Mark Noah has been singing with the Anti-Heros for 10 years, since back when he kept a low profile as “The Unabomber.” Guitarist Mark Magee and bassist Mike Jones have been a little less shy while defining the band’s unrelenting style. The occasional nightclub riot has helped sift through the usual succession of drummers.
Throughout, these three great men have written uncommonly intelligent punk songs that don’t succumb to 90s pop cutesiness. This work has garnered the Anti-Heros a small, fanatical following outside their home base of Atlanta, Georgia.
The Anti-Heros have also been officially sanctioned as favorites of today’s hip young neo-Nazis. At least that’s what the makers of American History X indicate, and they’re surely in touch with today’s blue-collar soul rebels.
You see, the Anti-Heros’ logo is sported as a tattoo by, ironically, the film’s most moronic white supremacist. Seth, played by Ethan Suplee, wears the band’s name prominently tattooed on his corpulent person. Never mind that the Anti-Heros aren’t racist; their songs attack the elite and refuse to go along with the failure of feel-good social policies, and the people at New Line Cinema file that kind of thinking under “Extreme Right-Wing Hysteria.” The Anti-Heros have responded by filing a $25 million lawsuit.
It’s a nice potential windfall for a band struggling to make an honest statement. After a troubled association with the Taang! label, the Anti-Heros now concentrate on recording through their own GMM Records. The company has an impressive roster of other punk acts, which is well represented on the new Skins ‘n’ Pins compilation. (“This song goes out to the fat Nazi piece of shit who’s got our tattoo without our permission in the movie American History X,” Noah announces before the live version of the band’s anthem, “I’m an Anti-Hero.”) The Anti-Heros have timed their next release, Underneath the Underground, for July 4th. They remain the snappiest songwriters in the punk scene, and the subject matter is defiant as ever. There’s even commentary on the New Line case in “N.L.C.” (“Say we’re the white trash of the lowest class/Our Jewish lawyer will take a bite out of your ass”).
The Anti-Heros are like Nixon. We need them more than ever. Mark Noah spoke with me on the phone a few days after the band’s recent show at Coney Island High.
That was a great show. It was the first time I’d ever been to that club and seen people who work for a living.
Yeah, that’s pretty much our audience. A lot of people would condescend to them, but we like playing to working stiffs and punks. It’s a diverse crowd. We’re a blue-collar punk band.
So how does it feel to play for the occasional punks who are ready to hit the street and beg for change?
We don’t play to people like that. People like that don’t care about us. A lot of punk bands have a work ethic. There are the scroungy dirtbags standing on the street corner with some smack, but that’s not the punks we draw.
They all blur together to me. You have to agree that most punks are at odds with your even having politics. At least until they start paying taxes.
Politics—that is, the generic appreciation of politics—is for simpletons. But you’re right about what people want to hear. We don’t have that stereotypical nihilistic viewpoint. Our viewpoint is about identifying problems. It’s a viewpoint of objectivity. You can’t apply everything in life to a simple standard, just by toeing the line.
I’ve noticed that you guys aren’t really good Republicans.
Some people make that assumption. But, like most assumptions, it’s bullshit. People assume a lot worse about us. When we first started out, everyone in the band was bald. We’ve had anti-racist skinheads in the band, but some people only see a skinhead. There were bands like the Blitz and the Business who all celebrated the skinhead as a blue-collar rebel kind of thing, before it was co-opted by the right-wingers. A lot of people just get freaked out by the skinhead idea.
And now you’re officially Nazis, thanks to American History X. I have to wonder why there hasn’t been any press about a small punk act taking on a rich movie studio.
We haven’t really tried to publicize it. We’ve been too busy trying to come to some sort of legal arrangement. It’s bad enough that we had to rehabilitate our image, and then they shit all over it. I’m not looking to make a big spastic statement out of it.
No, there’s just the short spastic statement of “N.L.C.”
Yeah, “N.L.C.”—that’s short for New Line Cinema. Here’s what happened. New Line asked our record label at the time, Taang!, if they could use our logo, our poster and music for American History X. When Taang! asked us, we said absolutely not. So the movie comes out, and there’s an Anti-Heros tattoo left on the biggest Nazi in the movie. But I don’t want this to be a big publicity thing. We just want to get through the lawsuit. Our lawyer told us not to rehabilitate our image, but I don’t want to be making any slanderous comments, either.
How did you guys find out about being in the film?
Phone calls started pouring in to the office asking, you know, why our logo was on the biggest fucking Nazi in the movie. We’re a grassroots kind of band. The people who listen to us know how to find us. We received a lot of mail from kids, saying, “What the fuck, we got thrown out of school for wearing an Anti-Heros t-shirt because we’re supposed to be in some Nazi gang.” There were letters from folks who had bought our music, saying, “If you’re Nazis, we’re going to shoot
you the next time you come through town.”
