The Tracks interviews the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy, and D drops serious knowledge (and jewels) on all of the Track’s listeners.
Interview with Chuck D (Public Enemy)
Chuck D, Brian Kracyla and Monty Wiradilaga
Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo
“Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding don’t come in the microwave.”
C: I think people when they ask me that question need to ask me, “Do you think that it’s something that’s lacking in the United States?” And I would say, well, yes. The maintenance of it is lacking, but it’s all over the world. I think one of the problems most Americans have is that they don’t understand that what has evolved in hip-hop is that it’s super-global. The United States is one of the places that it does it. Does it do it better than all the other places? I don’t know. You got guys that can spit three languages, how do you weigh that? I mean how do you weigh it, do you weigh it because you live in the United States, like this is it? It’s like covering the Phillies, you live in Philly, so I’m covering the Phillies, you know, so outside of Ryan Howard I don’t know what’s going on. But that’s my answer there, it’s like, political rap, you cannot be
around and in the rest of the world and not say something that resonates with the people. You cannot, it doesn’t exist. There’s hundreds of thousands of rappers out there. Whether it’s Dam, them Arabic MCs, that’s in Palestine talking about that friction over there. Whether it’s like my man MV Bill and Eli Efi from Brazil, you know we’re talking about thirty years of recorded musical science. So, this is the thing that I hope and think that the hip-hop nation here understands, that you gotta comprehend that it’s over your head. What’s the exposure? BET, MTV, any of your local radio stations. Obviously, you’re limited to the two or three places that you can name when you say that that’s the epiddimy of exposure and if whatever’s being said out there, can’t get on there, there must be some kind of ulterior motive. We’re in the days of MySpace pages, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. I mean, what do you want to include and what do you not what to include. I think that the major labels dominance of saying, “This is official”, that’s been over. I don’t know why people keep holding it up. Let me tell you why it’s no excuse, you cover hip-hop right? Sports fan?
C: Do you ever hear a sports journalist talk about activities in high school, JV, college being lost? They cover everything. Everything is covered, even damn-near the playground gets covered! And 1 gets covered! Hip-hop, it’s just like, it’s the level of laziness of going past what’s thrown at you. I mean, what’s the level of coverage is only going to depend on how legitimate the coverage wants to consider itself. They’ll say, “Oh, we only wanna cover if Def Jam releases something, we’ll follow that.” If it don’t come through this one imprint than, you know, “If we don’t know about it, we ain’t gonna cover it.” Now you in the day of MySpace pages, man. I think diligence have to go to it. It’s gotta be like, “Well, I’m not getting paid, but I does this, I follow, ‘cause I love it.” Like I said, I’m a sports fan, and they don’t let a pitch go by without figuring out was that 94 or was that 83 mph coming from this college kid that’s playing a college game that might be meaningless between two teams, but it’s still be documented.
B: But they can tell you every pitch count, yeah. You were a consultant on the Let Freedom Sing project. You wrote the liner notes. Describe that compilation’s significance.
C: The compilation’s significance is because especially black people use a portal of music and expressed ourselves through other ways when we couldn’t express ourselves to the masses just by speaking alone. There’s often times when the poets and the artists would have to say something that would penetrate the veil of racism and do it in such a way that, you know, speaking for what is right is colorless. It doesn’t matter what color you are, you speak for what it right versus what’s wrong. That’s why on that box set it’s everybody from blues artists to Pete Seger. And using music, being that we were a people and are a people that follow music a little bit more closely, because of that history of it being this expression when you couldn’t really express yourself, it meant that much more. A lot of people said, this is how I feel, so I’m gonna hum it and sing it so I won’t get beat-down maybe, or killed. Spread your wings dog!
M: When you guys were coming up, you came up with the roots of hip-hop, as artists…
C: Oh yeah, ‘cause I was getting ready to say that when I was coming up there was no such thing as rap records or hip-hop. Even when I graduated outta 12th grade, if someone would have said that I would have been making records, I would have said you out of your mind, doing what kind of records?! You know, you had Earth, Wind, & Fire, the Commodores, that kinda thing going on.
M: With your music, with how politically fueled it was, when you say about your color didn’t see color, you appealed to the masses. You appealed to me as a kid. I was a kid in the suburbs. You spoke to me, you spoke to the kids in the ghetto. What did it mean to you to get your message out there, so strong, and have the sort of influence that Malcolm X influenced you? You have a voice, in a different way, but you have a voice to the masses, where you can speak to millions of people and get your message across.
C: Number one, you’re thankful, but it does not start with, it doesn’t end with you. You’ve got to be humble to all those things that were able to give you the platform and it’s not about you. One of the greatest things I’ve heard President Barack Obama say, last year when he was actually at the democratic nomination, he said, “Hey, it ain’t about me, it’s about us as a people, and if this out there I see it and if you see something say something.” And I just think that that goes across the board. One of the worst things that ever came and attached itself to the culture of hip-hop in a very wrong and misconstrued way is when they come across and say, “Stop snitching.”, and not even know the true idea or essence of where it comes from. That’s why you got to know your history or have an old-head not afraid to tell a young-head that this where it comes from. Yeah
you can do your thing but just know where it comes from and do the right way. This whole thing of older heads mixing with younger heads to try to appeal to them and be fly with them, I think, is a discouragement and it is discrediting young people from living their life. I think the responsibility from an older person to a younger person is to say, “Yo, man, you know you can do your thing but just look out…”, boom-boom-boom, you know, and just keep it moving or whatever. No ulterior motive like, “I hope you love me, I hope you dig me, I hope you buy me. I’m thirty-five years old, your twenty-one, yo, support me.” There’s not a reason to support you! Young people wanna support their circle of things, they just want older people to give them guidance because knowledge, wisdom, and understanding don’t come in the microwave. I mean, that’s our role, that’s our objective. When you don’t do that and your like, “I ain’t nobody, I can’t say nothing, I don’t want to be preachy.” When you say that, was your saying is that,
“I don’t want to be older, I don’t wanna grow older. I might have well as died when I was young.” I think that that has hurt hip-hop. The other day I got a list of rappers right and the list was like thirty deep. And everybody was like thirty and over. And the latter half, like twenty of them, were like thirty-six and over. How can you be thirty-seven years old and not say something to somebody young that somebody young can grow off of, like we say, “drop jewels”, and you keep it moving?! There’s no excuse not to be men, and women. And not saying there’s one type of man or woman that somebody should be but being a man and being a woman that means that your mind, you know, you gotta drop somebody young down. Yeah, you know, do your thing, you know be at the club or whatever. Wup, wup, wup! If you see somebody trying to act like their… Well, you know, I got the world’s biggest teenager with me! (Laughter) But there can be exceptions! Everybody can’t be like that.
M: So, you’re a little bit older, has your message been received well by the people?
C: Always. Well, number one, ain’t nobody else my child or my children. But, I’m gonna be like that older brother figure. Yeah, cool, do your thing. If your gonna ask me a question, I’m gonna give you the answer. If you’re gonna ask me, “Yo, what’s up old-head. Can you give me your wisdom on this?” Then I’m gonna be like boom-boom-boom, I give you what I can give you. If I don’t know, then I’m gonna try to say, hey, this might be an answer you can use. That’s our responsibility, that’s our accountability. It’s been received all over the world, and I’m thankful for that. If it had to come through the portal of rap music and hip-hop, I’m doubley-thankful for that! I’m very honored and I’m blessed and there’s no excuse not to hold my head up high.
M: So, what do you think about Bonnaroo?
C: Bonnaroo is a wonderful thing. Whenever you can get groups to come together and play, and play in front of the masses… Festivals are an opportunity for people, who would not check you out of your own, to check you out by default. And Public Enemy was one of the first rap groups to play festivals. Festivals were a common thing in different continents because economically it was the thing that would work for maybe countries that just didn’t have this plethora of a financial situation. But, now that the US economy has dipped down and shifted gears, it’s like okay, festivals work and instead of promoters taking like two or three acts across arenas and stadiums is not looked upon as being feasible. Although, the arenas and stadiums are brand new and in many cases need and have a big interest in not to pay, they’ve got to fill them. But, other than major league sports, which is another pressing matter, they’re trying to get it filled. I think Bonnaroo, the Warped Tour which fifteen years ago was able to take parking lots and make that feasible… At the end of the day somebody’s got to say, “Okay, I paid the price. It didn’t kick my ass, but if it did kick my ass, I want the show to kick my ass and make me say that’s the best thing I’ve ever paid for and it was worth while.” You’ve got to give people more for what they spend. You’ve got to give them an experience, and that’s the gift of music. Now, what I try to tell many artists, and hip-hop artists really included, is don’t let your art overtake your responsibility as a performance artist. The whole key is to bust your videos and your songs, bust them in the ass when you’re live. That’s the best way that you share your experience with that audience. And that makes them go back to the music, not the music first makes you come, yeah, in a way. Really records came from the fact that I went to see Duke Ellington, blew me away, what can I take home other than just the ringing in my head? And that’s what that evolved out of. Once that became a business, it flipped back the other way. We can’t lose sight of that. But it’s easy to lose sight of it because people are distant from the history of even the things that they like. Sportscenter, when it comes on ESPN, it behooves that they show it six times so that their followers will not be stupid in the afternoon, so by the afternoon, you’re up to speed, you know. We like to see the same in rap music and hip-hop.
M: So what do you have to say to people that haven’t made the trip to Bonnaroo?
C: It’s a wonderful festival. It’s in the southeast, there’s a lot of people in the southeast that probably can’t make it out west or up north to the other festivals that are in those other different parts. If you don’t catch it, you know, we’re in a highly technological age, there’s no excuse not to hop on YouTube and catch somebody’s filming of it.
B: You’ve been one of the most vocal activists for peer to peer file sharing on the internet. Where would you like to see the music industry be in the future?
C: The music industry is healthy. I’d like to see the record industry become more supportive and the music industry become even more supportive of providing platforms for artists to be able to come at a grassroots performing level and really try to help a great minor leaguing, maybe Single A, level of artist doing their thing and let that cream maybe rise to the next level. One thing you have in sports, not to go back into the sports analogy, somebody always has a chance to try out for JV or varsity. Not to say that they’re gonna make the team, but they have the chance to try out. Well, a person should have the chance to try out as an artist, somewhere. Not to say, this whole thing, “Well, I gotta blow up!” If you can’t do your thing and be supported and blow up local, you know, down the block, then why should you even be bigger?! So, I always asked for radio, urban radio, how come it doesn’t support it’s local? If an Indianapolis radio station calls itself the home of R&B, then how come everything you play is groups that get signed to major labels from L.A. and New York, and even the Atlanta artists! They’ll play the Atlanta artists but only if they’re legitimized by the New York and L.A. companies. You can’t have no legitimacy that way. So, I would like to see the structures be more giving to, my wife says it best, territory bands. Territory bands were a big thing in the early parts of last century, territory bands. You really succeeded by maxing out your territory before moving into other territories. We need to see that in rap music and hip-hop. If not, it’s gonna be this thing of “Oh, we signed this person and nobody knows who this person is. We’re gonna put this put galvanizing, steroid of a marketing plan behind them. I hope everybody gets it and it blows up!” I mean, that’s ass-backwards, and because it worked at one time in our past doesn’t mean it’s the right way.
B: What’s the future hold for Chuck D?
C: Getting on stage, and trying to defy time! (Laughter)
B: Alright, Chuck, thanks for your time.
