I don’t recall how I found Unscripted Moments: A Podcast About Propagandhi, which explores a song by the Winnipeg-based punk band in each episode. But, when I did, they were already about sixty-five episodes in. And while I haven’t yet listened to all the episodes, I got through enough to know I wanted to talk to the hosts, Keith Gough and Greg Soden.
Greg and Keith aren’t just two fans of one of my favorite bands, however. They’re both teachers who bring a fun, educational, and personal side as they analyze a different song by the Canadian punk legends in each episode. Despite being two white guys, they’re consistently checking their privilege and showing empathy to causes and people all too often subjected to prejudice and injustice.
Their passion for researching different social and political issues raised in Propagandhi songs is supplemented by interviews with a wide array of guests. These include John Darnielle (Mountain Goats), Todd Congelliere (Recess Records, Toys That Kill), Mikey Erg, all the members of Propagandhi, and a wide array of academics. The guests do a wonderful job of providing context and personal views on specific tracks. Keith and Greg are more than capable interviewers, too.
Having binged the podcast, I thought it would be interesting to interview the two creators. I was curious to learn how each episode (which often stretches past the two-hour mark) comes together, the tangible effect Propagandhi has had on their lives, the personal stuff they share, and much more.
Kurt: I find it often that the first question in interviews related to punk is “How’d you get into punk?” Having listened to both of you on the podcast I’ve gotten that information already. But I’m more interested in—given the obviously left-leaning politics forboth of you—who or what got you seeing things in a way that would more side with where Propagandhi is coming from, politically? Was there a book or person? Or was it actually Propagandhi who got you into more left-leaning political areas?
Keith: I think I had been exposed to a number of things before Propagandhi, but I didn’t understand it. Everyone had Rage Against The Machine’s Evil Empire. But looking at the photographs of the books inside, the lyrics, the references—it didn’t mean anything to me. Maybe there was exposure first with them but then getting a compilation CD from my older brother that had Bad Religion and more bands that were definitely political was another thing. But, at the same time, that didn’t really seep in. I didn’t see them as political bands. I saw them as punk bands. I probably really started making personal connections when bands like Propagandhi were explicit. You couldn’t miss it. If there was a book referenced, there was a follow-up or a blurb or the CD-ROM content (on Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes). There was everything else and they made it easier to dive into.
I was totally missing the point when listening to Propagandhi. -Keith
When I found them, I didn’t know a lot of what I thought of the world. I was in college at the time. Even being exposed to things that they were challenging me with I would still make jokes about vegetarians and think, “Oh, more meat for us!” I was totally missing the point when listening to this band. I thought it was so good but still stuck in that holding pattern of everything else I had thought before. There are probably some other bands as well, but as far as who’s going to make me do the work and who’s going to make me go a little further, I don’t know if there’s anyone else more than Propagandhi.
Kurt: Cool. What about you, Greg?
Greg: My awareness of stuff like that didn’t come until college. I floated through high school. I didn’t have much of an intellectual orientation when I was in high school except for maybe I liked bands, lyrics, and music but I was far more into the emotional struggles of individual people and the banality of society and depression in music. I was really into bands like American Nightmare. I was also into stuff like being together with your friends so I was really into Bane for a long time.
Discovering A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn was super important for so many people in this scene. -Greg
Where Pennywise talks about the degradation of cities on Unknown Road I was seeing this idea of a crumbling of society that was happening but all the while I was ensconced in this suburb outside St. Louis. I was going to a brand new high school that cost tens of millions of dollars. So I was hearing these things in the music I was listening to, but I was really about fast music for short attention spans and being with my friends. But I would obsessively read the liner notes in high school and discovering something like A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn was super important for so many people in this scene. His work was highlighted by so many bands of that era. I can’t remember if it was Anti-Flag or Propagandhi but there was a whole bunch of bands that touted history from other perspectives and storytelling from marginalized populations that you don’t get in mainstream American high schools in 1998.
