Chris Hannah – Propagandhi

By Tom Aylott

After the announcement of Propagandhi’s long awaited follow up to ‘Supporting Caste’, we thought we’d get vocalist/guitarist Chris Hannah to comment on their new label, and what you can expect from the album.

Firstly – how are you today?

Oh, i’m great. thanks for asking. how about yourself? [Great – thanks; Tom]

‘Failed States’ drops in just over a month – how did the partnership for the new record with Epitaph come about?

well, as was the case for the last record we made, we wanted an independent label who could do as good a job at letting the world know about the record — the record we worked so hard on — as Fat Wreck Chords did in the past for us. Smallman (RIP) did a great job for us on a smaller scale, but also with less structural independence — Smallman had a corporate production and distribution deal in Canada whereas Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords are/ were truly independent entities. i understand that people perceive a disconnect between our band and some of the younger bands with swoopy hair on Epitaph, but that has very little to do with us. really, it came down to consumer reports from bands that we felt we had something in common with: i talked to john from the weakerthans, kurt from converge and ben from heartsounds (i should add that matt from shai hulud was the first person to strongly suggest epitaph as an option) and they all had nothing but positive things to say about their experiences with Epitaph. in my experience, it is unusual for a record label to sustain that much positive feedback from the artists that they work with. i mean, we talked about going a very “downsized” route and/ or crowd-sourcing a completely independent recording and letting the band become essentially a hobby, but i don’t think we were ready to roll the dice and each take on more work at this very convoluted point in the band’s life and our personal lives. it’s very possible, if not probable, that we could have made more money through crowd-sourcing “Failed States”, but getting a bunch of money and being responsible with your music or your art are two very different things. their was quite a “dynamic road” leading to this album…alot of challenges the band was facing. i really don’t think we would have done the songs justice if we didn’t enlist some serious, competent help from an experienced independent record label. the fact of the matter is that, despite how things unravelled with both labels, Fat Wreck Chords and Smallman Records set the bar high for us in terms of treating our music with a modicum of respect and we weren’t ready to just roll the dice on how “Failed States” was going to be treated.

The title track implies it’s a natural progression from ‘Supporting Caste’ but a little bit heavier – is this fair to say of the record in general?

maybe. “heavy” is such a subjective experience. sonically, “supporting cast(e)” is definitely a “brighter”, more “modern”-sounding record than “Failed States”. this time around, we wanted a record that sounded more like we do live in the jam space than an idealized version of the band. if anything, “Failed States” is a little more surprising of a record — at least it was for me — than “Supporting Caste”.

What were the key differences between the recording of ‘Supporting Caste’ and ‘Failed States’?

“Failed States” was the first record we’ve ever made here in Winnipeg, so that was a really different feeling for us. usually we’re sleeping in a studio in some other city, completely immersed in and overwhelmed by the recording experience, watching the clock like it’s a gun to our head. there’s was a little more room to breathe during the sessions for “Failed States”, which meant more time to consider things. it also meant i wouldn’t miss any games for my local hockey team, Caress of Steel!

How nerdy did you get over gear this time around? Were there any “I wish I’d been playing this / using this years ago” moments?

not too nerdy. i mean, i used one of these Fractal Axe-Fx preamps at the last second — through a tube amp and without actually understanding how it works, but otherwise it was fairly low-key. beave just uses an old single channel tube head and kowalski doesn’t even know what he uses (haha) so we’re not exactly on the cutting edge of technology.

Lyrically, are there any particular themes or events that you set out to address on the record, or was it largely a case of calling it as you see it?

there is no planning of lyrical content in any strict sense. of course, both todd and i — the lyric writers — can get wrapped up in exploring specific themes if something really gnaws at us, but even then, i don’t think there’ any real sense of where they are going to go. i think each one really is a bit of a journey for us.

Are you planning a trip back over to Europe to support the album’s release? (feel free to bring Comeback Kid along when/if you do)

would love to! hopefully some time in 2013. would love to travel with our homies in CBK. good fellas. we’re heading out to the eastern states with them soon. gonna be fun scoping out the local vegan spots with jeremy from CBK.

As a band that’s been around long enough to see the internet grow from nothing to become the ubiquitous “problem” in the music industry, where do you see things going in the next five years & what do you think of streaming services like Spotify?

don’t know too much about it to be honest, though theoretically a subscription based model could be interesting. i really like the idea of community/ crowd-sourced art, music and literature. either way, i don’t mind at all that the old model of selling recorded music — and the widespread sense of entitlement among labels and bands that came with it — is on it’s way out.

Do you think social networking has been a benefit or a detriment to humanity in the last few years? You seems to be enjoying twitter…

there’s pros and cons obviously. most hardcore political activists and organizers i know are on some form of digital social networking, so it has some utility despite it’s mass-appeal. i definitely prefer the constraints of twitter to the conceits of facebook.

Are there any bands that you’ve come across recently that are doing good things that people should know about?

there are so many people doing interesting things with music and words i’m almost paralyzed by it all. if we can limit the scope to records sitting literally in front of me at this very moment, i just received a 10″ in the mail the other day from a band called “War On Women” from Baltimore. very rowdy and unapologetic feminist hardcore punk.

Propagandhi release ‘Failed States’ through Epitaph Records in September. If you’d like to preorder the record, head to King’s Road Merch EU or Banquet Records.


Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]