By Greg PrattExclaim! cover-boysPropagandhi recently announced that they will be releasing a digital-only EP in March. Old-school fans of the long-running political punkers should be particularly excited about the release, as it contains three unreleased songs from the sessions for the band's first two albums: 1993's How to Clean Everything and 1996's Less Talk, More Rock.
As vocalist/guitarist Chris Hannah explained to Exclaim! in a recent interview, the EP will be a benefit for Partners in Health, who have been working with the people of Haiti for over 20 years. And although releasing a benefit EP in March for people who were struck with such a huge earthquake in mid-January might seem a bit slow to the draw, Hannah says that's not the case at all.
"That may seem a ways away," he explains, "but people should keep in mind that as the world's attention to the earthquake decreases, Haiti will still face the incredible challenge of rebuilding their impoverished, fragmented cities, while very likely having to fend off political and economic interference from the usual suspects: Canada, U.S.A., and France."
Hannah says that because most mainstream media has ignored the political context of Haiti's situation and just focused on the earthquake disaster, it's relevant to put the politics back into the situation and not neglect Haiti's history of being at the short end of the foreign-policy stick for years.
"We consider that a context of critical importance that has been summarily ignored by North American mainstream media," says Hannah, "despite the attention paid to the natural disaster."
As for the as-yet-untitled EP itself, it contains recordings that were collecting dust on two-inch tape reels in a closet in California for years, only to be recently resurrected.
"After I developed a more serious interest in recording a few years ago, and snagged my own two-inch 24-track machine, I started thinking about tracking this stuff down," Hannah explains. "I thought it would be a good way to learn and practise the art of mixing."
Propagandhi got the original engineer, Donnel Cameron, to bake one of the reels in an oven to make it playable again so they could do a digital transfer of the raw tracks. Then they did a bit of touching up, and a whole lot of remixing, to get the songs to where they felt happy with them.
"We filled in whatever guitar and vocal tracks were missing on the tracks and then mixed the whole thing from the ground up, with Jason Livermore from the Blasting Room studio in Colorado commenting on each iteration of my mixes until we were confident we had something worth releasing publicly," says Hannah.
And as for revisiting his band's old material now, it's not as much of a stretch as it may seem. Sure, some of the band's earlier material sounds a bit comical compared to the born-of-black-wind-fire-and-steel tunes they're cranking out these days, but Hannah says this stuff works well with their newer material.
"One of the tracks on here - a Code of Honor cover called 'What Price Will You Pay?' - could be mistaken for something off of Supporting Caste. In spirit, at least," he says. "I'm so glad we recovered this one, especially. But, yeah, there is a track on here from the How to Clean Everything sessions that features John Samson on vocals that I think long-time fans of the band will get a kick out of. I know I do. It was the only fast song he ever sang on. Fat Mike wanted me to sing it because he thought Samson sounded like Kermit the Frog. I refused. So Mike vetoed it from the record [laughs]."
For more information on how Haiti has had to deal with political interference in their efforts to create a democratic society, Hannah suggests checking out Canada Haiti Action's website.
Propagandhi digital EP:
1. "What Price Will You Pay?" (Code of Honor cover, from Less Talk, More Rock sessions) 2. "Leg-Hold Trap" (from How to Clean Everything sessions) 3. "Gamble" (Lowest of the Low cover, from Less Talk, More Rock sessions)