I started trying to read those things in my freshman year of college at the University of Missouri. A moment that lingers with me is when I realized history, society, sociology, and politics could be exciting was when I had a college professor who was talking about Andrew Jackson in a lecture and all of a sudden he started saying, “And it was bullshit!” And he starts screaming about how much he hates Andrew Jackson.
Greg: I was like, “Holy smokes! This is the kind of stuff teachers don’t do in high school.” I have these vivid memories of a teacher with an actual opinion about something stating that very forcefully in front of a room of four hundred freshmen. That was a turning point for me. I was like, “The world is interesting. I am sheltered. I want to learn more.” So I got things like A People’s History and I was also in a bunch of world religions courses so I started studying Buddhist philosophy and Hindu philosophy. The world just started to open up for me.
When I was getting ready to graduate from college, all my classmates were applying for jobs on the I-70 corridor, which is between Kansas City and St. Louis. I went to an international teaching job fair and I got a job in Mexico. I was a slow learner, really. Those things didn’t click for me for a long time but I got really into the whole idea of, “Maybe I’ll be drafted into a war to fight for something I don’t believe in.” That drug me in as well. I don’t really have a memory of trying to learn and trying to broaden my intellectual horizons until college. Before that it was just teenage intellectual dead space.
Kurt: That sounds about right.
Keith: Zinn—same thing. That should’ve been an obvious one for me. I read it my freshman year of college and that was like “What?!” Definitely a wake up.
Greg: That first chapter on the Arawaks—I still remember reading that like it was yesterday. I was like, “Wow, this is unbelievable.” It really captured my attention. I got a Noam Chomsky book, Hegemony or Survival, from the University of Missouri bookstore. I have no idea what any of that said, but I did read a lot of it. The vocabulary was sinking in and I was broadening my vocabulary from reading stuff like that. But I wasn’t yet understanding the coherent argument throughout. There were incremental baby steps for a long time.
Keith: You can write definitions to Bad Religion lyrics but not be able to explain them in your own words. When I was in college it was like, “Well, I guess watching The Daily Show is being politically informed.” [laughs] It was pretty limited. Through a combination of different experiences, teaching, news, challenges, and the struggles we see in the U.S. evolving, it makes me realize you can’t be uninformed, indifferent, or not pay attention. There were definitely first moments but just getting older and picking up on more and realizing, “Wait a second. There’s a lot I don’t like that’s going on in the world.” But for me it was definitely more gradual than any sort of big, pivotal shifts.
Kurt: It was a little bit over time it seems like for you. So, you’re both teachers. I was trying to think, “Are there people from another profession who could better run this podcast?” And I realized, no. Having teachers do this podcast is the perfect occupation. I’ve learned a lot from it. I see that as one of the strengths of Propagandhi: they give so much potential teaching material. So how do you two see using this podcast as a platform to educate?
Greg: I was thinking about this the other day. Somebody on Twitter said I have an unhealthy obsession with the band.
Doing something like this gives me the opportunity to learn forever. -Greg
Greg: I was reflecting: “Is that true?” I don’t see it that way. I see that doing something like this gives me the opportunity to learn forever. I have another podcast (The Classical Ideas Podcast) and between that podcast and this podcast I am constantly reading something, finding out a new view of the world, a new historical anecdote, a new article, a new viewpoint, a new story from a single person who is highlighted within a song or something like that. I sang “Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes” for twenty years before I Googled Anna Mae (Aquash) and Fred Hampton. I had heard of these people in history but I actually really dug into stuff like that. So, with this show, I don’t know if I see it as trying to educate other people because we get stuff wrong. And we’re just a couple of people learning ourselves. I’m learning something and I’m really excited to talk about it with my friend Keith.
Keith: Yeah. I agree, Greg. Maybe that’s how I would’ve seen it in the beginning, but I think my perspective has shifted. Moreso it’s like, “What can I uncover about a topic addressed in a song? Or a specific reference or a theme over the band’s discography. What pieces do I pick up on?” When I say “research,” that word is doing a lot of work.
