We asked the Canadian frontman of Propagandhi which he'd give up first: music or hockey. Spoiler alert: He's still thinking about it.
Chris Hannah does not look like he’s been in a band for over 25 years. The Propagandhi frontman looks closer to 25-years-old himself. Attribute his youthful appearance to what you will—a vegan lifestyle, Canadian healthcare, or a vigorous hockey routine.
Musically though, Hannah and the Winnipeg-based Propagandhi have matured. What started as a thrashy skate punk band has shifted over the years and is now the heavier, metal powerhouse you see before you. But despite the band’s evolving sound, they have remained steadfast in their ideals. They have been longtime advocates of veganism and animal rights and have vocally rallied against sexism, homophobia, religion, and most importantly, ska.
The band’s first album, How To Clean Everything, just turned 20 years old and was re-issued last week by Fat Wreck Chords. Shell out a few extra bucks and you can get yourself a book of guitar tabs for the album. Perfect for figuring out that breakdown on “Stick the Fucking Flag Up Your Goddamn Ass, You Sonofabitch.”
Hannah, who had his second child last week, took a break from fathering to talk to us.
Noisey: So no Riot Fest for you this year, huh?
Chris Hannah: No, we’re home for the next couple of months, for sure.
You’re not big on festivals in general, are you? You’ve never played Warped Tour or anything like that.
Festivals...there are two major problems with them for our band. First of all, most of them are huge corporate sponsorship kind of deals that we just don’t feel comfortable playing. So it excludes us from most festivals on Earth these days except for a handful in Scandinavia. They’re state-funded so you don’t have to play in front of a giant Jagermeister banner. And the other thing about festivals, when we have played them, it’s just not our thing. We do a lot better in a smaller club with the lights down. Something about playing outside while the sun’s still up, it’s just fucking boring.
Did you see what Touché Amoré said about the Warped Tour recently, that they won’t play the tour due to 95% of it being about misogyny and ignorance?
I did not but I won’t argue with them.
As a Canadian in a band, this may be the hardest question you’ve ever been asked: If you had to give up one forever, music or hockey, which one would you give up?
Oh shit, uh… Well, fuck. Well, I can’t make money off of hockey... But then again, I’ll probably be playing hockey longer than I’ll be playing music... Fuck, I don’t know.
This is like Sophie’s Choice for a Canadian.
Yeah, I refuse to answer that question.
Fair enough. Besides hockey, are you a fan of WWE?
No. I think the last time I watched wrestling was back when Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell, the Killer Bees or whatever they were, back in the ‘70s. I haven’t seen it since then. I’ve seen images of it. I cannot stand it. Are you a fan?
I’m not. But a lot of the punk crowd has taken an interest because of CM Punk. Are you familiar with him?
I’ve heard that name on social media. Is he a wrestler?
He’s a wrestler. A straight-edge dude. He’s into Rancid and a lot of other punk and hardcore bands. He’s friends with the Bouncing Souls and that crowd.
Oh, OK. No, I’m not very familiar with him. I mean, punks seem to like these ironic kind of things, so maybe that’s the attraction?
Another wrestler, Darren Young, recently came out as the WWE’s first openly gay wrestler. How do you think an openly gay player would be received in the NHL?
If you asked me that three years ago, I would have said it would not be well-received but now the NHL been setting the pace with that You Can Play program, that homophobia thing. I think on the surface, in front of the cameras at least, it’d be embraced. I’m not sure how well it’d go down in locker rooms full of ding-dong dummy hockey players.
A lot of sports have been eager to rally around the idea, but in reality, few to no currently active gay players are coming out.
Yeah. I don’t know that they’re there yet. A lot of those guys aren’t the brightest guys in the world either. I don’t know what you’d do if you were a guy in a dressing room and you see all these fucking dumbasses around you, calling each other names, probably homophobic, misogynist names flying around the dressing room and the rink. Not really a safe place to announce that you’re gay. It’ll get there though.
Switching over from hockey to music, you recently reissued How To Clean Everything which just turned 20 years old. First of all, holy shit. Second of all, was it weird looking back on your skate punk phase since you’re clearly in more of a metal place as a band right now?
Yeah but I mean, I’ve never been able to successfully bury that record.
Do you want to?
Half and half. Half of me gets a kick out of the total absurdity of it. But on the other hand, not everybody wants to hear their fucking high school poetry or the first band they were ever in and their very first recording. There are all these people in all these fucking cool hardcore and punk bands that everybody likes now. Nobody ever hears their very first attempt at a band. It’s all like, way in the past, hidden somewhere. But for us, our first record is that and it’s the one everybody fucking bought. And we’ll have to endure that until we die.
Well, even if it feels juvenile to you, it’s still the album that a lot people grew up with so it means a lot to people.
Yeah, I get that. And I mean, I’m not… It happened.
Propagandhi in 1994, if you can believe it.
The last time I saw you, you only played one or two songs off of that album. Did you even want to play those? Is that just to appease the fans?
Well, a bit of both. I think a couple songs fit into our set without being too fucking ridiculous. We brought them up-to-date where we are able to play them now and I don’t sing like a goddamn moron, in my opinion at least. On the other hand, people come out and get all excited if you play a song from then, so it’s kind of fun, especially when it’s 40-year-olds losing their shit.
Yeah, I saw a lot of 40-year-old dudes doing airdrums on your last tour.
Speaking of the last tour, as usual, you were pretty vocal on American politics and American culture. I believe you badmouthed our President and told us to stop driving cars. Ever heard of respecting your hosts?
[laughs] Yeah? I don’t know what the hell we were doing. I can’t believe we were telling people not to drive cars.
Well, you told people to ditch their cars for bikes.
Oh! Yeah, I was probably talking about this particular song I did. But in reality, we are against car culture even though it’s what gets us from a city to another city.
Yeah I figured you guys weren’t touring on Schwinns.
Yeah, I mean, we’ve talked about that. But I don’t know if my body could take more than two hours on a bike.
Do you guys still drive a biodiesel van?
No, we don’t. We had one. There was a company in the States that rented them at one time. I don’t know why that stopped. So we were just driving a conventional van last time.
Propagandhi, all grownsed up.
A lot has been made lately about Epitaph’s recent support of some pretty embarrassing bands. As one of the label’s more respected elder acts, does the association bother you?
It doesn’t bother us, not when I just think about us. We don’t give a shit. We’ve been associated with terrible bands from the very beginning, including ourselves. So that doesn’t bother us. But I think culturally, there are some things that bug me. My 13-year-old niece is a fan of those bands and she can’t believe we’re on a label with them. And I can’t believe we’re on a label with those bands. But I’ve seen clips of those bands and they’re fucking ridiculous. They’re gonna be remembered the same way Poison and Cinderella are remembered today. People don’t look back and say, “Oh, those bands are fucking awesome!” They look back and say, “Those bands are a joke.” Those bands will be facing that painful period in their life later on.
I doubt they’ll have the longevity of Propagandhi. What year are you guys in as a band?
I think this is our 25th year.
How long do you guys think you can go on?
It depends on our drummer’s elbows and knees. He’s a silver fox, aging more than any of us combined.
You guys don’t look your age.
Well thank you!
Something in the Canadian water, I take it.
Well, we feel it though. We have not treated ourselves very well over the years.
You guys have universal healthcare so I can’t feel too bad for you.
[laughs] Yeah, that’s really affected it.
Dan Ozzi has owned How To Clean Everything for half his life yet his apartment is still a total wreck. Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi