Propagandhi talk to eGigs

interview with the band before their Leeds show on Friday 4 December 2009

eGigs were lucky enough to interview three members of Propagandhi – drummer Jord Samolesky, bassist Todd 'The Rod' Kowalski, and guitarist David 'The Beaver' Guillas - before their Leeds show.

What started you on the intense political awareness and activism route?
Todd: I think I was living in Regina and I got truly sick of people acting like dicks and my dad being racist and I was acting the same as my dad mostly to bug my mum and my brother, then one day my brother beat the living shit out of me and for some reason I thought "I think that guy’s right, I am a dick" and then slowly tried to change. We were watching that show 'Do The Right Thing' and I was being an ass and acting just like the people in the show so I think it was a mix between the message of the show and the beating and also listening to punk records all at the same time…

So it wasn't just somebody older than you giving you a punk rock tape?
Todd: I came across this punk guy and traded him a couple of Kiss records for some Exploited and that's it; I put them on my record player and it blew my mind. I knew things were wrong and I was being a dick and trying to piss people off.
Jord: I think just getting into underground independent music, when I was fifteen, and slowly getting out of the sounds and into the ideas for about three or four years and that leading me into areas of interest outside of music; into political stuff. I went to school and tried to catch speakers that were coming through Winnepeg, environmental stuff, maybe ten years after that getting involved in community activism projects and that kind of stuff.
David: I think music was key, it takes time but listening to bands like Fugazi and Propangandhi too when I was a teenager; it got me thinking of new ways. It took a long time though; I resisted all these ideas for a really long time and stayed a dick. I held on for as long as I could just violating it then woke up one day and thought "fuck it I'm an idiot!"

In terms of your music in particular, which comes first, the music or the politics?
Jord: I don't think it's really a consideration, if it sounds good to us when we’re working on tunes and we're into it for whatever reason, you know, it can kinda go both ways, I think they simultaneously influencing each other.

Is it important, if you have the creative power to write songs that people listen to, that you use it to deliver a strong message?
Jord: I think the power of music is shown in the powers that be in their attempts to co-opt forms of art that come from the grassroots of the underground or something like that. Punk and rock and roll and jazz music and hip hop and everything have just been very effectively converted into a mass marketing tool and really taken over and gutted of substance I think so if you look at it that way from the opposite perspective, yeah I see how music is very, very powerful. Personally for me the music that moves me is something with a state of meaning behind it. It's not like I'm against the other or anything though.
Todd: I think people should just play what is meaningful for them, I think they do in a way, but it just shows how little people put into their day to day thinking in some ways; it's just sad.

If Propagandhi was to end tomorrow what legacy would you hope to leave?
Jord: Good Tunes with good lyrics, that’s about it really. Good shows…
Todd: Good looks!

Do you want the bands influence to continue to influence other bands?
Jord: I don't really think about it too much but if I remember back to the days when I was fifteen to twenty and going to shows and how important that was to me and what a lasting effect it has. If we can contribute to a contemporary element of that then that's good.

You're all highly competent musicians, how did you get into playing your instruments?
Todd: Liking Kiss and that, getting my cousin's guitar and trying to play. I wasn't good enough to listen and play back from tapes, I needed lessons, but they weren't teaching us anything, I'd sit there playing around and suck for years and years and years and then finally it slowly…erm…

Clicked?
Todd: Kind of; a long, long, long slow click!
David: When I was a kid my mum really pushed music on me and my brother, we took piano lessons and stuff, I think that just carried over. When I was a teen and started getting into music more seriously I just wanted to play it so I got a guitar one year for Christmas.
Jord: Similar to Beave; I had a mum who forced me to take five years of piano lessons as a kid and she gave me the choice whether I wanted to continue or play hockey and I chose to quit piano and play hockey. I picked up a trumpet in junior high band and wasn’t too into that. Yeah, Kiss was my first album that I bought.

So Kiss is the key to Propagandhi?!
Jord: I had a buddy a couple of doors down that who had a drum kit in his basement, we'd switch off and one guy would play to one LP; a side of AC/DC, one guy behind the kit and one guy singing, then we'd flip the album and switch spots... I got really into that. A year later I got my parents to lend me some cash for a drum kit.

So you're completely self taught?
Jord: Yeah, there wasn't really much where I grew up for lessons, I'd have to go to the city for lessons. Actually yeah, AC/DC album, really sitting there with headphones or playing at my friend's place.

You're a pretty technical drummer, your beats are quite off beat a lot, is that something you developed yourself or picked up from records?
Jord: Well I listen to a lot of music, I always have music on; when delivering the paper in a small town and I would I listen to music after school to go to bed. For many years I felt that I was wasting my time unless there was music going on in the background. My parents listened to a lot of music, and there's just a lot of different styles around. At that time I was always thinking of how things would play. And then playing with these guys as well, they are always kinda pushing me to try to think outside the box a little bit and try things that I can't really grasp, and that keeps breaking barriers down.