Greg and Kurt: [laugh]
Keith: I read and I’ve watched documentaries, but this isn’t academic research that I’ve done. I’ve read a lot and I’ve tried to look at a whole variety of perspectives and I’ve learned. But it’s more of like telling what I’ve learned and bouncing that off of what Greg has learned to see if that meshes into something else. Because as we say a lot, whatever the podcast episode is, we hope that’s the start of a conversation. People will provide feedback. If it’s about a lyric they’ll give us other interpretations. They tell us things in the band’s history we might’ve overlooked or other specific details from historical events or social issues that we may not have addressed. Originally, we had this plan to have forty-minute episodes. [laughs] Which is really funny.
Kurt and Greg: [laugh]
Keith: We were like, “Yeah, I think we can do about forty minutes.” Obviously, it just grew and grew.
Kurt: Or five times that.
I like to think of it more as just learning with a microphone on. -Keith
Keith: Yeah. There’s no way to talk about “Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An” or “Refusing to be a Man” or any number of songs in a thirty-minute, NPR-length podcast. It’s just not possible. So we’ve gone longer and longer but we just can’t address all that needs to be addressed, especially if there are things we’re only learning about now. So I like to think of it more as just learning with a microphone on.
Keith: And people give us feedback. There are probably things we could revisit and circle back to and add more. We haven’t done that too much unless we really realize there’s something we recorded early on and we overlooked something or a guest reaches out and says, “Hey, this is my familiarity or my area of research. Can I contribute?” Then we’ve gone back and Greg has done an interview. But I think it’s about starting a conversation, starting research, and maybe encouraging people to find things on their own rather than that be the settled, final interpretation or all there is to say about something.
Kurt: But that is what good teachers should be doing anyway: starting a conversation. Although, unfortunately I think too many times students think what their teachers say is the end and no more discussion is needed.
Kurt: As I’ve listened to so many of these episodes, I’ve started to think of the nuts and bolts of the podcast. How does an episode come together? How do you choose a song? What does the research look like? How much of it is scripted? Because sometimes it sounds scripted—not in a bad way.
Keith: [laughs] It’s very scripted!
Kurt: Is it? Okay.
Keith: This stays out of the interview! [laughs] It’ll blow our cover! I tell everyone I do an interview with it’s “Very Scripted Moments Podcast.” So if we mess up we’ll take things out.
Kurt: How scripted is “Unscripted Moments”? [laughs]
Greg: So, I can walk through the process here. An episode like “Mutual Friend,”—we came at that and found research on the alcohol industry. I found stuff about alcohol and beer that is vegan or is not vegan. Keith came with a whole body of research on union-busting alcohol companies. So, when we look up songs and come together with our notes, it’s really shocking because you’ll think all of our stuff will overlap. But we’ll come at it from two completely different ways.
As far as putting together an episode, it is a long, long process. What I’ll do is bank interviews with guests. I’m reaching out to people often about doing an interview, finding a song they want to be on and scheduling it with them, emailing back and forth, finding a time, making my interview questions, sending my questions to them. They say, “Yeah, this all looks great.” We hop on the phone; we do it and it usually takes an hour. I download the audio, put it into a GarageBand file, name it as the name of the song and often times it sits there for months. Sometimes three or four months.
Keith: You did a lot that first summer. That first year Greg did so many interviews.
Greg: I was doing an interview every other day. Easily.
Greg: Then I start reaching out to people about doing a cover version of the song. And then I get the cover and I throw that in the file, too. So then I say to Keith, “All right. Next week we have these songs we can choose from.” And I tell Keith all the episodes I have banked interviews and cover versions just sitting in a GarageBand file.
Keith: Then I respond five or six days later to his text message.
Greg: Then Keith and I are like, “Which one is the least amount of intellectual energy? Which one is the easiest? Surely ‘This Might Be Satire’ will be so easy. Surely ‘Leg-Hold Trap’ won’t be hard.” And often we kick the can down the road for months. We procrastinated “Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An” so many times. Same with “Oka Everywhere” and “Dear Coach’s Corner.” “Potemkin City Limits”—we couldn’t even fathom making that episode.