Interview with Toots Hibbert (Toots and the Maytals)
Brian Kracyla, Jacob Little and Monty Wiradilaga (Moe Train’s Tracks)
Hey, what’s going on reggae fans worldwide, you’re listening to a special reggae royalty edition of Moe Train’s Tracks. In this very special show, the Tracks has the honor to bring you one of the most memorable voices and performers in all of music, Mr. Toots Hibbert from Toots and the Maytals.
We had the opportunity to interview the man with the golden pipes about being a part of the establishing scene of reggae, coining the term reggae, being great in an amazing scene, finding his voice, and tons of other topics. Toots was definitely one of the most endearing and genuine musicians that we have interviewed over the years. Toots and the Maytals just released their latest album, Flip and Twist, and we’re sure that it will further his legacy as one of the top reggae artists of all time.
So Moe Train’s Tracks is honored to bring to you, this very special interview with the legendary Toots from Toots and the Maytals.
Moe: Absolutely amazing set today. Were you really having as much fun as it looked like you were having?
Toots: Yeah, a lot of fun. The people are so nice that when you sing for them you have to have some fun.
M: Feeding of the energy…
T: Yes, that heart energy.
T: Everyone just liked it. It’s a nice day!
M: Your voice is one of the most recognizable and classic sounds in all music, where do you draw all of your positive energy from to bring it into the music?
T: Well, my music is from good spirits, good spirit from the church, and from the people that come to my show with a good understanding to learn the ways of reggae music. That’s part of my energy too.
M: Your community of musicians, back in the day in Jamaica, included the most legendary performers of all time.
T: Yeah, mon!
M: Skatalites… The Wailers… How was the community of musicians back in the day when you coined the term “reggae”?
T: It’s a good fellowship in music from that time until this time. When I coined the word reggae it was just like now but people lived different. It took a little time for people to know about my music and they are really into my music now. So, it’s a good t’ing, the times have been changing and music has been better for Toots and the Maytals. When I coined the word reggae, when I sang the song Do The Reggae, the music was already playing in Jamaica all over but nobody called it reggae. People were searching for the name reggae but couldn’t find it. People used to call the beat in Jamaica “blue beat” and “boogie beat” and those are the things that spread from America to Jamaica. Boogie beat, blue beat, and “ska”, it’s like a slip. My two friends, Jerry and Raleigh, we sat down one morning and the word came up. We used to use a word in Jamaica called “streggae”, when the girl was looking so good you call her streggae, if she dressed raggity, you know. So, maybe the word comes from that, but I was the one who said let’s Do The Reggae! R-E-G-G-A-E. Reggae was spelled a lot of different ways in those days, but this is what it’s spelled like now. R-E-G-G-A-E.
M: Did the community feel that there was something huge happening? Because your music is universally recognized across all genres.
T: Yeah, that’s why I have 31 number one records in Jamaica. In those days, as it came out, people enjoyed it and knew that it was good. I have a couple of number ones, 31 number ones in Jamaica, and on vinyl in those days.
M: What was it like recording in Studio One?
T: It was strange. But, I started from Studio One. I was a good t’ing.
M: The whole process, working with Coxsone, was it just…
T: It was great, the process was good. Sing for very many, no good for many maybe, choose the songs.
M: I heard that you have some members of your family in the band.
T: My daughter and my son, my son play the bass and my daughter back up for me.
T: I’m never proud of myself. I know it’s good, but it’s not good to be proud, because the Lord says that you should not be proud. You just know that it is good and give t’anks.
M: Your music has been covered by some of the most recognizable names in all of music, like the Clash, the Specials, and Sublime. What’s your take on their covers of your music?
T: Well, I think it’s good, it’s a good t’ing to do. If a song is good, you can cover it. You can put your own line, your own style on it, and it’s still good. A lot of people cover my songs, I never really say which one is the best. I know I appreciate it, and they appreciate it also.
M: 54-46 is an amazing track…
T: I don’t even want to talk about that prison business. I’m tired of talking about that crap… It was a number one song though!
M: Well, some of your tracks… When they think of you… They think of certain tracks…
T: When I just came in, when I was like fifteen or sixteen… Those things happened when I was getting my first tour abroad, to go to UK. So I hardly talk about those t’ings again. It was a frame-up. When I didn’t get to go to UK, they sent a different group in my name, which never worked out for them. It was a thing that was planned. I just sang a song about it and it went number one.
M: You have the Toots Foundation…
T: Well, we planned this foundation for helping the youths, not only in Jamaica but wherever help is needed. My foundation is going to be bringing a lot of assistance. We founded it a few years ago and it’s been doing well. We did foundation things for the children in Jamaica, for the hospitals, for the blind, for the cancer society. We gave to the schools, we gave to the old age homes. We gave to the school in Clarendon, where I was born. The foundation is going good and I hope that we can give a helping hand whenever I do my show, which charges one dollar extra to go towards the foundation.
M: What does it mean to you to be able to give back to Jamaica, to give back to your country?
T: It’s been good, that’s why I do it. I couldn’t do it by myself, not without the people in America and all over the world.
M: We are also doing a special on the passing of Michael. How has Michael Jackson affected you musically? Or do you have any stories dealing with Michael Jackson?
T: No, his music never affected me. His music refreshed me. He was a cool guy, I liked him. I loved him too. It’s a pity that what happened happened, but it’s like you knew something was going to happen too. I figure he’ll always be innocent for me. He will always be missed by Toots and the Maytals.
M: With your music, with so many albums, so many number ones… When you are looking at your career as a whole, how do you think it lays in the history of music?
T: It’s history. My music is history. It’s antique… and it’s unique… and it’s good. It’s fattening. It’ll make you strong.
M: (Laughing) That’s the best quote I’ve heard all weekend!
T: It’s full of love and happiness.
M: How much longer are you going to be doing it?
T: Well, I’ve got no limit. We have to live good to one another, whether you’re black or you’re white. Show love to one another. Show respect. Learn to say good morning again, and good evening, good afternoon, good night, hey how are you doing, hello. Just be good, be nice, be Rastafari. That’s the way God would love we to do. His name is Rastafari and I’m just a son of God. I look at myself as an angel and a son of God.
M: So you’re looking to further the message…
T: My songs will always be a message of spirituality and happiness. My words have to be positive, if the words are negative than its not real reggae. They have to be positive, that’s the fulfillment of reggae music.
M: So, you just draw from the energy, from that positive energy, and put it through your music to your listeners.
T: Yeah, because it’s for real. Music is for real, for Toots and the Maytals, it’s for real. And love is for real. It’s not just “one love”. True love and real love is for real, there’s more than one love.
T: Yeah. I love to do this, I love to do that. So many love, you know. What’s love is real… So make it reveal… Whenever you feel… It make you feel good! Wake up in the night and rejoice that you’re gonna live to see another day. There’s no limit in my career. I do it as I can. You will always hear about Toots and the Maytals.
M: What’s your responsibility to all your listeners, to the world, through your music?
T: My responsibility to the world and for everywhere is that I’m truly responsible to the people and my music is to be positive, as it used to be and as it is right now. You have to be positive, that’s my responsibility, to make music positive for the world and for God to give us more blessings. He gave me the talent. (Singing) And I sing everything I talk! Hey-aay! (speaking again) I have to give thanks for giving me that kind of voice. I can sing it without music, I can sing it with music. It’s a revelation, a message of salvation.
M: Getting your start, how did you really come to find your own voice?
T: I give praise, I grew up in the church with my parents. Over the radio, I listened to Ray Charles, I listened to every artist, and I listened to every artist in Jamaica also. I founded my voice, and I have to learn it more, and I have to do things with my voice like (making sounds with throat). It’s a thing you have to do, like practicing a guitar. (making yodeling sounds) It’s thing that’s coming for the church, from the Lord God Rastafari, and I have it.
M: Absolutely. When did you know that ‘this is my voice’?
T: Well, I haven’t got one special voice, I have a lot of voices. I can make it turn to sing any kind of way. I know that I can sing, and people call me great, but I don’t think I’m great. I just want to be simple, and make people think I’m great.
M: (Laughing) Gems… I’m loving it! Is there anything else that you want to do in your career that you haven’t done yet?
T: Yes, there are a lot of things I want to do that I haven’t done yet. I wanna make a straight-up R&B record, well it will have some reggae in it, but mostly R&B flavor. I’m doing that. I want to be able to extend my foundation’s reach. I want to do things in Africa where a lot of black, and white people, is also, cuz there are a lot of white people born in Africa also. They’re African, so it’s not a black t’ing. If people need help, you help them when you can. My plan is to spread out my foundation and see what people think of it, and they can donate things for my foundation, and I could help. From American to Jamaica, and from America straight to Africa, all over the world, I want to do something for some people who need help, each and everywhere, north, west, east, and south. That’s my plan and my good thought and my wish.
M: That’s excellent. Thank you very much for being with us. It’s an honor and we appreciate it!
T: Yeah, mon.
How could we possibly describe this interview, but to say that were truly honored to be able to sit down with Ziggy Marley at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. It’s not often that one gets to sit down with one of their musical and life inspirations, but fortunately it happened in Manchester, Tennessee…
Ziggy Marley Interview on Moe Train’s Tracks
Ziggy Marley, Brian Kracyla and Monty Wiradilaga
Moe – We’re sitting backstage in Ziggy Marley’s tour bus. Ziggy, thank you very much for being on the podcast.
Ziggy – Good brah!
Moe – So how are you feeling about Bonnaroo? Are you feeling the love?
Ziggy – Ya mon. Bonnaroo, you know, is good.. is good feh see so much people together and just enjoying music and love. You know.. It’s great. It’s a great environment.
Moe – Absolutely. I’ve been speaking to many people about who they’re most looking forward to seeing at Bonnaroo.. And I’ll tell ya, about every single person that I had spoken to was very, very excited about your set…
Ziggy – Yeah?
Moe – And they were all out there.
Ziggy – Yeah mon.
Moe – “Love Is My Religion”.. I keep hearing you say, “love is all we need.” How does that shape your life?
Ziggy – Well that, I mean, what it is, is a gradual realization of the true concept of spirituality or the true concept of God. You know, because from when I was a young child coming up, we were about God, you know, we went through Christianity. We were still lookin’ for the truth. How do I identify myself in terms of that aspect, in terms of this religious aspect, spiritual aspect… What is it really? What do I call it? Am I a Christian? Am I a Rasta? What am I? And what is the direction that I should be goin’? So after a while, it just gradually come to me that love is really… Love is the answer. Love is the answer to everything that I was questioning.
Moe – You were looking for the truth, and love is the truth.
Ziggy – Yeah. So the truth for me doesn’t lie within the rituals of religion or the traditions of religion. Love is the truth, ya know? So, that is what I came to realize a few years ago, and just to put it in a terms that people can understand is “Love Is My Religion,” ya know?
Moe – It feels to me that you’ve written an anthem for a generation with “Love Is My Religion.” It feels that in this day and age, there’s not enough love, and what you’re telling everyone is… everyone does need love. Do you feel that your message is being received well?
Ziggy – Yes, I think so. Everywhere I go, it’s been received well and I believe that.. the good thing about love is that love don’t have any enemies. So even if, I mean, even if people are there who are Christians, Muslims, or whatever… You still can say that, ’cause it’s love. You know… You really can’t fight love. Like, you can’t have anything against love.
Moe – It’s true.
Ziggy – You know what I mean? I think it’s been received well and it’s hard work still to get the message out there ’cause I have to be on the road. My music and what I do is not something where I can sit down and depend on upon a TV or the radio or the media generally, to promote what I’m doing. What I’m doing, I have to get out there and do the footwork… The soldierwork. And that’s what we’re doin’ right now. That’s the only way I can get that message out properly, ya know?
