Justin Sane Talks
Arizona, World, Society
Lead Singer And Guitarist For Anti-Flag Recounts The Evolution Of The Band, Provides An Outsider’s View On Arizona And Takes On Those Who Claim He Has Sold Out
Justin Sane, lead singer for Anti-Flag. Photo by Drew Coffman and used under a Creative Commons license.
By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine
March 4, 2013 — For 20 years Justin Sane, and his band Anti-Flag have been tearing up punk rock stages worldwide. The band has spawned it’s own record label and music festival and have never been bashful when sharing their political points of view. Sane was nice enough to sit down with us, on his birthday, Feb. 21 and talk some Arizona politics, personal politics and about his upcoming show at Tempe Beach Park for St. Patrick’s Day.
MTM: How do you feel about playing St. Patrick’s Day with Flogging Molly at Tempe Beach Park?
Justin Sane: Haha, You know it’s funny I thought we were playing with Flogging Molly on St Patrick’s Day in Vegas. It turns out we are playing the night before with Pennywise in Vegas and then we are hooking up with Flogging Molly in Arizona for St. Patrick’s Day. Which is totally cool, Flogging Molly are really old friends, we’ve probably been playing shows together for 10 years and any time we cross paths and get to hang out and play some shows together it is something I look forward to. You know it’s definitely much more like a party of old friends getting together than playing a show. It’s always a special time hanging out with Flogging Molly and getting a chance to rock together.
MTM Any special plans for the St. Patrick’s Day show?
JS: Just the fact that it’s St. Patrick’s day make the show more special. I mean I'm an Irish citizen, actually I'm a U.S. and Irish citizen so if you could imagine my family has a serious tradition of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. St Patrick’s day is something that is taken very seriously by my family. When I was a kid my grandma who lived in Ireland, she used to send us a shamrock from the field behind her house for St. Patrick’s Day. So it was always cool as a kid here in the states you know, I’d go to school with a shamrock pinned onto my sweater, which for a kid it always felt like a really cool thing. I don’t have particular special plans for St. Patrick’s Day other than just to have a good time hanging out with all of our friends and mostly that’s what St. Patrick’s days are about for me. I’m sure I’ll be drinking a lot of Guinness, I'm pretty confident of that.
MTM: When is the last time Anti-Flag played in Arizona?
JS: It’s been along time, I don’t know it’s been awhile.
MTM: What made you feel that now was the time to break the sound strike?
JS: For me more than anything I think that the Sound Strike was symbolic. I never took it as a statement that no band could ever play in Arizona again. I took it as a way to make a statement that there were people — in this case artists, musicians — who wanted to say that they felt that the immigration policies that were being implemented in Arizona were unfair, and you know ultimately I think the point of it was to call attention to the issue and to say that, you know, you can’t attack a minority in the United States and get away with it. That was ultimately the goal of it, it’s a lot easier to especially whenever you have a group of bands for example who have a lot of different places to be at different times, it’s a lot easier to have everyone come together and say, ‘hey we are not going to go to a certain place,’ then to say, ‘hey lets all get together somewhere.’ And I think ultimately logistically that is part of the reason that the strike went the way it went. But I feel like it made an important point at the time that said there are a lot of good people in Arizona we have a lot of fans in Arizona there are a lot of people who think the way we do. I don’t think staying away from Arizona for the rest of our careers is something that we want to do or would be fair to people who have supported us over the years.
MTM: What do you think about the close relationship between certain Arizona legislators and members of the National Socialist Movement?
JS: Wow that’s amazing, that’s terrifying, that’s pretty scary, I thought we fought the national socialists in World War II and you know I thought they were the enemy. So I’d like to keep it that way. I would think though if you are representative of the United States and you’re aligning yourself with the national socialists, it strikes me as incredibly unpatriotic.
MTM: How would you characterize Arizona politics?
JS: Well it’s so right wing, it’s just so extreme as far is it being in step with the rest of the country. The immigration policy is just a great example of that and so yeah it doesn’t feel like there is anywhere else in the country like it. It’s a little concerning.
