Solecast 39 is a conversation with Chris from Unicorn Riot.
This epioside is mostly a how to on shaking the tree of government bureacracy through the usage of Freedom Of Information Act requests and similar requests on a state and city level to gain useful intelligence. Chris has had great success uncovering information on Police tactics in Denver and in North Dakota at Standing Rock. He has used these requests to gain access to crowd-control manuals, officer records, gained confirmation of under-covers and affirmed many things that most people assume about the methods police use to spy on protestors and neutralize them. He is a collective member at Unicorn Riot, is a radical techo DJ that goes by the name of Kill Mckinley and can be found on twitter at @RiotDoge.
Solecast 38 is an in-depth interview with former animal liberation prisoner Josh Harper. Josh is one of the SHAC7, and he went to prison for his work against Huntington Life Sciences. Huntington Life Sciences at the time was one of the biggest companies doing tests on animals and was targetted for their usage of “live vivisection.” The tactics employed by the SHAC campaign were wide ranging and effecive; they went after every link in the supply chain to bring this company to the verge of bankrupcy. Josh is currently living in the Pacific North West and helps run “The Talon Conspiracy” which is an online archive animal rights publication from the recent past.
Follow Josh On Twitter and Check out The Talon Conspiracy
- Josh’s involvement in the Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty campaign & animal liberation struggles
- Lessons from SHAC for current struggles against Trump & fascism
- The conflict between mass movement building & effective interventions
- The approach, philosophy and tactics emplyed in the SHAC campaign
- Some thoughts on the political moment we are in
- Comical anecdotes about the Talon Conspiracy & him briefly being a suspect for the 9-11 attacks
- Thoughts on being a political prisoner and how important support is, inside and out
On Solecast 37 I catch up with LA Based electronic music pioneer Daedelus. Daedelus has 17 or so full length albums and worked with such labels as Alpha Pup, Ninja Tune, Brainfeeder and many others. He also runs a small imprint called Magical Properties. He tours the world with his intense & unique live electronic PA sets and stands apart as a true innovator. Check out/ support his music, and follow him on twitter. (Transcript below)
- The life of an electronic musician in 2017
- How the ruling class have weaponized absurdism
- Current trends in rap and electronic music
- Hacking, circuit bending, & the rebelliousness of anologue music
- Reacting to trump and coping with it
- The assault on truth
- Economics & the future of labor
- Science fiction writers & the present
- The role of record label
- The LA underground hip-hop scene of the early/mid 90s & its evolution to the LA beat scene.
- The transitory nature of things.
Sole (Tim Holland): Today's guest is my homie Daedelus. He's a beat-maker, a producer, an experimental artist, a performer, a pioneer, based out of Los Angeles, California. We're going to have a wide-ranging conversation about rap and electronic music, the shifts that are happening in society; we'll talk about hacking and how motherfuckers are dealing with Donald Trump and the current assault on the truth; how economics is shifting, and labor, and robots. It's all happening at once. We'll talk about science fiction, and just the transitory nature of shit that's happening right now. We'll talk about his music; we'll talk about some of the stuff he's into, his record label.
It's conversations like this where we really get to crack into and get into an artist's mind, and really hear them go deep on shit. I was thoroughly impressed by how thoughtful and what a philosopher Daedelus is, as someone who says he doesn't read very much.
What's new with you, man? What have you been up to? Last time I saw you was in New Zealand at that festival.
Daedelus (Alfred Darlington): New Zealand is such an out-there place. I've gone back since, and I've found the scene to have developed.
I've been doing the clinically insane thing of repeating processes and expecting different results: putting out a record (I've put out a few records, I think, since last we saw each other), doing multiple tours (sometimes having lots of bodies in rooms and having a lot of records sold, sometimes having very few), having projects totally disappear into the ether. And I still find a lot of relevance to it, but it does seem like an affront to the thoughtful world when you're releasing a full-length record and people just want their single little nugget of information to make all of their assumptions from.
It's beautiful, though. I've always been troubled by the commerce aspect of creation. Even though desperately wanting to make a full-time living out of this life, having to balance the creation of recorded music versus the performance of improvised music or more spontaneous music, there are a lot of troublesome moments where you have to put a price tag on it and sell it to somebody and charge a cover. It's a tough line to draw. When you're just a musical soundtrack to somebody's intoxication, it's hard.
The last couple years of playing raves and EDM events and just being someone's turn-up music is hard. But I still find so much to it.
TH: I have the exact same thing with hip-hop, where it's I'm up there, I've worked so hard on these lyrics, I'm trying to communicate these complicated things, and yet I'm playing these shitty hip-hop shows with a bunch of wack rappers, and I'm like, I could say anything right now, nobody cares. It makes me want to be home.
AD: I wonder, too—because I feel this in a pronounced way, but especially because the pendulum has really swung back toward hip-hop—I feel like the MC is really back in a strong way, like hip-hop as a genre has a different new definition. The same with the electronic versions of that. The Trap sound has progressed. Mumble Rap has kind of progressed. If you're doing something that reflects a reality of even a few years ago—in the case of electronic music it's like if you're even quoting Dubstep—it's as if there's this group amnesia towards the genre. I don't blame them. It's a pretty flash-bang grenade of a thing to have gone off, and I can understand. When the sparkle blurs out of your eyes, then you don't ever need to listen to Dubstep again in some ways. But still, if you're not playing Trap music right now, do people even consider it hip-hop unless it's some backpack throwback night?
TH: I thought it was more friendly for electronic artists, but I guess you're right. I think maybe Denver is the last place where people can get away with playing Dubstep.
AD: There are a few pockets. There are different genres that get footholds in places and they live depending on the people breathing life into it. And then there's always the genres that haven't hit yet that everyone expects to go big at some point. Juke is one of those. Footwork. In the hip-hop realm of things, there are people lacing their raps with jazz or gestures towards gospel. Chance the Rapper, even Kendrick. But that hasn't gone wide yet, necessarily. Maybe because it takes a different kind of musicianship. You're always wondering what's going to blow up, and I'm sure there's somebody out there who gets paid to determine this kind of thing with divining rods.
TH: 2008-2009 was a huge turning point for that stuff, I think. That's when internet rap was like a Wild West, during the rise of Lil B and Odd Future. And I feel like that's where weird motherfuckers could just make a video and next thing you know Eminem's management is managing you behind the scenes and nobody knows, and now that's just the way shit is done. There's no underground anymore. There's very few really truly localized scenes, because the way people are experiencing music has so dramatically changed from when we started doing it almost twenty years ago.
AD: A localized scene, like the Korean Drill Rap scene getting big now everywhere—there's no reason that we should have that on our lips, in some ways, because it is such a foreign language with a different cadence, but it's the kind of thing where they are pantomiming a lot if artists who are a lot closer. And maybe it's the shininess of it, the newness of it, the way a reflection can more accurately describe the thing you're looking at, in some ways...
I also feel like there was confusion about the internet at that point, about how music would best be served. A lot of people were still fighting against the overall trends, the rivers that were going towards the big ocean of music culture. And now it's kind of solved, as funny as that sounds. It still doesn't seem like anybody is really making it work. It isn't like streaming is really working for people. There's still a ton of political behind-the-scenes stuff going on with payola, and who's making money and who's not, and the DJ Mag Top 100 is such a joke...but it still feels more solved than it did a few years ago.
TH: What do you think the prospects are for independent music and experimental music and political music over the next few years?
AD: I think it's tremendous. I just don't think it's necessarily going to hit a huge swathe of ears. I don't think it's necessarily going to be able to—this is a funny term—democratically exist. It's either going to exist with the sharp stick-end of a campaign by people who really do that thing— not a record label, but a media machine that can jab people with that stick—or it's going to be something holistic that wells up but isn't necessarily any one person. I don't see it as being a singular creative force, because it's so depreciated in our current machinations.
I've had situations in the past where I was sponsored by Scion or Blackberry or Apple or whatever, companies that really had huge resources to bear, but they had no ideas, so they would just throw money around at weirdos like myself (and many, many others), to see what would stick. And now these brand companies are much more savvy, and music is just a small part of it, with a few exceptions—you see some brands that really make music, sort of as a post they are leaning on. But it's really the exception rather than the rule nowadays.
From a political standpoint, that's the most interesting thing to me, because from the social aspect of music being depreciated, now not as many people are going to the local club just to have a night. Either there's a name of a person who you've known and you want to see playing at your local club, or you're staying at home watching as much Netflix as you can binge on. That seems like the dichotomy. The inertia is not to go out, ever. And then if you finally somehow get pushed out of that door, it's very controlled.
But one area I feel like is really dynamic right now is protest. I would say political music, but it's
more specifically protest music, protest sound. Because it's not only the political scene that I'm talking about, but it's also the existing systems.
Look at the rise of the analog Eurorack music scene, the modular electronic synthesizer scene. There is no reason that should be happening in 2017, that people are getting modular units and adding it together and making weirdo synth music—other than the fact that it's scarce, it's not easy to do, it's not replicable, you can't really record it properly, it has to exist in space, and it is like a rebellious moment. It feels rebellious right now.
TH: I don't know if you're familiar with this guy McKenzie Wark. He wrote the Hacker Manifesto. You know this?
AD: I try to keep my toes dipped in that space a little bit. My friends tell me things, and then I go try to check it out, and sometimes it's readily available, and other times it's weirdly not on the surface.
TH: Basically his extension of a hacker would go to a circuit bender. It would go to people who are hacking, but also circuit bending is part of that. Didn't you get started with circuit bending? Is that right?
AD: I did a lot of it. All my records have some amount of that, with some permanent bends, which is a little different—there are two kinds of circuit bending. There's the kind where you are trying to modify and adapt and mutate existing instruments to have new feature sets. And then there's the other kind of circuit bending where you are looking for aleatoric chance, things that will never happen again because the way the capacitors decide to work that day, because of the way your fingers have a certain amount of spit on them or not. Do you know what I mean?
I feel like the definition of hacker could include both, but there's the one kind of hacker who, through programming or modification, is subverting existing systems to do what they want, and the other kind of hacker who is looking into the crystal ball of electronics or devices or things, to get someplace that nobody would have thought to achieve.
I think it's really important to look at both, because in our society especially, we are going to weird places with things—musically and otherwise; this is including everything—and bringing something back from that. That's shedding some light on our current moment a lot.
TH: What do you think about our current moment, man? Two years ago, did you think we would have a fucking reality star for a president? A sexist racist fascist?
I travel a lot. I know you do too. I see all kinds of reality playing out. Some of it is a lot gentler. China is fucked. The so-called Communist regime is a really tough system of central control that is in everybody's lives constantly, and yet also when you go there—depending on the city they're living in, people are relatively out of touch with these grand decisions going into defense spending or weird limitations on their internet. They're not concerned about that. That isn't where their eyes are at. But you can still feel it touching every aspect. Maybe it's my perspective—the news media, the way things get covered; you can see it in a perspective but also see how skewed it is.