Moe – Some musicians deal more with political aspects. I feel as though you deal more with the person… The social aspects. The human condition, I would say.
Ziggy – Yeah, well I’ve done political stuff, ya know. There was a point where I kinda understood… ‘All right, well, ya know what? The solution is not in politics or even social things. The solution is within the individual…’ To find love, that is the solution to the world’s problems. It is not democracy, it is not communism, nor capitalism… It is not religion, it is not charity, it is for human beings to find love within themselves. This is the solution for everything. Everything else is secondary. If you have democracy without love, it ain’t gonna work. If you have communism wit… Nuttin’ gonna work without love! Nuttin! So let’s find love first, and then we’ll find everything else!
Moe – Speaking of love… We were in the pit area during your performance. I was just taking a look around and you could see a huge smile on everyone’s face.
Ziggy – (Smiles and laughs)
Moe – A huge smile! It was great. It was almost as if you were putting your hands in the air over your head to channel the power of everyone in the crowd.
Ziggy – Yeah.
Moe – Is that how you feel?
Ziggy – Yeah, well that I mean.
Moe – Are you just feeling the music?
Ziggy – Yeah, yeah weh… You know, we’re transmittin’ vibrations, ya know. We’re communicatin’ with more that words and more than music. We’re communicatin’ with vibrations. So that is a form… that is a way of communication from me. So, ya know, puttin’ up my hands is very symbolic of just trying to soak up and tryin’ to give back healing power, ya know?
Moe – The people in the crowd were definitely soaking up your power as well.
Ziggy – Ya mon.
Moe – When you went solo…when you recorded “Dragonfly.” How was it getting away from playing with your family for so long with The Melody Makers? How was that transition?
Ziggy – Well ya know, I mean, feh me it wasn’t.. it was not a difficult thing. I do what I have to do. I do wherever life is taking me… I go without any resistance. So I’m just going with the flow. So the flow took me there and I didn’t fight it. I didn’t think about it, I didn’t judge it, I didn’t do anything, I just went with it.
Moe – So it felt natural.
Ziggy – Yeah. So I just flow with it. But I think one of the main things why that flow is like that, is because we are a family anyway. Yeah, so for me, it wasn’t like a breaking up of anything. You know because we are family.
Moe – Family’s family.
Ziggy – Yeah, that exists up to now, so we still have that togetherness, ya know?
Moe – In “Dragonfly,” you sort of changed your style a little bit. I felt.. It seems like you went a little jazzy, acoustic rock style, or bluesy?
Ziggy – Yeah well… Whatever it was, it was. I didn’t.. I never put any names, I didn’t try to do anything. I didn’t try to go jazzy bluesy, I just played what was coming out at the time. That’s what we do as artists. We just give what we have at the time. I don’t try to shape my music in any particular way. I try to just make it be natural. And so I think that “Dragonfly” was a very musically adventurous record, which is the way I am. I’m very adventurous. And so, you know, as I said, we’ll go with the flow and that’s what was happening with me at the time. For me, as an artist/musician, we try to lead the people. That means… What I do is not try to do what people want, because I’m an artist.
Moe – Exactly.
Ziggy – I have to do what my heart tells me. I have to lead them to me. I can’t follow them to where they are, I have to bring them to where I am.
Moe – You wanna be true to yourself like you say in your song!
Ziggy – Yeah! That is where we are. We have to bring the people to where WE are… and that’s just how it is, ya know?
Moe – Staying true to yourself, like in your music… Is it hard when people are judging what you’re doing?
Ziggy – It’s not hard for me. I wish people would get the message of the music. Ya know, mainly it’s critics who have opinions, it’s not people. Ya know, people enjoy whatever! ‘Hey! I enjoy..’
Moe – Yeah! Exactly!
Ziggy – It’s those who think they have that authority of criticism. But it doesn’t bother me, because feh me… I kinda am strong and believe and believe in what I am doing. I’m not here halfway. I’m here full way.
Moe – That’s good.
Ziggy – I believe in what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing have a purpose. So, there’s no detractors or negative energy that could make me even double think what I’m doing or think twice about what I’m doing ’cause I know what I’m doing, ya know?
Moe – Speaking of critics, I saw on your website that you said about family members… About how people tend to say that ‘Oh, Ziggy’s better than the other brothers.’ How does the family deal with that?
Ziggy – We don’t deal with it. There’s nothing to deal with.
Moe – You just flow?
Ziggy – Yeah. There’s nothing to deal with. That doesn’t effect us in any way shape or form. My bruddahs know me, my sistahs know me, we know each other… That’s it!
Moe – How would you describe your brothers?
Ziggy – Steve, who is the next eldest to me in terms of the male in the family… We call him “Raggamuffin,”
Moe – (Laughs)
Ziggy – Ya know, ’cause he has a rougher side… a little more bit more rougher… Yeh.. Damian, he’s the youngest one of us now. Steve mentored him into comin’ up into what’s been happenin’ now. And so he’s a young one. Still growin’, you know, still growin’, still young, still growin’, still finding who he is and stuff like that, so we still have to give him some time feh become who he is, ya know? We have Julian, Ky-Mani… Everybody is humble, everyone is working what they feel… and everyone is supportive of everyone else, you know I mean?
Moe – Well, you have an actor in your family, right?
Ziggy – Hmm?
Moe – Ky-Mani is an actor, correct?
Ziggy – Ky-Mani, yeah, did some acting in…
Moe – Shottas…
Ziggy – Shottas…Right. Yeah, he’s into acting and he’s making a new record right now coming out. So we’re looking forward to that.
Moe – Well since he’s an actor… I heard that you write screenplays.
Ziggy – (Smiles) I’m trying to! I’m trying to divert energy, ya know? I’m trying to put energy into other places where I feel creative energy.
Moe – So what are you writing about? What are your subjects?
Ziggy – (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) I’m sorry to embarrass you! Oh, come on!
Ziggy – You’ll see! Everyone will see!
Moe – (Laughs)
Ziggy – No matter what we’re doing… in terms of that screenplay thing, I’m tryin’ to be entertaining but I’m tryin’ to always have a message in what we do.
Moe – So there’s nothing in particular that you’re…
Ziggy – (Smiles) I don’t wanna say right now, ya know? Yuh haffa wait… Yuh haffa wait!
Moe – (Laughs) That’s fair enough! Do you have any other hobbies or diversions that most people don’t know about… That you’d talk about at least.
Ziggy – I like watchin’ movies, I play video games… Sports…
Moe – Guitar Hero?
Ziggy – (Smiles) I wanna get that one!
Moe – (Laughs)
Ziggy – I haven’t gotten that one yet, but I saw somebody playin it. I haffa get that one!
Moe – It’s fun! They have a huge screen over here (at Bonnaroo). It’s about 50 feet square.
Ziggy – Oh yeah?? I haffa get it! It looked fun! But I heard they’re coming out with a whole band!?
Moe – They are!
Ziggy – Yeah? It’s gonna be interesting! (Laughs)
Moe – You see people playing it all the time!
Ziggy – (Laughs)
Moe – Just to have that diversion, does it help you deal with everyday touring? ‘Cause you’re on the road all the time, right?
Ziggy – Yeah, for a couple years we been touring, spreading “Love Is My Religion.” But yeah… I like taking my head somewhere else after a while.
Moe – You’re going home after today?
Ziggy – Yeah, we head home for a couple days, then we head out to Europe.
Moe – I bet you’re just gonna go home and just do nothing, aren’t ya? (Laughs.)
Ziggy – (Laughs) That’s exactly it. That’s my favorite thing to do!
Moe – Yeah, I bet! I’m sure you have friends that you go home and they want you to go out… What do you say, “No.. Leave me alone!” or what? (Laughs)
Ziggy – No..no.. Really, I don’t… I don’t have a lot of friends, ya know? I’m a family man. I have my kids and wife and ya know, my bruddahs, but I’m not…
Moe – How many kids do you have?
Ziggy – Me have five.
Moe – Five…
Ziggy – I’m not someone that goes out a lot. I’m not into that. I’m into just relaxing.
Moe – A family person… Right.
Ziggy – Yeah… I’m into that.
Moe – Well you’re on the road all the time, I can definitely see that. You had an exclusive deal with Walmart for a year, right?
Ziggy – It was Target.
Moe – Oh, I’m sorry… Target! And it wasn’t the best experience? How’d it go?
Ziggy – No, it was all right. I mean, again, I told you that I love adventure. I’m an adventurer in what we do. So how this came about was… Well, we wanted to do an independent record now. I wanted to own my music, ya know? So, I didn’t want to go into any contract with any record label. Target came up and they said they would put it out in Target exclusive for a year. Ya know, it was a good business decision. And it was an experiment..
Moe – You were the first in the industry to do that weren’t you?
Ziggy – Yeah, yeah… I think… Something like that!
Moe – That’s a benchmark!
Ziggy – Yeah! It was a revolutionary concept, which I think there is going to be more in the future because of how the record business is going now. Record companies are going a bit down, and artists are begining to be more independent. But anyway, I mean, it was allright. I wish that they had put more into it, in terms of promoting it.
Moe – They didn’t do too much about it?
Ziggy – (Smiles) No, it is a big corporation, so I know how it… I’m not big. I’m just like a little small, you know (Laughs) in the corporation..
Moe – Oh come on! (Laughs)
Ziggy – I wish they had done more to promote it. But because it was only for a year, I was OK with it, ’cause I know after that, I could get it out on a more mass market thing. So, we’re looking forward for it being available to everyone in all of the main stores, but you can get it online anywhere anyway, so that’s cool.
Moe – I contacted someone from TuffGong and they said that I could use “Love Is My Religion” on my podcast.
Ziggy – Yeah.
Moe – And I also saw that you put, ah… What’s that song was it… On the podcast network? You just put another…
Ziggy – Which one? I’m not sure which one it was…
Moe – Ahh…
Ziggy – (Sings) Make some music… Into the groove…
Moe – It might be that one… I can’t remember!
Ziggy – I don’t know. I can’t remember.
Moe – But anyway! I’m sorry… With that, you’re opening yourself up and giving yourself out to the people.
Ziggy – Yeah.
Moe – How do you feel the reception from that? Do you think that more people will start embracing that? More musicians will start doing that?
Ziggy – You mean like…
Moe – Promotion-wise… ‘Cause it’s good for promotion for you!
Ziggy – Yeah, I mean. You know, gradually as we get more into the future of the music industry, I think that… artists will be more open to the new technology to get the music across. For me, you know.. for me, it’s about getting the message across, so that is the greatest thing for me if I can get what I’m saying across to people. That is what I’m interested in doing, and because of that, I’m very open to ideas, because I know that what I’m sayin’ needs to be given to the people… So I’m very open to whichever avenue I can get that to the people, ya know? So, I’m really open to anything that’s happening that will get the message.
Moe – I read that you said that you think that music will be free in the future?
Ziggy – Yeah, I wanted something like that to happen… Yeah! Why not? I don’t see why not… (Smiles) I’ve been trying to do that for a few years, but the business people, ‘No! No! You don’t…’
Moe – Yeah, yeah! I know! Well hey… maybe some day!
Ziggy – Yeah… The music free or the concert free… Somethin’… Somethin’… Somethin’ haffe… somethin’ haffe give! (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) Something have to give!
King B – (Laughs)
Ziggy – Yeah! (Laughs)
Moe – One last question… If you have one message to give, I think your message would be love…
Ziggy – That’s it.
Moe – But what’s your message?
Ziggy – It’s love! It’s love!
