EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Todd Kowalski of Propagandhi


LOS ANGELES, February 18, 2014 — Propaghandi is a political punk band from Canada. Their debut record, How To Clean Everything, was released in 1993 on Fat Wreck Chords. The band has released six full-length albums. Their latest, Failed States, was released on Epitaph Records in 2012. Propagandhi bass player Todd Kowalski took some time to speak with Wells On Music regarding the band.

Scroll below video to read the interview.

Kevin J. Wells: What bands initially got you into punk?

Todd Kowalski: I guess, The Accused, MDC, Dayglo [Abortions], Dead Kennedys. I guess those were the first four and the Exploited.

KW: Was bass your first instrument?

TK: No, actually, I [have] played guitar since grade five or six.

KW: Why did you want to play guitar?

TK: I just liked music, I suppose. I wasn’t any good at it for a long, long time, but yeah, I think it was just bands like KISS and stuff I was into.

KW: Were your parents musical at all?

TK: No, not at all [laughs].

KW: How did you come to join the band?

TK: I was in a different band called I Spy and we toured with Propagandhi and I lived with Chris [Hannah] for a long time. When it came time for [John] Samson to not be in the band anymore, they just asked me if I kinda just wanted to fill in, actually. And then we just kept going and going [laughs].

KW: What made you guys leave Fat Wreck Chords after so many years with the label?

TK: Nothing, really. I guess just to see if we could do it ourselves or with someone local, like our friends on Smallman [Records]. I think it was more to see if we could do it from here in Winnepeg. And then, of course, they got better jobs than their record label [laughs] and then there’s no label anymore. It might not have been that smart [laughs]. But nothing, really. We like everyone at Fat. I wouldn’t really say there was a problem. It might seem like there is just from us trying to be funny or whatever and insult Fat Mike and all that, but in reality, I would say [there was] no real problem.

KW: Propagandhi’s sound has grown progressively faster with each album. Is this a conscious shift?

TK: I don’t think so. I think we just plug in and want to hear excitement, you know? Sometimes maybe that translates into kinda more hyper music or whatever.

KW: You have a short Western U.S. run of shows this month. Do you plan on doing more U.S. dates this summer?

TK: Maybe. We’re kinda thinking about that right now. We can either do that or go to western Canada. Those are kind of our choices. We’re just thinking about it.

KW: Do you prefer touring or writing/recording more?

TK: Depends. I enjoyed last time we recorded kind of [laughs]. The other times, not so much actually.

KW: Why not?

TK: It’s just kinda stressful trying to have the songs that you have turn out the way you want. It’s kind of frustrating, you know? Like someone else is in control of the sound. I don’t know. It’s just a strange situation, you know? It’s not like those sounds they were getting were bad, it’s just a strange situation. Touring is pretty good. Making songs I like a lot. It’s kind of mentally draining. I guess we work pretty hard on the lyrics. So I fill up a couple books almost of lyrics. It kind of takes a while. You don’t want your song to just be a song for no reason. Usually, they take me a while too because I’m not all that talented [laughs]. I kind of like it all, I guess, yeah.

KW: When you watch American politics unfold, what are your thoughts as a neighbor?

TK: Well, the Canadian government is smaller and not as powerful, but equally as idiotic or worse, actually. I don’t know about worse, but watching American politics, some of it seems so crazy. Some of the things politicians are saying and doing. I can’t think of an example off the top of my head, but it just seems so outlandish. You have creationists in power, like Michelle Bauchmann and people like that. The things she says are so insane. Just to see people like that rise to that level, I don’t know, it’s just bizarre.

KW: What is the worst thing going on right now globally that not enough people are talking about?

TK: I would say the war in Syria, I think. That, to me, is the most insane thing going on on the planet right now. Yeah, just entire towns are being completely destroyed and everyone in them killed and all that.

KW: You’re a Jiu Jitsu black belt. You, Danzig and Henry Rollins are in a fight in an alley, who makes it out alive?

TK: Me [laughs]. I guarantee that 100 percent, yeah. That’s not to try to sound like some tough guy, that’s the fact of dedicating your time to something, I think. And I think I am way bigger than those guys too probably. I guess I boxed quite a lot too so I have long reach, so their little arms probably can’t stretch that far to hit me [laughs].

KW: Do you have anything else you would like people to know about you or anything you’re working on?

TK: Hmm. I guess we’re kinda making new little songs or whatever and doing our thing, I guess. Nothing to really tell. We wake, jam, do our thing, and that’s about it.

Catch Propagandhi on a short U.S. west coast tour with The Flatliners and War On Women starting in Seattle on February 19, and then down to Portland, Oakland, Pomona, and Los Angeles. They will also be playing in Colorado Springs and Denver on March 7 and 8, respectively. Their latest record, Failed States, is available on Epitaph Records.

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities and also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

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