Propagandhi Interview with July 17th, 2009

A recent interview with Propagandhi at Slim’s in San Francisco, CA.

Full Interview available here:

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We recently had the chance to sit down with Canadian rockers and activists Propagandhi for a face to face interview at Slim’s SF. In collaboration with The Liberty Movement Magazine and Critical-Hit Records, we caught up with the affable vegans Chris Hannah and Todd Kowalski for a humbling conversation discussing their latest release Supporting Caste, auto-tuned farts, and technology among other things. Check out Supporting Caste off of Smallman Records, out now.

Interviewed by

Andrew Lopez

Chris Hopkins

Alex Flory

Liberty Movement: So what’s a half-head?

Chris: A half-head, (points to Todd’s head) take a look more at our drummer. That’s when your hair like…if you look at someone when their hair has actually receded right to about a half way point. Jord has a more pronounced one. Then there is a transparent head, and the toilet seat.

LM: On “Supporting Caste” there is this very distinct metal influence, aggression, and over all feel, including the production. What is the writing process like for you guys?

How does a song come to be?

Chris: It’s a case by case thing. Every one of them is a struggle. To get anything, amongst anything you ever played on your guitar, to get it even down to your basement to play in front of the other guys is a struggle. It wasn’t too bad this last time, (on “Supporting Caste”) but there were a few nightmares.

Todd: For me the lyrics are the hard part, to get your real ideas down in a way that doesn’t sound cheesy.

Chris: I don’t think any of it comes naturally to us at all; we have to work at it.

LM: Do you guys write the lyrics first and then put them to music?

Chris: Sometimes you change the music to fit the lyrics and sometimes you change the lyrics to fit the music, or a huge combination of both. If we had a formula we would be home free, but every song is a different struggle.

LM: Popular music is basically auto-tuned farts now of days; there isn’t any content. It is kind of insulting to the collective intelligence of people that listen to it. Do you feel your music could have a greater impact if it adhered more to the templates of popular music?

Chris: Not for us. Our prime directive is to make sure that we are stoked. On the Last record Bill and Jason were doing the first mixes and I was really hyper-paranoid of hearing auto-tune. We tried it on some songs and I said “Get rid of that!” It sounds like a computer, and once your ear knows what auto-tune is, you never want to hear it again. There is nothing you could do strategically to get us to the next level. It has to be what it is. People have to accept it or hate it.

LM: Where and how do you draw the line on your self-fulfilling desire to “rock,” and your desire to propagate a message and try to create some change?

Todd: If we weren’t writing about what we were, I don’t know what we would write about…I was actually writing about stabbing kids, just stupid. If that’s what people want we could give it to them.

Chris: The struggle of writing the lyrics isn’t for lack of wonder about the world. We have plenty of over load for wondering about the world, throwing it down in to lyrics is the struggle part of it. I don’t think that if our lyrics are a reflection of our core values, they aren’t really selfless. It is a self preservation thing to care about other people too. If other people are getting fucked over, you are going to get fucked over. What goes around comes around.

LM: What aspect of your music pleases you guys the most? What is your favorite song to jam on or play?

Todd: Right now my favorite song to play is “Supporting Caste.”

Chris: We don’t play it right now because Todd’s vocals aren’t happening. But “Night Letters” is one, when we play it in the basement and get close to what it sounds like on the record, it is satisfying. It is a really difficult song and it’s in a strange tuning.

Todd: What satisfies me the most actually are Chris’ vocals…

Chris: (interrupting) Todd’s vocals are my favorite!

Todd: I’m not a real singer or anything, so when I work with Chris I enjoy his singing.

LM: Do you find technology as an ultimately oppressive or liberating force, especially modern technology like internet, ipods, computers and such?

Chris: You could talk about it on specific technologies and contexts, but generally it is a case by case basis. It is the same with language. Is language good or bad? It depends on how you use it.

Todd: I find it interesting that people in other countries who would never be listening can do so because of technology. I mean the music I like in terms of technology comes out of amps.

Chris: Also, the same industries that produce weapons technology that can destroy the planet are the same industries that produce things that help further the human sense of wonder. They help in figuring out, not why we are here, but how we are here and where we are. To me those questions are very interesting. I would rather live now knowing some things about the universe rather than in the 1400’s.

LM: Do you guys get death threats still, even after being voted the second worst Canadians?

Todd: That’s Canada though, they don’t count.

Chris: Yeah, we haven’t gotten serious death threats for years.

Todd: Canada should apologize to us for not being a better country! (laughs)

LM: Got any tattoos?

Todd: Nah, we are real rockers.

Chris: The Beaver has an ear piercing from when he was like 13.

LM: How did he get the nickname “Beaver” anyway?

Chris: There was this comic book that he read when he was a kid called “Space Beaver,” and I guess he looked a lot like the character.

Todd: Strangely enough I read the same comic book when I was a kid.

LM: Still pass around the puck and play hockey?

Chris: Jord played in a beer league this last season, he plays for a team every year. We play some pick up games and a lot of street hockey.

LM: Any companies you might recommend that offer fair trade textiles for reasonable prices?

Chris: On our resource page on the website there is a section for ethical consuming, there are some listed on there. For T-shirts the company I try to get behind is “No Sweat Apparel” out of Boston or New York, mainly because the transparency of the company. They actually show you where their sources are. They don’t do an industry self certification, where as in the fashion industry they say “We are certified, by ourselves.” They take pictures of the factory and show and tell when things aren’t perfect. Makes you feel like they actually care.

LM: We noticed that “Supporting Caste” was released on Small Man Records. Is there any future for G7 Welcoming Committee?

Chris: I think if there are any more records released on G7 it will just be Propagandhi records. Derrick is the other guy from G7 and he just isn’t interested in putting out music by other bands anymore.

LM: Given the chance, would you open for Rush?

Chris: Fuck Yeah…He loves Rush so much (points to Todd).

LM: How do you pick your supporting acts?

Chris: Well “Bridge and Tunnel” we played with in Brooklyn, and they were just on a list of bands that were interested. The promoter usually picks the other opening band.

LM: According to the internet, your most popular song is “Ska Sucks.” Does that suck?

Chris: It’s kind of funny. I mean it’s a terrible song, but when all is said and done, its funny that that is what most people will remember us by.

Category: Propagandhi