Keith: “Refusing to Be a Man”? We had that interview for over a year.
Greg: Scott Radinsky from Pulley was one of the guests for “Dear Coach’s Corner.”
Kurt: That was a great interview.
Greg: I had that interview in my file for eleven months. I recorded that interview with Scott on Skype. I don’t even have Skype anymore.
Greg: Then Keith and I start making notes. Usually, it’s a panic to make notes. I usually write a huge introduction and I give us each some bullet points to talk about in the introduction. Then I set up Keith to lead in the interview so I bold his parts in a shared Google doc. And then we go through it and leave gaps in the recording so I can see the gaps in the master audio file to where I’m going to drag the interviews. And then we have essentially notes of things we want to say during the interview. And sometimes notes for one episode are fifteen pages.
Kurt: Oh my god.
Greg: It’s so frustrating because I know the more notes I make, the longer the episode is going to get and then you end up with three interviews, one cover, and a two-and-a-half-hour conversation and then you have a five-hour “Potemkin City Limits” episode. It’s absolutely mind-boggling. But the process for making an episode like “Oka Everywhere,” “Dear Coach’s Corner,” “Mate Ka,” “Refusing to be a Man” we’re talking about eight or nine months just to make a single episode.
Keith: I think we were self-conscious of that at first about having something and being like, “We’ve had this interview for so long!” But then once we were like, “Wait, people actually listen to this and like it,” then the responsibility and priority shifted to where we knew there were a few episodes where it was like, “This isn’t ready yet.” Our notes, our thoughts, the interpretation and resources, the right guests, and the things we came across weren’t ready. Like “Speculative Fiction.” You’d think that one would’ve been a no-brainer. And we couldn’t get anybody to say they wanted to record for “Speculative Fiction.” It took a while. People didn’t turn it down but so many people said other songs until we talked to Waub Rice. Then it got the ball going on that one. And sometimes that happens. We have pieces and it fits together. Sometimes something happens and then all these other pieces come together. Greg does so much work, Kurt. I’m like the skanking guy from the Bosstones.
Keith: I’m the moral support. I used to edit quite a bit. I’d take an interview and if there were any choppy parts or long pauses or a lot of breaks, I would edit things out. Our conversations I would edit. I did that for quite a bit for the first year. My son was born in December of 2020 and it’s only gotten harder with him getting older. Then I took a back seat with that stuff and Greg does all of the technical, behind-the-scenes, online, the hosting, and posting of the actual podcast—all that stuff. I contribute to the art. I’ve done most of the art, which is just thinking of an idea of a picture that somehow relates to it. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes I’m like, “I don’t know what to do.” I’m like the “Graphic Design Is My Passion” meme. It’s like word art. But what’s been cool is that so many listeners have volunteered things, whether it’s a voicemail, a five- or ten-minute interview, art, or a cover.
Greg: We gotta shout out Jamie Fougere big time. And Fred van Schie and Justin Santora. We’ve worked with some awesome people who do great art.
Keith: It’s then felt more collaborative. It’s great to have people contribute, but I also think people feel a part of something. They felt very thankful and appreciative to share a cover or create some visual piece to accompany the episode when it’s released. Quite a bit of that has evolved and Greg does the vast majority of it. Lately it’s been weird because since February we haven’t recorded consistently.
But when I think of the research side of it, I keep notes in my phone for things I think about. When something related to “Potemkin City Limits” comes up I have these bullet points in my phone that I can come back to that I don’t want to forget. Whether that’s a personal connection or something to research or something I want to think about. I have a list of that going and then for me it’s not academic or scholarly research. It’s more stream of conscious for me to where I think, “Where do I go and where does that lead me?” It branches off from there. I end up finding things I wasn’t necessarily expecting to read about by the time I’ve finished looking up things for an episode. I don’t want to step on the band’s own personal stories. I don’t want to provide interpretations that are like, “Here it is! Here’s what the meaning is.” But it’s more of what connections I can make. What are some references I can explain? What are some possible interpretations and is there anything that particularly resonates with me? In that way each episode can be a little different. It kind of depends on the topic.
