Following the recent announcement of UK and European dates in 2017, Kate caught up with Thomas from seminal punks Strike Anywhere…
The Punk Archive: Hey guys, how’s it going?
Thomas: Good! But it’s pretty crazy to be in America right now, as you’d imagine.
The Punk Archive: How’s 2016 been for you? What’ve your main highlights been?
Thomas: I’d have to say, and not only because it’s relevant to the subject of this interview, that playing these recent shows with my bandmates, the first in years, has been a wonderful and important thing for each of us.
The Punk Archive: You’ve not released an album with new material on since 2009, with 2012 seeing a live album. Why is this, and is there something in the works for us to expect soon?
Thomas: The reasons for this are natural, and normal, really. We stopped being a ‘full time band’ at the end of our touring cycle for Iron Front, at the end of October 2010. My father had taken ill, and I had to leave a tour to take care of him and see him through his surgeries and recovery. This took the better part of a year. We took this time to settle a bit in our lives, some of my bandmates got involved in music production work that took them on the road with other groups. We continued to do little local (Richmond based) weekends and small tours, including a long awaited trip to South American cities, and the occasional European, Canadian or US Festival (Best Friends Day/Gwar B Q in Richmond, Fest in Florida).
Through all this time, life happened, with moving and marrying and children being born and all the human stuff some of my band mates had been putting on hold for years while we toured constantly and lived in a converted DIY RV box truck.
Through this dormant or very part-time period,though, we’ve been continuously writing, sending ideas back and forth, and building a war chest of demos and the seeds of songs. At no point did we ever entertain the idea of breaking up or playing a ‘last show’, this felt more like a change of tactics, in some ways to sustain the art and the work better, as we evolve our lives into middle aged punk rockers.
We are currently writing and refining a collection of songs for a release next year sometime.
The Punk Archive: With the negative happenings in the world this year, we’re trying to keep positive. So what in 2016 has been really positive, what has been important, what’s been cool, what’s been rad, and what’s been hopeful?
Thomas: Man, this is a good direction to take this interview, and a challenging request for the level of loss and chaos going on in the world at present… I’d say the birth of my bandmates’ sons has been a source of unbridled joy and positivity for sure.
Here’s a hopeful thing: a bad ass contingent of friends from the DC and RVA punk scene have been doing incredible work, across the spectrum of activism and art, it’s changing the narrative at a flashpoint between post prison recidivism prevention work and the police. Like, a Richmond based group of activists and artists built a platform to facilitate at-risk urban youth and citizens to directly address the Chief Of Police and present a contract of respect and critique which moved the officials and started a very productive and before undreamed of engagement. This is is a fairly conservative city, mind you, with a uniquely terrible and literally iconic history of racial violence, segregation, deliberately compressed poverty for African American communities, corrupt law enforcement, profiling and police terror. And this work was done during a national climate of racial police killings and terror: exposed like no other time before by citizen access to smartphone recording devices. So, this is just one example of inspired, and evolved confrontation, then connection and healing going on in the face of all this mayhem, corruption and despair.
And, despite all the mediated negativity, real and present dangers of the powerful and mentally ill… There’s been a lot of unity and honest talk and fearless organizing in the days since the election over here, and a sense that large numbers of perhaps more former complacent liberals of the chattering classes won’t get fooled again and won’t be investing in their digital cages of comfort they way we all once did.
Also, the radness: inspired by our recent touring with War On Women, and upcoming shows with Petrol Girls, the inspiring and very necessary increase of prominence and popularity of bands with female, queer and transfolk membership, voices and perspectives leading the charge. To me, this both improves this counterculture on different levels simultaneously and is a testament to the fact that, among other ways to say it: Punk’s Not Dead, but diversifying and putting to test its revolutionary promise and purpose.
The Punk Archive: What is your favourite vegan junk food?
Thomas: I just discovered these microwaveable dumpling-puff pastry things filled with spicy vegan ‘shredded pork’ that are the closest thing to the veggie street food the band ate in Taipei after our one show there in 2005. Mmmmm. Tasty.
The Punk Archive: You’ve not visited Australia for a while. What are your tour plans after this run of dates in 2017?
Thomas: We are kind of just letting our 2017 shows happen and then getting into the studio after that. There may be another small East Coast US and Canada run to play-test and refine the new songs a bit too. If we can make small international tours happen more frequently, I know we’d all love that. But we are grateful to have ANY of these chances to play anywhere really. With families, full time professions, and the general drift into survival mode that most punk bands have had to balance with their musical missions, we have to be honest about economics and expectations. It’s still amazing to us that people take to heart the songs from all the records, new people find us, and that the trends and vicissitudes of consumption haven’t rendered us forgotten, or at least unsustainably archival. As ever, we’d love to get back to Japan, Australia and South America and have more opportunity to play for and meet more people in every country imaginable (yes, we’ve already been to Belarus and it was uniquely rad).
The Punk Archive: Which band (s) are the most inspirational to you and why?
Thomas: That’s a difficult answer to get right, but I’ll throw down a list of shows we’ve seen together and groups I knew have moved and inspired us all, or subgroup within the band (every band has fun and fluid subgroups!). Our recent Fest reunion with Propagandhi was really, really moving and inspiring. Our friendship with them goes back years (my first band Inquisition accompanied them on a tour of Texas and the Deep South in 1995) but seeing them play last month with Sulynn on her hometown stage was naturally poignant and technically putting 99% of other bands to shame. Like a lot of bands who deserve legendary or genre transcending status, their songs’ meanings evolve and deepen with the times, and the personal relationship for each listener. Shit was crucial. Eyes were moist.
Also: Cock Sparrer, New Model Army (for me and Eric especially), Subhumans and Culture Shock (all the Dick Lucas bands for me), Fugazi, most of DC hardcore and post hardcore, Four Walls Falling, Avail, Quicksand and Gorilla Biscuits, obviously!
Global Threat were a treat to watch each night last month on our US tour as well.
The Punk Archive: What is your best tour story? Who are your favourite tour buddies?
Thomas: Another tough one! We’ve had the absolute pleasure and honour of being able to tour with great friends who are also in inspiring and generous bands, and there are LOTS of stories to choose from, both quiet moments and mayhem in equal measure. Just the odd day off with my bandmates and Dead To Me has been known to get creatively crazy and possibly criminal… Naked dancing in the daytime on German hotel rooftops. …Classic times.. I mean, even without another band to conspire with (or keep us in check) we’ve been capable of some pretty wild antics that have incinerated the line between ‘hungry punk band tour meltdown catharsis’ and ‘universal participation performance art’… A condemned abandoned farmhouse full of rotting trash furniture in an equally abandoned remote Italian village become our kindling for a an old school Virginia couch bonfire party many years and tours ago… And it was just the five of us and an esteemed roadie…
On a less savage note, we had a wonderful and inspiring day outing to tour the Sea Shepherds fleet in Melbourne Australia with Anti Flag and it was amazing. We ended up all down in the galley kitchen with the crew, listening to stories and sharing food. Spellbound.