Moe – Yeah, definitely.
Ziggy – It’s very simple…
Moe – Well thank you very much for the interview.
Ziggy – Ya mon, thanks…
Moe – It’s been an honor. And thank you for you and your family…
Ziggy – Ya mon!
Moe – So are YOU gonna fly home? I know your hobby is flying…
Ziggy – Yeah!! (Laughs)
Moe – Take a hold of the controls, huh?! (Laughs)
Ziggy – (Laughs) I wish! I wish! I wish! (Laughs)
Moe – Hey Ziggy… Thank you very, very much, I appreciate it.
Ziggy – All right… Ya mon! Respect! Thanks…
- New comic book: Ziggy Marley’s Marijuanaman (boingboing.net)
- ‘This Train’ – Ziggy Marley, with Willie Nelson, Mickey Raphael (stillisstillmoving.com)
- Ziggy Marley becomes a dad for the 5th time (muzicmagazine.wordpress.com)
Derek has had one hell of a first year hitting the festival circuit, and blew up the crowds at Bonnaroo, Rothbury, Camp Bisco and more. His live performances along with his drummer Corey are an absolute must see.
Pretty Lights has been releasing free albums (with option to donate) on PrettyLightsMusic.com, so you definitely need to grab yourself some of his albums. If you need a great soundtrack to drive around to on a beautiful sunny day, Pretty Lights is the way to go!
Be sure to check out the new MoeTrainsTracks.com for an all new Tracks experience… So we bring to you… The man who moves the feet… Derek Vincent Smith, from Pretty Lights.
Derek Vincent Smith (Pretty Lights) Interview on Moe Train’s Tracks
Monty Wiradilaga and Brian Kracyla (MTT)
Moe (MTT): This is your first festival season right? How’s it treating you?
Derek (Pretty Lights): I had no idea what to expect coming into it. I was very excited about it. And to be honest, I’ve received nothing but love at all, it’s been really cool. Even fifteen minutes before the show, when the tent’s empty and I’m feeling kinda nervous about if people are going to come check out the set, they’ve never let me down. Everyone has been really cool, it’s been packed, lots of energy. People obviously come to festivals to listen to music and dance and get down and I’m glad that I can help them do that.
M: You guys run an interesting improv angle with your music, you always have an evolving sound. How do you work to create an evolving musical journey throughout your set?
PL: That’s a cool question. A lot of people look at me behind a table and think that I’m a DJ, and to be honest, I’ve never spun a record in my life. I could probably match beats with records, but I’ve never even tried it. All the music is original, using original productions I should say. I’m using software and different devices to trigger different parts and arrange it on the fly and to affect it and manipulate it and play some of the layers live on top, like melodies and samples and stuff like that. But back to your question, how do I look at it as a set, as a whole, I try to think of it more as how a DJ would as far as tempos. I really try to bring the energy up and back down smoothly. Even if it’s a real hype hip-hop speed track, I don’t like to play it after some more up-tempo electric track because it just doesn’t feel right.
M: Don’t want to burn people out?
PL: Yeah. Also I like to produce a lot of different styles of music, of a lot of electronic kind of music, but they also vary in energy a lot. But rather than just have my live shows be all high energy dance music, I like to bring in some of the more organic down-tempo, more emotional kind of tracks. It does take some consideration of where to bring that in and where to play it or not to play it. Honestly, as I play more and more, I’m getting better at being able to do that. Because I never have a set list, the songs have a level of improvisation, but the sets are always improvised as far as the order. Like last night, these people had grabbed a set list off the stage and I could see people were kinda arguing over it and I went down and said, ‘That’s not even my set list! That’s the set list for the band that hasn’t played yet. You better put that back up there, they’re not gonna know what songs to play.’
M: Well you and Corey worked together in another band before this, so I guess you guys have a good chemistry going.
PL: Yeah, we worked together before Pretty Lights in a band and actually when that broke up, when that kinda ceased to exist, that’s when I started writing the first Pretty Lights album. There was really a period of time for about two years between when that band ended and when the first Pretty Lights show that I actually invited the drummer up to play with me. I wanted that element live and I feel like it brings a certain kind of hands-on, live energy to the show. Also, I like to be able to play off another individual. So that’s when I collaborated with him and started doing the shows with a live kit.
PL: Yeah. When we first started playing it pretty much was only two hand signals, like ‘cut out’and ‘come back in’. But as we played together more and I’ve written more music in a way that it can be performed differently each time, utilizing the different technology like Abelton Live with the different kind of features…
M: Is that what you use?
PL: That’s what I use live, yeah, in conjunction of a device called a monomer. We use signals like, I have different hand signals to switch drum beats, or switch high-hat speeds, or switch to ride signals, or we’ve got one for switching to an off-beat snare pattern, or losing the snare and keeping the kick and high-hat, or different things for bringing the energy up or bringing the energy back down, and things like that. It’s definitely evolved, the way in which we communicate on-stage.
M: So how do you think the live performance brings your audience a different experience than what’s on your albums?
PL: It’s all about the energy, about hearing the music in a different sort of setting. It’s good car music, I think it’s good bedroom music but a lot of…
M: Bedroom music, huh! Getting the beds rockin’?
PL: That’s what I’m saying, man! People have told me that I’ve gotten them laid.
M: There you go, to your credit… Put that on your resume, ‘Getting People Laid!’
PL: (Laughing) Back to that question, what I was trying to say was that it’s not all me, or us, the people on-stage, creating that live experience. It has so much to do with everyone coming together and experiencing the difference of the live show energy but also within a congregation of people. And it also has a lot to do with, nowadays, the light show and bringing the visual medium. Which has evolved, but I’m looking to take it a lot further.
M: Just an all encompassing experience.
PL: Exactly, a multi-media experience. A lot of people think that when I named it Pretty Lights that I named it exactly for that, some crazy laser light show, but that definitely wasn’t in my mind at all when that name kinda came to be. It was more about personal experiences of pretty lights, I’m always on the look at for that kind of thing. But I’m definitely trying to bring the whole live light/video aspect of the show to a whole ‘nother level, and just keep pushing that, keep pushing the production so that people can really have a cool experience that’s far different than listening to the record.
PL: Yeah, he did. Not maybe at the same time that other people, especially at my age, might have been exposed to it or hit by it because, honestly, I grew up in a family that, when I was a kid, I wasn’t really exposed to a lot of music. Being born in the eighties, I think a lot of people my age heard a lot of Michael Jackson growing up but it was a different experience for me because it didn’t get into to it until I was able to find it myself as a late teenager. In junior high I was like ‘Oh, I know who Michael Jackson is, he’s the King of Pop’ but I wasn’t really exposed to his music. When I really started getting into music, and getting into production, and really going back and listening to it with fresh ears, a lot of it is just unbelievable. It’s just incredible music. The records he did specifically with Quincy Jones, who’s one of my icons as a producer, have been very inspirational, not only in how I create music but also in a personal way. That combination of artists was really able to create some pieces of music that made you feel. And that’s what music has always been about for me, creating emotion and always having people be able to feel something from the music, inside.
M: Where do you see Pretty Lights evolving to in the near future?
PL: I have a lot of ideas that I want to manifest and to make happen in my career, wherever it goes. Right now, and in the recent past, I’ve been doing a lot of collage sample producing, where I’m taking different snippets from vinyl and bringing them together to create pieces of music.
M: Like Girl Talk style?
PL: Not like Girl Talk at all. Actually, nothing like that. More like DJ Shadow, a big influence for me. The whole idea is more obscure pieces of music and just little pieces of it. So you can still really implement melodic creativity and create feelings and emotions that didn’t exist in the song that the sample was taken from because you’re getting pieces from all these different not only artist but different decades. As far as pushing the project and the show and the music in general, I feel like the sampling phase of my career is kind of dwindling because I have the means to create that stuff on my own. Before, in that two year period I mentioned between the prior band and Pretty Lights, I worked as an audio engineer in a professional recording studio and did a lot of records with, not only local bands, but some bigger artists. I did some work with Lyrics Born and Greyboy Allstars and stuff like that. I want to be able to capitalize on my experience as an audio engineer and working in the studio producing other musicians, just how we were talking about Quincy Jones. I’m actually already looking into getting my own vinyl press and buying analog tape machines, so I can really create the sound that I want, which right now I’m getting by taking it from vinyl from other decades. But I want to be able to create that in the present day. As far as future records, I’m looking to work with networks of musicians and really utilizing recording techniques to hang on to that golden age of music where everything sounded so warm and awesome. As far as my records, that’s where I’m looking to take things, but also I’m looking to make it very multi-media. I do a lot of video editing and stuff on the side and haven’t been able to really bring that to the show yet. So one thing that I’m looking to work on in the near future is also realizing audio/video compilation things, not just records but records and video accompaniments and the same time. But, anyway, you’re letting me babble on, which I appreciate.
M: That’s cool. I asked the question. Hey man, thanks a lot for being with us. I appreciate it. We look forward to your set tonight.
PL: Yeah, me too! It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much.
A classic interview with Andrew and Ben From MGMT in 2008 just as they broke as major new players on the music scene.
MGMT Interview on Moe Train’s Tracks
Andrew Vanwyngarden, Ben Goldwasser (MGMT)
Monty Wiradilaga, Brian Kracyla (Moe Train’s Tracks)
Starlight Ballroom – Philadelphia, PA
Here’s a great interview that was rescued from The Tracks’ vaults… Back in early 2008, MTT caught up with Andrew and Ben from MGMT in Philadelphia, PA.
MGMT had just gotten a major break in the music scene with the widespread critical success of Oracular Spectacular. Keep an eye on MoeTrainsTracks.com for tons of great new content!
Moe: We saw you guys down at Bonnaroo for your set, it was a great way to open up the weekend. I was a pretty epic show if I must say.
Andrew: Yeah, it was fun. We had been to Bonnaroo before so it was good to see it from the side of the artist instead of the person in the crowd. It was only our second festival show.
M: Oh really, where was the first, Coachella?
M: So how do they compare?
A: I don’t know, Coachella was crazier for us because we were more nervous. Bonnaroo was a little more relaxed and cool.
M: You guys just started tour together with a band right?
Ben: We started practicing with them about a year ago. I think we were kinda thrust into exposure a little too quickly for our taste. We played on national television after we had only been touring with the band for a couple of months.
M: Was that on Letterman?
M: You looked a little nervous.
B: Yeah, we were very nervous! But we’re getting more comfortable and we don’t have to think as hard when we’re playing, its kinda getting to be more natural. We’re getting used to playing for crowds.
M: Did you guys have sound problems at Bonnaroo in the beginning, what was going on?
B: Yeah, well, the festival thing, we hardly ever really get a sound check so it’s always a little weird starting out.
A: I think the monitors were pretty messed up.
M: (to Andrew) Oh, by the way, you had on some pretty fucking crazy pants. I remember walking up to set and saying ‘holy shit’, those bright blue ones!
A: Tropical floral bellbottoms, yeah. Really big bellbottoms.
M: They looked comfortable though!
A: Yeah, they’re real comfortable.
M: Saw you guys backstage, you guys looked pretty chill, pretty relaxed, so I guess you feel like you’re falling into place with everything.
B: We’re good at hanging out. We’re good at relaxing.
M: Any standout moments yet from your recent successes?
B: We just played at the Oxygen festival in Ireland and that was really crazy. There were all these people climbing up the towers that were holding up the tent and we had to stop the show because this girl made it all the way to the roof of the tent so that you couldn’t even see her anymore and everyone was yelling at her telling her to come down.
M: Did she take a spill?