The title of the podcast wound up being hilariously wrong. -Greg
Greg: So, the title of the podcast wound up being hilariously wrong. There’s so much information that we find for every episode that if we just winged it…
Keith: I’m not smart enough, man.
Greg: No way, man.
Keith: I couldn’t do it.
Greg: It’s crazy. Yeah, we have insane amounts of notes. Whenever we finish the podcast—when all the songs are done then maybe I’ll go through the document, clean it up, pull all the links, and do a master source library or something like that. We have it all. We have all the sources, links, notes, and everything. It could be an appendix. Like, “This is the ‘Refusing to be a Man’ appendix” and then list every single source we found. I think something like that could be really useful. But the title really did end up being hilariously wrong. We really should’ve done like, “Pod-temkin City Limits” or “More Talk, Less Rock.”
Keith: Shit, that one was so obvious. What were we thinking?
Greg: And then the Winnipeg Free Press wrote an article about the podcast and they called it “More Talk, Less Rock” and I was like, “Dammit! We’re so stupid!” I remember texting each other like, “We should’ve chosen that, shouldn’t we?” The title of the show just ended up being hilariously bad.
Kurt: That’s fine.
Keith: I think it’s endearing. I do like it because it probably is an overlooked song.
Greg: It is.
Kurt: Keith, you kind of hit on this a few minutes ago, but one of the things I really find endearing about the podcast is that it’s not just straight up you telling us the research. There’s a personal nature to things that you both share. Sometimes it’s about relationships with your parents or dealing with mental health issues. You’ve been very honest about struggles and difficulties and then relating them back to the lyrical content of Propagandhi. Walk me through what that was like to realize you were going to share personal things in a podcast that’s about a band you’re not in.
Greg: Yeah, that’s a hard question. I think that was probably very gradual. I think one of the times I got the most personal was the “Last Will and Testament” episode. I was talking about watching my grandfather die. That was a really intense episode for both of us. Then another one was when we recorded the “This Is Your Life” episode. I was three days into a marital separation. I was also rebuilding a relationship with my mom and dad who I had been somewhat estranged from for quite some time. One rift was growing and one rift was reducing. I didn’t set out to make this show about me because in my other podcast I’m interviewing professors about their books. There’s very little of my personal life that goes into my other podcast. But then this one—the way this band is so important to me. I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve gained so much emotional and intellectual depth by them challenging me throughout my entire life that it just brings these things out of me. So I think that was a really gradual thing for me over time.
Kurt: What about you, Keith?
Keith: I have this thought—at least retroactively—of how “This is my personal connection, this is what I think of, this is something that comes to mind” because I wanted to be clear that I can’t and don’t want to tell the band’s personal stories because I don’t know them all. If it’s something they’ve shared in an interview or even in Chris’s podcast I don’t want to retread that. We’ll plug details and encourage people to listen to that. But definitely where I felt a shift would be with “Nigredo” to where that was more talking about some personal challenges with family loss and losing a family member who—and we’re all flawed people—was a very divisive, flawed person who you still love. You have these complicated, personal connections and memories with them. That’s the song: caring about someone and seeing them fall apart. I’m not in therapy.
Kurt: But this is therapy?
Keith: I’m serious, Kurt. I won’t go off on a tangent about this, but I’ve struggled heavily with the war in Ukraine.
Kurt: Yeah. I know you used to live there.
Keith: Yeah. I think that, coupled with the challenges of home, work, and everything else has been this exhausting experience. I’ve realized I don’t have many tools in my toolkit to process. There’s always this joke of “Yeah, I’ll just have a couple beers.” I don’t know if that’s the precedent I want to set in front of my kid. I don’t know if it’s actually going to fix anything. So realizing that I probably should find other ways—and there are definitely things on the podcast that I haven’t shared with other people. There is that danger and self-consciousness of being afraid of making it about us. But I think we’re also so far into the show that people who listen get what we’re doing. It wasn’t like that from the beginning but it became a way of processing, coping, not being around people during COVID, not really having some sort of outlet, and it evolved into that in a way. So I think most listeners have been pretty supportive of that because the feedback we’ve received has been, “Stop complaining about the episodes being so long! If we didn’t want them to be we wouldn’t listen!”
