Propagandhi

Nazi Baiting and Hardcore Raging

> > Oct 2012

Propagandhi - Nazi Baiting and Hardcore Raging
By Greg PrattAlthough Winnipeg punks Propagandhi have only released six full-length albums, they've had an incredibly storied and controversial career. Since forming in 1986, they've endured years of skinheads crashing their shows, with the band themselves self-sabotaging concerts with reckless crowd antagonizing and punk preachiness that either turned people away or made them love the band more. Since Propagandhi started, they've championed causes like animal rights and spoke out against sexism, racism, and government wrongdoings. They parted ways with a bassist who went on to form one of Canada's most popular indie bands ("I feel a lot about it," says John K. Samson about his time in Propagandhi, "and I never really bring it up"), publicly called out the owner of their ex-record label (on an album released by that very label), and released a split record with a classic Canadian metal band. That last one makes a lot of sense, really: Propagandhi have embraced metal more and more as the years have gone on, crafting a sound that is part hardcore punk, part thrash, and part classic crossover. With the release of their new album, Failed States, Propagandhi have yet again created a new sound, one that is miles away from their pop-punk roots, just like their live shows are miles away from the skinhead-laden, audience-baiting debate-fests they once were.

1986 to 1988
Propagandhi forms in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba by guitarist/vocalist Chris Hannah and drummer Jord Samolesky. Hannah comes up with the name. "I'd like to say it's Jord's fault, but it was mine," he says. "I was a teenager very much impressed by band names like Ludichrist, and I thought Propagandhi was as genius as that at the time. The entire world now understands that to be untrue." The band's lyrical approach is heavily political from the start, a result of the punk bands that the two had been discovering. "The activist side of punk music drew Chris and I in quite a bit," says Samolesky. "That was something that I thought was really interesting and fresh about music that I'd never been exposed to." For the first two years of the band's existence, it is just Hannah and Samolesky. "It was me and Jord until 1989 because we were outsiders in a true outsider scene back then," says Hannah. "The punk scene was so weird and crazy. You'd go to a show and there were just cartoon characters, true misfits, either toppled over in the stairway or scowling at you. There were no starter caps, no jocks. We were two young kids from fucking rural Manitoba trying to go to shows in the big city wearing hockey jackets and Venom pins and thinking we were fitting in. It took us three years to meet anybody who would even fucking talk to us."

1989
Scott Hopper joins the band on bass. "We were all still in high school," says Hopper, who also plays in a metal band called Crawl with Chris Hannah around this time (Hannah is also moonlighting in a grind/black metal band called Altars of Nocturnal Armageddon with two Crawl members; both bands release demo tapes). "I think we were jamming at my parents' place. I moved into my first apartment shortly after we got together, so we lost our jam space." The band attempts jamming at Jord's apartment on the University of Manitoba campus. "We jammed in the basement of his dorm room once," says Hopper, who currently plays in Ditchpig and co-runs a surf and paddleboard company. "It ended with campus security and nowhere to practice. It was the time of my life, if only I could remember it." The band take their time getting to the stage. "We never actually played live with him," says Hannah about Hopper. "He was trying to figure out our songs and they weren't very hard but he couldn't quite figure them out." They release the We Don't Get Paid, We Don't Get Laid, and Boy Are We Lazy demo.

