Chris No. 2 (Anti-Flag): 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Chris No. 2 (Anti-Flag): 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Anti-Flag is out with their new album, American Fall, on Friday. To celebrate the release of the record, produced by Benji Madden, the band’s Chris No. 2 shared with TIDAL some music that changed his life.

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Green Day, Dookie

I have the suspicion that this or Nirvana’s Nevermind is on countless lists. I’m sorry for being any semblance of ‘cliched,’ but the truth is that I would absolutely not be here if not for this record, this band, their art, their commitment to the ethics of punk rock. I always loved music, but never thought that I could play it or be on a stage. Seeing Green Day live on the Dookie tour resonated with me beyond anything else I had encountered at that time. They looked like me, their music wasn’t perfect; it had real moments, it made music achievable. Playing in a band was attainable for once in my life.

The drumming on Dookie is probably the least attainable part; it’s perfect. But Tré Cool made it look so easy that he’s inspired countless [people]. The guitar parts were some of the first I was able to decipher by ear, and are still an influence on my songwriting today. But more than anything, it was the stories.

A song like ‘Coming Clean’ was everything I was feeling. I was looking for a place to fit in. It wasn’t at school, it wasn’t at work, it certainly wasn’t at my non-existent ‘dinner table with Mom and Dad.’ Before I knew it, we were able to spot each other. Like beacons of hope, kids started coming out of the woodwork, free to be themselves. Even in my small town, there was a punk rock scene; Dookie was the key to the door.

The Beatles, Abbey Road

It took me until 2001 to actually listen to the Beatles. I was aware of them, I knew the hits, I thought it was all bullshit. Sixty million people can be wrong. It felt to me like religion, like an institution, not like real art.

We were in the studio making a record called Mobilize. We were waking up to drive to the studio on September 11, 2001. That plan changed quickly. It took three to five days for us to reconvene, and we immediately went back into the studio and recorded a song called ’911 for Peace.’ It was a reactionary message to the fact that it felt like the only solution being discussed by the powerful, post 9/11, was more violence.

It was that day in the studio that I began reading a book on the history of the Beatles. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. The more I dove into their history and their commentary on the world via their vocation, I was hooked. Subsequently, the first album I really listened to was Abbey Road. The b-side is one of the most important pieces of music ever recorded. It’s flawless.

Dead Kennedys, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

So I’m going a little out of order, but this is the record that followed Dookie in my trajectory into the punk rock scene. After Dookie, I looked for everything called ‘punk rock.’ Of course my focus was on the Bay Area, but for some reason I really wanted to know more about what inspired that scene, less about what was happening at that moment. The Dead Kennedys were absolutely perfect for me, and they came at the right time.

I was politicized at a very young age. I was around seven to nine years old when I first remember the police fucking with my family. My brother in particular, but always with my sister, too. They were older, I’m well aware that they were less than law-abiding, but the cops in our town were so fucking shitty.

My father was gone, my mother, an Italian immigrant who came to America at 13, was working insane amounts to support the three of us (four, including herself). One morning at the bus stop a cop pulled over and motioned to me to come over. I did. He leaned out the window and said, ‘We’re going to take your brother away. Tell him we’re watching him.’

I fucking hated the cops. So what Green Day did for me (unlocking the door to punk rock), the Dead Kennedys gave me a specific place to put that anger. Systemic racism, economic inequality, fascism, the police state, it was all immediately within striking distance, with the chords and words to attack it with every breath that was taken.

Sam Cooke, Live at Harlem Square Club

This is on here for a few reasons. First off, it’s absolutely hands-down the BEST live album of all time. Next, it came to me at a perfect time: when I was on a quest for a way to combine normal human emotion with the expectation that comes from being in a band who uses their platform for social commentary.

It often felt to me like there was no room for myself in the songs that I was writing, that they served a purpose greater than self. To tell stories that related to my personal emotions would cloud the ability for all people to feel connected to the songs. Sam Cooke was political as it gets; he was making a stand with every show he played, his voice almost violent on this record, so much so that they shelved it for something like 20 years. They knew that it was too raw for what people’s expectations were. It was lightyears ahead of its time.

I cannot think of how many times, how often I reference this album in our live show. His crowd interaction, his ability to bring the show down and make what he is saying feel so important, like it should be the only takeaway from the evening. Not what the set list was, not whether or not it was a flawless performance or anything else. Just almost communicating one on one in a crowded room.

The Clash, London Calling

There is no greater influence on the new Anti-Flag record, American Fall, than this record. Honestly, I studied it. I dissected the beats per minute of each song, learned each song on every instrument I physically could, the sequence, the interviews they did surrounding it, where they were in their lives… all of it. The case study brought endless surprises for me. I knew there was a reason that I loved the record. The Clash are my favorite band, but I never knew why. I now do.

The risks. It was the risk after risk that they took writing, making and releasing this record. In the face of expectation, punk rock and their own differences and difficulties. The fact that it even happened is a miracle. For myself, I was looking at writing the tenth Anti-Flag album, 2018 being 25 years of the band and these felt like huge things to me, tent poles, mile-markers, whatever… I was looking for inspiration on what to do and how to do it.

London Calling was it. The transition from the song ‘London Calling’ to ‘Brand New Cadillac’ so crazy. It was them serving themselves, not the aforementioned laundry list of outside influences. A song like ‘I’m Not Down,’ a further example of how to interject oneself into a song that can also apply to the political and social justice aspirations that we carry with us. ‘Lost in the Supermarket,’ absolutely untouchable lyrically, it taught me that it is OK to just say what you’re feeling as long as the melody is there.

That’s what separates a song that feels unoriginal from one that feels inspirational. Saying something that we’ve all felt before, writing down a lyric that isn’t poetic but literal is relatively easy, the process of having that connect is where the difficulty lies. London Calling taught me that it’s all in the delivery. Dark times will often shine a light on those empathetic with the dispossessed; I am hopeful that we followed in the Clash’s footsteps in seizing that moment, or at least in correctly understanding their message of being true to ourselves.

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