Propagandhi: Reasonable Doubt

In 2009, it's pretty damn easy to be a punk rocker. Go to Hot Topic, buy yourself a studded belt and Casualties t-shirt then pirate a bunch of old Black Flag albums off the internet and you're halfway there. But, as legendary Canadian punks D.O.A. said, "Talk minus action equals zero."? Manitoba, Canada's own Propagandhi is a perfect example of the "action"? aspect of punk rock and have been for the entirety of their 23 year existence. Throughout the band's career, they've launched aural attacks against homophobia, religion, sexism, imperialism, Haile Selassie, ska music as a whole and even NOFX frontman Fat Mike. SLUG recently had the opportunity to correspond with Propagandhi frontman (and former Worst Canadian in History nominee) Chris Hannah about the band's new album, Supporting Caste, and the current sad state of the world.

SLUG: A common misconception among Americans is that Canada is a place free of political injustice, social inequalities or any other kind of strife. Why do you think this is?
Chris Hannah: I suppose that in the past Canada was relatively less jingoistic, slightly less inclined to mindlessly enter imperialist wars, a little more likely to favor universal health care, etc. All these differences, of course, are melting away before our eyes.

SLUG: What do you think are some of the biggest problems facing Canada right now, and why should Americans care about them?
CH: The immolation of the entire planet springs to mind. Americans may want to pay close attention to the high probability of that as they inhabit said planet.

SLUG: A whole shit-ton of people here who have never been excited about politics before are suddenly interested in them because of the election of Barack Obama. What are your thoughts on Obama, and what do you think about the normally apathetic American public's excitement about him?
CH: If people are becoming actively engaged with the world around them, then I guess that's a good thing! If, on the other hand, people are thinking they've just elected a messiah that is going to lead them to the promised land while they fawn over his every move, then nothing has changed. The Obama ticket was way less terrifying than the McCain/ Palin ticket, but Obama serves the same system of corporate and lobby powers that financed his campaign. He is beholden to those interests above all. People must keep that in mind and hold his feet to the fire about all this "change"? rhetoric.

SLUG: When you guys posted the pre-order for your new album, fans were given the chance to instantly download two new songs if they donated as little as one dollar to charity, only to have the album leak all over the internet within a few days. What are your thoughts on the prevalence of music piracy on the internet, and particularly it's relationship to punk rock?
CH: Maybe if bands and labels hadn't tried to turn a quick buck foisting so many shitty, phony baloney records on people for so many years, people wouldn't be so hesitant to shell out a few bucks for a new record. You reap what you sow and the music industry and shitty bands are getting what they deserve. Tough titties.

SLUG: One of the most striking aspects of Propagandhi's songwriting is the clever use of metaphor and narrative to convey big ideas in an entertaining way. I think some of the best examples of this on Supoprting Caste are "Dear Coach's Corner"? (comparing fascism with sports fandom), "Human(e) Meat"? (comparing the consumption of animals with the consumption of humans) and the title track. Could you talk about your approach to songwriting, and how you choose to cover important topics the way that you do?
CH: I wish I knew how it worked. I wish we had a formula. Every song we write is a complete struggle for us. As far as topics for songs go, they just evolve organically from conversations we have in the practice space. That's kinda all there is too it. We are trying to entertain ourselves first and foremost.

SLUG: If there is one message listeners could get out of Supporting Caste, what would you want that to be?
CH: Doubt is good. Doubt of the prevailing orders is a virtue.

If there's one thing that we the people have as a weapon against the powers that be, it's doubt. The skepticism and distrust of authority that punk rock engrains in each of its followers is not something that should be forgotten with age, and punk rock itself is not immune to the criticism that should be directed towards government, religion and other social norms. Though Hannah's word and Propagandhi's work should not be taken as testament, it is an excellent example of the free, independent thought that we should all be employing in looking at the world around us. Not only is Supporting Caste one of the smartest records to come out in recent memory, it'll also rip your fucking face off. If you like your punk mixed with a whole lot of thrash and social consciousness to boot, you'd do well to pick up the new album when it's released on March 10 via Smallman Records and Propagandhi's own G7 Welcoming Committee.