Levi: You guys have been around since 88, you’ve just released your 9th album “American Spring”. What’s been keeping you motivated this long?
Pat: We’re sort of addicted to music, we don’t really have other things that make us happy and as fulfilled as playing music. We don’t really have a choice, it’s just a thing we sort of have to do. If we don’t do it we just get frustrated and angry at our lives and the people around us. After a while the people that we live with who are our friends at home are like “you need to go on tour, you’re an asshole now”.
Levi: You don’t mind the lifestyle of being cramped into a bus with other guys and living off roadside food?
Pat: To be honest with you, the dudes are all my friends. We hate each other some days but we’ve been together so long we don’t know how to live without each other.
Levi: I’m a big collector of vinyl music, can I find your new one on vinyl?
Pat: Yeah, we’ve done a whole lot of vinyl variations, if you love vinyl you’re going to love this record. We’ve got this really great dye cut-out with the art work and different vinyl colours. We really put a lot of effort into the vinyl packaging because we know the people that like vinyl want something more than just a black piece of vinyl.
Levi: Vinyl records are getting pretty crafty these days, I don’t know if you saw Jack White’s latest one with the ‘angel hologram’ on it?
Pat: And I will tell you that Jack Black… I mean Jack White is much cooler than I am and does much more interesting things, but I am proud of our record. But he has turned vinyl into a science at this point.
Levi: Are you a collector? Is there any records in your collection you treasure?
Pat: No actually I hate all things like that. I don’t like records, I don’t like books because when you travel around and you live in other people’s space, having too much stuff and having to move it makes me angry. I’ve gotten away from having a bunch of stuff because when I move it makes me angry and frustrated. Nothing worse than helping a friend move and he’s got 50,000 records in crates.
Levi: Tim Armstrong from Rancid is on your song ‘Brandenburg Gate’ how did this collaboration come about?
Pat: One of the shows we played really early in our career in Pittsburgh when we were really young was with them. Our paths have crossed many times as we’ve gone through these twenty something years of playing music. This song we thought would be really amazing if he’d sing on it, we thought it would be really in his strong area. We reached out to him and he said he really liked the song and would like to do it.
Levi: I think the last time you were here was 2012?
Pat: It’s been a few years since we’ve done an Australian tour but we’re really excited to come back. We’re hoping to come back in your summer which is our winter.
Levi: Just looking on Wikipedia it says you were out of the band from 89 to 93. What were you doing those four years?
Pat: Justin and I were doing other things, playing in other bands, touring the country. I was playing in another band for a while and Justin was playing in San Francisco. We came back and we said let’s just really play and do punk rock and do what we were doing before. We got a bass player and things really came together at that point.
Levi: You guys have always been political, I follow US politics but probably not as much as you. I know there was a lot of hope when Obama came in, I know he’s done a few good things with healthcare and whatnot but do you think he has lived up to expectation?
Pat: Well no, this record deals with the hope that we had of Obama coming into office and the reality of what we’ve got. It’s very frustrating for us because we thought things would be different and we’ve found out that they can’t. It just reaffirms that change never comes from the top-down, it comes from the people-up. Unless people are in the streets letting their opinions be known, things don’t really change.
Levi: When I see Obama on TV he always comes across as genuine and down-to-earth, but I guess the reality is a president doesn’t have as much power as we might think…
Pat: I used to think that I liked him, now I don’t whether he is a good guy or now. I don’t know personally I’ve never the guy. I like to think that he came out of community organizing so he must some connection with organizing the people we know but at the same time he said he was going to close down Guantanamo bay, he’s not done it. He’s doing drone strikes which I think is a terror weapon, I think it’s no better than people blowing themselves up in crowded markets. It’s just a hi-tech version of that terror weapon. Where we are is not a good place.
Levi: I think there’s a lot of negative things happening in the world right now with global warming and wars, but there’s also some positive changes happening with Bitcoin which is doing well and could be a positive thing…
Pat: Tell me why you like Bitcoin? I just had a discussion with the band about Bitcoin…
Levi: What it does is it takes out the middleman, it gets rid of the banks. It’s just peer to peer, person to person without the greed in the middle. I don’t know a whole lot about it but apparently it’s a better system. Some of its still goes over my head though.
Pat: Yeah, it’s an international currency, which right now the international currency is the US dollar and because of the US government has a lot of control over the federal in the US which has a lot of control over the world. There is a space for an international currency, I don’t know whether Bitcoin will be the one but it’s an interesting idea that I think is coming whether we like it or not. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, right now people are hacking Bitcoin all over the place. The idea of using an International currency whether you’re in Australia or you’re in the US or you’re in Canada, you don’t have to use the regional currency. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing yet but it’s definitely interesting.
Levi: Are you optimistic about the future of mankind?
Pat: There’s always hope for people, I won’t be here I’ll be dead. When the authoritarians come in they always get rid of the artists and the activists first. I’m sure I’ll be dead but I’m sure somebody will survive and it will be good for them. As a whole we are a very optimistic group of people, we are very lucky to travel around the world and talk to people that are doing good work in the community. We are able to see the world in a way that we are very lucky to see it. Whether we’re in the Ukraine or we’re in Russia, Hong-Kong, Sydney or Melbourne, there are people there that care more about just themselves and are looking to make things better for everybody and when you interact with these people on a daily basis it definitely gives you hope and makes you realize not everyone is an asshole trying to get what’s good for them.
Levi: What’s the future of the band? I know you love touring, will you be doing it when you’re the same age as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards?
Pat: I’d like to, I’ve seen them play and they’re really shitty and we’re really shitty so maybe there is hope for us . Right now we’re in pretty good shape, nobody has broken a hip or anything so I figure we can play for a few more good years, for sure.