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Propagandhi Scores Against War

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Issue: 60 Section: Arts Geography: Prairies Winnipeg Topics: music, hockey, Anti-Capitalism, animal rights

June 3, 2009

Propagandhi Scores Against War

Torture, Terror, and Don Cherry face the music in the band's sixth release

by Erin Empey

Left to right: Jord Samolesky, Todd Kowalski, Chris Hannah, David “Beaver” Guillas Photo: Chris Hannah

Propagandhi, Winnipeg’s “progressive thrash” heroes, have just released a new album. Supporting Caste is twelve and a half songs of political passion and metal-tinged post-punk. Singer Chris Hannah discusses the issues inspiring their sixth full-length album.

Erin Empey: Do you think that Propagandhi has evolved since the release of Potemkin City Limits? What’s new with Supporting Caste?

Chris Hannah: I'd like to think so! At the very least, we added The Beave on second guitar to the line-up, so that's new, and in my opinion has added a lot more depth, dimension and atmosphere to our customary sonic pummelings.

Also, Jord has more gray hair on this record. I’m not sure if that comes through on the recording though.

Since you guys decided to fold your record label last year, how has working with Smallman been compared to G7 Welcoming Committee?

Well, considering we're in a time where the racket of selling recordings to people has been essentially eviscerated, it's been pretty good! We've known them for years, they understand where we're coming from and they live within choking distance. These are important factors.

G7 operated using Participatory Economics (parecon), where business decisions were made democratically and profits were shared equally among members. Based on your experience, do you think it could be applied on a larger scale?

After a decade of experience in a parecon-inspired enterprise that was subject to all the human frailties and palace intrigues that every single gathering of more than two people throughout history has always endured, I still can't come up with any good reason why people shouldn't endeavor to embrace parecon's core values of solidarity, equity, diversity and self-management in their workplaces. It makes sense and it is right.

The track “Human(e) Meat” opens with a howling Sandor Katz about to be cannibalized. Who is Katz and why do you want to eat him?

Sandor Katz is someone who talks and writes about food. He has a book called "the Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved" that is actually worth reading until you hit the absurd and utterly embarrassing chapter where he tries to rationalize torturing, maiming, killing and mutilating sentient animals for his personal enjoyment. It is the type of embarrassing new-age hippy nonsense that sets serious debate about food politics and human ethics back a decade every time it rears its hippy head.

We simply used his logic, step by step, and daydreamed me rationalizing torturing, maiming, killing and mutilating him for my personal enjoyment. Which is of course also absurd, which was the point of the illustration.

Apparently he has no sense of humour (or of his own irony for that matter) and is very upset about it. Poor persecuted meat eaters! Will they never be free from the tyrannical oppression of vegetarians?

In “Dear Coaches Corner” you lament Don Cherry using his platform to promote militarism. Do you think that there are ugly politics in hockey culture beyond Don Cherry's routines?

For sure. Cherry is just the emptiest and hence, the loudest barrel. The culture of professional hockey is essentially a propaganda wing of the western elite and their geo-political objectives. Why else would Jim Balsillie, head cocknose of the company that makes the Blackberry, appear on Hockey Night in Canada thanking Canadian troops in Afghanistan for "defending our lifestyle?" Wait, I thought it was about liberating Afghan women? Whoops!

During the pre-release of Supporting Caste, proceeds from downloads went to Partners in Health, Sea Shepherd Society and Peta2. Why are these groups important to you?

Partners in Health provides a preferential option for the poor in health care. At its root, their mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. When their patients are ill and have no access to care, their team of health professionals, scholars, and activists will do whatever it takes to make them well – just as one would do if a member of one's own family were ill. They stand with their patients, some of the poorest and sickest victims of poverty and violence, in their struggle for equity and social justice.

People for the ethical treatment of animals is probably best known as the most frequently criticized and denounced activist organization on the planet. Some of the criticisms are legitimate, like those that lament campaigns that play on and foster or perpetuate sexist stereotypes in the service of drawing attention to the mundane terrors visited upon animals in human societies. Still, Peta2 (the youth wing of its parent organization) is currently the most effective potential gateway drug to an abolitionist animal liberation perspective that is not merely anti-animal exploitation, but anti-capitalist, anti-sexist and connects human affairs with non-human animal affairs.

Less than one percent of the planet's living creatures live on land, so you'll have to excuse Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society for his bluntness when declaring the Sea Shepherds Society's "single-mindedness" for defending the oceans from human encroachment and exploitation. We humans constitute less than 0.1% of life on earth and act like we are entitled to the rest of it. Humans continue to terrorize and destroy the largest-brained sentient mammals in the history of earth and enlist the services of PR firms to cloak the brutality in vestments of scientific research. The Sea Shepherd intends to stop such stupidity.

Do you ever feel awkward about speaking on behalf of groups you are not a part of, such as Aboriginals, refugees or women? With an influential band, is there a danger of overshadowing the voices of those you are trying to help?

Not if you're a good listener. My obligation as I see it is to take the information that marginalized groups have articulated to me about the realities they face in a fucked up system and relay it to my people in a way that has resonance. And what can I say? My people happen to be largely white guys in NHL starter caps. Hey, we need information too, eh!

When are you playing Vancouver?

I refuse to answer such a politically-loaded question!

Erin Empey is a Vancouver based journalist.

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