MTM: What about the immigration law makes it a perfect example?
JS: The show me your papers law that was passed in Arizona, signed into law by the governor and I mean that. There is no other law like that in the country and you know from a constitutional point of view it’s totally outside the realm of the Constitution of the United States. It’s not everyday you have a law passed in a state that is unconstitutional. Arizona is very extreme in regards to the politics compared to the rest of the country.
MTM: Tell me about your involvement with the Occupy Movement?
JS: Oh I never mind talking about the Occupy Movement, I was really inspired by the Occupy Movement just because of the fact that they brought up the issue of class and income inequality at a time when it really needed to be brought to the forefront of American politics. Because, quite frankly it was being ignored by politicians and you know during the presidential campaign I really believe that the issue of class would have been completely ignored if it wasn’t for Occupy Wall Street. You suddenly had Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both trying to clamor for the populist vote and Mitt Romney said he was part of the 99 percent which is laughable, and Barack Obama put a little twist on it and said he is part of the 98 percent of America which is also silly. But it’s the idea that Occupy inserted a discussion that wouldn’t have been there, I think it made a lot of Americans aware of something that maybe they weren’t so aware of which is the fact that such a small percentage of people in our country control so much of the wealth of the country. I think it made a lot of Americans do a double take and really start to rethink about where the country is headed and where the country should be headed, if there is any legacy that comes out of Occupy Wall Street, that’s it.
MTM: What was it like playing at Zuccotti Park?
JS: I played at Zuccotti park I think it was the third week of the Occupy Movement and it was really exciting and really fun. There was a great spirit there, almost this sense of community and almost a breath of relief that there was a place that people could go and other people would understand their frustration and what they’re dealing with in their lives and being a part of that and feeling that community that was a really great feeling.
MTM: When did you make the decision that you wanted to be an activist?
JS: I guess growing up the way I grew up, I grew up in a pretty poor family and you know I think that growing up poor, growing up in a place where people don’t have a lot that had an impact on me. I could see the injustice of poverty; you know I could see that the kind of issues that inequality brought in a community and that certainly inspired me. I think more than anything my parents inspired me because my parents were, my dad’s from Ireland, my mom both of her parents are Irish and you know there's this history in Ireland of oppression and with Ireland being occupied by the English for so long. These were people who understood oppression, the result of that my parents were inspired to be involved in civil rights and to be involved in pretty much any social issue that you could imagine that’s out there. As a result you know it was instilled in me to care about people and to want to make life better. Not just for myself and my family but to really believe that all people should have an equal opportunity in the world, and that’s where my activist base came from.
MTM: Who were your biggest political influences besides your parents?
JS: Well I think when I was younger it was probably certain musicians that I was aware of, people like Bob Marley and Joe Strummer. I think that you know I was young at the time but I felt like those were people who were really inspiring to me, Billy Bragg was always on the forefront of some political issue, those people were really inspiring to me when I was younger. As I grew up and I got older obviously there were people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King when I was younger that were real inspirations to me as a young person. As I got older reading books by Howard Zinn and you know right now I think that the person who has inspired me most is Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. It just seems like Code Pink are always in the middle of something, they’re almost the most effective at being heard and I really enjoy them right now, and they’re really inspiring.
MTM What was it like being linked to Jared Loughner, as one of his possible influences in his actions?
JS: You know really very few people brought that up. It was really just a blip on the radar as far as Anti-Flag was concerned. It didn’t make any sense. I guess if I remember right I mean it was so small I hardly remember it. I think one of his friends had said that he listened to Anti-Flag and they also mentioned The Beatles and Bob Dylan. There was a number of bands mentioned and we were just one of them. You know I just think that Jared Loughner was mentally ill I don’t think you could attribute any of the music he listened to, to what he did.
MTM: What are your feelings about Sheriff Joe Arpaio?
JS: Well you know the Department of Justice filed a formal complaint against him and they basically alleged widespread constitutional violations you know, and lawlessness and mistreatment of Latinos. The Department of Justice is not a radical wing of some activist organization. It’s actually a very conservative straightforward part of our government so I tend to take them at their word on that.
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