Interview: Chris Stowe (A-F Records, White Wives, Worlds Scariest Police Chases, etc…)

Chances are if you’ve heard of Pittsburgh political punkers Anti-Flag, you’ve heard about their label A-F Records.

For the longest time, I thought A-F Records was just a fading memory as I did not see a lot of releases coming from the  independent label.  In fact, the label pretty much stopped putting out releases about 8 years ago…until recently.

A-F Records have gone through a huge overhaul and have reinvented themselves adding multiple artists to their roster in just the past year alone.

This said reconstruction can be credited to Mr. Chris Stowe who has been working hard the last couple of years to make the independent label even bigger.  He’s the label manager / jack of all trades.

Last year alone, Stowe was the man who added All Dinosaurs, Worship This!, and Worlds Scariest Police Chases (WSPC) to the roster.  This year he will be releasing his own solo album on the label as well as look for more well-deserving bands to add to the A-F  family.

As if busting his ass for the label is not enough, Stowe has a solo project going on, rocks out with White Wives, and is also a permanent substitute of sorts for WSPC.  Needless to say, he is a busy, busy man.

Recently, I was able to catch up with Stowe who was still in heavy celebrations for signing himself to the very label he represents.  Check out what he had to say:

Chris Stowe

BHP: Hey man, thanks for taking some time to chat with me today. What have you been up to recently?

CS: No prob man.   Lately we’ve just been laying the ground work for our 2014 releases we’ve got planned and just trying to be as prepared for that as [soon as] possible.  We’ve made some moves to expand this year and i’m stoked about that.

I am sure many can agree with me that A-F Records has revitalized themselves over the last couple years. Word on the street is that you have been pouring your blood and sweat into the label. How did you happen to fall into this role?

Blood and sweat huh?  To be honest, I’m not really sure how the hell I ended up doing this.  A few years ago, I joined White Wives [and] then got to know Chris and Chris [#2] through being in that band with them.  Then Anti-Flag needed someone to drive/tour manage them for Warped Tour two summers ago and they asked if i could do it.  Since I’ve never experienced anything like that, I jumped at the opportunity.

We talked a lot about label stuff while we were out there and how it would be cool to be able to put out records.  When we got home, the dudes decided they wanted to make that bacon shaped picture disc thing and all of a sudden we had relaunched A-F Records and I was managing it.

Just like that?  Crazy.  To someone who may not know of the indie label A-F Records, can you give them some history?

Yeah sure.  Anti-Flag started A-F Records in 1997 to release Their System Doesn’t Work For You and then they just grew from there.  They put out a ton of classic punk records.  Reagan Squad was amazing, The Unseen, etc.  In the early 2000s, they continued to grow with the boom of the record industry and put out a ton of great bands but eventually fell prey to the great collapse in 2006 and then eventually went dormant around 2008 until we relaunched it last year.

Some of these hand-picked bands on the current roster are top-notch in my book, but also seem to challenge the former A-F  alumni. Would you agree?

Hmmmm, not sure what you mean by “challenge” here? I’m thinking maybe you mean that they’re not necessarily in the same genre of political punk rock as some of the old A-F Records bands?

Yeah, I meant the political punk rock.  Sorry about that.  Can you tell me when you say you hope to move A-F into a less genre specific label that you might try something completely different, say like gangster folk? I kid about that of course but not really.

Gangster folk.  That sounds terrible, so probably not. But I mean, I’m not opposed to anything as long as it’s awesome and the people that made it are awesome.

My end goal with the label is to put out great records that are pieces of sonic and visual art, and that’s it.  I feel like we’ve done that so far with our new bands even though they don’t necessarily live within a specific genre, and that’s how i think it should be anyways.

Ideally in the next few years, I’m hoping to move A-F records into being a less genre specific label and we’ve got a bunch of stuff coming out this year that we hope challenges our core group of hard core fans and also brings some new faces into the family at the same time.

Speaking of new faces… Who would win in a street fight: Worship This! or World’s Scariest Police Chases?

Police Chases obviously, as they will have zero problem fighting dirty. pepper spray, dick punches, purple nurples, etc.

I appreciate the detail in that answer.  

When A-F Records started, social media was barely existent. These days though it is almost impossible to not be emerged in. How are you taking advantage of social media to better the label?

It’s definitely got its good and bad elements, but mostly the key to properly utilizing all of the various social media outlets is to just keep your crowd engaged.  The best response we’ve had I feel has come from the level of personal engagement we have with people that follow our bands and buy our records.

Anti Flag celebrated their 20th year as a band last year. I was 17. How old were you?

I was 8.  That’s over 2/3 of my lifetime that these dudes have been together…it’s really amazing.