B: No, it would have been ugly if she had! That was probably at least 60 feet up in the air or something. It was pretty crazy.
M: I saw a video of you guys at some festival in Scotland that you guys were playing and you were walking around the grounds, checking out the scene; Andrew you like the thrill-rides?
A: As much as I’d like to keep the myth going that I like thrill-rides, I’m new to them. I’ve been on like Space Mountain and most of the Disney rides, and I like those a lot. I was like twenty when I started going on roller coasters, so I don’t think I’d go on the Slingshot thing. I would vomit.
M: You guys got together at Wesleyan, and you were actually making music that you thought would be annoying?
A: We knew it was annoying.
M: Just to fuck around, just playing, just to amuse yourselves?
A: I dunno… We were young and foolish.
M: You were freshman?
M: So it was basically putting that freshman energy, that drunken and banged up energy back into the music.
A: Yeah, exactly.
M: What’s up with the clothing optional dorm?
B: At some point it was designated a “clothing optional” dorm but there aren’t many people walking around naked there. There were a few, and we were friends with most of them.
A: I did naked calisthenics with Vin Popper on time. (all laugh)
M: Tell us about some of those early dorm session jams. We used to do the same thing. We’d go out to parties, get all fucked up and come back and just grab our instruments at like 2 o’clock in the morning and start jamming. So what was it like with you guys getting together?
B: It was a lot like that. It’s was just kinda very casual, just having fun. We had a lot of other friends that we played music with and we were both in other bands at the same time. It wasn’t like we started a band in order to get successful and get fans and all that, we just started it for something to do and didn’t really care if anyone liked it.
M: You guys just probably wrote the album for yourselves.
B: In a way, I mean, we know we were writing it for other people because we had signed a record deal at that point, so we had a delivery date, so there was a little bit of pressure on us but when we were writing the songs we didn’t think that anyone was actually gonna hear the album, so it was pretty much just writing it for ourselves.
M: So I guess its still a surprise with all of this going on?
B: Yeah, its still a surprise. And, I don’t know, it keeps getting crazier!
M: When you guys were first recording you guys had a pretty gritty sound right? I mean, if you were recording back in your dorms you’re going to have that unintentional gritty, natural sound. Did you guys try to replicate that sound?
B: In a way it was the other way around because we were doing a lot of stuff just on computers, so a lot of it was very electronic and very clean sounding. I think we’ve tried to get dirtier.
M: You had the producer who worked with the Flaming Lips. Did you guys pick him because he had that psychedelic background?
A: We kinda just chose him because we talked to him and we’re fans of the Flaming Lips and other stuff he’s done, like Sleater-Kinney and Mogwai. He’s not the kind of producer that wants to mold the band into something, he kinda just lets them do their own thing. So, he was good for us.
M: So did the album come out exactly how you wanted it to come out?
A: At the time I think it did, yeah.
M: Looking back now, what do you think?
A: I’m sure now if we listened to it a bunch, we’d probably change stuff. But we think it’s good that we can’t because it captures that moment.
M: I see you in a lot of pictures wearing sunglasses, you’re not becoming Bono are you?
A: I hope to God not!! If I am you should stab me…
M: What’s your beef with him?
A: Nah, I just don’t like him. I heard he’s a great guy, and he seems like he’s got good intentions. I think it’s really the sunglasses that piss me off the most. So, now I’m never going to wear sunglasses again.
M: Will you burn them in effigy?
A: We stabbed an effigy at our senior recital.
M: Ben, you said, “To give music meaning you have to have your back up against something”; What, you don’t remember?
A: (laughs) You sound like Thoreau or something.
M: Yeah, I guess you were being pretty introspective.
B: I guess maybe just having some resistance kind of helps. With us, when we got signed and we had to deal with all the kind of big-record-label bullshit for the first time, I think it kind of forced us to look at what we’re doing and try to give it as much meaning as possible and try to ask ourselves why we were doing it in the first place.
M: So what’s your validation?
A: I don’t think we’re validated.
M: No? What will be your validation then?
A: If aliens approve of our music. So, we’re waiting for contact.
M: Waiting for the return in 2012 when the earth ends? I know you guys are joking around about your future, about what will happen hen things will come, but we’re sitting inside of a big tour bus. Obviously this is probably five times bigger than your dorm room was. You said that when the fame comes around and you get the big label money that you would go get blow jobs, you would ride horses to your gigs, and go get castles. What’s going on with the success?
B: Yeah, we’ve both gotten blow jobs before, which is cool. We’re working on the horses and the castles.
M: What have you benefited from just by being in the business?
A: We get a lot of free clothes, a lot of free stuff. And we both got haircuts for the first time in a long time. We used to cut our own hair and now we can afford real haircuts.
M: If you guys think that everything musically has been done before, how does MGMT stray away from the norm’?
B: I don’t know if everything’s been done before…
A: All the good stuff has.
B: Yeah, all the good stuff’s been done before but pretty much…
A: You could string your guitar with celery or something, but that doesn’t mean it gonna be good music.
B: Any new good thing I think comes out of recycled ideas and using them in creative ways. Rock and roll is a pretty basic, simple form of music but there’s so many possibilities with it.
A: You don’t have to make up your own language to write a good poem.
M: Who is it that does that again…
A: Sigur Ros!
M: Oh yeah that’s right. Did you guys see them at Bonnaroo, what’d you think?
A: I heard for somebody that it’s much better to see them in a wide open cathedral-type space, like an indoor space, and I could see how that’d be true. It didn’t translate that well to the festival thing.
M: Yeah, it’s pretty grand I guess. So, what’s the future of MGMT, or have not realized the present yet?
A: We have trouble comprehending what’s happening at all times. But the future should hold good things. We’re trying to get a cabin somewhere in the woods. James is gonna cut firewood, I had a vision of him walking towards me with an arm full of firewood and I’m gonna smile and then our dog is gonna lick our faces.
M: (laughing) Alright guys, thanks a lot.
High on Fire Interview
Matt Pike, Jeff Matz, Des Kensel (High on Fire) with Monty Wiradilaga and Brian Kracyla
Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo
MT: We are sitting here back stage at Bonnaroo with High on Fire. What’s going on guys?
M: Not a whole lot, just got done playing, just checking out the fest’. I am Matt Pike. I sing and play guitar in High On Fire.
J: Jeff Matz, I play bass.
D: I’m Des Kenzel, I play drums.
MT: That was one hell of a set guys. That was just brutal, back to back metal sets on the same stage. What were the promoters asking for, total destruction or what?!
M: It seemed like a big jam band thing before that and then Dillinger, then us, then Shadows Fall. That’s kinda brutal, someone booked it kinda cool, definitely surprising. The energy comes up a little bit.
D: Yeah, I thought it was cool that it was the “metal stage” for today. Going on after Dillinger, not an easy thing to do. We thought we played pretty good and then we were like ‘Yeah, good luck Shadows Fall.’ (laughs) But I’m sure they’re gonna hold their own.
M: They were playing good. It definitely lights a fire when you after go on after them. And all of us have been touring buddies for a while and shit. It’s kinda funny to have to go on after each other. All the metal bands nowadays are really super tight and really super good and you have to play after your buddy live or something. You’re like, ‘Whoa, step it up a bit!’
D: It definitely keeps us in check as musicians. We’re like, ‘Man, we gotta go play after that?! You fuckers.’
J: We’ve been doing our homework, that’s for sure.
MT: I interviewed Dillinger Escape Plan earlier and I said that it was basically, ‘Wake the fuck up Bonnaroo! It’s the last day. Here’s some metal ya.’
D: It’s your last chance!
MT: So what did you guys think about the crowd? Did you expect anything? Did you expect just hippies or what did you expect a mix of?
D: We weren’t really sure what to expect…
M: I was kinda of surprised at it! Cuz I expected a bunch of hackey-sackers looking at us all weird and shit. Like, “Hey, man, you must be the devil!”
D: But I think something like this, 4 days, even though it’s the last day and we were figuring that some of the people might be tired, everybody still wants to let loose.
J: That was a good enthusiastic response from the crowd.
MT: There were a couple of moments during your set that I had to laugh a little bit because, for one, the girl standing right in front of me hit you with her bra!
J: No, it was her underwear.
M: It was her underwear and…
D: It was a pair of panties and it had skid marks on it! We all saw it!
MT: It did not! It had skid marks?!
D: She probably been wearing whose panties for like 4 days in the tent man!
M: Don’t say it out loud but I saved them for my tour manager.
D: Oh yeah, we’re gonna have fun with those later on, stashing them in someone’s pants or their jacket pocket or something! (all laugh)
MT: I thought that stuff was just reserved for guys like Frank Sinatra.
D: Vince Neal or something… Nah, the panties Vince Neal got, they didn’t have skid marks.
J: Are fans are for real!
M: I only got one pair, that dude got hundreds.
D: The panties Vince Neal got thrown up on stage had front butt skid marks.
M: Damn bro, why you dissin on Vince?!
D: No, I’m not hating! You want front butt or back butt?
MT: (to Matt) Could you possibly the first metal pimp?
D: The first metal pimp! Man, come on, don’t pump his ego! As if we didn’t already have a road case for his ego.
MT: But I saw him. I saw you looking over there, working your magic. I saw you giving her the eye.
M: Well, you’ve got to give them the eye, especially if they throw you their soiled panties.
J: Give them the eye among other things…
M: It could even be the stink eye.
D: She gave you the brown eye!
MT: Give her the shocker after your set.
D: I actually got hit in the head with something during the set. I saw a few lemons get tossed up on stage and then some piece of plastic something hit me in the head.
M: Ha, lemons are awesome, dude.
D: Lemons mean you rock!!
M: Well maybe I’m not fucking Jerry Garcia. Oh well.
J: Bitter pills to swallow.
MT: There was something refreshing about your set. I haven’t seen too much metal with a smile. You had a smile on your face for the whole set. Maybe I’ve seen it with the lead singer of like Dragonforce..
M: I’ve done it for the last thirteen years because it’s totally ridiculous. It’s the funniest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. Just playing and doing metal and trying to take yourself too serious, you can’t help it after awhile and you have to laugh. If you have any sort of comedic value or if you knew anything about our band, we laugh a lot. We take ourselves very serious when we play but when you take yourself too serious with your fans and they know that you have personality, you can’t help but to smile or laugh. It’s for everyone. We have a rapport with our crowd and it’s like; yes, we’re goofballs and we play very seriously and very somber sometimes’ but it’s all about emotion and it’s all about a rollercoaster that we all go through. High On Fire is basically about life. Every lyric, everything we have is about us being alive and us having some rapport with our fans. If you can’t smile, you can’t cry, or you take yourself too serious, you have corpus paint on. And I’m with a bunch of goofy ass dudes that are all fucking hilarious. That’s all we do is laugh all day. Then we’re supposed to get all serious about playing?
MT: And you drink Pennsylvania beer, well done by the way. Congratulations on the Yuenglings.
M: It’s not bad shit.
MT: You guys have a new album coming out. Let’s talk about it.
D: Well, we’re still in the writing process. We’re hoping it’s gonna come out this year. Just typical High On Fire fashion we’ve had some setbacks…
M: It’s not that it’s not fuckin good. We have a lot of everything. We had a fallback, my drummer had a little bit of surgery. We…
D: “Your” drummer?!
M: Our guitars haven’t been in tune lately. So, we’ve been recording on a…
MT: Part-time basis?
M: We all kinda suck. Eventually we’ll get around to it. Too many bong hits, too many beers.
D: Hopefully our label wont here that last comment. Sorry guys, too many bong hits.