And it's much the same when you come back to the States. I always felt like we had our own skewing and such. But now, it is such a topsy-turvy through-the-looking-glass...and it's not just the top of the ticket. It's not just Trump or Drumpf or whatever. I don't like saying that dude's name. I don't like writing it down, I don't like saying it. It's kind of weird. It's like an allergic response or something.
TH: It's because he's pervaded every aspect of our lives already.
AD: I get dizzy and weak—it feels like an allergic response. My strength is sapped, my will and my resolve—especially right after the election, I was in such a malaise (and I'm sure many, many people were). Every time you have a political system that you're involved in or you feel some sort of involvement in—it's like any kind of contest or competition—you can have sore loser feelings, but this is so much deeper. The deceptions and the psychological response—it's not just this surface depression. It felt way deeper and it took me a lot longer for me to dig myself into a place...
Maybe I can tell you the way I've been coping with it and compare notes with you. For me, it went from being this broad idea of a group of humanity that I really still care about, but now I have about four or five people in my life that I feel like I need to look out for. That isn't totally disassociated from the larger politic, but I really feel like the person who's at my side is the person who I need to be looking after. Even if it's a stranger on a train, if they say some dumb shit I've got to call them out, and at least try to listen and hear them, but also speak to them if I really feel like there's some kind of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic—if I hear some direct, blatant shit, I've got to say something. But in terms of yelling into the internet, I'm not going to contribute positively to that environment.
So that's been my focus. That's felt therapeutic. That thing has felt therapeutic.
TH: For me, right when he got elected, I was like (of course this is a white guy saying this), okay, he's president now, he got what he wanted, maybe he's not going to do all the fucked up shit. He'll realize the limitations of power and he'll roll with the status quo. And there were these huge protests everywhere, and I was like, okay, at least people are going to fight back. But about a month and a half, two months in, it's like, fuck, man, everyday it's something else. It's so much egregious stuff. The Russia shit—I mean, talk about living in a sci-fi novel.
AD: Totally. All those silly films with the Russkies coming over the Arctic Circle to take us over...it's bananas. But on top of it, there's part of me (and this is the conspiratorial part of me—not InfoWars yet, but fuck, the fact that that's now part of our common parlance is just bananas)...if you look at Beckett and the absurdity that was talked about. It seemed like the only rational reaction to the World Wars was really weird electronic music and absurdity, dadaism, all these things. What else do you do? We're almost to the inverse of that, where absurdity now is used as a political tool of the ruling powers to make you not look anymore. Because every day there is a new absurd, crazy, real thing that, although factual, just makes you shake your head in this Etch-A- Sketch kind of way to get rid of it.
Have you ever been in an earthquake before? It's profound, because we have all this sensory apparatus that grounds us in earth; we have the idea of magnetic north, and our inner ear is constantly balancing us, and our eyes give us this idea of a level plane. So when you shake that even slightly, the mind goes, “What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck,” and you get this moment of, “This is not happening.” And that's part of the reason why earthquakes feel so crazy, because all of your systems are going into alarm.
But this same kind of feeling is going on every day, and that button is being pushed so much. I'm trying to figure out if it's a concerted effort to do this, to make the world so absurd that we'll accept any plausibility. Part of the conspiracy is that the Russians have been doing these actions in a lot of different political systems that aren't directed towards electing one person or another, it's just about getting rid of facts. You can't make people believe one thing or another in this current age, but you can get rid of the possibility of a truth.
TH: Aside from all the people it's affected, Donald Trump's presidency has been an assault on truth itself. Steve Bannon is, like, a Leninist or something. Did you hear that? That he studied Lenin in his
early years? I don't know if Steve Bannon is really the one pulling the strings or if these are just tactics Trump learned in the boardroom, about assaulting other people's facts so that they're meaningless, and just repeating lies. And he never even responds to it. He's already lying about something else. He gets called out on one lie, and he's got three others. It's insane.
AD: I do believe that in this current challenging of factual reporting or factual statistics or data or all of these different things—that, again, the arts, the humanities, and music in particular is especially appropriate as a response, because it doesn't speak in direct terms, but it does speak to a deeper truth. It generally is playing on physiological and philosophical ideas that point towards a deeper truth. So maybe this would be a moment of extremely effective protest song and inspirational art that will really get to the essence of it, because everything else is just—as soon as you write the words down, like any kind of punishment, they start to lose their meaning. So maybe this is really an especially appropriate time for the humanities. This is definitely one thing that keeps me interested in pursuing that.
On the flipside, you have groups like Wikileaks which serve such an important role, and arguably this would be its time to shine. This should be the moment where Wikileaks and similar platforms should be speaking truth to power like they were always supposed to. I know this is partially spin— this is partly just the way the system has rocked us—but doesn't it feel like just the fact that Donald Trump hasn't come out condemning the recent leak against American intelligence operations...it's such a weird moment for these speaking-truth-to-power platforms.
TH: Truth and fact have been so attacked over the last few years, everything is relative on the internet now. Whereas sixty years ago, everybody was watching the same news. There were only six channels on TV. It was at least easier to make sense of things. But now that we have millions of sources, we have all this confirmation bias and filter-bubbles, and we literally only have to see the worldview that we want to see.
AD: Totally. Fifty-sixty years ago there were only six channels, and you could argue that there were a lot more racist people, and a lot more people who were not checking in. It seems like there's this trope right now of trying to understand “Trump's America”, and it's perceived-liberal media outlets taking a closer look at the “middle” of America, where “Trump's America” is, in the Ohios and the Michigans and these kinds of places, where the topsy-turvy politics are largely just gerrymandering, creating this Trump thing. I saw one recently where they were interviewing these people who said, “I don't really care about Russia. I don't know why they're treating Trump so bad.” People were saying such stupid shit. Why are we paying attention to people who just don't care?
But it also raised the question: why do I care? My voice doesn't matter. It is one of a lot of privilege in many, many ways. And I don't have that much to add to the soup. Why do I care?
Of course, I don't know. My heart beats, and I really appreciate the natural environment around us, and I want there to be people in the future who can appreciate those things, and I like the freedom of data that my music and output travels on, and I like the way I received that kind of data in the past, and I kind of want to see that continue and flourish. There are just so many different points where I feel like, “Wait, there is a lot of importance to this.” I just wish there were people out there who could help describe the framework of action who aren't so inherently political or politicized in nature.
Did you read that Shaun King piece that just came out today about the irrelevance of the Democratic Party? It's the usual refrain. You have these clear mandates from an upswelling of resistance and populism from a Democratically-leaning population, but that are not being addressed by this upper-echelon leadership, the 1% of the Democratic Party. A lot of it has to do
with corporate involvement and big interests that arguably are sloshing money around the whole political system, so I don't know about singling out the Democrats and making it seem like the Republicans are this or that. But it's like a rallying call for a new kind of party that does address more of what was being talked about in Occupy and Black Lives Matter, and these upswelling political movements that for some reason aren't exactly on the tips of the Democratic Party's tongues, even though it's kind of low-hanging fruit, it seems like. That should have been the shit that was all in the mix.
TH: The thing is with Trump is that Trump can get up there and be like, “I'm the racist boss you wish you had. I'm going to fix things for you.” But he's lying to them and telling them that he's going to bring their jobs back. The jobs aren't coming back. There aren't enough jobs. Even if he does bring the jobs back in ten years, robots are going to be doing that work in twenty, so forget about it.
AD: And everybody who is doing Uber and Lyft right now and whatever else in the gig economy...fuck.
This is kind of an aside, but I've been using a lot of robotic assistance in my musical life recently. I've been using robotic drums, and before that I was using some robotic assistance in a visual show. And I've been finding it so interesting, with so many creative places to go, with the precision and the mechanical nature of the stuff. But it does seem like the overarching concern, if we derive our existence and our purpose in life through work, and then that gets taken away, what is America going to do if you have to somehow look in a mirror and come up with something that gives your life meaning, when we've made a list of such commodities that just don't exist in any real, soul- filling fashion.
TH: What they've done is strip meaning from everyone's lives, and we've become consumers. This seems like an obvious thing to say. But the more time I spend gardening and growing food and producing food, all that shit is work. The community organizing I do, all this work I do, I don't get paid for any of it. But it's in many ways the most meaningful. These are the things we would do if we didn't have to work. If we would educate ourselves and educate each other and create systems of mutual aid...if we took away work as the central thing in our life, people would flourish.
That's why every day I'm on Twitter I see universal basic income tweets. I feel like that movement has gained a lot of steam in Europe, but I would love it if we just skipped over socialism in the States, and Bernie or whoever would run on UBI, and that's what people are demanding, because otherwise our society is just going to fucking fall apart into some crazy tech fiefdom with floating Amazon warehouses above our cities with drones delivering us shit. It's fucking weird, dude.
I get so much shit delivered through Amazon. I just have trucks pulling up all throughout the day. Like, oh, what's in this package? I don't even remember what I ordered. My mailman is always talking shit: “I'm so sick of delivering dog food to people.” And I'm like, “Motherfucker, you complain now, but there's going to be a drone doing your job in ten years.”
AD: I totally agree. And I feel like there needs to be a distinction made between work for money and work for social good. They all have their value, and the value system is really skewed right now.
I really like the basic income idea as well. I know Scandinavian countries have been trying it for a minute. I just don't know if it can exist in the purely economic form, if it needs some basis in a mineral resources or something—if it can just be informational value with an invented economy...I've heard different arguments, and it's tough. The idea of inflation and greed in the system...
A few years ago, every time I met an economist or an accountant or anyone who handled money in any kind of real way, I always wanted them to explain systems to me, because it seems so invented.
There's a Nobel Prize for economics. Somebody out there is getting a big hunk of metal around their neck every year in this field that is really important but also totally imaginary. And the basic principles of it are sometimes grounded in such incredible racism or sexism, it's crazy.
TH: It's capitalism.
AD: Dammit. So here's the thing. I love coffee. I adore the high I get, but even more the taste, and the culture. It's this natural resource that takes some really specific space to grow. It doesn't like a lot of variation in its environment, but it flourishes in these small bands between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. It just happens.
And you can have these farmers using these practices to make this amazing bean, essentially, this amazing fruit, and then if it doesn't get dried properly it fucks it all up. The whole thing falls apart. Then if you have this other group of people who get together and they process and move the fruit properly, then you get this grain pit of the fruit that goes through a roaster, and if the roaster does a bad job, it's game over. But if the roaster really takes the time to consider the grain product in their hand and they really go through the process and they treat it right with the cooling and heating and storing and everything, then it goes to the barista. And then the barista can fuck it up.
Every part of this chain is this amazing confluence of economic scale that creates this thing that I can buy for way too much money, with way too much privilege, and then enjoy for literally ten seconds. It can be super transformative, and I can speak on all the ways that I love it, but also, never throughout the course of human history were we able to get to this kind of precision on this wild, neverending group of factors that could mess up at any point and ruin everything, shake the baby to death.