Kurt: It sounds to me like as you go along with more episodes you’ve built up some credibility with the listener and they’re willing to go there with you in that personal story because they already have listened to thirty, forty, fifty episodes with you. “I like these guys. I’ll go with them when they go off on this”—I don’t even want to say tangent. It’s a side story about their personal life.
Greg: Yeah. And if I look at the statistics of the listens, the four-hour episodes—“Dear Coach’s Corner” is our second most popular episode ever and it’s three hours and forty-five minutes.
Kurt: And it seems like listeners are okay with that, too. I am.
Keith: We always say the timestamps are there so if they just want to listen to an interview…
Kurt: Thank you so much for doing the timestamps. There are other really long podcasts and they don’t do timestamps. I’m like, “I’m not listening to this.” Timestamps are great.
Keith: I think the last one we did that was really long was “Potemkin City Limits.” Aside from some interviews, that was probably the episode I got the most personalized feedback from. A lot of people DM’d me either on Instagram or Twitter just to say, “Hey man, we really liked the conversation.” A couple people said “vulnerability.” I think the introspection and the honesty—if Propagandhi before were maybe outward and antagonistic with it, it’s clear in their interviews and also in the music now that it’s far more introspective—the personal challenges and being honest with yourself. And I don’t know if I’ve had a long-form conversation out loud where I’ve been like, “Here are things I think about and personally struggle with and I know are challenges and I want to do better on but I’m not.” So, I think even just having that chance to practice what the band is suggesting or encouraging is how I see the personal side a little bit more. Certainly not eclipsing the lyrics or their stories but it’s more just the practice of that.
Kurt: Sharing the personal stuff makes it more intimate and unique than just, “Here are some facts. Here is an interview.” It’s like you’re real people and lets people relate to you.
Kurt: I’m curious considering how many dozens of Propagandhi songs you’ve already gone through, in the research aspect what’s been something in their lyrics that’s surprised you the most? Have you changed your opinion on a song because of it?
On the surface I used to think, “Oh, Propagandhi’s talking about police brutality and genocide and veganism.” And all of that is there, but the light is being shown directly on themselves. -Greg
Greg: I have an immediate example. When you grow up listening to Propagandhi it seems as if they’re singing about the world out there. It seems as if all the songs are about the huge problems that are facing our species and our civilization. Obviously, those things are there. But there is a more profound undercurrent of ending the songs on a tiny sliver of hope in the vein of “You gotta keep on truckin’ anyway.” There is also far more of a light being shown back on the band themselves that takes a long time to realize, “Oh, they’re really singing about themselves a lot, as well.” So, on the surface I used to think, “Oh, Propagandhi’s talking about police brutality and genocide and veganism.” And all of that is there, but the light is being shown directly on themselves in a way that it took me a long time to really pick up on. You process what you’ve learned during that day with yourself in that mirror. And that’s what the songs do to me now, but it’s not what they did for me for a long time. I was like, “Oh, it’s about East Timor and here’s what I can learn about East Timor.” It’s not about, “What can I learn about myself after learning about East Timor?”
Kurt: I like that. That’s a good way of putting it.
Greg: So that’s what the band does for me now. It took me a long time to figure that out.
Kurt: Yeah. What about you, Keith?