Does that challenge add to the longevity of the band for you?
Jord: I think so definitely, I can't imagine playing in a four four rock band, that would get pretty old pretty fast.
Todd: I agree man, a couple of times with various bands who we've filled in for you're like three songs in and you’re like "I'm not sure man".

In my opinion there has been a noticeable chance in the direction it seems in the bands lyrics, in the last two albums really, it feels there's more an element of frustration; earlier albums had the same amount of anger to them but seemed to have more hope that things might change. Do you feel more disheartened nowadays?
Jord: Just speaking for myself I kinda waver between being hopeful one day and then the next day thinking there's really is no objective reason for much hope the way things are heading. I dunno, some of the communities that I have worked with in the past that have been subject to much worse conditions then I've ever fucking been able to perceive in my life, you know, communities that have been repressed for hundreds of years that are completely unwilling to thrown in the towel and are continuing on... Who am I, a middle class kid from the prairies of Canada, to declare that there is no hope for anybody, when they're continuing their struggles, and are completely energized. That gives me hope more than anything.
Todd: I'm kinda back and forth day to day too, kinda watch the little pendulum go back and forth year after year. You know when you're a kid and you actually think, like, this world could change. Then you get older and older and you see all the fucking ways people twist things until no one can see what's going on. Like they can twist the worst environmental catastrophes in the world, like these oil spills in Alberta, to appear as if they can be environmentally beneficial! Then there's things I wanna do, but in the end it doesn't matter, I'll die and the next people will go on and fight on, like as long as I've tried, that’s all that matters to me.

As well as Ice Hockey, what are your other hobbies?
Todd: Watch Alf!

Why Alf?
Todd: Because it kinda sucks. I like how Alf treats Willy, I think it's funny!
David: Erm, I dunno, music kinda takes up a lot of my time. I like exercising...
Todd: I don't but I've been trying to...

What sort of exercising?
David: I used to like jogging a lot but my knee got fucked so I just play hockey.
Jord: If I get some time off here and there I really enjoy reading.
Todd: Me too.
Jord: I have a growing stack of books that I wanna read and I never have time. I get through a few; I really enjoy reading, especially in a relaxed environment...
Todd: Actually to tell you the truth I've noticed reading is this thing, people know this, but nothing will change your life and your ability to perceive the world and perceive different things more like reading. You could watch the news a million times; you could read newspapers over and over and over but to read books where you genuinely get a better grasp like one idea for so many pages. And also all the way down to like not being able to read at all; I notice in Winnepeg like the kids that end up joining gangs and stuff, that I know, are the kids who are the worst readers or who don’t know how to read or can't grasp it. If you can get the kids reading books they feel better about themselves and they feel like they are knowing and keeping up with the rest of the world in ideas; they bypass gangs generally. I'm not saying always but this is what I've noticed in this small area.

And now for my last question; can you name two books, two albums and two films everyone should see before they die?
Todd: Films, I'd say...

Alf: The Movie?!
Todd: There was one? Yeah, I'd be Willy. "Alfffff!" 'Live and Become' would be a movie, and then a movie called 'In This World', those are my two favourite movies. In a book I'd say 'Evolution', that’s a good book, it's a science fiction book. For records, Corrosion of Conformity's 'Technocracy' and for today, Autopsy; 'Severed Suvival'.
David: Erm, movies, it's 'The Earthlings', 'Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan', I guess?! Books; I was gonna say 'Evolution'... I'm reading a book called 'Earth' right now that I really like a lot by David Brin. Albums, I would say 'No Means No' and 'Rush'.
Jord: Rats! I'm drawing blanks with films. Albums I would have to say MDC – 'Millions of Dead Cops' is an album that really hit me as a kid...
Todd: Me too.
Jord: And er, I dunno, I need to flip through my CD collection. I think I have a top ten of perfect albums...
Todd: Pick one!
Jord: Ermm… One book I'd like to recommend to people over here is, we just saw this speaker in Winnepeg last week by the name of Malalai Joya, she wrote a book called 'Woman Amongst Warlords', she's actually the youngest person ever elected to the National Assembly of Afghanistan and she's been kicked out for calling the situation as she is seeing it over there, and just trying to expose the corruption and the nature of the government over there. It's very unbelievable that we live on the same planet as that kind of reality over there. The UK and Canada are being asked to contribute more troops over there. I think people in the US and Canada and over here generally do not want to see that happen but it's heading in that direction anyway and that's a political point of struggle; to expose the reality of what that war is really about and bring the troops home because nothing but fucking ugliness is arising from that. So that's a book I'd recommend.

Thanks for the interview!
Propagandhi: Thanks!

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article by: Danielle Millea & Andrew Dunn

published: 04/12/2009 14:50