It's crazy that at the end of that chain you can get this beautiful cup of coffee. I marvel at that. We get all this kind of stuff, and it's only because of this ridiculous economics that it's possible.
TH: Speaking of artisanal shit, do you ever go to that place on Sunset Boulevard in LA? I've ordered a bunch of shit from there. I can't get spices from anywhere but there. That's where these top chef motherfuckers are shopping. But I don't know. Just to play the devil's advocate, I would say that if you remove the economic incentive today, people would still find a way to achieve all of those steps. Because people would still want amazing coffee.
AD: I partially agree. I think people would desire it. But I also think there is another factor of people not caring. And a lot of people get their coffee that's way expensive and immediately hit it with some milk that isn't necessarily super considered, or they throw their Splenda in there, and it just tastes like milk or Splenda, you know what I mean? And it has to do with education and people's pallets and it's all very subjective.
And it's the same thing with music. People will go out and buy these lossless formats and then listen to it through Beats by Dre. And then on the flipside you have people with their super hifi systems and they're listening to music that was recorded with fidelity that was ridiculously low. But their ears are gilded with gold, so to speak, so even the shittiest sound is somehow supposed to be gussied up by these fancy speakers.
And all of this is to say that I feel like we're—whether devil's advocate or not, we are just in a tough moment of discerning...there's no consensus. We're kind of at a weird precipice.
Are you familiar with the term tipping point? In the artistic fashion? In most art forms—especially temporal art forms, like music or poetry, but it happened in the visual arts too—you have a moment in the scheme where the artist will take an extra amount of time, typically, or an extra bit of emphasis to show an emotional depth. This is especially effective, in the arts, to have these kinds of “push moments” where there's a little bit more ask of the audience, basically. And that ask
then has a reward, and it's almost a virtuosity being displayed by the artist to know when the time is to push that button.
And you could argue that the same thing is true in the consumer world, in a way. That there are these moments of challenge that then is released, that should have some of the same relevance, but it's like—yeah, we've stripped all that. We don't have tipping points anymore. We don't have people waiting for their meal and then being satiated by it. You're expected to have it immediately from the drone in the sky.
TH: That's how people are experiencing news and music and everything now.
I keep going back to it, but it's just such a weird postmodern time that we're in. When I was kid thinking about the year 2000 I figured it would be working four hours a day, and then 2010 hit and it was like, you know what? Nothing's really changed. Everything is the same. All we have is phones. But now, I was reading the Wikileaks thing and they're trying to hack into computerized cars to crash them. Oh, okay. There are megamillionaires trying to go to Mars. Corporations are going to be on Mars before states will, and that's crazy.
Would you go to Mars?
AD: No. I love the idea of exploration, and I can safely say that I've done a lot of that in myself— psychedelics and otherwise—around some of these deeper questions I had as a kid that never were solved but I asked aloud of myself...but I would sooner go to the bottom of the ocean than I would go to Mars. There's so much about the world that we live in that we have rarely explored. Again with the same factors of very limited engagement, I do feel like if people went to the bottom of the ocean, they would have a lot more sympathy and compassion for the bottom of the ocean. And I don't see why we're spending all this money to try to go to outer space, besides the fact that it's obviously a lot of novelty and promise and potential, and it would be great so that we wouldn't have one calamitous event on Earth and lose the entire population. It'd be great. But I just don't understand why we're not going down and we're always going up.
TH: Duh, man. It's because the Earth is hollow.
I have actual literal flat-earthers on my Twitter timeline, and I'll make a joke like, “More NASA propaganda! They're showing Earth as a circle!” And people will be like, “Oh, man, I'm so glad you're woke.” Not to keep talking about this stuff, but it's fucking crazy and hilarious to me that in 2017 people would be arguing that the world is flat. If that's not a metaphor for Donald Trump's presidency, I don't know what is.
AD: I think it's a very interesting problem, but also a really unique opportunity. I do find it really interesting: these people are supposedly really hungry for the truth and really feeling like they need to be part of the detective squad, the other Sherlocks. It's kind of cool that people feel so much purpose in this way, but they seem to be so tin-eared about facts. And not to say that one set of facts from a national agency should be totally trusted, but this idea that somehow they are privileged to some truth that they heard randomly somewhere—they seem like they heard it off a mountain, off some tablets, and that's the ultimate end-all be-all and somebody else's tablets that came off a very similar mountain don't have any relevance.
TH: That's like an identity thing. It's like, my identity is linked to this brand new information I have. No one is more annoying than the newly converted. “I have the only truth and everyone else is wrong.”
AD: I just wish these people would wear more cultish robes. They should commit. I'm saying this jokingly, but I kind of mean it truthfully. I kind of want people to go all the way if they're going to go there. But they just have one crazy theory about chemtrails, and then everything else can be
somehow normal in the world, but they're just like yeah, chemtrails. Come on. Go all the way. TH: Wear a tinfoil hit. Wear your bathrobe out.
AD: My dad wears a bathrobe all the time. It's great. It's fashionable. He's kind of crazy. It works. Maybe we're all in that space.
So here's a question. I don't remember the term for it, but there is a concept that the future can't exist until it's written about by sci-fi writers, that until something appears on Star Trek it won't really be invented. It's kind of an imagination thing. If there's a simultaneous invention that happens in the world it's because of technological pressures that have been shown. There is a kind of zeitgeist about the physical problems or commercial issues that then breed solutions that take a form that generally seems to correspond to “science fiction,” even if it's things like inventing teleportation. Which seems so futuristic and science-fiction-y in Star Trek but is now actually being developed. People are part of this because it was dreamed up by somebody. So why aren't we hiring teams of writers to just write the craziest timelines to get us there?
TH: Maybe we are and we just haven't read them yet. As you were saying that, I was thinking about why it's so important to expand your political imagination. If that's true, if all of these technological ideas are like a stream rippling through the eons that eventually become real, it's like The Secret on a civilization-wide scale. Maybe by creating a more radical imagination we really can have, a thousand years from now, people living in a world that we are imagining now. Marx or Adam Smith—when Adam Smith was writing, I don't think he thought, oh, this is the way it's going to be forever. Or even the Bible.
AD: I don't think it has to take a thousand years. There has to be some structure that makes it happen way faster than people imagine. Because again, these books are set in the distant future, but this stuff comes way faster. There's something about that.
But I do agree with you about the political systems thing. Just for instance, the third party thing is always shut down. It's always like, “Nope, not going to happen. We live in a two-party system.” And if ever somebody could really change our imagination to think more parliamentarian, I think it would happen in a second. We have way too many different camps for it not to happen quick.
I mean, it obviously serves its purpose right now, but I think the nuance that's going on makes it seem obvious—we don't have Whigs anymore, but we have a thousand other things that could easily be in that place.
TH: Yeah. I mean, David Graeber has this speech on bureaucracy and technology, and he really looks at the form of governance that the United States uses, and so much of it was based around a time where it would take a pigeon two months to make it across the country, when we were limited by railroads.
AD: We went a long time without a nationwide-spanning railroad. We went a long time with horses that could only go so far.
TH: Do you read graphic novels or science fiction?
AD: I used to read a lot of them, but I'm also dyslexic, so I've always had a hard time. Especially the harder science fiction, I love it. Your Larry Nivens and these kinds of people, I like that stuff. It just takes me a long time to piece through it. I like graphic novels, it's sometimes easier, but it depends on the writer. Some people just have so much text that it really makes my eyes jump around a ton.
TH: Somebody just gave me this Pax Romana graphic novel. Are you familiar with this? It's fucking awesome, man. I never read this shit, but it's like, the civilization has gone to shit and all that remains is the Roman Church and they send people back in time to take over the world before
Mohammed is born. Of course it's born of psychotic Christian Eurocentric fantasies, but they go back there with nuclear weapons and drones and create an army of god. It was a fun read.
Let me ask you some more music questions, actually. Do you still run a record label?
AD: Yeah. I would call it more of an imprint than a record label, though it functions to do a lot of the normal label stuff. The mandate of the record label initially was initially to be a platform for artists to overcome the catch-22 of the music industry, which is: if you don't have a release, you're not going to get attention, and you're not going to be considered by record labels, and so you have to have a release to get attention, essentially. The label functioned as being a lot of artists' first release, the place where they could put a stick in the ground and then hopefully grow the seeds that they planted in that earth out into other spaces. I feel really good about that. Over time, now, I've had a few artists who have released multiple times on the label, and it's been a platform to release older music, some overview stuff of my own as well as others'. But it isn't this kind of thing to yell from the rooftops, or a movement, it's just been a little platform for these kinds of artists in the past.
TH: I was looking at it and going back and listening to some interviews you did where you talked about it. I started a record label a couple years ago. And I mean honestly I'm probably just going to shut it down this year, or close its doors for a while, just because of having a kid and there's so much shit going on, I just can't give it what it needs. But one of the main reasons that I started the label is because I felt like blogs and things—you know, there's no John Peel in 2017. And all the old ways that people were discovering music have disappeared...there were these things that mattered, that if they happened it could set off a chain of events for people. And those milestones don't really exist any more. I feel like that is the function of record labels, now. Even on a small boutique imprint...my question is, do you feel like record labels are replacing blogs and publications? Like they're this other filter, a source of discovery that's almost more important than anything else today?
AD: Yes and no. I think they did function like that about ten years ago. And then over time it became the curation of a few people who did some festival circuits. A while ago Pitchfork ceased being a really critical publication and more of a series of lifestyle choices. And then you had some labels that really represent (and you still have this on occasion) an idea, and that's potent enough to keep their existence. But largely they function as tax shells so you can have loss-leaders and some way of communicating a release, but really most labels just function as P&D deals for publishing houses to license music to movies, television, and radio, essentially.
That's how the larger indies hold on, is through these licensing deals. The people who have taken over the role that you're speaking about, I really feel, are collectives nowadays. There are a lot of collectives—be it focused, usually, around a genre or sometimes more focused around a location— that become the figureheads of their individual pocket of scene and transmit their culture in a way that seems authentic and people like. Look at Teklife—which has a label aspect, but really it's a loose collection of people who are all under the banner of this Juke scene. Or Soulection, with their party sound, and they have tons of nights all over the world that are just selection nights, but you never know which DJs you're going to catch from the crew; they have some bigger-name people in the crew, but really it's just a sound that's really the modern party sound. And similarly with TeamSupreme and Brainfeeder—I mean, I'm kind of quoting off things that might be a little more underground than your listenership knows about, or is kind of specific, but this is really where that curation is happening, where you have people blanket-wise just ascribing themselves to one of these collectives, rather than a label.
TH: Huh. I guess that is true. Of course Hellfire Club comes to mind. I was very excited about Hellfire Club when that was going on. It made me want to live in LA.
AD: And there are exciting outgrowths. Even though Hellfire Club fell apart, there are still exciting outgrowths that are emanating from that. But you see that one moment where you have this supergroup feeling where people could really get behind it and were excited and could pour their energies into something. You could feel it. It emanates, and it's still rippling. I feel like that's one of the reasons why it has such powerful sustain. And I also think there's a collectivism in a lot of people coming together, that friction of different voices together, rather than having one main A&R or one blog writer. That was never sustainable. You always see through the facade of the one- person perspective. It never seems to work.
