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Propagandhi Interview

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Propagandhi Interview

For over two decades Propagandhi has offered a blunt alternative to the transparent punk that the genre has come to represent. Within the vessel of the Winnipeg-based band’s blistering music are lyrics grounded in a foundation of compassion and humanity that reflect well-considered ideals rather than superficial presumptions. Speaking to Jord Samolesky via email, the band’s co-founder discussed animal liberation, eco-terrorism, and war before the discussion eventually shifted to a subject at the heart of all Canadians everywhere: hockey.

As a preview of the album you guys offered a pair of tracks through a “Donate to Download” program. I haven’t heard of any other bands doing anything like this — where did the inspiration behind the idea come from?

Jord Samolesky: Actually, the folks at Smallman Records came up with the idea initially, and encouraged us to figure out a few organizations that were set up well enough to get in touch with their respective memberships to promote the idea. In addition to this, we’ve invited all three organizations to do info-tables at our shows on our current tour of the U.S. east coast (Sea Shepard Society came out to most of our shows in Australia recently as well, in addition to a variety of animal rights/liberation groups).

When I have time outside of the band, I do some awareness raising activities with some local folks at home called the Winnipeg-Haiti Solidarity Group, which operates under the national banner of the Canada-Haiti Action Network… for info please see: Canada Haiti Action or Haiti Action for a U.S. based account of relations with Haiti.

Through this involvement, I became aware of the work of Paul Farmer and of the people who Partners in Health, and have tremendous respect for what they do in Haiti, and in other countries. Far from being a charitable organization, they link poverty and disease to exploitation and the unjust relationship between the first world and the third world. Excessive greed and wealth here, creates abject poverty elsewhere. This is what needs to fundamentally change, not simply a few of us in affluent nations throwing some pocket change and feeling good (or less guilty) about ourselves.

We also back the efforts of Peta2 and Sea Shepard Society immensely. I remember seeing Captain Paul Watson speak in Winnipeg when I was 19… Jesus crap, that was almost 20 years ago!

I’d like to get some more insight from you on Peta. There has been a lot of discussion as to the contradictions within the company, claims against Peta ranging from gross sensationalism to actually having ties with and connection to extreme activists such as Rob Coranado (who was also connected to Sea Shepherd). I’m wondering if there’s a line that can be drawn between saying that you’re animal friendly and promoting “total animal liberation” at what some might say, comes at the cost of others.

Jord Samolesky: Well, let’s just say that I respect Rob Coronado more than I do some of the cheddar cheese generating goofy celebrities that Peta has on board to raise the profile of animal rights issues (ie: Tommy Lee, etc…).

I want to be clear that if people have a sense that they can simply buy their way into a guilt-free lifestyle by consuming green and animal friendly products (although these alternatives are important and preferable to cruelty laden products), that won’t resolve much. I place the animal rights/liberation in an overall struggle against the global capitalist system, which reduces the globe and everything on it to a bunch of numbers in constant need of manipulation. In terms of extremism, or the attention that so called “eco-terrorism” gets in the post 9/11 legal reality, that needs to be contrasted with the state terror and macro level mega destruction that continues with impunity, and is supported actively by our tax dollars. Factory farming and the U.S. military represent true devastation and terror, however banal and normalized they are represented in mass media culture.

With the exception of “Human(e) Meat (The Flensing of Sandor Katz)” how have these ideals driven the themes behind Supporting Caste?

Jord Samolesky: In my humble half-baked drummer’s opinion, the quest to demystify and expose the established Orwellian-style mythology that the first world rests on (ie: peace via war, civilization via genocide, progress via ruthless exploitation, etc, etc… ad infinite, ad nauseum) is a fundamental theme to the idea of the Supporting Caste. The asses at the top generate history and reality to those lower down the ladder. Where do you fit into this? What are your obligations as an actor unwillingly incorporated to regenerate the “supporting caste” system? What can we do to get out of this nightmare??

Included in the liner notes is a drawing of the band sitting at a table, drinking wine and dining on corpse. I think the S.N.F.U. ”Cannibal Cafe” (which is probably my favorite song of theirs) reference is funny — is that what’s behind the picture?

Jord Samolesky: Think a visual aid to the song “Human(e) Meat”… also, we’re huge SNFU fans. I remember seeing them when I was 15 years old, blew me away. Jesus crappy, that was 23 years ago… what the fuck?!

For those outside of Canada, who is Ron MacLean and what is “Dear Coach’s Corner” about?

Jord Samolesky: Ron MacLean, the sometimes critical hype man for Don Cherry, who is a reactionary fool, many times combining the idea of the “good Canadian” with imperial warfare and taking orders from the US military in Afghanistan. They have a segment on national Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts on public television (CBC), that tends to regularly co-opt the simplicity of a child’s game, ice hockey, into becoming a platform for jingoistic, male chauvinistic, war propaganda.

Think a (classic Canadian) low production value replication of the insanely ignorant pro-war garbage being hyped at every NFL game in the USA.

What do you think of Hockey Night in Canada changing its theme song last year?

Jord Samolesky: The new song reeks, while the person who wrote the HNiC theme, now on TSN, is probably laughing while she bathes in cash.

With the dwindling interest and finances of teams in Phoenix, Nashville, and Florida, do you think Winnipeg should get another crack at having a team in the NHL?

Jord Samolesky: Being raised on hockey, it is in the back of my mind. I always root against the south US teams, good to see the curse of the Jets is plaguing Phoenix and Wayne McGretzky. If it came down to choosing between a hospital and an NHL franchise, think I would have to choose NHL franchise… whoops! I mean HOSPITAL!