They may be one of punk’s most legendary bands, and still going strong after 25 years, but according to ever-outspoken Propagandhi frontman Chris Hannah, it’s a bit of a miracle, really. While the band’s earlier catalogue is considered to be packed with classics, incredibly, the singer claims songwriting and lyrics have always been a struggle for himself and the band.
"At the moment we're trying to get material together for a new record," Hannah announces. "Ideally, it would be finished quickly, but for us it's always a painful, slow process. Writing songs, and especially lyrics, just doesn't come naturally to us. Partly it's because of the fact that we are not naturally-gifted musicians and on top of that, even when we do come up with something we consider decent, we'll discard a lot of things because we're so hyper-critical of our own stuff.
"I don't know how we come across to other people," he adds, "but we over-think everything and we're never really completely happy with something. So we'll go back and sometimes we'll just start again… Basically, it takes us twice as long as most other bands to do anything."
It's a surprising confession, certainly, but Hannah attributes Propagandhi's amazing longevity to plain and simple stubbornness coupled with a lot of luck. And while most of the band's fanbase would claim their earlier stuff was what got plenty of punk kids into the genre in the first place, Hannah claims that he'd prefer not to look back on the older material. "Well, thoughts in general come very easily to us, but translating those thoughts and distilling them down to a minute-and-a-half punk song is a bit of a nightmare," the singer says. "I just don't ever want to experience writing a song that I look back on and I'm not thrilled about it.
"I've done lyrics quite quickly in the past and you look back and cringe at them. Outside the novelty songs, the songs on our first record ( How To Clean Everything, 1993) are probably a good example. It's the approach and the style and everything. It's kind of like going back and looking at your high school year book and something that you've written in there that just makes you go, 'oh fuck, I don't want anyone to read this!'
"We had a very teenage way of seeing things back then, our sense of humour was pretty fucked up… Not that we're majorly sophisticated now," he laughs, "but if those same guys from 1993 walked into our practice space right now, telling their jokes, it wouldn't be pretty."
While it's safe to say that the band have earned themselves the enviable status of punk's veterans, Hannah claims he is somewhat concerned about the future of both the music and the culture that accompanies it.
"The punk we grew up with was a lot more wilder and there were less rules," the singer explains. "Records sounded crazier and more vicious. Punk was considered 'out of control' but then in the '90s punk got very 'in control' - not just sonically but culturally too. It was obvious that it was becoming very profitable for a lot of people and for the true punk fans, it lost a lot of that urgency. I still remember punk from the '80s and when things were underground. I know it's typical for old people to lament and get nostalgic or whatever," he points out, "but things really were very different back then, you just have to believe me," he shrugs.
"Right now it's very homogenised and as the '90s rolled on bands kind of strayed more and more from what a good punk record should have sounded like. It's pretty much the norm right now, but that doesn't mean that everybody is shit. There is a huge underground scene in pretty much every country you go to, there are very cool, awesome bands everywhere, but you'll probably never know about them."
Faster, crazier and generally as aggressive as the band can get, Hannah claims Propagandhi's upcoming album is channeling that very same spirit of the '80s. Sure it's taking a while to come together, but the singer promises the record will be in the bag by the end of the year. And if you want a bit of a taste of what's to come, you'll just have to check out Propagandhi during the band's upcoming Australian jaunt.
"The album's got way more depth in general than anything we've ever done," Hannah reveals. "Partly, the reason is because we've got a new addition to the band (David 'The Beaver' Guillas, guitar) and he's had a lot more to add that we've never explored so far.
"There's a lot more thought behind this album and there's a lot more depth musically. I feel like we put equal premium on both the message and the music, though it's totally subjective what the result actually is to people's ears. I feel like we put in the same amount of effort, though. We're just as self-critical on both. In my opinion, we have limitations as musicians and as people, we can barely deal with language!
"But in the end, I'm happy if our songs can make people laugh as well as think as well as kind of really enjoy a riff or something. Our personalities definitely come through in our songs, and I don't really mind if people can tell that we're just a bunch of really weird guys."
PROPAGANDHI play two shows at The Corner Hotel this week, tonight Wednesday May 18 (sold out) and Thursday May 19 (tickets from The Corner box office, 9427 9198 and cornerhotel.com).