You have these great runs. And even Peel had his ups and downs. But part of the reason why he was so abundant is because he had so many different outgrowths. He had his radio show and his critical writing. And it's interesting: it was a different time period, too, obviously, kind of a slower time (think of Cream magazine being all just that one dude), just a different way. But I feel like we desperately need more critical vision in our art structures. If it's another group of fifteen-year-olds who get together and make a crazy sound, that's fine, but if there's no knowledge of history or no knowledge of trajectory, they all seem to tear each other apart and go away rather than figure out how to sustain.
TH: I don't have any experiences in my life that sound anything like you're describing, so I don't know what you're talking about...
I'm writing a book right now about hip-hop and radical politics, and I keep thinking about Project Blowed and I keep wanting to ask people in LA what the impact of that scene was and how it influenced you.
AD: I can tell you when I was really young, when I was in high school in the early nineties, the Blowed, or Freestyle Fellowship and those kinds of things—everybody knew the surface of what was going on in gangsta rap, especially in '92 when half the kids were all grunged out and the other half of kids were all gangsta rap, and it was starting to hit the airwaves in LA, and then you had LA hip-hop radio going from a dance mix of freestyle music from Miami and some Information Society, like, weird electro EDM music, industrial music that was going on—to full-on gangsta rap. That was this new sound that had older roots, but for the airwaves, you had people going deeper on the culture and going to the world stage, going to the Blowed, wherever it was being held, specifically the Good Life, and getting tapes from people who would dismiss you, would rip you off —you'd go up there and you'd be lucky to walk away with the thing you were trying to get. But it was this whole level of depth that you could go, which I know was not happening in a lot of other cities. You might be hearing music, but to actually go talk to the people who are making it go, witness them in person, and get the bug, and really feel like there's something really amazing happening, like there's a movement happening, that's special.
But then on top of it: the riots. The LA riots happened in '92. Rodney King. And I mean, that lit fires in people that both tore apart a lot of the scene and caused a lot of friction in this way where the places you went were kind of dangerous, or perceived as dangerous to go...it became a very palpable danger. For years after that, I remember there were clubs that you were warned about.
And that's part of the reason I feel like I did rave music. Because I think every kid wants to inhabit that danger, and LA had an amazing underground warehouse scene that at times played right there with all the LA underground hip-hop. You would catch those same names MCing for jungle artists, or being present in the club scene as much as they were at the Good Life. It's like, there was enough confusion that you could see the bleed between the things way before it happened in the overground worlds of electronic and hip-hop coming together.
TH: You're talking about Peace, and Myka 9 and shit, right? Is that who you mean?
AD: The core Blowedians for sure, but also look at Global Phlowtations. They were taking chances with their beats in the mid- to late nineties that were crazy. Thavius Beck is born of that, and Satchel Page. There are a lot of interesting voices. And they actually had female MCs in a real way —not to depreciate the other people in project Blowed that were doing the same, but...
You know, when I first started touring, in the early aughts, I would go to places like Japan or Europe, and every once in a while I would trip over these stores that were just selling west coast hip-hop. Amazing, right? And I would go in there, and I'd ask, “Where's the LA hip-hop section?” and it's like, no, the store was all an LA hip-hop section. I learned more about what was going on in my own city through places like that. There was one particular one in either Sweden or Norway (one of the Scandie countries, I don't remember which one unfortunately, it's been a long time) that was so dedicated to the culture, and they had all these obscure side projects and shit. It's like, what are you talking about? These people have only one record out, had these one-off tape side projects, and they'd exist in these other places in these other countries, and I never would have found out about it in LA because it was just such a hidden culture that you weren't supposed to go out and engage with. It's tremendous.
TH: I totally forgot about all that shit. In the Bay, too, you'd go to Amoeba Music, and sell five hundred CDRs. Amoeba Music paid my rent for the first two years of my music career. It's so crazy. It's things like that that I think about a lot, and this is one of the questions I had for you. How has the way you work changed over the fifteen years that you've been a full-time musician?
AD: I mean, in some ways it's remained doggedly the same. I'll have a notion, and follow that notion down a winding path, and that will either yield a project that comes out commercially or, often, yields some sort of results that then coalesce into a record. And somehow I've been doing that this whole time. I've released seventeen collections of music that count as full-lengths, and that becomes this thing that somehow has gone on this long, for these past fifteen years.
But then at the same time, technologically it's shifted so much, from being all hardware—no computer in the very beginning, creating everything with samplers and synthesizers—to hybrid forms of that. As sample times have changed, as the hardware has become more possible, in some ways, getting away from samplers with their long sample times (because that provided too many choices), going down to the circuit-bent, going down to the acoustic. I did a series of records a few years ago that were totally...it's almost like every good idea I've had, I've had to abandon because I don't know how to do that idea again. Do you know what I mean?
And I know management and labels would love it if I could sustain the attention span to really do something long enough to make it actually truly good, rather than fidget. But that isn't my job. I kind of realized a while ago, my job isn't to make a lot of money. My job isn't to make great music. It's to bring my sense of wonder that I've always felt towards music and show it to other people. That's probably my highest aspiration at this point.
TH: You're a tinkerer, man. I feel like what you're describing also is—have you ever seen Dosh play live? It's the same kind of thing. I feel like when I'm watching you or when I'm watching Dosh, I'm watching someone just playing in their bedroom. That's where I'm at with music right now. Man, I just don't want to play a show unless it feels like I'm tinkering in my bedroom, so I have to reimagine what my live show is, and incorporate more live PA into that, and it's so...when you're rapping, it's such a challenge to figure out how you can really rap and then have all these moving parts and shit that's organic and live.
AD: I may say—I know you're a thinker. I know you're a deep thinker, but I also know you have a lot of really important things to say. And I feel like this is the kind of perspective that I wish I had other people telling me...but I think at a certain age, past a certain point, people stop giving you critique
and they start to just assume that you're ever-prevalent, and this is just the thing, and it's set. But I feel like, for yourself, when I've caught you, it's always really vital to hear what you have to say. I feel that way honestly. And I understand the idea of building in mechanisms that keep you feeling interested, and keep you feeling like you're doing the work in this way, but I feel like you need to exist because there aren't that many people saying things that are of importance. Or they're not speaking their truth in a way that is including mine, do you know what I mean?
There's a lot of political music out there that is important, and has a lot to say. I really like where clipping. is at right now, for instance. I dig it. But I also feel like they're skipping a lot of harder truths that are won through a deeper examination of the direct political scene. I love the metaphor, and I love the approach. And I think it's super important what they're doing as well, but it's just very different. There aren't many Public Enemy's right now. If any.
TH: I hear that. It's fucked up there's not enough Public Enemy's right now, really.
AD: I like reading about music, both the psychology and the physics of, and also the history of. And those 33-1/3 books can be kind of hit and miss. But the one on Public Enemy and the Bomb Squad production around It Takes a Nation of Millions is phenomenal. It's amazing.
Do you know the 33-1/3 series? It's a series of creative writing. Some of it's very factual, and some of it's very personal narrative. And they always deal with a specific album. My favorites always tend to be the ones that really talk about the creation of or the history of the hard, on the ground facts of a certain record. And usually really classic albums get the treatment.
TH: I'm trying to learn a lot of back story to shit like that right now.
AD: It's a perfect one to dive into, and it really talks about the moment that birthed that record, but also that birthed Public Enemy. It's great. It's one of the ones I really recommend. The Bomb Squad—this is one of those experiences for me where it's like, okay, Public Enemy had a lot to say, but the onomatopoeia with the way they said it, the words they said it with but also the music...this book does a really good job talking about things like the fact there was a horn stab on every single beat in some of their songs. You know? It underlines not only the message, but the message underlines the music. It's perfect. There are a lot of groups out there that have a heavy sound, and they don't necessarily say very much. And the rare groups who have both, I think. I dig death metal groups, sometimes, it's not my favorite thing in the world, but man, the music sounds like those words, and those words sound like that music, and I have to tip my hat at that. I feel like Public Enemy did it really well, as well. The Bomb Squad did it really well.
TH: That's one of the things I'm thinking about. The form was revolutionary in the way that it carried the message. It was a very experimental music. I remember listening to that with my mom. And she was like, “This is fucking terrible.” My dad was like, “Shut this off! This is the worst shit!” The same way that punk music was jarring to people's ears.
So when I'm home just twiddling with loop pedals and shit, I try to think, like, what is that different format today?
AD: It's a great mandate you can give to younger producers who don't usually have the perspective of what they want to say, they're just trying to figure out how to even be in the space. But sometimes if you have the message you want to end with before you have any of the notes, it can help determine those notes real fast.
TH: When you listen to the way they imagine experimental music on TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, it's always some hybrid between noise and techno and cut-up shit. Today it would just be a bunch of Windows dings and the sound of a fucking Mac shutting off.
AD: Are we talking about Vaporwave?
TH: You haven't switched over yet? Or is it too late? Is that over?
AD: It's over and it'll never be over. But yeah, I mean—I think that's a weird moment that we're in that won't ever stop now. All popular music is Vaporwave now. For a long time, I used to consider popular music to be kind of a mash-up culture, where unless you had one popular thing rubbing up against another popular thing, it wouldn't produce the phenomenon known as popular music. But now we're through the looking glass, and now you just have to have a taste of that thing. And it doesn't matter if the thing doesn't live in a serious space. It's better if it lives in a frumpy, humorous, tongue-and-cheek thing, because then you never have to actually commit.
TH: It seems like it's a relative of Witch House. But Witch House was actually dope, I felt like.
AD: Did it ever really even exist? Was it an easy journalistic term for just a passing chord? I liked a lot of the music that was going on in that space, too, and I feel like the “Ethereal & B,” the ethereal R&B that's going on now, you could point towards a lot of artists who are basically making a version of Witch House, but it has different DNA. It goes to the same place.
TH: I've never heard of ethereal R&B, I'll check it out.
AD: There's quite a bit of music in that vein, and you could argue that even Mumble Rap goes there too, sometimes, stuff that's a little bit more—oh god, my head is full of names, and they rarely come out at the right moment. The stuff I'm really feeling, I love the way that tempo has come back in a lot of music, and that chop has come back into rap. You have a lot of rappers now who can actually chop. There's a little more going on than just some catchphrases. I was really tired of that trend before it even set in.
TH: I love the new rap music. I mean, Future. He's such an experimental artist.
AD: Especially that new record. God, it goes places. You should check it out. You've head OG Maco before, right? Some of his—I don't know if you want to call them hits, but his more overground cuts, and his weird deeper-in-the-record cuts are weird as fuck. It's great. Even someone like Post Malone, which is again super-surface, he does stuff with Justin Bieber...but it comes out super strange sometimes. It has some weird blue-eyed soul to it, but then it does something.
