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It’s been too long since Canadian punk band Propagandhi have set foot on Australian soil, but as I found out in a recent heart to heart with founding member and drummer Jord Samolesky, they’re headed our way – and couldn’t be happier about it.
“We just got back from a tour of the West Coast of the US, so right now we’re laying low and spending a few weeks practising and rehearsing, getting everything ready to go,” Jord began excitedly. “The Australian leg is the longest we’re going out this year and we’re really happy to have the opportunity to come back. We’re all looking forward to it lots!”
Propagandhi emerged in the mid ’80s out of Portage la Prairie in Canada, after vocalist/guitarist Chris Hannah and Jord posted a flyer in a local record store looking for a bass player. Once the line-up was complete they quickly found their feet, becoming the sought-after support whenever US punk/metal bands came to town.
Despite further line-up changes, while opening a show for SoCal punk pioneers NOFX at the Royal Albert Arms in Winnipeg, Propagandhi made such an impression on frontman Fat Mike that they were soon signed to his independent label Fat Wreck Chords and were jetting off to the US to record their debut album, How to Clean Everything (1993). And as they say, the rest is history.
“We’re so happy to be finally touring on our latest record Failed States [released 2012]. We’ve pretty much only done shows in Western Europe and North America for it, thus far.”
Failed States is Propagandhi’s sixth studio album and, although being hailed by critics and fans alike as a success, Jord describes the whole process as being filled with trial and error, and shrouded by moments of self-doubt.
“In some regards, it [Failed States] was the most challenging record we’ve done. Although, having said that, the finished product is very representative of the band as a whole,” Jord explained. “This is the first record that we ever recorded entirely in Winnipeg, where we’re based now. The atmosphere and feel of the record reminds me of the 7 a.m. walks to the studio in downtown Winnipeg. Walking there in the morning when the sun hadn’t come up yet and it’s forty below out … it was an unforgettable experience grinding out a record in this pretty harsh environment. The upside of it was that we had a lot of time to spend on it.
“The intro on the opening track, Note to Self, is what we used to warm up to at our old practice space, and eventually we built something out of it. We never had aspirations to make it into one of our songs. I love the fact that we left the door open for stuff like that, and then mixed it all up with standard raging tunes and more typical song structures.”
Other tracks worth a mention include ‘Rattan Crane’, ‘Unscripted Moment’ and ‘Duplicate Keys Icaro (An Interim Report)’.
“Writing with Chris, Todd [bass] and Dean [guitar] has always been a pleasure. They’re really cool guys to collaborate with musically and, like I mentioned before, with each passing record we’re becoming more ourselves.”
Known for their unified beliefs and active stance against human rights violations, racism and sexism (among other issues), Propagandhi make music with a message, and Jord considers Australian fans as some of their biggest allies. “We have frequent conversations with our Aussie friends about our similarities culturally. When people ask me what Australia is like I always say that we’ve got more in common with Australians than Americans. Your values and ethics are closely matched to ours. That makes coming back so much more exciting knowing we’ll bump into a lot of our old friends, and we’ll continue to update each other on what’s going on with the challenges our countries face, especially in relation to Aboriginal affairs.”
When they touch down at the end of May, Jord and the guys will kick things off with two shows at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, before taking the stage for one night at the Barwon Club in Geelong, followed by a string of dates around the country. “We plan to play a healthy mix from Failed States and our older albums. We really want to put on a killer show.
“At this point in our lives we’re putting all of our heart and soul into what we’re doing and we’ve come to a point where we’re just enjoying the opportunity and privilege to be able to play music. If there are people who are digging what we’re doing, we appreciate that 100 per cent. We tend to feed off other people’s interest and Australia has always been a really great place for us to do our thing … We’re going to have a blast!”
Before saying our goodbyes, Jord let slip that they plan to begin work on a new album as early as June/July: “We want to start jamming again this summer. We also need to set aside some time for serious writing. I can’t wait!”
When & Where: The Corner, Melbourne – May 29 & 30 and The Barwon Club, Geelong – May 31.
Written by Natalie Rogers