It’s just adding to this collective awareness of how little you know. It just feels like even if it’s a lot of work, there’s still so much more to learn. And more importantly there’s more to do. -Keith
Keith: I don’t mean to steal that answer but I equated the personal aspect of the lyrics to the later part of the band’s career. And then going back to albums I didn’t listen to as much or hadn’t listened to in a while finding that earlier and realizing, “Wait a second. This is all throughout their discography that there are these personal struggles on display.” If I didn’t think it was interesting when I was twenty so maybe it was just where I was in life. I think that’s why we have our big takeaway at the end of each episode. We have that teachable moment. Like, what are we going to do with this? It’s not enough just to have information. If I can think of a good lesson with my students, it’s not learning and memorizing and giving it back. It’s hopefully forming some informed action. So, if it’s “Oka Everywhere,” how can I take steps further to decolonize my classroom? If it’s “Refusing to be a Man,” what normalized things that I say perpetuate ideas of heteronormativity or gender stereotypes? What is it that I might accidentally be doing? What is it that I can see with my students that I can try to encourage, promote, and celebrate? We go so hard in the paint in our researching and really going in-depth. When we were recording a lot, we’d kind of move on. There’s circling back a ton where we think of things where we’ve already made connections between songs. It’s just adding to this collective awareness of how little you know. It just feels like even if it’s a lot of work, there’s still so much more to learn. And more importantly there’s more to do.
Kurt: How do you mean?
Keith: I think more to do in terms of what am I going to do now that I have this information? In what ways will I be active in my community? That’s something I asked Chris Hannah. I said I feel like I’ve struggled with the personal mental health aspect of teaching a really challenging topic—history—at a time when history is very politicized in a way that is not representative of what history teachers do. I almost think of nerves extending out of peoples’ bodies to where there are electric shocks with everything. It’s not easy. And how do you not get worn down by that? And he said he realized he’s not on the business end of it. It’s not him who is experiencing those things. It’s other communities, other countries, or other people. How can he leverage his privileges, his money or whatever it is he can do to support those people who know way more and have been doing way more regarding those social issues for a long time? Honestly man, since the “Potemkin” episode I’ve really struggled with, “What have I done the last few years?”
Kurt: What has anyone done the last few years?
If you’re more aware of the world it’s harder not to do anything. And then if you aren’t doing anything, what does that say about you? What are you giving up about yourself? -Keith
Keith: Yeah. Well, I don’t even mean with COVID. I mean the last ten years. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on beer. I’ve gone to a lot of shows. I’ve bought vinyl. I’ve collected things that didn’t need collecting. And now I have all these things I don’t have time for. And I want to spend time with my wife and my son. I see all these problems around me and I have this shit that doesn’t mean anything to me now. Or I can’t do anything with. And I keep thinking about being honest with finding a balance with time, money, and attention to where you can meaningfully help those around you in a way that helps you feel good but it’s not just about the selfish feeling. But knowing that you’re not just fucking buying a whole bunch of beer and death metal records and going to shows in Chicago every week. But you’re actually aware of the world. And if you’re more aware of the world it’s harder not to do anything. And then if you aren’t doing anything, what does that say about you? What are you giving up about yourself? So that whole “Potemkin” conversation about cognitive dissonance kind of fucked me up.
Kurt: [laughs] Greg, same for you?
Greg: Oh yeah. For sure.
Keith: I really struggled with that honestly. It doesn’t mean that right now I’m doing everything I need to do. But I’ve been trying. It’s finding a way to engage with the world that is helpful, productive, and realistic. And not performative. I think I have a little of a better understanding of what not to do but I don’t know how to get there just yet.
Kurt: I wanted to mention that you two have convinced me to subscribe to Chris Hannah’s Patreon. But Keith, what you’re saying reminds me of something he said which is that basically we’re just doing palliative care for the world. The world is kind of screwed. We just need to do what we can for everyone and the earth itself and make people comfortable as we go careening to our fiery dooms. He didn’t quite put it like that but he did use the phrase palliative care and I think that we just do the best we can to help people. And it does always seem to come back to the personal level.