TH: Usually before I go I ask if there are any books or anything that you'd recommend to people.
AD: I wish I read more. Dang, I am such an illiterate fool. Maybe I can encourage people, instead of imbibing the outside world, which is very relevant, but just from my perspective if more people took pen to paper and tried their hand at poetry, even the rappers out there who are used to scribbling verses, even the people who maybe keep a journal but try to have a bigger impact with fewer words...that exercise is something I engage in, still to this day. And there is relevance. There is something to be said with your personal voice. Word choice, thinking about what comes next. I'm a musician. I should know nothing about this. I'm largely illiterate. And I feel like it is an incredibly meditative practice. What's the next word? What's that next thing?
So maybe my answer is a reversal of your question.
TH: That's what keeps me from going crazy. Alright Alfred. Thank you for taking the time. AD: Equally! Tell me when this goes live, I can't wait to crow about it.
Solecast 36 is an interview with Frank Lopez of Submedia.tv. Frank is the founder of submedia and for 10 years wasknown by his alter ego The Stimulator. Stimulator was “the foul mouthed news anchor” on submedia’s flagship shpw “Its The End Of The World As We Know If And I Feel Fine.” Todays interview is a discussion about his new documentary series called “Trouble” and how he sees its role in breaking social media alienation and getting people engaged and connected locally. Trouble is a monthly documentary series highlighting uprisings from around the world and taking an in depth and analytical look at them.
Other Topics Discussed:
- Montreal’s maple syrup and its cultural divergence from New England
- The evolution of submedia over a decade
- Basic thoughts on anarchism, and Submedia’s engagement with it
- Mutual aid based projects that are replicable
- The relationship between anarchism and indigenous struggle
- The tension in social movements between the resistance and movement managers
- 90s hip-hop and its role in radicalizing him
Trouble drops the last Sunday of every month. The first one is Sunday March 26th, organize a showing in your area & find new comrades!
Here are some previous collaborations I have done with Stimulator:
Solecast 35 is an in-depth conversation with frequent Sole collaborator, DJ Pain 1. Together we have made 2 albums, a remix album and a couple EP's worth of material. We are currently working on our 3rd Studio album.
DJ Pain 1 is has produced music for everyone from Young Jeezy, to Ludicrous to Public Enemy. He is an educator, a DJ, an activist and one of the hardest working and consistent people I have ever met.
In our interview we discuss a myriad of topics:
- Madison's War on Hip-hop
- How he utilizes social media to maintain his autonomy
- The origins of rap & how neoliberalism influenced it
- His role as an educator both in schools and through youtube beat-making videos
- The importance of a healthy lifestyle
- The origins of hip-hop and its political implications
- The Revolutionary potential and limitations of hip-hop
- Latent racism in white hip-hop fans & anti-blackness is Wisconsin
- Mushroom Foraging
Check out more of his work on his website, follow him on twitter & FedBook.
Solecast 34 is an interview with documentary film maker Sonia Kennebeck about her film National Bird. National Bird will be on PBS in the spring and will be released digitally mid-February. National Bird is a documentary about the impacts of drone warfare, as told by drone whistleblowers and survivors of the drone program.
In this interview we discuss:
- Security & legal precautions that were necessary to make such a film.
- The Experience of traveling to Afghanistan to interview Drone survivors.
- Her feminist approach to film making.
- The collaboration between the two of us on the song “National Bird” and its use in the documentary.
- The impact of the film & lessons learned.
Subscribe to the Solecast in Itunes.
Solecast 33 is an interview with Greek autonomist antifascists. These are folks I met when they brought me to Athens with Antifa Live. Antifa Live is an anti-fascist concert series that happens in squatted locations throughout Athens, but concert promotion is just one small aspect of what they do to broaden the struggle. They share some history on the situation in Greece, tactics they use and explain the philosophy behind what they do.
The economic situation over the past 2 decades
The rise of the far right
The lessons of Syriza
The refugee / migrant crisis
Explanation of “autonomism”
Antifa organizing strategies
Autonomia (on semiotext)
Subscribe to the Solecast here.
On This episode I interview Naropa Professor, Stephen Polk. Stephen is a long time Denver organizer who has done a lot of work in Denver surrounding housing justice and ecology. Stephen just launched a new website examining these ideas called popular-power.com.
We have a wide ranging discussion on the relationship between anarchist philosophy/practice and permaculture. We discuss alternative economies and the discourses within permaculture surrounding capitol and economy. We also talk about struggles for the city, cooperative housing and the needs to create more cooperative relationships.
Subscribe to the Solecast here.
I just launched a Patreon fundraiser for the Solecast. If you want to support this project, you can do so at http://patreon.com/soleone.
This is an experimental episode of the solecast, consisting solely of audience questions. This is a special year end edition, covering a multitude of topics. This is a wide ranging conversation about politics, life, business and art. Topics covered include:
Favorite and most inspirational books, and resources for resistance
The relationship between gardening and being self sufficient
What inspires sole's art, his artistic motivations and the process involved in creating music
Personal relationships between various family members and old art comrades
Random questions about spirituality, music, gardening and business.
What it is like to be expecting a child in Trumps AmeriKKKa
The evolution of sole's support base & artistic direction through 20 years of music making
Also mentioned in this podcast:
Tim Ferris' book "The 4 Hour Work Week."
Sole One: Today's guest is my long time friend Astronautalis. He is a rapper/songwriter, kind of a hip-hop novelist, someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I've known him probably over a decade at this point. What I like about Andy is that when I first met him, in the early 2000s, he was playing shows and just realized really early on that what he loved to do was to travel all around and see shit, and interact, and just play shows. And he did it harder than anyone I know. He went on the road for two hundred and fifty days a year for what seemed like the first ten years of his career, playing house shows, playing DIY venues, and he's built up an amazing platform and career for himself by being a really unique artist and individual.
With all that's going on in the world, I think it's a great time to hear from someone like Astronautalis, who really lives out what it means to be someone who lives an unalienated life, someone who lives a life pursuing fucking happiness and not giving up. There's a lot we can learn from that. This music playing in the background is fucking beach house. When I play beach house, that means I'm stressed out. This Trump shit's got me all fucked up.
This interview we recorded at the Marquee in Denver a couple weeks before the election, but check it out, and if you dig what Astronautalis has to say, check him out on tour when he comes to your town, because he definitely will. Pick up his new album, support him; he's an independent artist hustling to survive like everyone else.
Astronautalis, welcome to the Solecast.
Andy Bothwell: Sole, how's it going?
SO: Doing fucking great, man, how are you doing?
AB: I'm good. I'm kind of out of my mind on tour, but good.
AB: We're a long way into this tour, and we're almost done; two weeks from tomorrow I get to go home.
SO: How long have you been out for?
AB: This is show number 49 out of 65. It's been pretty much nonstop. We have a day off every week. We're making our way west, then we do Alaska and Hawaii, and come back to play Minneapolis. We're doing all fifty states. It's the dumbest idea that we've ever had.
SO: These tours bounce all around. One minute you do a Midwest run, then you bounce over to Europe...
AB: Yeah. I did that in the spring; I did two weeks on the East Coast, then two weeks in Europe, then two weeks on the West Coast, like boom boom boom. That was a great idea, but by the end of it I was burned the fuck out. It was a lot of flying.
SO: Do you still love touring? Is it still something you really enjoy?
AB: Yeah, sure. I don't have the emotional fortitude to go out for long periods of time anymore like I used to. This tour is something I've wanted to do forever; I wanted to do the tour of all fifty states forever. This is the perfect intersection of me having enough fans to do it, and still having the energy and mental and emotional fortitude to do it, essentially a two-and-a-half-month uninterrupted tour. I don't think I'll be able to do that two years from now.
It wears on you, for sure. Especially now: I'm married and I live in a city I like. When I first started touring, I lived in Jacksonville, Florida. No disrespect to Jacksonville, it's where I grew up, but it's not a really super tight city. I live in Minneapolis now. I live in a city that has stuff going on that I'm missing out on. Back then I was touring to get the fuck out of a place. And now I'm touring—and I
still like it—a little bit less.
I still go crazy if I don't get applause every few months or whatever. I still go into a deep downward dark spiral if someone doesn't ask me to sign a fucking t-shirt or whatever. I still like it, but I like to do it a little bit less.
SO: It started to hit me last year, just because I'm the same: I love being home, I love my life. And so every time I'm out, usually around the third week I start to think, “Fuck, I'm still in this car for six hours, and then hanging out at this club for four hours, just to play for an hour...” It's like, how can I just do this three days a month?
AB: It's the dream. The way that DJs tour, just every weekend, it's the fucking dream. I would do that. Every other weekend, send me everywhere. Send me to Ibiza.
SO: And then they're getting ten thousand dollars to play other people's music for thirteen-year- olds on molly.
So you've got a new album out?
AB: Yeah, it's doing well. And there was five years between this one and my last record, so it feels good that there was growth. But now I'm back out here on the road, trying to hustle it and teach the kids the words. Even with the big growth that it had, you still have to sell it the same way. You still have to go out and yell it at people.
SO: It's my favorite album of yours for sure. It's fucking real. It touches on some critical whiteness stuff, this Southern identity, and it ties into recent events, and it seems like you're having a lot more radical influence in your art.
AB: With previous records I shied away from it because I didn't know how to do it. I didn't know how to make angry music or inherently radical or political music—though it's not overtly political; I'm not telling people how to vote or whatever. There's political tones to everything. But I didn't really know how to do that and make it good music and good art, so I really shied away from it.
I'm a guy that likes to be liked. My previous record, This Is Our Science, was at the time the most personal record I ever made, but when I looked back on it a few years later I realized that it was a dating profile/job interview version of me. It showed some rough bits, but in a kind of polished-up way that made them a little bit more wistful and romantic, like, that's just Old Drifter Andy, not Shitty Irresponsible Andy. I felt like I pulled a punch there, and I didn't want to do that on this record. I realized I had a lot of anger in me and a lot of disappointment and a lot of frustration. I think a lot of us do. We're in an angry, disenfranchised time.
I felt that connection; I started to feel this weird through-line. I grew up in the South, so I've got a lot of Southern friends. I've got redneck friends, I've got conservative friends. And I'm a rapper and I hang out with black people and radicals of all kinds. And four or five years ago I started to see this through-line of anger where all my punk friends were all buying guns and becoming doomsday preppers, but in a romanticized way, like, “We're growing our own food, we're getting chickens!” But really, they were doing it the same way, like, “Nah, I'm stepping away from the system.” And at the same time all my redneck friends in the South buy more guns and start to move off the grid, too.
It was a really interesting thing to watch these dudes. Two totally disparate elements of society have gone so far to extremes that they're starting to overlap, in a way, and they're disgusted with what's going on in the middle. And when I started to realize that, I felt like I had a creative anchor point to hold onto that wouldn't just be me writing essays. So I felt more comfortable going out on that branch on this record.
