Chris Hannah is the singer and lead guitarist for punk rock legends; Propagandhi. This is a band that I have been listening to for 25 years so this interview really had me stoked. Also.. what a picture.
#1 – I was once told Canada has the most amazing guitarists per capita but only because we live in a “miserable hell” with weather that keeps us inside 11 months a year. Is this how you learned to shred?
Haha, maybe? Hard for me to tell. I had no friends so i was inside in the summer too!
#2 – The way you play and write songs seems to have come from a very wide range of influences. Who are the guitarists that shaped and continue to shape you as a musician?
Oh yes, i had a very wide range of influences growing up; I liked both Heavy *and* Metal. Haha. Pound for pound, the guitarists that had the biggest influence on me were Rob Urbinati and Joe Rico from Sacrifice, Dave Carlo from Razor, Denis “Piggy” D’amour from Voivod, Dr Know from Bad Brains and probably Mike Acton from the Dayglo Abortions.
#3 – At some point, punk rock went from not overly caring about guitar tone or high level musicianship to having top shelf gear and talent displayed in many of the most popular bands of the genre. How and when do you think that all came to pass?
Hmm…I’m not sure. I guess for me, bands like Bad Brains were already pushing the envelope in the punk scene when I first started playing guitar, so it was kinda from the very beginning. In a more generalized sense, and in respect to punk bands having top shelf gear, that probably came with the profitability of the genre in the early to mid 90’s?
#4 – Which of Propagandhi’s 7 studio albums holds the guitar tone you enjoy the most personally?
Victory Lap and Potemkin City Limits probably? those record have the most direct, natural guitar tones I think.
#5 – On the most recent album “Victory Lap”, what gear was used on that record?
Pretty much just SG’s plugged into JCM 800’s and a borrowed Friedman BE100 with not much in between. I used a Marshall cab with greenbacks and BEAVE and Sulynn used a Mesa cab with v30’s if I recall correctly.
#6 – Both yourself and Sulynn (Hago – rhythm guitar) use a Fractal FX8 in your live setups, have you been tempted to go all digital with an all Axefx or Kemper type setup?
Yeah, it’d be nice, but there’s still something about 100% emulations that doesn’t feel quite real yet. I *think* its the non-linearity of vacuum tubes; every millisecond there’s a tiny bit of chaos imparted into the sound through vacuum tubes that does not seem present in an computer algorithm. That’s my guess anyways. That’s why I like the fx8 live…best of both worlds.
#7 – Staying on the topic of digital gear. Amp sim software is improving every day, have you have a chance to get into any of it?
A little bit. I have a couple of plugins (and an Axe Fx) that I play with at home and sound amazing, but like I say, ultimately I still feel you can’t beat the visceral oomph of a power tube. Not yet anyways. in a dense mix it’s probably ok, but there’s a feel thing — especially on a soloed guitar — that seems stiff or something.
#8 – You have talked about having to use rented gear often overseas and I have heard horror stories about such things, do you have any similar stories of rented gear hell?
Yeah, sometimes it happens, but we’ve mostly been lucky with the back line companies we’ve used. Knock on wood as we are playing with rented amps tonight in New Zealand! Actually the worst thing about rented gear is not getting what you explicitly asked for; like when you say you absolutely need to have a JCM 2000 DSL and then so “no problem” and you show up and they’ve brought you a Tsl. Thats the worst.
#9 – Many of the best skate punk bands in history are still going strong and still looking like kids having the time of their lives on stage. Does it feel sometimes that punk rock almost keeps you ageless in a sense?
No. I feel old. Haha.
#10 – “Victory Lap” to me was an ominous title to me when it was announced because as a fan I saw it as a metaphor for it being the last album. Clearly that’s not the case so can you share any details on the next Propagandhi album?
I can’t! we haven’t even thought about it yet!
#11 – I have always wanted to know what gear you used to create the clean tone on “Haillie Sellasse up your ass” (How to clean everything 1993). To this day it’s one of the best clean tones I’ve ever heard.
That would have been a Roland Jazz Chorus that was at West Beach Studios and engineer Donnel Cameron made me use instead of my Crate GC120. Haha.
#12 – Lastly, on the spot, no time to think, what are three of your favorite recorded guitar tones, any genre, all-time.
Raw Power “Screams From the Gutter”
Sacrifice “The Ones I Condemn”
Razor “Violent Restitution”
Bad Brains “I Against I”,
Metallica “Kill Em All”, oops that’s more than 3, I’ll shut up now!
I was so happy to get this interview onto the page. Being able to chat gear with players you have admired for literally decades is a lot of fun. If you are a Propagandhi fan, I sure hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did but if this is the first you are hearing of Chris and the band, please do seek out as much of their material as humanly possible. They have a lot to say and songs that will inspire.