting and anarchistic lyrics--?
They loved them.
I've noticed that there is a surge of compassionate energy when you (as a band) addressed the audience about the war.
Tom- In general at punk rock shows I think that's something you are going to find, people like it when you're addressing issues, especially at this time.
Andrew- Actual wartime.
In a very real way; this time is ripe for you as a band that has a political stance.
Warren-I think it's also important to keep the perspective that the United States has been bombing Iraq for twelve years now. Now it's 'official', and it's also escalated, so it comes into the public eye a lot more. People are really hungry to hear dialogue about it and to hear something more than CNN has to say. So I think there definitely is a receptive ear to that and to engage in more of a conversation about it. Which I think is amazing. It's just a shame that it takes it to escalating to that point before people really want to talk about what's happening.
Andrew- It's very strange after the show, we would say something on stage...I don't really know honestly if a punk rock show is the most honest forum to have a full blown out discussion about war, ethics, imperialism, everything. I had a great conversation with three German citizens after the show. That was like the highlight of my night; I met people who understood what's going on. They don't view Americans as all of us have the "Kill'em All" mentality. They would ask questions like, "why is your country doing this?"
All I could say was, "I don't fucking know!"
(Andrew's fervor starts to coagulate his words and he sticks his tongue out like Bill the Cat...'Acck!')
The whole question is; yeah, we say "No War", we protest, we say "fuck this"....That's all fine and dandy, but what the fuck do you do after you say, "No War"? Do you get a gun and shoot a dirty politician? Do you get a bomb and blow up the White House? Sit at home and get drunk? What do you do?
They are saying "No War" but what's the goddamned solution? It's such a big problem. That everyone is scared of the solution. Me too. I have no answer, I admit it, we're fucked. This whole system is fucking crazy! (He takes a breath.) That was a rant, by the way.
(At this point I spoke of the war protests in Nuremberg and how I had seen only students. Tom clarified for me that that protest in particular was geared for students and that they were released from school for specifically that purpose.)
Tom-We went to a protest in Lyon, France. It was everybody, of all ages. Not just punk rock kids, or just activist kids it was everybody.
Warren- I think it's important to understand that everyone has different tactics. This doesn't mean that they don't have the same intentions. There could be a hundred people that all are against the war and they all have a hundred different approaches dealing with that. Some of them feel that going to a protest helps, some of them think that doesn't help and they'll write a letter to their politician, and some of them will just talk to their friends at the pub about it or write a song about it. I think there are many different approaches.
(A devoted fan and a member of a band out of Munich, Felix asks to sit down with us.)
Felix actually had told me earlier that when his band plays they burn the American flag at every show...
Felix- It's not something against you, you fucking cool guys(heavy Munich accent) but your president-- I think we all have the same ideas about that.
Andrew- I don't want to get on a rant again...
No, no rants are good.
Andrew- The problem is not just the president (he slaps the table to punctuate each word)! It's the whole goddamned system! Everything is fucked. That's it.
Felix- All I have to say is 23. (He looks around the table...we wait for the rest.) Okay, if you add up the date 9/11/01 it adds up to 23. the war began on the 23rd of the third month 2003. George Wanker Bush knows this!
Warren-...and 'W' is the 23rd letter in the alphabet.
In other words...we're fucked. Not to be pessimistic, but you can sense the frustration. The point is not to give up, or give in. Whatever your own personal means of expression is, 'we' as a global community need it now more than ever. The art (literary and otherwise), the music of our lives is an illustration of our hopes and fears.
Check out Reinventing Axl Rose on No Idea Records, Gainesville, Florida (http://www.Noidearecords.com).
Against Me is James Bowman, Tom Gabel, Warren Oakes and Andrew Seward.