1990
"Stinky" Mike Braumeister joins the band. He had played in a local skate rock band called Orange Juice but got "pushed out" of that band while he was sick; a friend suggested he try out for Propagandhi. "I didn't really think a whole lot of the band at the time, to be honest," says Braumeister, being interviewed for the first time about his stint in Propagandhi. "It seemed a step down from Orange Juice, and at the time it was. Propagandhi were completely unknown and hadn't even played a show yet, while Orange Juice had a bit of a following. Plus, the songs seemed really overwrought and far too earnest. All I wanted to do was meet girls and play really ripping hardcore punk rock in a band. I didn't give a fuck about Haile Selassie or veganism, or any other 'ism."
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wow!!! I have known Chris since 1987 - this is a fantastic look inside the life of the band.
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i hope Pratt got paid handsomely for this story.
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This article was so fascinating and gripping. Propagandhi are my all time favorite band and have totally radicalized and inspired me with their values. I was surprised by their ruminations on the "Today's Empires" album as I think the sound on that album is so flawlessly raging, even the guitar tone. I would love to hear the original recordings unearthed some day. "Potemkin City Limits" was the first to truly blow my mind, and I really dug into the wordy lyrics and depth of the songwriting and musicianship. There are days when that record is my favorite and they should be infinitely proud of it. They continue to improve and write songs that even get me choked up at times. Failed States does not disappoint in the least, and I take comfort that the band finally seems to be hitting their stride and at peace to an extent.
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Congrats to the guy who did that ! Very interesting. Propagandhi is the most important ''punk rock'' band of the last 20 years.
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I'll probably be reading this article 4 or 5 times. Amazing shit I never knew. Aside from Seth (above me), I'm Propagandhi fan no. 2 in the world, so this is need-to-know stuff. ;)
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Propagandhi is second to none. Truly inspiring throughout their entire career.
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why does hannah say fuck so much?!
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Whoa whoa.... how is Supporting Caste not considered an essential propagandhi record? FUCK
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Agreed, Supporting Caste is fucking pivotal. A phoenix rebirth!!!
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My favorites, in order:
1. Supporting Caste
2. Less Talk...
3. Today's Empires...
4. Failed States
5. Potemkin...
6. How To Clean...

But with just about the width of a republican's pussy hair between them!
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Simply the best band ever.....
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Supporting caste is great, but its not essential. Less talk, Potemkin, Failed states, he nailed it.
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brilliant article. well put together and lusciously interesting. cheers.x
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I'm gonna say right now:
1. Supporting
2. Today's Ashes
3. Potemkin
4. Less talk...
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Lots of great info! Kudos to the writer.
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I cannot wait to fully dedicate to listening to Failed States
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This is the grail of features, as far as Prop goes. Thank you so much for this - it's incredible.
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Great Timeline, the best I read in years!

Can't wait for the Montreal show tomorrow (Friday)!!!
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This ruled. Completely friggin' ruled. Thanks for doing this.

I've been a fan since I was wee and I think they're the one band I've ever heard that's grown musically as my personal tastes have sharpened (re: grown more jaded).

The "Potemkin..." phase was a real bummer to read through. That album is so unfairly underrated...I think it was their first masterstroke of brilliance. The timeline builds some awesome context to that whole time.

Stray observations:
1) Joe Rico fucking rules. Fact.
2) There's always a temptation to paint Fat Mike as a douchebag these days, but I think he comes off pretty well in this, and I think the dissolution of the Fat/Propagandhi relationship makes complete sense.
3) JKS seems like a good dude. Really wounded by all this, and understandably so...everything he said was really eye-opening.
4) BEAVE.
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Hey everyone, Greg Pratt here, I wrote this Timeline and just wanted to say THANKS so much for all the kind words! I totally appreciate it. Really glad people are digging it. Cheers!
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Great read. Thanks
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To be honest, I've always preferred pop-punk (well, some of it) to the kind of stuff Propagandhi's played over the years. But so what? Just wanted to say two things:

1. Whether we're talking Draft Nite at the Royal Albert in the early 1990s or the A-Zone in the early 2000s, there's precious few people I'd rather run into than Chris or Jord.
2. When I was involved in Canada-Palestine Support Network-Winnipeg some years ago, Propagandhi let us table their show and donated a big wad of cash to our group. Really helped us out!