M: That was a fucking joke.
MT: For the past couple of years, metal has gone through a transformation from a point where it was just straight shred, see how fast you play, to a more technical style. I guess in your old band you played a little faster, faster riffs, now you have got more, I don’t want to say regimented, but more calculated riffs.
D: I feel personally that now “metal” nowadays is a big mix; whether it’s old school thrash or punk rock or hardcore. Long haired dudes and guys with cropped hair can get along.
M: It’s a weird meld because the progressive kind of met the style of punk rock a little bit, the nitty gritty and the total rush style, like Getty Lee and that kind of stuff. It’s kind of like we all crossed over, we’ve evolved. Every band that we’ve been on tour with has kinda been like that. Everybody plays perfectly or has some kind of study behind them and is really kind of better than our forefathers. But there’s still something you get from our forefathers because it’s a different thing when you’re sitting there in a studio recording and when you’re on an open stage and you know how that’s going to transfer to people sitting there watching you. Everybody’s trying to find this feel about it. It has to do with feel and it also has to do with being technical. It’s being zen about how you play. Lots of bands are picking up on the fact that there has to be a little rough about it and it has to be a little more choppy, the chops have to be a little better.
J: And the groove of course has to be there. Its very groove oriented too.
M: The forefathers have handed all of this down. It’s a lot of study of Prague records and classic rock records and AC/DC and Circle Jerks and Black Flag.
D: Yeah, I’m sure a lot of these metal bands nowadays had Shout At The Devil but they also had Black Flag Damaged or the Circle Jerks Golden Shower of Hits. Mix it all together.
MT: So you guys have a big punk background as well?
D: Oh yeah, totally.
MT: Like who?
D: Like I said Black Flag, Circle Jerks…
J: Poison Idea, the Germs…
D: Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Nuerosis…
M: Christ On Parade…
M: Bad Brains!
J: Oh yeah.
D: Bad Brains for sure.
MT: You putting horns in your music then?
D: Oh yeah, we’re gonna have a little reggae breakdown!
M: I don’t know if we’re that crazy about it but…
D: I don’t know if we’re the crack smoking Rasta type.
M: I haven’t smoked enough crack to add trombones and trumpets. I’m just kidding, dude.
MT: Last thing. Do you guys have anything to say to your fans? There were a lot out there representing today, tearing it up.
M: I’d like to say thank you. We’ll continue to keep doing what we’re doing and, fuck, we love you all very much.
D: Yeah, thanks for keeping us out here. Just be patient, the next record will come out and we’ll be back out touring soon.
J: It’ll be worth the wait.
M: We will not let you down. It’s in the works, man. We’re just taking time to do it right, that’s all.
The Tracks and Greg from Dillinger speak about camaraderie, DIY or Die and more at Bonnaroo.
DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN INTERVIEW WITH MOE TRAIN’S TRACKS
Greg Puciato, Monty Wiradilaga, Brian Kracyla
Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo 2009
You never know what’s going to happen during a Moe Train’s Tracks interview, as Greg Puciato, frontman of Dillinger Escape Plan, has his own interview with a dazed and confused girl, we speak about the camaraderie of the scene, how “DIY or Die” fuels his band, their new lineup, and next year’s upcoming album. Enjoy.
M: What’s going on man?
G: Nothing, just hanging out, just walking around checking some stuff out.
Random girl: (to Greg) Can you point me in the direction of the Rendezvous Tent?
G: Umm. (Laughter) What is your name?
RG: I’m Caroline.
G: Caroline, I’m Greg from the Dillinger Escape Plan, and we are doing an interview right now.
G: Um, and I have no idea where I am right now either.
C: I’m supposed to have a rendezvous at the Rendezvous Tent.
G: That what you do at the Rendezvous Tent, right, but you don’t know how to get there, which poses a problem. I don’t know either. (to random passerby) Do you know how to get to the Rendezvous Tent?
RP: I don’t know how to get there.
G: What good is trying to rendezvous with someone if you can’t get to the Rendezvous Tent?! (all laughing) Caroline, good luck trying to get there.
C: Thank you.
G: Wow! How many drugs did that girl take?
M: Welcome to Bonnaroo.
G: Seriously, that was amazing. She was higher than a kite.
M: (Laughter) I think that’s the general consensus with most people here right now.
G: Most people I look at here, if they don’t have sunglasses on, you can just look in their eye and be like, “You’re on some other thing right now in some other place.”
M: Exactly. Earlier today, when you guys came on, it was like, “Wake the fuck up Bonnaroo!”
G: Dude, I can’t believe how siked people were. I thought for sure, in general at this fest’ because it has a reputation for being more of a hippy peace-love type of thing, that as soon as we come out and start screaming at people and doing cool shit, people are going to turn around and just walk the other way, but people were siked, at one in the afternoon on the last day! It was honestly, we were talking about it after the show, the best big show that we’ve ever played in the United States.
G: Yeah. We felt like we played well. People seemed stoked on us.
M: Yeah, the reception was definitely great.
G: This type of vibe, it just doesn’t exist that often in the U.S., this type of festival vibe. It felt very European. In the United States, when you think of a festival, you think of Ozzfest or Warped Tour, and it’s like the same thing all day long. But this is cool because yesterday was Nine Inch Nails and today, if you wanted to, you can see the Dillinger Escape Plan and then Erika Badu.
M: She’s still on right now.
G: I really wanted to see her…
M: I’ll cut it short then.
G: It’s okay. It’s cool because it seems like, for a very long time here, people have been very into the mind-set of like, “I’m only listen to metal” or “I only listen to hip-hop”. Now, it’s cool to see so many people turn out for such an eclectic thing.
M: Exactly. It’s just always weird to see the different the different scenes clashing.
G: No, it’s cool, it’s very cool.
M: In watching your set it became evident how camaraderie really works its way into your music. You don’t see often where you can throw your mic into the crowd, let them sing, and when you call for it, they throw it right back to you.
G: I think something about our music, we’ve been around for ten years, I think there’s some aspect to it, besides the obvious insane energy and aggression of it, there’s a vibe of everyone knowing that it’s not the easiest thing in the world to listen to and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get. For as many people who are siked on it there’s a lot of people that just probably hate it. I think that makes the people that are into to it have this really us-against-the-world type of vibe. We’ve always tried to be really hands-on with our fans and really communicative and never to-cool-for-school and always talk to them and do cool stuff with them. If they right to us online we try to write back to every person. I think, over the years, it’s created now a point where we have this really cool synchronous type vibe with our fans. It’s neat man, it’s really nice.
M: It’s also basically crossed the line from camaraderie to trust.
G: Yeah, that kid could have stole the mic and ran away with it, but he threw it back. That’s the other thing, I think when you have confidence and you give someone some responsibility and your cool to them, they feel obligated to be cool back. If that kid had tried to run away with the mic I probably would have jumped on him and killed him. But it feels good and it’s interesting, I have a lot of people say that our shows, even though they are so aggressive and so violent, it feels like the overall vibe is still positive in a way. So, yeah, that’s really cool.
M: Absolutely. Also, not just that, but you doing stage diving and your guitarist stage diving with his guitar! Now that’s trust.
G: Yeah. To me, we just try to take the vibe of playing in a basement to twenty people where we came from and try to get that to translate to bigger places and the only way to do that is to be as hands-on and as physically in people’s faces as possible and force them to wake up a little bit. It sad to see so many people have such a rock star complex that the only time that they engage their fans is if they do some kind of scheduled meet-and-greet or a signing or something. You know, hang out for a little bit and shake some people’s hands or jump into the crowd or do something. I do know man, you (the rock star) are no better than anyone else. This is going to be over for us one day and who knows what we’re going to be doing. So to try to act like you’re cooler than school is silly.
M: Hippies versus hardcore kids…
G: It’s two sides to the same coin because the whole hippy vibe and the punk rock thing, which is what hardcore came out of, are both very socially aware movements. The
re both very communal, we’re all in this together versus some type of exterior force type of vibe, and one just took a much more aggressive approach than the other. It’s kinda like one is Malcolm X and one is Martin Luther King Jr. They want the same thing but one is like, “I’m gonna smoke you out” and the other is like, “I’m gonna kick you in the fucking face!” But we want the same thing, so I think that’s why it translates. It’s not like we’re just knuckleheads trying to incite the crowd to beat each other up. I’d like to think it’s more intelligent than that.
M: What do you think about the term “DIY or die” and how’s that relate to your band?
G: Well, for us, that’s pretty much exactly how we try to do everything. We don’t have a manager, we self-manage ourselves. We are very hands-on, there’s no merch’, there’s no poster, there’s nothing about our band visually, sonically, how we are represented in press, anything, that we are not the seed of and have the final say in. As much as it drives us nuts and we spend every waking moment of our lives working on this, I know that there is absolutely nothing out representing us that we didn’t see from its inception to its finality. I think that it’s another thing that our fans appreciate. If they get a t-shirt from us, they aren’t getting it from some graphic designer that works for the record company that we were just like, “Yeah, whatever, that sounds cool, how big is the check we’re gonna get?” That thing has to look like something that I would wear, that means something to me, that’s looks cool. I think, especially in the climate now where the record industry is just collapsing completely, that the people that can do the most DIY are the only ones that are going to stay afloat.
M: That’s basically how the trend in music is going these days.
G: It has to be. It has to go back to that. If you’re forced to be in a position financially to cut back every bit of slack you possibly can and to try to do as much by yourself as you possibly can, it’s gonna weed everybody out. The only people that are going to stay alive are the people who really give a shit and the people who care enough to put in the time to do everything themselves. The days of being a kid, and thinking that your rock star fantasy is going to come true and someone else is going to wipe your ass for you and do everything for you and you’re just gonna get a check at the end of the day, are completely over.
M: Hit the road and promote yourself.
G: Yeah man, go out and do the shows. Don’t suck live. Don’t write shitty music. Put out cool shit and you’ll last.
M: So what’s your favorite lyric, the one that means the most to you?
G: You know what, it’s probably a lyric that’s going to be on our upcoming record because, for me, lyrics are snap-shots of where you were in your life, and you don’t want to be there forever. So when we sing songs from our past records it’s like looking at a picture of myself in an auditory way. I’ll be singing a song, and I’ll remember writing that song, I was twenty-three, I was in my basement, this is exactly what I was talking about. I might not relate to it now. Hopefully, you’re in a different place, especially when you’re yelling and screaming and pissed, you know. You shouldn’t still be pissed six years later at the same thing. The trick is to find a kernel of that memory and hone in on it, you can still mean what you saying and you’re not just spitting out consonants and vowels. That’s for someone else to decide. I know that’s a shitty answer, but I don’t have a favorite one of my lyrics. I know they’re all pretty piss-poor, to be honest with you. (laughter) If you want to listen to lyrics, you should probably listen to Dylan or something.
M: So when’s the new album coming out?
G: February or January of 2010, which sounds like a long time but it’s realistically like 6 months away. We do three more weeks of touring and then we go home and start recording in late July, early August. January, February at the latest, we’ll get it out, and we’re siked man.
M: What can we look forward to in the new album?
G: Well, we got a new drummer, and that’s the biggest difference. Our new drummer is just on fire! He’s twenty-four and honestly the best drummer I’ve ever played with. He wants to crush everyone. He’s got this fire in him that he needs to prove to the world he’s the shit. That’s kinda cool because he’s pushing us, and we’re really hard on ourselves so to be pushed by someone who is brand new is a really good feeling. I can honestly say, after being in this band for a decade, that the stuff we’re writing now is the most inspired stuff we’ve ever written. It’s hard to know whether you’re still going to be able to do stuff without becoming a caricature or parody of yourself. The fact that we can still have something to say, ten years into it, with essentially the same style music, to me is nice, the fact that people still give a shit. I think everyone will like it. Anyone that likes us should be pleased with the new record.