Honestly it's the most personal record I've ever made. It's definitely the most real record I've ever made, and the one I'm most proud of.
SO: You were talking about Drifter Andy and Dating Profile Andy. I was just thinking about this. You went to school for theater, right? Another thing that I think is interesting about you is you also play with your identity a lot. I'm curious how that background with performance and creating these characters has fueled your process.
AB: I was a huge David Bowie fan, like everybody; one of the things that I admired about him was his reinvention. I've always admired bands and artists that reinvent themselves, and it's something I try really hard to do on each record. I try to change the language that I write in; I try to change the musical style, the content, everything. I'm trying my best to wipe the slate clean, as best as anyone can (no one can fully remove their fingerprints).
Especially on previous records, it was about a theater of Andy. Astronautalis became this character where I would choose to magnify parts of the actual real Andy and blow the brains out of them, and suppress others, and each record became a different character. That was semi-conscious at first; there are times when it's semi-conscious and there are times when it's unbeknownst to my own stupid self because my own ego is propelling me past that, and then I look back on it and go, “Oh, that's what you were doing, you dummy.” There's a level of blacking out when you make a record, when you work or when you tour, that is required to be fully creative, to be unaware of the strings that are pulling you.
I have no musical education, but I have a ton of theater education, it's something I'm actually pretty well-educated in. So my process of making records is influenced by what I learned when I was in training to be a director and a designer for theater and opera and stuff like that. The techniques that I learned there still get applied to every record I make.
SO: I also feel like you're currently this hip-hop novelist, also. You've had some really nerdy romances in your career. In a great way.
AB: Supremely! One of the things that's been part and parcel with me finding my own voice is embracing those moments and learning to be comfortable with the fact that I am never going to be cool. I get to do cool shit, I've got cool fans, it's all there, but I'm not going to be Pitchfork's darling rapper. I'm never going to get to play Coachella.
SO: That means you'll have a career that lasts more than eighteen months.
AB: This is the thing. I used to be so heartbroken because all the cool art kids didn't care about my art. And then after years and years I got to this point where I was making—in my opinion at the time—the best work I had ever made, my third record and my fourth record, and people were flipping out about it and I was starting to get fans, and my shows were becoming amazing, and I was selling records and I was making money, but still I was kind of bummed that the cool art kids didn't care about my art.
Then eventually I got to this point where I was like, “Oh. They're never going to.” I was looking in the wrong direction; I turned left and I looked at all these people over here that all give a shit about my lyrics and know all the words, and have my fucking logo tattooed...and I was like, “Oh, give up on them, you don't want them. Those aren't actually the people who you want listening to your music. You want these people listening to your music.” And it's great.
SO: And it's not like those hipster blogs are the art kids, either. Pitchfork and Stereogum—nobody reads those sites, none of those mean anything.
AB: It's such a bizarre hierarchy that's now been established. It's almost completely an illusion. Which is funny, because the internet of music and the internet of art came out as a disruption to
Rolling Stone and all this stuff—which was also an illusion, with radio payola and the way that major labels were structured back in the eighties. It was all an illusion, and the internet was going to be this great thing that destroyed that, and ultimately Pitchfork just became Rolling Stone. It all became the thing that it aspired to rail against.
The story of all our lives, motherfuckers.
SO: A couple months ago, some anarchist radio show was asking me which rappers I know who make good political music, and I said, “Well, Busdriver, Milo, Mike Eagle, they have good politics.” And all of them responded like, “I'm not political!”
I was thinking about it today. Why do you think it is—what is it about that title?
AB: It's because there are a lot of people who are making political music that's really bad; there are a lot of well-meaning, thoughtful, intelligent people who are better thinkers than they are artists. That was the thing that made me really nervous about it, because I didn't want to just be a guy yelling my views. I didn't want to be the equivalent of a Facebook rant over a beat. That's what a lot of it is.
SO: Like a drunken book report.
AB: Exactly. For real. It's like a book report with feelings. It's the woman who's crying at a rally and the dude who's fucking yelling because his dad doesn't get socialism. There's passion in there and that passion is beautiful and important, but it doesn't necessarily make good art. Art is about harnessing passion. It's about riding a bucking bronco but not getting thrown off. That's the point when you're thrown off, when you can't control yourself, when you're not harnessing things.
So for a lot of us, yeah, we don't want that title. But what's really funny is that when I saw all those people were like, “I don't make political music,” I was like, actually, we all do. We all make very political music. It's not overt. But there is politics—even in my previous records, if you take the time to listen to the messages that I was conveying and talk about the people that I admire, you could figure out where my politics align.
Most people are political creatures. Even if you're like, “I don't care about the news, I just want to fucking hunt and fish,” that's political. “Fuck the government, I just want to blow glass and grow weed out in the fucking mountains,” that's political. It's all political. It's very rare that you'll encounter someone who is not. Your politics come out in your life; they come out in the things you choose to do. Politics are so involved in life. Politics are not a cute little bubble that doesn't impact how you wash your dishes or who you go to bed with. It impacts all of that. Inherently all of those choices are political.
We don't want that title, but we have made that bed for ourselves. All of us, all those people you listed. And still, I'm not totally comfortable with it. But I've embraced the fact of politics as life, as opposed to politics as a bumper sticker.
SO: That's exactly what I was going to say. Have you ever read the book The Revolution of Everyday Life? I was writing down quotes today. I read it on honeymoon. One of the things that always stood out to me, another thing about you, is that I feel like the reason you're successful is because you always followed the things that made you happiest, at least from my perspective. And to me, that is political. There are so many rappers who were coming up at the same time as you, and they are not here. They're washing dishes, they're going back to school to become a lawyer, they're doing other things.
There's always been something about your approach to life that is inherently political. At the same time if you look at a lot of the people who are hyper-political, they're fucking miserable.
AB: Yeah, that becomes your hobby. Being hyper-political becomes your joy. And I don't know if there's a joy in that. That seems like a suicide mission. And this is a thing that you know as well as I, touring overseas in Europe and playing squats: some squats are very politically active, out doing community work, out donating clothes, homies in Hamburg at Hafenklang are on the front lines in the Balkans helping refugees.
SO: They're driving into Iraq delivering food.
AB: They go to Syria, all this shit. They are super active. And then there are these other squatters who are using the squat as a means to check out. To remove themselves from society. I remember going to this squat in Zurich called Binz that's no longer there, and it's one of the weirdest, craziest squats I've ever been to. It looked like Peter Pan. There were rope bridges connecting all these old train-repair warehouses. I remember talking to those people, they're cooking breakfast in the morning and you're shooting the shit, and I remember climbing all the way to the top, to the roof of the warehouse, and you're in Zurich. You're surrounded by banks. When we were driving in, it was in the middle of one of the Jewish high holidays, so there were all these Hasidic Jewish families going to temple, and we're driving through seas of Hasids, and banks, and crazy ultra- modern Zurich, and we turn the corner and we see this little splash of graffiti, and we go in there and it's this weird little squatter bubble in the middle of this crazy city, this incredibly cosmopolitan, incredibly diverse, epic banking center. And I woke up in the morning and I climb on the roof and I'm looking around at all these other buildings and I see all these people going to work, and I'm in the middle of this place where these people are rolling a spliff at eleven in the morning and cooking me some fried potatoes.
I remember going back down and talking to them and asking, “Do you ever feel like an island here?” It's really like an island in this ocean. And they were like, “Yeah, when you're here you have to go actively seek out information of the outside world.” They're like weird settlers who are out on the edges of the borderlands before the Louisiana Purchase or whatever, and we're going to ride two hours into town to barter with the locals and learn the news of the Civil War or whatever the fuck. There was this weird thing about it: they enjoyed it to a degree; it was a blessing and a curse.
But the understanding of seeing that and seeing both of those things, these people who are railing against the thing, who are diving straight forward into it, who are super active, who are inspiringly productive, and seeing these other people who go, “Yeah, that's not for me. I'm going to remove myself from everything and live my life the way I want to live it.” I saw both of those, and they're both mind-blowing as an American. Mind-blowing, but at the same time I saw them both and realized that I am neither. I am some of both. And there's a need to cherry-pick from both. Because at the end of the day, I am an American and I do like to be happy and I do like to be comfortable. I grew up at the fucking beach, man. I like to have my toes in the sand. I will never be the person who goes to every fucking rally. I will never be that person. Because it's just not my passion. And people can crucify me for it, but I also don't need to be rich; I don't need to be famous; that aspiration has long since gone out the window. But at the same time I would like to own a couple motorcycles. I want to buy an ice bike next year so I can ride it in the fucking snow. I have those things. I have things that I want.
It's a tough thing to do, to be able to sleep at night on your very comfortable bed, but also be able to sleep at night. It's a fucking fine balance.
SO: It's like when people ask me what my guilty pleasures are. I have none.
AB: Exactly. That fucking term is such bullshit. Especially in music. It annoys the shit out of me. Why the fuck should you feel guilty about liking this thing? Why should you feel guilty for a thing that makes you happy, that does not impact anyone? It's goddamn bullshit. It makes me so angry. I
love it when I'm doing an interview and I talk about the first time I heard “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. I listened to it like a hundred and fifty times in a row. I just put it on repeat in the back of the van. It's a perfect little pop pill. I remember listening to it and thinking it's perfect. Everyone either made fun of the song or loved that song, or loved that song but publicly made fun of it. But if Dolly Parton sang that song, everybody would have loved that song. Because it's a perfect pop song. You could throw in anyone with any instrument with any voice and it would be perfect. I remember hearing it and loving it. And I'll be telling this to people giving interviews, you know, super punk people interviewing me for their fucking zine or whatever, and they get so confused that I like that music. Rap fans get so confused, like indy artsy rap fans get so confused that I tweet so much about being so hyped about the new Gucci mixtape, or I was hyped about the new Riff Raff album that just came out. It's not good, it was a disappointment, but I was hyped to hear it. Because that shit brings me joy. It brings me a totally different kind of joy than sitting and looking out the window and listening to classical music. They're all different joys. I want to sit and watch all of the Fast and Furious movies. They bring me joy. I love them all, I've seen all of them multiple times.
The guy who produced my record, John Congleton, he told me this really great John Peel quote that I will always butcher, I don't know the exact quote. But John Peel in an interview was asked a somewhat similar question, “What's your guilty pleasure.” And he went on this huge rant, laying into the interviewer and basically being like, “When I hear something that I don't like, I have trained myself to think, 'What's wrong with me that I don't find joy in this thing that millions of other people find joy in?' Or just nine other people. But if an album comes out, someone took the time to put it out, someone encouraged that person to put it out.” He said, “At bare minimum, you're looking at ten people who love this thing, who look at it proudly, who are proud of the person who made it, are proud of being part of it, even if it's absolute fucking garbage. So what the fuck is wrong with me that I don't get it? That I don't see the thing that all these other people see?”
That's such an optimistic, idealistic view. But it's still a very good chin check, like, slow your fucking roll. You're not the be-all end-all of taste, and if anybody is the be-all end-all of taste, it's fucking goddamn John Peel.
