The band release the Recovered EP as a digital-only release on the otherwise mainly defunct G7, benefiting Partner in Health, who help the poor with health care options; it features unreleased, remixed material from the recording sessions from their first two albums. They also release a split seven-inch with Sacrifice on Winnipeg's War on Music Records; Propagandhi contribute a Corrosion of Conformity cover tune (Sacrifice do a Rush song). "I've always been a huge Propagandhi fan," says Sacrifice guitarist Joe Rico, "so when the idea of the split came up I was going to do it no matter what. They are more of a punk band, but they have an intensity that you can't get much in punk these days. They are an intense band, period. They are one of the greatest bands in the world." For Hannah, the record is a dream come true. "When we did the seven-inch I was kinda worried about it, because I thought there was nothing that was going to make me more happy than that," he says. Samson releases another EP, Provincial Road 222, and the Weakerthans release Live at the Burton Cummings Theatre.
Touring continues while the band struggle to figure out what label home will fit. While on tour, the skinheads return: in Australia, 16 Nazis try to get into a Propagandhi show in Melbourne. "But it's 16 guys against a room full of 500 people; they're not gonna stand a chance," says Hannah. "Plus, all they want to do is throw a bottle at you." It ends anticlimactically, proving the skinhead turmoil is a thing of the past.
Samson releases Provincial, a solo album that collects his last two solo EPs with additional material. Propagandhi release their sixth album, Failed States. It is their first for Epitaph Records, a fact not lost on Fat Wreck Chord's Fat Mike. "I advanced them $50,000 to start G7," says Fat Mike. "I helped them start their own label and was very supportive of them doing their own label, and they stopped doing their own label. Now they're on Epitaph. I don't really see how Fat Wreck Chords went wrong, or how we wronged them."
The band decide on the label after hearing nothing but good things from people they know who have worked with Epitaph. "Converge were like, 'It's fucking awesome, they leave us alone.' They leave you alone? Awesome," says Hannah.
Failed States finds the band progressing yet again, with tons of frantic, crossover/thrash metal riffing, songs that take a sombre personal approach, and an overall vibe that really can't be pinned down. "Instead of being like, 'Oh yeah, it sounds like Supporting Caste,' it's its own record for sure," says Hannah. "It's not the same as Supporting Caste where you can hang your hat on it, and be like, 'Yeah, this is what it is.' Sonically, it sounds a lot different. It doesn't deliver the goods as predictably, but for everybody in the band it delivers them in a much more satisfying heavy way."
Failed States finds Guillas coming into his own in the band. "The other guys had been playing together for so long and I joined in… maybe I felt a bit more comfortable as an equal member in the band [on this album], and less timid to bring in ideas and less afraid for my ideas to be not used, necessarily."
Kowalski says that the band approached the new album, which they recorded in Winnipeg, with a much more relaxed vibe, which worked wonders for him. "I'm not really that specific or rigid with art or music," he says. "I do that if that's the situation, you know? But I've realized that for me and the way that my mind works, I'm way better if it's just lively and we're going for it. Instead of worrying about doing something so right, I'm just feeling the vibe and going for it, I'll be way better for sure."
Recording it in their own town helps the whole process a great deal. "Being able to do it in Winnipeg for me was a fucking huge bonus," says Samolesky, "after going through nightmare-inducing experiences with sharing a room with Kowalski for three and a half weeks to be able to sleep in my own bed at night and walk 15 minutes to the studio, even though it was fucking freezing like shit out here. It felt good; the guy we recorded with was great. It felt proper at this point."
The new album marks an interesting little footnote in the band's history, as Samson, who hasn't been listening to the band's albums since his departure, admits to being very interested in the songs he's heard so far. "I've listened to both singles off of this record and I'm pretty transfixed by them, actually, I think they're pretty amazing," he says. "And maybe that's just me: it's taken me this long to be able to listen to them again. Maybe this is the record where I start listening again and then I'll go back. But part of me always was afraid that if I listened to their records it would be so much better than what I was doing. It's stupid, it's just one of those things, there was something psychological about it. I've never seen them play either. Which I think I'd like to do someday, but to me that was too weird. But they're a remarkable band."
Things are going well on the live setting for the band; they survived the boom and bust of pop-punk by not buying into big festival tours and over-hyped concerts. "For us, it's kind of good that we didn't ever do any of that stuff," says Hannah. "A lot of those bands, you can tell they feel like their time has passed and they're phoning it in. Psychologically, for us it's like, people are still coming, cool, there's still some young people here, it's not just 45-year-old guys with faded tattoos still wearing clothes that look like they're shopping at a skate shop." So the band get set to hit the road, enjoying their skinhead-free shows. "I'm glad I wasn't a part of that, to be totally honest," chuckles Guillas. But as far as the crowd-baiting and relentless antagonizing of years past goes, Hannah has learned to live with the legacy. "Whatever, we did what we did," he says. "Part of it's entertaining and part of it's just fucking human frailty. Young and stupid. I have a million regrets, but I'm in a pretty content place and if we did anything differently maybe the band wouldn't exist or I wouldn't be in a band with Jord, Todd, and Beave, or I wouldn't be with my son now. It all led to here."
The Essential Propagandhi
Less Talk, More Rock (Fat Wreck, 1996)
Musically, it's melodic pop-punk but it's deceptive: there are vicious hardcore undertones hiding away on this classic. Except on Samson's two songs, which break up the fast-faster tempos of the rest of the album perfectly. This one caps off the band's early pop-punk era by going totally over the top with the lyrics and the liner notes, delivering a huge middle finger to the scene they found themselves in.
Potemkin City Limits (G7 / Fat Wreck, 2005)
An underrated masterwork of emotional frailty, molten metal riffing, and the sound of a band dealing with intense alienation from the scene they'd been unfairly lumped in with. The first three songs alone are game-changers; by the time album closer "Iteration" rips you a new one ― poetically, to boot ― you'll be forgiven for not even understanding what genre of music this is.
Failed States (Epitaph, 2012)
Very, very rarely has a hardcore band sounded this bold and energized on their sixth full-length. Never on their sixth album has a hardcore band taken this many chances and come out victorious on every single one. "Rattan Cane" finds the band dabbling in sludge metal, while "Unscripted Moment" is Hannah's most naked moment as a songwriter yet.
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