You were 8?  Holy shit. I feel old now. Thanks dude. Seriously though, that is beyond amazing. You are living a punk rock dream.

Yeah, 8 years old. There’s a John Waters quote, and I’m paraphrasing, that goes something like, “if you want to do what you love for a living, plan on interning for yourself for at least 20 years”,  and I feel like that definitely applies in music.  Just don’t stop doing it, no matter how hard it gets, and eventually you’ll find that you accidentally made a job for yourself.

Anti-Flag - 20 Years of Hell 7" VinylThat was deep dude.  Well said.  So, whose idea was it for the 20 Years of Hell subscription series?

That idea kind of evolved from a combination of a bunch of different ideas, so no one person was responsible for it i don’t think. We mostly just wanted to kind of create a platform to engage people in a new way, which i think we did with the subscription website. Ultimately, we did the whole thing as a project of love for the real hardcores, ya know?  I can’t tell you how hard it is to die-cut 3000 record sleeves…

How’s the response been so far?

Really great.  I feel like my favorite part is that, since it’s mostly just myself and Josh Massie – Anti-Flag merch guy / most helpful dude ever – communicating with the subscribers, I’ve been able to develop a cool personal relationship with a lot of kids that I wouldn’t have otherwise come in contact with.

A-F  seems to be leading in throwing contests lately. Can you tell me the current contest that is going on?

We just wrapped up the Anti-Flag “Power To The Peaceful” cover contest, which was awesome.  We got so many really good submissions for that, and they’re all up on our YouTube page.

Our next contest is going to be really cool and involve some rad Anti-Flag gear. Stay tuned on that.

Being a musician yourself, how tough is it to pack up all the A-F  orders, mail them out, and then play a White Wives or WSPC show let alone focus on your solo stuff?

I’m not sure how many people know.  It can definitely be a challenge to get everything done sometimes, but it’s also such a blessing to be busy doing shit that you love you know?  I mean, basically my dream was to one day be doing music constantly, and I’ve somehow pulled that off so that’s cool.  And it’s not just my music, it’s my solo stuff, White Wives, WSPC, plus all the A-F bands we’re working on this year.  It’s a dream job dude, for real.

Hell yeah.  So when is your solo stuff supposed to drop?  Anything Wives related you care to mention?

I can’t really speak to Wives stuff, but I’ve got a record coming out on A-F this summer as Chris Stowe.

Chris StoweHow’s it feel to be signed, a rock star, and have your own material coming out on wax?

It’s not that cool dude. “Hey Stowe, you wanna sign this Stowe guy?  Sure Stowe, if you like it I’m all for it.  Well sounds good, Stowe,  you’re signed!” It does feel good.

I believe that.  So I noticed the pre-orders for your solo release have posted to the A-F site already.  Charlie Brown yellow may be the most unique color I have heard of in a while. Is there any reason behind this?

I just love the peanuts man, always have.  Plus I like to come up with cool “inside” names for our vinyl colors like Forest County green.  Forest County is a magical place in PA that I go camping with my buddies every summer and a lot of my record was inspired by that part of the country.

So how were you suckered into WSPC? I will not lie, they are currently one of my favorite bands right now and it has nothing to do with my bromance via instagram with DeLucia.

Well, DeLucia, in real life, became a mailman. and he couldn’t play Fest last year, so I learned all the songs and played in his place – although my head blew up after just 1 song so I didn’t end up playing Fest really… Then I played some more out of town shows with them, Detroit and Asbury Park…then they tried to kick me out, but I got real sad about it so they let me stick around.  Now there’s too many guitar players.

Tell me about A-F Records and Turnstyle Films. I might have heard a little something something…

Yeah we’ll have to keep the kids in suspense on that for a little while longer. I will say that we’ll be working heavily with Turnstyle this year on a ton of projects, which i’m excited for. They are amazing at what they do.

I credit A-F for making Cleveland and Pittsburgh friends again. What city do you think you will swoon over next?

I love Cleveland. A lot. And Pittsburgh. A lot. I’m not sure I can take credit for them becoming friends again, I feel like they always have been. We’ve both got amazing music scenes and live in the same economical climate for the most part, so it only makes sense to me that we should combine forces as much as possible.

What is next for Chris Stowe?

Just A-F Records stuff, solo stuff, maybe a secret band no one has heard yet….all the stuff. ALL.

What about A-F Records?  Seems like the label has built up a ton of momentum as of late and isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Yup, just forging ahead. Going to put out some great stuff this year and see where that takes us. the future is bright.

Head on over to A-F Records site and secure your copy of Stowe’s upcoming release of Hallow.  The album drops in late June.

For more info on everything else A-F related, check out the A-F Records website.

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