Greg: And it’s like, do we contribute anything good by spending so many hours of our life making a podcast? Or, what could we be doing better with our time? I just love making this so much and it’s become this almost essential ingredient of my happiness and so I think, “What could I be doing more to make my neighborhood a little better besides doing this?” There are so many things I could be doing but this is so enriching for me. If I wasn’t doing this, I would be less productive in my neighborhood because I would be missing something I loved doing so much. One day we’ll run out of songs. But then I’ll have a bookended closure and I’ll have made so many connections and friendships all over the world. Two people I’ve met through this podcast and I are going to Canada within two weeks to see Propagandhi in Ontario. Had it not been for the podcast I would not have had these people in my life who are now really good friends. There are actual, tangible relationships that are being built by doing this.
Kurt: Yeah. I’ve kept you guys for way too long, so last question: what’s the feedback been like from the band? Everyone’s been on, even some of the former members.
Greg: So, Chris listened right away to the “Banger’s Embrace” episode that we did. That was the first official song we did. Chris posted a little thing about it on his Patreon where he’s like, “Oh, this is very interesting.” I think he was very skeptical and dubious, of course. Rightfully so. And he’s like, “Then I heard them talking about how far of a plane ride it would take and them adding up Google maps and things like that. These guys are total dweebs and nerds.”
Greg: And he’s like, “Okay, carry on.” Todd (Kowalski) has been extraordinarily gracious with me answering questions through Instagram regularly. He’s been so kind. And Sulynn (Hago) has been absolutely engaged from day one. Sulynn has been on the podcast several times at this point and is willing to come back pretty much at any time. Sulynn and I got to hang out a bunch in Winnipeg and it was just awesome. It was like hanging out with buds—somebody who you get to know over time. And then it just becomes an actual friendship, so that’s been amazing. Then, getting to Jord (Samolesky) for the Government Issue and Global Genocide covers episodes was fabulous. Then I got to meet them all in Winnipeg at the shows. I got to watch a sound check so I got to watch them play “Duplicate Keys Icaro” three times in a row and “Adventures in Zoochosis”…
Kurt: Keith is just shaking his head. [laughs]
Greg: So I’m sitting there in the Park Theatre just staring at the stage like, “What the hell, man?” That was wonderful.But Beave (David Guillas, former Propagandhi guitarist) has been on several times. Beave is so cool. His guitar-building bonus episode with me—loved it. We got a very polite decline from John K. Samson.
Kurt: I’ve wondered about that.
Greg: I’ve written and sent notes through friends and the answer is no—and I’ve one hundred percent accepted that—but John K. Samson, for anyone who doesn’t know, has a great interview he did with Larry Livermore from Lookout! Records where he talks a lot about Propagandhi. So John is the only holdout but we got Conrad Sichler, who was the singer in Toothpick Hercules, which was John’s first band. There’s a lot of John K. Samson stories in the “Leg-hold Trap” episode, which is a tragically under looked episode in the podcast because Conrad is listed as the fourth band member in How to Clean Everything in the liner notes. So if you want two hours of How to Clean Everything stories, you cannot find a better episode than “Leg-hold Trap.”
Keith: So, the feedback has been really good from the band. And the support from the band has been really good whether it be answering a message from Greg for a quick clarification or if it’s been doing an interview—Chris shared with me that he wanted to create a buffer between the band and the podcast because he was weary of it seeming like sharing a project where it’s me and Greg being like, “Isn’t Chris Hannah the greatest person of all time? Isn’t he the best? Don’t you love him? Isn’t he super smart? I wish I could be him.” I’m exaggerating obviously, but I think early on he shared on social media and on his Patreon but hasn’t continued to do that just because it’s weird to do so.
Kurt: Right. I can see that.
Keith: I think Chris has probably listened to more episodes than he would admit. But I think he’s listened to a number of interviews, especially when it’s people they know such as friends or bands. It’s a really cool spread of folks. John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats—there’s no way Chris Hannah didn’t listen to that.
Kurt: [laughs] That one was amazing.
Keith: I think they’ve been very supportive and positive in their feedback and support of the show. What else could you ask for? The fact that we put them under a microscope for two or three hours, they’re totally cool with it, and they help out—it’s just the coolest thing.