The world is a better place for Propagandhi existing in it - no doubt!
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Huge long-time Prop fan here, and digging the new material as well.
I never quite understood the whole issue with FAT Wreck Chords and unfortunately this article didn't really get the job done either. FAT seemed like the perfect label for them wanting to be indie and do their own thing and also get heard and sell records. The proof is in the pudding given their popularity when FAT handled them. I like Fat Mike and have always understood what he was trying to do, and I never thought of it as that different from Propagandhi, so the whole thing is puzzling to me. Sure, Prop's seriousness and understanding of politics goes way beyond NOFX, but it's still within the same sphere.
And now their on Epitaph? I don't really give a shit, but I still find the whole thing strange. I think Prop just didn't want to go crawling back to FAT after all that happened, but probably should have. I was always a big fan of Smallman though, and it is too bad G7 didn't last longer. The fact that Fat Mike financed G7 for them should have been the guiding light when it came to moving on from there or to US releases. I'd have to say that I agree with Mike here that I don't get how FAT really wronged them. They kind of owe everything to Mike.
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Dude, Potemkin was an amazing album, just like everything they have done since today's empires. Less talk was good too, but everything since then has been the best music(in my opinion) ever made.. So unique for punk or metal, and lyrically unmatched in its poetry, wit, content, or message. It penetrates my bones; makes me feel, makes me grin with pleasure and astonishment. I am greatful that this band exists. Sappy, but reading about their disappointment with certain things bummed me out a bit. I am musician, and no matter how hard I try, or how much heart I put into, nothing I will ever do will compare. Propagandhi has done something that is very rarely acomplished musically, and they do it over and over. They should be proud. Thanks for the article, good stuff. Long live rock'n'roll!
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Hands down Supporting Caste is their best album. It's everything they are with a more upbeat sound. Supporting Caste doesn't sound as heavy handed as Potemkin and more cohesive than Failed States.
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Propagandhi played with NOFX at the Rendezvous, not the albert.
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I think this is my favourite peice of music journalism I've ever read. It answered lots of questions that I always had about them as a fan, really long but i couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed it, thanks a lot Greg!
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Definitely an epic timeline/bio of Propagandhi. Even on page 16, I didn't want it to end. Great bits of info everywhere. I can't believe Chris is so down on TETA. It is an amazing record. My favorite Propagandhi record. Maybe the guitar tones should have been different or better, and mixing should have been better. I'm not an audiophile, but the songs on that records are just epic. There's so much passion, anger and awesomeness. I've been listening to Propagandhi since 1998, and while I liked them then, TETA completely changed my view of them and gave me a new direction of what music can be. Great article!

Here's my favorite Prop records:

1. Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes
2. Failed States
3. How to Clean Everything
4. Potemkin City Limits
5. Supporting Caste
6. Less Talk, More Rock

Other fans may not agree with the order, but the difference between one record to another is less a (pubic) hair's breadth.
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Just a thought, how about a kick starter account for the band to re-record Today's Empires?? I love this album but would really like to see how the songs would stack up against the production style of failed states or supporting caste. What do you guys think??
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ask the other Fat bands about Mike's "support"
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A must read for any Propagandhi fan!
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just a great article. This band rocks. I really feel like of all the bands i got into i high school (only 2005-9) they stayed topical and evolved with me politically.

Great band!
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Been a fan since How to Clean Everything when I played them relentlessly on the UVic campus radio station. Great article, great band. For me the last two albums have really been the turning point musically. I think the tone and message of the band has been consistant, but the hard-driving rhythmic melodies are just to dense, yet crisp. The band is tight and to me what all bands should strive for. They have a purpose and they are better players than 95% of the bands out there. Very underrated. Prickly to be sure, but that just makes them more marketable!
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Just a clarification, by the last two albums, I meant Potemkin and Supporting Caste. I only just heard about Failed States from this article. [runs off in search of album]
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Todd Kowalski joined in late 1996, not 1997 as the article states.
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This was such a great read. Propagandhi was one of the two bands that changed my life musically.

Such a thorough and great insight into the band. The Potemkin era was indeed tough to read. It's such a great album (my favourite one, actually), and so hugely underrated.
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GREAT read!!!

Potemkin City Limits may be my favorite album of the last ten years, so don't come telling me that it is no other than a fantastic effort of a massively talented band. Love the melodies, lyrics, emotions and the energy. Perfect.
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Article Published In Oct 12 Issue