You would be the first Nazi to ever sign a black act to your indie record label.
Yeah, the Templars are this really great band out of New York. And, you know, we’ve got a big black following. We just played to tons of black kids in Boston and New Hampshire.
The biggest problem with American History X was that the lead Nazi kept making perfect sense. Get past the racial and ethnic slurs, and I couldn’t disagree with most of what he said. Then the guy becomes a good liberal in jail, and he can’t put together a single coherent sentence.
Well…it was an okay movie. But it wasn’t a real fucking piece of genius.
So are other bands afraid to be associated with the Anti-Heros since you’re now evil race-baiting bastards?
No, most other bands are pretty knowledgeable about the issue at hand. We wrote “Hurricane Bubba” about Bill Clinton because he’s a worthless piece of shit, but that doesn’t mean we’re like Jerry Falwell.
You have to at least feel vindicated—the Anti-Heros named your enemies very early in the band’s career. “Fuck Hollywood” is still one of your best songs.
The entertainment industry seeks to crucify people who don’t uphold their own left-wing view. We say it’s all right not to have left-wing views. We didn’t write those songs to make the idiots at the mall happy. Hollywood pushes their viewpoints and seeks to vilify anyone who doesn’t follow them. It’s ironic that the folks we talk about in “Fuck Hollywood” see themselves as some kind of positive element in society. They’re part of the intellectual shutdown.
On the topic of entertainment—why can’t more hardcore punk bands write songs as smart as the Anti-Heros do? You’re just about the only band around nowadays who understands how to bash out a melody.
I don’t have any positive things to say about ourselves. But the major label acts are defined by what’s acceptable. They’re not geared to making art. It’s the homogenization of society.
See, that sounds like what I would hear from some fuming hippie who doesn’t even know he’s an homogenized cliche.
Yeah, you might hear that from some idiot like Barbra Streisand or Alanis Morissette. There’s the irony. It comes from them not realizing that they’re idiots.
It took me several months to track down my first record by Skrewdriver, who are well-hated everywhere for being white supremacists. But I never have a hard time finding any act who’s notorious for being anti-Christian, or anti-family. Would things be easier for you if you were more conventionally controversial?
Of course. This sort of music is shunned by the people on the big corporate side of music. We’ve got a whole lot more to say than bands like Motörhead and Korn. But when you’re truly outside society, then you’re censored. We can’t have access to mainstream distribution. That’s the way it goes. We’re doing okay. We’re selling out shows in Europe and along the East Coast.
You don’t make a martyr out of yourself for having to keep a day job. But I was puzzled to hear how active you are within your union. That really seems contrary to how your band stands up for the individual.
It isn’t contrary. Being an objective person, I look at life as a physics equation. When there’s too much weight pushing on something, it breaks.
But you seem like the kind of person who would want more control over how you live and how your money is spent. Do you know where your union dues are going?
My union represents us well. For us, a union is something that provides protection. We used to be Teamsters, and that’s a very corrupt union. We voted them out. Now we do know where our money is going. Some organized labor is corrupt, and worthy of your disrespect. There’s a lot to be said about the big cliche that unions can be equated with the mob. But in the case of smaller unions, they’re a good thing that’s needed by all the individuals who belong to it. The other cliche is that the only companies that have unions are the ones that deserve them.
I have an inherent distrust of unions, because so many prominent ones allow millions of their dollars to be used to support Democrats.
One thing that most people can’t understand is how the members of organized labor in America actually lean to the right, even though the right forsakes their interests, also. The American political system is so awash in money that it’s more of a plutocracy than a democracy. Whether it’s the Teamsters or the Christian Coalition, they’re vying for access to power through cash. There’s the average working guy that gets forgotten.
I don’t mind a plutocracy. I just don’t want a plutocracy ruled by guilt-ridden douchebags like Ted Kennedy. Or good liberal rock stars who never think to talk about unions.
It’s this hypocrisy from the 60s. All the people that rolled down Chicago in ’68, or sold pot, or did political demonstrations, like Bill Clinton—they’re all in power and not willing to face that liberalism is a failure. Why did we tolerate all this bullshit, and watch crime go through the roof, and let our kids get incapable of being interested in anything but drugs and stupid music?
Rock stars can’t afford for kids not to be into drugs and stupid music.
That’s all I’m trying to say. Liberals are supposed to stand up for these issues, and they don’t care. They don’t do shit. They live like Marie Antoinette.