Looking uncharacteristically calm and relaxed, Chris Barker from Anti-Flag and I retreat into the shade of a parked semi truck to escape the blistering summer heat while we share a few words.
I caught you guys at last year’s Warped Tour. It was a great show. How many Warped Tours have you guys been on?
It’s great you were here early; we played first last year. We’re only doing nine dates this year, and most of them were dates that we missed last year. But we’ve done the tour a few times. I’d say four or five times. Every other year for awhile. It’s a great tour. There is always great people who are energized and want to hear what we have to say. For us, the biggest goal during Warped Tour is to get people to recognize that we’re not skin colors, we’re not religions, we’re not sexual orientations, we’re human beings. Too often I see bands on this tour that just say, “Punch each other in the mouth.” And that’s it, and we kind of like to be the antithesis of that. That’s one of the reasons we put ourselves on this tour.
Do you think you got your message out there through Warped Tour?
Absolutely. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached before or after the show by people who tell me that they’re living their life a different way since they found our band. That’s humbling and honoring.
Did you go to warped tour as a kid?
Yes, very much so.
At all the Warped Tours you’ve been to, and performed at, what is your favorite band that you’ve seen perform?
In 2000, Green Day and Weezer were on. That was right after Green Day’s Warning and the hiatus phase after Weezer’s Pinkerton, before the Green Album. It was just really cool to see some of my childhood favorites be on the same stage I was.
What’s also cool is that Warped Tour has all of these bands you’ve never heard of, especially this year, but a lot of these bands blow up and it’s cool to see them while they’re still small. But, I know you guys are really into activism. What causes are you engaged in right now?
More than anything, just talking about the fact that there is an economic coup happening in America that needs a light shown on it. That bail out after bail out continues to happen.
Where is this money coming from?
Yeah, it’s obviously debt we’re all going to inherit. The ideas are being brought out, the idea of universal healthcare and universal education and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; they’re at the forefront of people’s minds right now. More than anything, we’re just touching on the fact that as a band traveling the globe, these are issues that everyone is talking about around the world and to just sit back and say, “Okay we’ve had eight years of Bush, and now Obama’s won and everything is good.” We’re going to find that a lot of things slip through the cracks. Our due diligence is now on all of our shoulders and we need to continue to push and fight until everyone has the ability to go see a doctor when they’re sick, until everyone has the right to an education. These aren’t new ideas; this has been happening for three decades to the north of us in Canada. Let’s get with the program and stop allowing these corporations we’re bailing out with our tax dollars to control our lives. That’s essentially what is happening. The lobbyists have far greater control than any of us casting a vote.
And these are causes your band supports?
Well, I would say that these are ideas we are discussing and trying to get people to see what we’ve seen. As far as causes, there are some great activists out here who are picking specific issues and going after them. In a 30 minute rock n roll show, you might not have time to go into all of these specific issues. Look, if we don’t start here, in Pomona, being well to each other how the fuck are we going to get anywhere? That is what a Warped Tour show is about for me. It’s time to stop seeing each other as different and if you come to the show in a car with four people, you can’t leave with only four friends. That’s not creating any type of scene or community in your city. I think you should know at least a thousand more people.
Funny story, when I arrived here and was waiting to get my ticket at will call, I approached these kids sitting on the ground trying to strike up a conversation. I was asking them, “Who are you here to see” and “How many Warped Tours have you been to?” and they treated me as if I was a freak because I was a stranger talking to them.
It’s ingrained in our minds that it’s become socially acceptable to just cross your arms at everybody else.
Where do you think that stems from?
I think it stems from overall society telling us that if we don’t have this pair of jeans, we’re not the right person.
And just badgering that idea into our minds?
For sure. People have just been broken. It’s okay. I’m not immune. We’re not perfect. I wake up and look in a mirror and am like, “Oh, shit, I’m all fucked up.” you know? I have the same self consciousness that everyone else gets. I think we have to find our way to deal with it or we’re not going to get anywhere.
Yeah. That’s another great thing about Warped Tour is that not only do you have all of these corporate sponsors trying to sell their stuff, but so many causes and organizations trying to spread their message.
I think you’ve got to use those people’s money to fund your ideas. I’ll spend Willy Wonka money to get an Anti-Flag show on any day of the week, I don’t give a fuck.
What do you think about the gulf oil spill?
I think that it’s remarkable how zero accountability has been thrown out to anyone. The only person who lost their job has been Tony Hayward and he got $17 million dollars when he left BP. It’s another example of how corporate dollars and American government is not working. How the hell did Obama not get on TV on day one and say, “There is an oil spill spilling 60,000 gallons of oil into the ocean a day, BP is not allowed to sell any gas in America until this has stopped.” I have a feeling that that well would have gotten fixed a lot faster if every BP station had closed down the first day. I hear Obama speak so many times and I get pumped. The guy gets me, but I don’t know how many times the lust of JFK policy has been thrown in front of him and he’s gone Bush policy. He could have stepped up so many times on healthcare and backed down. It’s just frustrating to be almost two years in now and we’re not any better than we were. And it’s only going to further empower those crazies in the tea party and shit like that. It’s a precarious situation in the gulf.
Precarious is a good word for it.
If I had my way, there would be no more British Petroleum in America.
These people are making a lot of money.
You have to understand that these people have so much money. An unfathomable amount of dollars. And their $20 billion set up for the gulf is a drop in the bucket for a $700 billion a year company. This is a company that is not only raping our environment, they’ve been raping you every time you go to their gas station. I’m not immune to it. I’m not a rock and roll tour in a bus that uses a lot of diesel.
You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
That’s the hypocrisy of it. But at the same time, I feel like that’s the job of the president to introduce the idea of, “Here is another fucking example of why we need to change our ways.” And instead of giving credit to a city like Pittsburgh, where I live, to put in a rail system to help cut down on carbon emissions, he’s doing the opposite. Where, if you buy a new car that uses less gas, you’re getting a tax break. It’s really backwards.
It’s a cataclysmic shame, really. Chris, how do you feel about where the war on drugs is going right now?
I think it’s bullshit. They’re selling far more, greater poisons to us than any pusher man is pushing. I’m not a believer in the War on Drugs. I believe it’s another example of the government trying to control imports and exports.
Do you think it’s another scam for the inside people to make money?
Absolutely! It’s border law and border war. It’s a way to exploit other people without having them pay for anything. The war in Afghanistan, look at the amount of drugs coming out of Afghanistan with the occupation. You can see that they’re turning a blind eye to it. Just south of us at this border, they had the minute men come in with their guns and stop people from coming in and out and when that worked, the government stepped in and said, “You’ve got to get out of here.” Because they need those goods crossing the border because they’re good for the economy! I just think that these ideas are guised in the fact of keeping America this sacred place when in reality, they’re about keeping the status quo the status quo.
I agree. Thank you for the very enlightening conversation and good luck with your show today.
Photos by Pamela Lin