Anti-Flag Explain Reasoning Behind Burnt American Flag LPs
Donald Trump has said a lot of crazy shit over the last few [insert literally any possible measure of time here], but one of the scariest was his 3:55 a.m. tweet that “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” This attack on the First Amendment wasn't lost on the long-running political punk act Anti-Flag, who countered his statement in what can only be described as a moment of smash-the-system serendipity.
Anti-Flag recently made a run of 10 LPs containing burnt and ripped remnants of an American flag, with all proceeds from the albums going to charities chosen by the band and Wax Mage Records. In a statement released earlier today, the band explained:
In times of bigotry and injustice, the artist community has always stood on the side of marginalized people. With the election of Donald Trump, bigotry and injustice now stand center stage. When Donald Trump, his inevitable cabinet of political and corporate Washington insiders, and the rest of the alt-right burn the Constitution, we burn the American flag.
We caught up with the band's bassist, Chris #2, and A-F Records label manager Chris Stowe to learn more about what it's like to be a member of Anti-Flag during this unprecedented point in American politics. If you want to bid on the records, you can do that here.
What were the logistics behind producing these burnt flag records?
Chris #2: We have a live record that we're going to be announcing on Thursday, and [we] wanted to make it special. At the same time, [the] ongoing election was happening, and we were equally as unhappy with Hillary Clinton as we were with Donald Trump, and since both of them have serious rhetoric when it comes to freedom of speech in regards to the flag, we thought it would be cool to put a burnt flag into a record. So, we took the idea and, as is usually the case, we said, “Hey, Chris Stowe, how do you do this?” That's where he can actually take over, because he found someone who owned a record pressing machine and would do this. A lot of times with our artwork or the band just in general, when we go to normal pressing plants, sometimes they won't do what we want and we'll have to find other ones. So, to actually get this record done, I think was a victory unto itself before we ever put it up for auction.
Chris Stowe: I went to these two ladies who work at Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland, and they've been working there forever and do a lot of tiny 10-copy runs of beautiful records. They did the last All Dinosaurs record, and I was at their release show, and I said, "Hey, can we burn an American flag and put it on the inside of a record?" And they were like, “Yeah! We can do that." We made 10 of them — they're super weird and hard to make because it's like you're pressing two hockey pucks together.
Chris #2: We had all 10 of them in hand before the election, and we knew going into it that we were going to auction them off for some sort of terrible event, but the election turning the way it did and the fate of the country being the way it was has sort of forced our hands to some places maybe we wouldn't have gone in the first place. Even in the last couple of weeks, it's changed: For the first auction, we did two of them, and they sold for a little over $600 each record, and we were looking specifically at just our town, so Wax Mage chose a homeless shelter as the charity from their side of the pressing, and we chose a LGBTQ center here in Pittsburgh. Then, of course, with what's happening in Standing Rock now, we've added them into the mix for this second batch of records that went up today.
The records actually, like, work, too. Right?
Chris #2: Yes. They're really cool, and not to get hippie bullshit on you, Jonah, but you feel something when you have them. They feel more powerful than just a normal record, because you're seeing burned trails of American flag in there. It's an interesting piece, for sure.
A lot people are saying “punk is going to be great” now that Trump is president, while others think that sentiment is shortsighted. What's it like to be in Anti-Flag right now?
Chris #2: There many stages of grief that go into someone like Donald Trump being elected president, and the first is wading in the cesspool of people saying, "Well, at least punk music is going to be good again." I get that, and a lot of them are correct, because what a person like Donald Trump does is empower our enemies. When our enemies are empowered, they come out of the woodwork and we have focus. It often doesn't feel like we're shouting into the wilderness; we're shouting at someone who we know is the enemy, so there is a bit of truth to that. Now that's all saying that we've been sitting on our hands idle for the last eight years, and that's not what Anti-Flag was doing. We put out a record last year about wealth inequality; Barack Obama being the anti-war president and drone president at the same time; the fact that endless campaign promises went unfulfilled; and that our last president was beholden to Chicago and banks, and that's something we should be challenging.
Someone like Chris Stowe has been around us for a few years now, but he didn't live in the Anti-Flag world [immediately] post-9/11 where there was a lot of fear in our camp because people were violent and anything that was against the flag was anti-American, and they figured they could take a swing at it either figuratively or literally. There was a lot more violence in the scene, and there was a lot more violence surrounding punk rock in general. Because of that, when we saw the quote this morning at practice, I think a lot of our heads went back to that time. It's not just rhetoric to distract us. You see on Facebook where people are saying, "Oh, Donald Trump is just talking about flag-burning to distract you from the next piece of shit he's appointing to his administration.” But this rhetoric is lock-and-step with authoritarianism, and it isn't something we should just pass over to focus on the next thing. We should be focusing on all of these things.