M: Awesome. We look forward to it. Thanks a lot for being with us.
G: Definitely dude.
Neil Fallon (Clutch) Interview on Moe Train’s Tracks
Neil Fallon, Brian Kracyla and Monty Wiradilaga
Moe – All right, we’re sitting backstage with Neil Fallon, “leadman” from Clutch. I just recently got turned on to your music. I was on your site and I saw one of your videos. From the first couple notes hit, I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is some hard rockin’ music,’ and I immediately e-mailed Chip (Manager) and was like… I gotta talk to ya.
Neil – Right on! Cool!
Moe – There’s not too many “front to back” albums that I’ve heard, but your album “From Beale Street To Oblivion” is definitely a “front to back” album. Thumbs up…
Neil – Oh thanks.. Thank you.
Moe – Absolutely… Let’s talk about the album. You definitely took a little different approach to this album. I see from your beginning that you keep on changing your style a bit..
Neil – Yeah.
Moe – What did you do different with this album?
Neil – Well, we didn’t go into it with any preconceived notions, we kinda just followed our instincts. And people hear this and say this is much more of a blues style record for lack of a better word. It’s not really a blues record. But, there’s some slide guitar and some harmonica from Eric Oblander.. and that’s from the creative standpoint… and Bryan Hinkley did some guitar work with us. But what we did is we wrote the album in it’s entirety pretty much, and we went out on the road and toured on it for three weeks, just playing the record.
Moe – Just testing everything out?
Neil – Yeah, and learning the material inside and out. So we went into the studio, we were basically able to just roll tape, and not worry about, “Do I do this part four times or six?” And that, I think lent.. I was easier to get a raw..
Moe – It seemed live.
Neil – Yeah.
Moe – I thought it seemed real live. Real gritty.
Neil – I think this is the definitely the “livest” studio record that we have.
Moe – Is it easier to do that?
Neil – Oh yeah. And creatively, it’s less stress. You don’t waste time. You’re in, you’re out, and then you can worry about the pretty parts on top.
Moe – Well, when you were playing the songs out on the road, did you actually take notice of the audience’s reaction to what you were playing and sort of gear that towards your album or did you just go ahead and choose your favorites?
Neil – No. No, because the thing is I think when people are listening to music for the first time, they’re listening. They don’t know it, so they’re not going to dance.. They might cheer after a song, but maybe that person’s in a bad mood and you don’t want to make a creative judgment on this guy who’s been at the bar drinking eighteen beers all night. (Laughs)
Moe – Very true. (Laughs) Well speaking of those guys, you’ve got some crazy “Gearheads.”
Neil – Mmhmm.
Moe – And they’re pretty rabid fans. Do you have any outlandish stories from your “Gearheads?”
Neil – Oh sure, I mean… It’s a mixture of flattery and fear. (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – We’re very fortunate to have that kind of fan base where there’s people who are quite content to see four shows in a row.
Moe – You’ve got that following… Definitely.
Neil – And that’s a great spot to be in. Of course like any rock band, you’re gonna be in a nightclub, and there’s gonna be that weirdo that you know… But that weirdo probably does the same thing the next night to another rock band.
Moe – Yeah, that’s true… Talking about weirdos, are you a little weirded out about people obsessing about your beard? (Laughs)
Neil – (Laughs) Yes and no. I just learned about this website with my beard being placed on other people’s faces.
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – Which, at first I was like, not too sure about it, then I saw the humor in it. It was funny.
Moe – Who’d they put it on? Like random celebrities or what?
Neil – You know, just bizarre photos. Like guys surfing, carnies, the promotional photo for that movie “300…”
Moe – (Laughs) Oh jeez…
Neil – I don’t know man. That dude’s got a lot of free time on his hands.
Moe – Yeah, I bet! You do have crazy fans… How about Clutch? Any crazy Clutch stories?
Neil – Yes and no. I have a pretty high tolerance to craziness ’cause I’ve seen it so much for so long.
Moe – I’m sure you have.
Neil – Like today for example… We were parked along the side of the road, and you know, some guy was walking by and hit his head on the rear view mirror of the bus and knocked himself out for a second.
Moe – Nahh, really?
Neil – Yeah!
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – And that was like, ‘Ok, that just happened.’
Moe – That’s insane. (Laughs)
Neil – But it just seems like “all in a days” thing. I wish I had been writing them down all these years, but what are ya gonna do?
Moe – You’d have quite some stories! Well you’ve played for about sixteen… seventeen years?
Neil – Yeah, sixteen.
Moe – What, you’ve been averaging about one hundred… hundred and fifty shows a year?
Neil – Yeah. Some years more than others. We’ve done quite a few this year.
Moe – What are you up to? Two thousand?
Neil – I would guess. Maybe. Something like that.
Moe – That’s insane. You guys definitely need an award for hardest working band, I’ll tell you that much!
Neil – Yeah, or “most muleheaded!” (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) Well, it’s good to be out on the road. You certainly have got a lot of fans who are definitely looking forward to seeing your show. I’ve been in the crowd talking to people, and I’m asking them, “Who are you looking forward to seeing?” “CLUTCH!” Yeah, they’re yelling it in my face, and I’m like, “Whoa! Allright!”
Neil – Right on! (Laughs)
Moe – You’ve got a huge, huge fan base out there that’s looking forward to tonight’s set.
Neil – Right on. We’re looking forward to it.
Moe – Yeah man.
Neil – We haven’t done… We rarely do things like this.
Moe – What do you think about this scene? The Bonnaroo scene…
Neil – It’s great that you know, they kinda opened up the genres a little bit. Because, you know, we’ll do metal fests or something like Sounds of the Underground and people hear us and they say, “You should do Bonnaroo.” Then we’ll do something along the lines of Bonnaroo, and then they say, “You guys should do Ozzfest.” It’s kind of like a weird limbo for a band like us.
Moe – You guys don’t do Ozzfest?
Neil – No.
Moe – Not a fan? (Laughs)
Neil – I don’t know! At this point, these things are good to but our home is in a nightclub.
Moe – John Paul Jones is playing… You guys are a fan of Led Zeppelin?
Neil – Oh yeah! Oh yeah!
Moe – I know! So what do you think? You’re going to be gone aren’t ya? You’re not gonna be around!
Neil – Yeah, we’re blazin’ out tonight. Who’s playin’?
Moe – John Paul Jones, ?uestlove of the Roots and Philadelphia Experiment, and also Ben Harper.
Neil – Oh wow! Together?
Moe – Yeah!
Neil – Rad!
Moe – I was kinda hoping that you were gonna play!
Neil – (Laughs)
Moe – But, you’re not gonna be here so…
Neil – No, I wish we were, but we got another three shows…
Moe – Yeah.
Neil – And then we’re home for about five…six weeks.
Moe – So what are ya gonna do? Six weeks off?
Neil – I’m gonna do absolutely nothing!
Moe – I don’t blame ya!
Neil – I’m gonna hang out, play with the dog… You know, maybe try to get rid of these pizzas that I’ve been eating for the past five weeks. (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) B, do you have any questions?
King B – You’ve got a completely different fan base here. How do you feel about Crocs? Do you own a pair now that you…
Neil – You know, it’s funny you mentioned that! My dad bought a pair and he called my wife up and said they were too small for him, and would I like ‘em.
King B – Ugh… Please tell me that you don’t own a pair!
Neil – We had to gently say, “Well, I’m not really a Croc personality.”
King B – (Laughs)
Neil – I’m sure they’re great if you work in a kitchen, or a garden…
King B – This will probably be the most amount of Crocs attending one of your sets!
Neil – Yeah! Especially like orange and lime green!
King B – (Laughs) You’re from Maryland, right? The band’s from Maryland…
Neil – Yes.
King B – I was just curious… Me and Moe had the worst drive down here ever, and I just wanted to make sure that we weren’t…
Neil – Was it through 95 in Virginia?
King B – That’s exactly what my question was gonna be. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Every time I go through Virginia, it’s like the worst experience of my life!
Neil – Yeah. That’s in Springfield, Virginia called “The Mixing Bowl.”
King B – I know “Virginia is for Lovers” and everything, and we all understand that… (Laughs)
Neil – Yeah, that’s one of the other great things about the band is that we might get traffic every once in a while but I don’t have to do a daily commute in something like that. I would go postal man… I really would.
King B – I just figured that you had previous experience just driving around there.
Neil – I do. I don’t do it… I just won’t do it!
King B – Actually, I was curious. I was reading an interview earlier today and you said that the favorite city that you had ever played in was Amsterdam.
Neil – It’s probably one of the top five.
King B – Just from talking around here, I’ve gathered that a lot of the really killer shows are overseas. Australia…
Neil – Well festivals… Oh, you mean for us?
King B – Right, You. For you and your personal opinion.
Neil – I mean, I guess maybe that’s because I’m also there in a tourist capacity. You know, and that’s exciting. I know, let me think of an example… Philadelphia, Pennsylvania really well.
Moe – That’s where we’re from!
Neil – Cool! Oh! Great town, but I’m gonna be more excited about going to Oslo, Norway for the first time… You say, “Wow!”
King B – Yeah, understood.
Neil – There might be half as many people at the show in Oslo but it’s got more of an initial thrill. If we went there three times a year, I might feel differently.
King B – What about any city that… a city that you played and as soon as you were done, you were like, “Fuck this place! I never wanna play this place again!
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – (Laughs) There are a lot of them, but we’re probably gonna play ‘em sometime later this year, so I’m gonna keep my mouth shut! (Laughs)
King B – And Philly’s not one of them!
Moe – You never know!
Neil – Philly’s great. The Troc is one of our second homes away from home.
King B – Great… Great.
Moe – The Troc is definitely classic. Is that you’re favorite place to play or what? In Philly…
Neil – Yeah, well, that’s probably the only place we do play there. We played The Middle East once, and that was kind of “bogue,” but…
Moe – Yeah… The Troc has a good scene! They always have a…
Neil – I like it. You can get some decent food around the corner, and you know, blaze out!
Moe – Right! Definitely! Neil, thanks a lot for the interview. I really appreciate it.
Neil – My pleasure!
Moe – We’re gonna be right up front watching…
Neil – Cool!
Moe – Definitely… And you’ve got a TON of fans here!
King B – I’ll be throwing Crocs on stage!
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – (Laughs)
Moe – Thanks again, Neil. Appreciate it.
Neil – No problem!
Interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr on Moe Train’s Tracks
Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Monty Wiradilaga, Brian Kracyla
Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
M: I’m here with Mr. Robert Kennedy Jr… Why are you here at Bonnaroo?
R: I’m here at Bonnaroo because this is a festival that famously has a very strong environmental ethic. The people who come here, generally speaking, have very strong ethics. I’m going to talk to people about coming to Appalachia this summer and getting arrested to stop the coal industry from cutting down the Appalachian mountains, which is the biggest crime in American history. And my kids come here every year, so I wanted to make sure and see them.
M: To appeal to a younger audience, what does that mean to your cause?