SO: This is a question from Dane Abernathy: what is the biggest difference in the way venues are run in Europe versus the United States?
AB: Profit is the ultimate purveyor of most of it. Because ultimately American venues are beholden to profit, because they don't get government aid, and most of the venues that you and I play in Europe are small- to mid-level non-profit or semi-profit or government subsidized (either locally or nationally) venues, or squatted and illegally-run venues. As a result, none of those venues operate under the motive of profit, or they just need to break even, or they're not going to fold if they have a bad month.
The other big thing, too, is that a lot of shows are promoted. In America as a club promoter you're oftentimes just one guy who's promoting shows until you become a tycoon and you have a bunch of people underneath you, ultimately running a giant business, or you get bought up by Live Nation or whatever. Ultimately if you're going to survive as a promoter in America you have to either build a company or join a company. In Europe you have the same thing, but instead it's a group of ten people in Duisdorf or whatever who are just bummed that nobody comes to Duisdorf, so they all decide, like, hey, you like punk, you like metal, you like rap, you like techno, but we all want shows to come here so let's team up together, let's pool our money, let's pool our efforts, and everyone gets to pick a show, like every two weeks it's your turn, you get to have a rap show, and we all work together to promote it. It mitigates loss, and it's not just one person doing it. Ultimately all these people are graphic designers or whatever the fuck, and so it's not even about
Those are the two fundamental things. Then there are all those brass tacks things that you and I love, like when you show up and there's meat and cheese laid out, and they're like, “Would you like an espresso? We'll get you some weed. Here's some hash. Here's some coffee. Here's your apartment.” There's a further level of it; there's just an expectation of what their job is versus what an American promoter's job is. An American promoter's job is to let you into the club, to introduce you to the sound man, and to give you some beer. If they show up.
Until you get to the point that you have some kind of clout...I'm just now kind of tip-toeing into an America where I can make demands. In Europe, the expectation is we provide you with housing, we provide you with food, we guarantee you money, we cook you breakfast in the morning. Either you're staying in someone's house or you're staying in housing that's built into the clubs; a lot of the clubs build it in because the expectation is you need housing. So housing is a thing that's part of a club just like soundsystems and backstages and bars and bathrooms and cigarettes.
When I played in the middle of nowhere Romania, or when I've played beautiful clubs in Berlin, it doesn't matter where the fuck I play, every time I play there, 99% percent of the time, my housing is provided for, food is provided for, generally breakfast is provided for, the sound is great. There's a level of expectation of what is required there that is so different in America.
I should say, too, the other thing is that fans have club loyalty there. If there's a small club in Duisdorf, again, there's a group of people who will go to almost every show that's there. Or like when I first started playing in the Czech Republic, I played this club called 007, it's under the university. And they put on the flyer for the show: “Makes music with the Paper Chase.” I don't actually make music with the Paper Chase. John Congleton, who used to be in the Paper Chase, produced my record. But they posted that, and the first time I played Prague, nobody knew any of my music but there were a hundred and fifty people there because they loved the Paper Chase. And so there's this loyalty, and also from a fan standpoint, people go out to shows to discover music still, whereas in America people go out to shows to sing along to songs they already know.
Those are the three big things. The expectations of the club, the lack of requirement on profit, and what fans expect from live music and concerts.
I love both for different reasons. Ultimately it's a lot easier for me to make a living in America because I don't have to pay for plane tickets and stuff like that, and now I have a fan base in America. It's much harder to make a fan base in America. It's much easier to get started in Europe, especially because you're the out-of-town guy, you're the stranger that just waltzed into town so you have a bit more of a desirable quality about you anyway. But it's significantly more comfortable to be a working-class musician in Europe than it is to be one in America.
SO: If you're in France and you play thirty shows a year, you can get like two thousand euros a month from the government just to hang out in your house and read poetry all day.
Then again when I was out there this time, though I used to really admire that, then I was thinking that when I'm super comfortable, I don't want to do shit anymore. I just want to hang out in my yard or play video games and read or whatever. It's only when there's a tiny bit of desperation somewhere that's driving me that I feel like I really produce great stuff.
I hate to admit that, because I actually believe we should all be provided for—
AB: It blows my mind. It's one of the reasons I left Florida: because it's comfortable. It blows my mind. I don't know how Italians get anything done. It's so comfortable in Italy, it's so wonderful there. The food is so good, and everyone just walks so slow, everyone's drunk by noon and beautiful and tan and they are the slowest-walking people in the world. I walk like such an
American, I walk a fucking thousand miles an hour. I don't know how Italy ever got anything done in history. I don't know how Rome developed. I don't know how anyone gets anything done there. It's so comfortable. I would love to live there. I would live there in a heartbeat. Absolutely. And I would never, ever get anything done.
SO: Our last show on this last tour was in Greece. On our way home this time, people were just burning trashcans in the street. It was a Friday night and they were waiting for the cops. This guy told me they were just waiting for the cops to come so they could throw things at them. I was like, you mean molotovs and stuff? “Yeah.” I'm like, who are these people? “Oh, that's just what people do on Fridays here.” They call them the “wild youth.” They're not political at all. They're just hanging out throwing shit. And I feel like that's why I like hanging out in Greece so much, because it's fucked up like America is. I mean, I connect with Greek people more.
AB: Absolutely. I really connected with Central Europeans and Eastern Europeans. Because there is a level of determination. These are people who either grew up in a really fucked up situation or have just recently extracted themselves from a fucked up situation, or are currently actively watching their country descend into a fucked up situation. All my Hungarian friends who had this golden era of Hungary for the last ten years, where Hungary was one of the shining jewels of Eastern Europe, are now watching it being slowly taken over by Ukrainian gangsters at best and incredibly far-right fascists at worst. And they're losing their fucking minds.
For the longest time I didn't pay attention to American politics. For like ten years. Because I felt like most of it was kind of trite, it's on its path. And I was fascinated by European politics because I was watching—not because of any great prescience, but mostly just from talking to people, I was learning about the rise of the extreme right in Europe like five or six years ago from touring over there. And that became really fascinating to me, and learning about PEGIDA and Alternative für Deutschland, and all of the extreme right movements in Hungary and Slovakia and in eastern Czech Republic and in Russia and also then in the Netherlands and Scandinavia and seeing all that, while in America we were freaking out about our own things. It's like, “Guys, there are Nazis being elected to office in the Netherlands.” But we're all just sitting here thinking that Europeans are accepting and open and wearing funny hats and smoking fucking hash, and they are electing fucking Nazis, and they are keeping minorities out at the borders. And in the last year and a half, boy, I got the rug pulled out from under me on what's going on in America. Because the same shit's happening in America; it's just now the “alt right” is getting this voice, they're being inspired by PEGIDA, they're being inspired by Alternative für Deutschland, and they're taking the reins. And their actions and their goals and their desires are fucking insane and scary.
SO: It's the same with the Trump shit, where no one has really been paying attention to all the displacement happening all over the rust belt, and it's just being channeled into this terrible shit.
AB: It's absolute anger, and their justification for being angry and feeling abandoned is totally viable. What they're channeling it into and who they're blaming is completely misdirected, and that makes me really sad more than anything. I don't want to fucking apologize for these people, but I'm not in that situation. I'm not living in fucking West Virginia and watching my society collapse around me. So it's really easy for me, with my fucking art school degree, getting to play squats all over, to be like, “I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't blame immigrants I'll never meet. I wouldn't fucking do that.” But I'm not in that fucking position. I have no apology for what they're doing; it scares me and fucking outrages me, but at the same time I don't know, if I were living in Appalachia, and staring down the dead end of my fucking life, I don't know that I wouldn't be that angry and do that shit either.
Travel has made me very empathetic to a lot of situations that are fucked up, situations that used to appall me, that people could be pushed to this. And now I have a harder time being appalled by
individual people being outraged and taking extreme action. I get appalled at governments; I get appalled at systems; I get appalled at bigger things. But watching individual people getting mad? How could I get mad at people that are mad at Americans fucking bombing their families? How can I be mad at that? I'm mad at them for the way they're executing their dilemma, but if someone were dropping a bunch of fucking goddamn cluster bombs with American flags on them on my house all day, I wouldn't be like, “Well, no, let's hear them out. They're trying to spread democracy.”
SO: One thing that I think is important for white people: actually, as a white rapper, I want to own that shit. I want to own the fact that I'm a fucking white dude, but there's got to be some nuance there. It can't just be this self-flagellating social justice shit. It's got to be like—I have to be able to understand what makes a white dude go shoot up a movie theater. I want to try to figure that out.
AB: Fur sure, and the concept of trying to erase your reality—it all seems to naive to me. There are people I just want to pat on the fucking head like a puppy. Dogg, you're white. Get the fuck over it, man. Do something. Fix something.
SO: Break something. Smash something.
AB: But quit walking around and being like, “Sorry I'm white.” That doesn't do anything.
I had a really interesting conversation—I worked on this art piece, by happenstance I stumbled into this art piece. I got asked to do this thing with this pretty famous British artist named Sonia Boyce. She saw me freestyle at this opening at an art festival in the middle of nowhere Germany, and she was working on the idea of improvisation and performance art, and she recruited me to do this piece. It was a real fun ride for me, and I hope I get to do more. It was a piece for the Venice Biennale, basically the Super Bowl of the fucking art world, and we opened and closed the Biennale, we received standing ovations, people ran off of fucking yachts to congratulate me. And it was literally like I had just stumbled out of the desert, and threw a touchdown at the Super Bowl and I'd never seen a football in my life. It was like that. I was literally a tourist in this reality.
One of the things that was interesting is that everybody I worked on that project with was my age or older, mostly forties and fifties, of Caribbean island descent. Some actually born on Caribbean islands, mostly born in London, but almost all of them were black women older than me. I'm the one white dude there, like “Hey guys, I'm here to freestyle, show me to the microphones.” And part of the process of that piece was a lot of discussion. A lot of talk. You talk for six hours and then you go to the bar and you talk about other stuff for hours. And they were talking about their politics in Britain, we were talking about our politics, and I kept going into these conversations as a thing that I had to train for, as an American white guy discussing politics in a diverse group, apologizing for my opinion before I went into it, being like, “I understand I'm not black, I'm not a black woman, I'm not a black woman living in this city at this time, but this is how I feel about this thing.” I kept doing it like that, and then finally they were like, “What the fuck are you apologizing for? Your opinion is valid. You're not an asshole. Your opinion is valid. And if it weren't valid, if you were an asshole, that would prove itself out.”