R: The people who come here, generally speaking, have a very idealistic vision about this country. They want our nation to live up to its historic destiny of being an exemplary nation. They want America to be everything America promised everybody that it was going to be. And it’s important at this point, particularly with coal, to remind people that coal represents the subversion of our democracy, the corruption of our public officials, and the destruction of our most precious national heritage, the historic landscapes where Danny Boone and Davy Crockett roamed, a place that so much of our culture, our history, our values, are rooted in those landscapes. And we’re cutting them down. We’ve already cut down five hundred of the biggest mountains in West Virginia. We’ve buried twelve hundred miles of streams. We are going to cut down an area, flatten an area, the size of Delaware and they’re not going to be able to tell their kids, to take their kids to the Cumberland. It’s criminal and it’s illegal. We got a court order saying it’s illegal but the industry was able to corrupt officials in the public, the Bush administration, and get them to reverse the court order. The entire business plan for this industry is based upon their capacity to corrupt public officials, subvert our democracy, and get away with illegal behavior. Their product is not cheap, it’s hideously expensive, and it’s not clean, you know, that’s a dirty lie. All the claims about coal by the industry are lies and they are destroying America. And they’re destroying the planet as well.
M: How do you feel the Obama administration will deal with this national crisis?
R: I think all of us had great hopes with the Obama administration. There’s a lot of heartbreak in Appalachia today and a lot of heartbreak in the environmental community because the White House just released its Mountain-top Removal Policy and it is, to say the least, extremely weak. It’s going to change nothing on the ground.
M: Mr. Kennedy, thank you very much.
Interview with Sam Totman from Dragonforce on Moe Train’s Tracks
Sam Totman, Monty Wiradilaga, Brian Kracyla
Rockstar Mayhem Festival – Philadelphia, PA
M: First of all, let me give proper respect to one of the top shredders in the scene.
S: Aw, you’re too nice. I’m sure you say that to every band.
M: We’re with Sam Totman of Dragonforce. Thanks for being with us today. First of all, congratulations on having the new album. Did the band think it was a tough task to follow Inhuman Rampage, one of my favorite metal albums of all-time?
S: Yeah, it’s always hard. Obviously, it’s not very hard on the first one ‘cause whatever you do is always going to be kind of original, or original for you I guess. But yeah, it was really hard, we actually thought that when we made Inhuman Rampage, we thought how are we going to make something better than something like Firestorm. You don’t really know if it’s going to be better until you’ve done it. Like when I wrote a bunch of songs for this new album and everybody was like, “They’re rubbish” but I knew what they were going to sound like at the end so I was like, “It’s gonna be cool.” You still don’t really know what it’s gonna be like. I might write a vocal line or whatever, and I might think it’s going to work really well, then when the guy goes out and actually sings it, it might not turn out as well as I thought it was going to be. The whole thing is like an endless kind of job, basically. It took us seven months in the studio to get the final result.
M: So, with the writing process, it’s you and Herman, or is it mostly you?
S: Yeah, it’s mostly me. Herman does more of the gear. I don’t know anything about gear. He works it out to make the album sound good. I do mostly more of the writing and he does more of the gear side of things. Yeah everyone’s got their own job to do anyway.
M: When I heard Hereos of Our Time for the first time I had to stand up during the chorus and put my fist in the air!
S: There you go, that’s the idea.
M: In victory, ‘cause I felt victorious after hearing the track.
S: Good, it’s supposed to make people feel happy.
B: Very epic.
S: Epic, yeah. People keep saying, “Well, what’s the difference with this album?” I say it’s more happier sounding, ‘cause it is. But apparently if you say “epic” it’s a bit less gay. (Laughter)
M: Well, a lot of bands say their next album’s gonna be heavier, faster.
S: Or more melodic, that’s a rather classic one.
M: What’s that bullshit? Isn’t that just saying the same thing over and over?
S: Exactly. How can you be more melodic? It’s either melodic or it’s not. Yeah, it’s stupid, oh well.
M: So what do you say to power-metal purists that down your guys style, that say it’s not the norm? I say fuck ‘um.
S: Yeah! Well, to be honest, the power-metal that we used to like ten years ago, when we first started, doesn’t really exist anymore. All the bands I listened to ten years ago there albums are crap. I’m not trying to be a big-head saying that we’re so much cooler than anybody. I think we sort of come to the point now where I don’t really think that we’re part of a power scene or any other scene. I think we’re on our own. I don’t wanna sound like blah blah blah, I’m cool, but I really think it is, it’s so different. I listened to the a Stratovarius album the other day, which is something we used to really like, I still do, and I was like, this sounds nothing like us now, it sounds almost like an eighties band.
M: You must have punk influences because I a lot of pictures with you rocking out the black Rancid cut-off t-shirt.
S: Yeah, I listen to that as much as metal. People say I’m gay ‘cause I listen to Blink 182 stuff all the time, just as much as I listen to Slayer or something.
M: Well, you wrote a lot of catchy songs, there’s a pop influence with that.
S: Yeah, it’s the same thing essentially. A lot of my vocals and stuff, I listen to a pop music as well, and if you listen to that kind of stuff, I mean, the vocal melodies and chord progressions are not that much different from what we do to say a pop punk band. It’s the same four chords and certain notes that go over those chords that work. A lot of metal people are like, “Nah, that’s gay, that’s gay” but they actually don’t realize that it’s actually the same thing.
M: So when are you gonna have Tim and Lars on stage with you?
S: Yeah, well, they probably think we’re gay. (laughter)
M: With the new album, it seems as if you’ve taken the tempo down a little bit. I don’t know if it was a conscious change or what was it?
S: Yeah, it was in places. Obviously, with all our songs on the last album they were like 200 beats per minute, it kinda made it sound like the same thing, which was cool at the time because that’s what we wanted to do. But now we thought that we’ll put different tempo bits, like for example, there’s more middle sections that are playing over a different drum beat because it forces you to do different guitar solos because there’s only so many licks you can do over a sort of bap-bap-bap drum beat. It’s more to give us more ideas for guitar as much as anything.
M: When you’re writing your dual solos with Herman, what’s the process with that?
S: Well, basically if I write a song, I’ll know there’s gonna be like six guitar solos in this section and I’ll write a bunch of chord progressions and I’ll be like, alright, that’s solo one, that’s solo two, that’s solo three, and then we just decide, alright, who’s gonna do the first one? After that it just alternates. We don’t actually sit there and write guitar solos together. I’ll write a bunch of chord progressions and then we just solo over them.
M: I saw one video of you doing an instructional video of how you guys trade off during your solos. I guess you do certain chord progressions but work other hammer-ons and …
S: Yeah, exactly. We tried to get away from it a bit on this album but on the previous album… basically what we do is just solo over the verse. If you see a song that is normally pre-chorus into the second pre-chorus into the chorus, the solo section is usually just soloed over that, ‘cause then it kinda builds the solo up in the same way as you would build up a vocal section up to the chorus. Obviously, the solo over the chorus is the most catchy and it’s over the nicer chords.
M: Sometimes it seems like you guys are almost having a battle with the guitars. I’m sure it’s always mentioned to you about the video games, that you have that influence. It seems like you guys are having an epic battle!
S: I think that yeah it sounds like a battle when it’s finished but I just think that six guitar solos one after the other is a cool thing to do. I thought it sounded good when I listened to bands when I was growing up. It was usually like one guy would do one solo and the other guy would do one and that would be it. I thought that was sort of cool. You’d hear one guy play it and then the other guy would play it, it’s was kinda like a duet between a singer and a female singer. So I thought, let’s increase that, take it to like six each. It’s not really a battle, it’s just to make it sound good, but then when you listen back to it you kinda say it is a battle.
M: Speaking of battles, I’ve seen a lot of battles caused by you guys, not by real guitar but of course by the video games, Guitar Hero III. How’s it feel to have Through The Fire and The Flames be the holy grail of all songs on that video game?
S: I think it’s cool. It’s obviously, I don’t want to sound like I have a big head again, but there’s not that many bands that have got as much complicated guitar playing in them. You can listen to someone like Steve Vai who’s a hundred times better than us but then, in my opinion, I don’t think he’s got very catchy songs, you know, he doesn’t have very catchy chords. The guitar’s great but there’s no great singing…
M: No fists in the air!
S: Yeah. So, yeah, it should be the holy grail of that game. I’m starting to sound like a real wanker now.
B: Have you actually tried to play it (on the video game) yourself?
S: I tried it once and I was pretty crap at it. It’s not really my style of game to be honest, not because it’s for the guitar, it’s just not my style of game, I prefer other games.
M: What like Final Fantasy?
S: Yeah, or I like strategy games, Company of Heroes, that’s really cool. Shit like that.
M: Thinking about video games being a new platform for bands to get their music out, on MySpace last time I looked you had 11,614,019 listens. That was last night, you probably have 20,000 more by now.
S: Really? That’s cool.
M: What does it mean for the music biz to have new outlets like this?
S: Well it’s cool yeah. Obviously, you sell less records now then you would have in the eighties, we would have sold probably something like 5 million then, because it’s just the way the music business is going. I suppose it all kinda works out, everything balances out. Supposedly more people will hear it but less people buy your records these days. In the end you have the same number of fans I think.
B: More people go to the shows.
S: Yeah exactly, so I think it’s pretty cool.
M: The metal scene is pretty interesting. We mostly cover “indy” music festivals, Bonnaroo, Cochella, that kind of stuff. They have their own scene, metal has it’s own scene. How would you describe the metal scene and the people in it?
S: Lots of fat dudes and no chicks.
M: And black t-shirts. (Laughter)
B: I stuck out like a sour thumb walking around in my white shirt!
M: Speaking of chicks, how’s that situation going?
S: Pretty grim. Well, obviously you only need one each day, unless your really greedy, but you can usually find one. It might not be amazing…
M: You get drunk enough it doesn’t matter.
S: Exactly. They’re not going to be stunning at a festival like this (Mayhem). But we’re not fussy, you can’t be.
M: I know you’re a big fan of the beer. We were going to bring you some Coors.
S: Coors Original is the only one I like. Coors Light doesn’t do anything.
M: When are we going to see you on stage with a beer helmet doing a solo?
S: When I really need one because I’m completely bored, it’s getting there. It’ll serve two purposes.
M: What if we brought a beer bong, would you do a beer bong on stage?
S: To be honest with you, I wish I could because I think it looks cool and you look quite tough but I actually can’t do a beer bong. I can’t skull back a beer. I can drink like twenty in a night or whatever but actually can’t skull back beers.
M: Have you tried though?
S: Yeah, totally, but I always puke. I wish I could, I think it looks really cool. I’ve been bombed out since I was a kid, I couldn’t do it.
M: What is your crowning achievement? Is it the Ibanez Sam Totman Signature guitar or what? And by the way do you have an extras you can spare?
S: I’ve only got like two myself! They said I could have a bunch of them but there kinda both just sitting around my house. Yeah, I suppose that’s quite cool.
M: What was your first guitar?
S: It was a classical one actually, ‘cause I learned classical music. Then about ten years later this skinhead guy I lived with smashed it over my head! (Laughter) That was my first guitar, I felt really bad.
M: You felt bad?!
S: No, I got it when I was ten! This lovely guitar that my parents bought me when I was ten years old ended up getting smashed on my head by a nutter.
M: Finally, I think Dragonforce is the epitome of being triumphant. Your music makes me want to pump my fist in victory and I envision the mighty Pegasus soaring over the clouds of Olympus!
S: Yeah, that perfect. That’s what we want to do.
M: What is your vision of the story of Dragonforce?
S: Basically the same as that. It just supposed to make you feel happy. I like the music that makes you feel happy so that’s what comes out when we write songs. It’s something that’s uplifting. If you’re sad, it’ll make you happy. If you’re happy, it’ll make you even more happy.
M: There you go. Thanks a lot for being with us, appreciate it.
S: Yeah. Cool.