So I stopped trying to do that. Not as a “Fuck you, deal with my whiteness!” but because if we're worried about this, we're worried about the wrong shit. If we're worrying about who the message is coming out of, we're worrying about the wrong shit. If it's a good message, it's a good fucking message. And inevitably if they disagreed with something, they'd say they disagree. I'm at a point where I am very aware of these things, the opportunities that I have gotten in my life because I'm a middle class American white guy. I am very aware. I have had guns pointed at me twice in my life, and walked away from it because I am a white guy. I am acutely aware. But I'm not going to fucking cry myself to sleep over that because it's a total waste of my time. If I want to do something in this
world, if I want to create something good, be impactful in a positive way—if I want to destroy white supremacy, it's not going to come from me feeling bad about being white while I'm alone in my apartment. That's not going to solve it. And it's not going to come from me apologizing every time I get into a discussion. “I'm a white guy, sorry...” Everyone knows that, because I look a like a fucking poster boy for Aryan Youth. There's no escaping that. I might as well embrace the fact that I'm a blonde-haired, blue-eyed guy, then get the fuck over it, and then try to do something good with my time.
SO: That's one thing that I've been noticing a lot with Shailene Woodley, the woman from Divergent who got arrested recently at the Standing Rock thing. She made all these pretty solid statements about why she did what she did, and everywhere I looked, people were just attacking her: “Fuck off with your celebrity drive-by activism!” And for me personally, as somebody who specializes in celebrity drive-by activism, I'm like, “Yo, we need everybody to be a celebrity drive-by activist. We need everyone.”
That's the thing about Activism with a capital A. Is the goal to be a threat to power? Or is the goal to tear each other down and find new ways of being cops?
AB: Is it the goal to win, or is it the goal to win an argument? This is what a lot of it comes down to for me; it frustrates me so much. It seems like people are more determined to win the argument, as opposed to actually win and make life better.
Yeah, you see that shit all the time, and I wish—like you said earlier, it needs to be more nuanced. And the same on the far right—you get triggered by what a black person said because it's a black person. So many people are tuning out the Black Lives Matter because it's black people who are saying this thing.
All these Blue Lives Matter people—it's hard for me to wrap my head around, because a lot of these people are Tea Party people, anti-establishment people, anti-government people, but when it comes to cops they're just ready to lick the fucking boot. And then—it's such a weird thing that you'll defend cops in the abstract but if cops come to take your grazing rights, then it's like “Fuck the cops!” There's so much parallel between the outrage that poor to middle class white people have next to the outrage that poor to middle class and lower class black people and lower class Mexican people—there are crossovers there. And granted, it's not the same, it'll never be the same, but there are common enemies for all these people, and for whatever reason, they have a real hard time talking about it, because of this inherent trigger, for whatever reason white people get so uppity when they see Black Lives Matter. And then the second some white person goes to the front lines, it's like, “We don't need that.” And I'm speaking in huge, sweeping generalizations, here, but—
SO: I see white people attacking white people. I don't see that coming from—I can't speak for anybody else, but the only people I've seen posting that shit are white people. Again, that's the kind of shit that I'm talking about. White people internalize that shit.
AB: A very valid point that a lot of my friends who have been involved in Black Lives Matter have made was that there were a lot of white people speaking over black people initially. In Minneapolis there have been so many fucking protests, because there have been so many fucking shootings in Minneapolis. But there's been a good market correction, where people in Black Lives Matter, both white and black, were like, “Hey, white people, we need your support but we don't necessarily need your voice.” And again I feel like there's a need for a nuance there. Maybe what you're saying about Shailene Woodley and the Dakota Access pipeline—maybe there's been a bit too much of a market correction with white people being like, “No, no, we really don't need your voice.” But actually we kind of do. You're more informed on a lot of this shit than me, but it seems like my
armchair view of a lot of activism is that at the end of the day you need all the fucking voices. We don't necessarily have the right to get too snippy about who's riding for us, as long as they're not riding us off a cliff.
SO: In general at the Dakota Access pipeline I want to hear from folks who are most affected. Black Lives Matter, I want to hear from folks who are most affected. I don't need to speak at a Black Lives Matter rally.
AB: Yeah, I want to hear from those people instead. But at the same time, we should be there. We should take time to be there and show support. We should take time to use—though it's a small thing—to use our ample platform to spread the word.
The move to Minnesota was a big thing for me, to become aware of Native American reality. Because I lived in Florida, and we moved all of the Native Americans out of there, Andrew Jackson did that a couple hundred years ago. And even when I lived in Seattle—Seattle was a very diverse city, but super segregated. The most segregated city I've ever been to. And the neighborhood I live in in Minneapolis is like—I'm around a bunch of cool coffee shops, I'm right next to the art museum, but if I go five blocks over, it's the whole Native American neighborhood. That shit is a very new awareness for me. And I think one of the things that's really interesting and important about this Dakota Access pipeline stuff is again—and piggy-backing off of a national simmering outrage regarding the Black Lives Matter movement—is that finally people are paying attention to Native Americans. Which is like, holy shit. The amount of ignoring we have done is appalling. And not even getting down to the mistreatment. Nobody's making movies about the mistreatment of Native Americans. We're making movies about how the Native Americans helped one white guy fight a battle or whatever the fuck. Nobody's making the Schindler's List about Native Americans. Nobody is making Selma about Native Americans. And as a result, if you don't live in the Dakotas or Colorado or Idaho or Oklahoma or Minnesota, you're not encountering Native people. You don't see them. There's not Native presence in New Jersey. You're not seeing them, so you have no awareness of that situation.
So that's one of the things that's profound proof of the importance of diverse voices like that woman going there and throwing herself on the wall. Because all of the sudden, whether you agree with her message or how she's presenting it, all of the sudden a bunch of fucking little dorks who watch Divergent are like, “Wait—she did what?” And that to me is a net positive.
SO: I'm still jetlagged from my flight, and I woke up at five in the morning, and we just got HBO Now on our Playstation, and Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is on HBO, so I watched it this morning. I've read the book, but I totally—the names didn't stay in my head. I remember Sitting Bull and Red Cloud, but I didn't realize that that shit happened at Standing Rock. That shit happened at Pine Ridge, Rosebud. These abstract things we read about—bam, they happened right here. The important thing for people to understand about Dakota Access is that these are called First Nations, because they are the first nations. These are unceded territories. That adds this whole other dimension to it.
AB: The breaking of the treaty is, to me—imminent domain is an abuse of power by our government that happens all the fucking time, and it's 99% terrible and one percent understandable, because some shit just has to happen: Sorry, grandma, we're going to build a fucking highway through your house. This nuclear missile silo has to go right here. I know we have 450 of these, but we need 451.
It still sucks, and it's still terrible—that notwithstanding, the breaking of the treaties is the thing that is the most appalling to me about it. Because we made a deal. We made a fucking deal. And we're breaking this treaty because we tried to do imminent domain to the city of fucking Bismarck,
and all those people were like, “No, we don't want it here.” So the government did what it has done for two hundred fucking goddamn years: “It'll be fine. We'll run it right through the reservation.”
If we're all going to drive cars still, we all have to embrace the fact that we are going to need oil and we are all part of the problem. This is going to be a thing. We can all debate about the merits of how we're going to get our oil and all these things, but we're all enjoying the luxury right now of the low cost of gas when we're out on tour. And it's because we're fracking the fucking hell out of the fucking country. If I really wanted to talk about it and be about it, I wouldn't ride around in a fucking diesel, but I am because it's the only way I can afford to make my living.
The idea that we can just negate oil is a fool's errand right now. It's going to be hundreds of years until we remove ourselves from this fucking addiction. But we don't need to go breaking every goddamn fucking treaty we made with Native Americans because the pipeline didn't go where we wanted. That's crazy to me. They are sovereign nations and we are just pushing. We don't want it in our country; let's put it on that one over there. That's insane to me.
SO: One of the things that we were talking about in Greece was—they were saying that right now history is quickening. This is a quickening period. History is moving so fast right now. From Occupy to Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock to Brexit to fucking Trump, shit is fast.
AB: Watching how fast the Arab Spring happened and how fast it evolved from the most beautiful, romantic ideal into—for the most part—complete and utter chaos and now the greatest mass migration in the history of humanity, what will ultimately be a humongous genocide...how quickly that happened! In a matter of five years, six years—2011 was when that guy in Tunisia set it off by burning himself. It went from beautiful democracy to total chaos and the worst thing that ever happened, and it's moving so fast.
Have you read a book called Sapiens? It's really good. I heard the author do an interview. The thing he said that really blew mind mind was that he talked about how now more than ever there is less war. Humans on average are less impacted by war than ever in the history of humanity. There are more humans that live in a part of the world that never sees war than a hundred years ago. There is an intense level of concentrated war, but it's significantly less war overall impacting humans. In the same sense, humans are living longer, are living more comfortably. On the whole—there is obviously incredible poverty, and terrible things that happen—but on the whole average human lives are significantly better than they were even a hundred years ago.
This isn't the crux of his book—the book is a study of how pre-humans' tribal tendencies and pre- humans' evolutionary tendencies impact human lives today. But that was the thing that hooked me on this book and made me really think about how from an evolutionary standpoint everything is moving faster. History is moving faster. Technology is moving faster. Our access to information is moving faster. For the first time in our lives, if you so choose, and even if you don't, you can be acutely aware of all the things that are going on in the world. You can fill your Twitter feed with all the newspapers you want, all the bloggers, all the photographers, and you can get ground-level access to everything that you want. Or you can just watch Fox News all damn day and get this weird cursory curated bizarre feed of things. Fair and balanced.
But even if you don't want to—you're scrolling through your news feed and let's say you're following National Geographic because there are pretty pictures of fucking zebras on there, but like once a month there'll be a picture of some Syrian refugee kid sitting on a beach. So there is no checking out. Ultimately we are bombarded by so much more information. And the information tends to be more about trouble and sorrow. Which is a natural human inclination, and it's always been that way. But as a result we are more acutely aware of all the suffering in the world. And not
just like, you open up the newspaper on the train ride and you see that war has broken out in French-occupied Morocco or whatever, or you open up the newspaper and you see some guy named Gandhi is doing something in India or whatever. Now you see video of it. You see people getting shot if you want. You see kids crying on the beach if you want to. You are totally immersed in all of this. And it's gotten me thinking about how a hundred years ago you could just sit on your farm and you could plow the fucking fields and you could pick up a newspaper every once in a while and you could see things, but ultimately your entire existence was whether you're going to marry the girl next door, or, are the crops going to come in, are we going to survive? And that's a very short time. Thirty or forty years.
Ultimately I wonder what it's doing. Our brains aren't evolved to process this much information. They can't. I'm not a neurologist at all. I'm armchairing the fuck out of this. Mentally and also emotionally, we can't possibly be evolved to handle this. So I wonder what that's doing to impact the speed of history or the speed of politics, if that's doing something to expedite it even faster.
Because our zero is outrage. Our normal day-to-day basis is an expectation of outrage and sadness, because every time you look at anything...you can't turn anywhere without seeing sadness, and that's making us numb to some things and incredibly vitriolic about others. I'm really wondering what that's doing to history, doing to politics. I feel like it's a huge factor in the whole reactionary everything that's become a reality.
From a totally abstract scientific theory, I wonder what that's doing to our brains over the next thousand years. This is a new adaptation. We don't have to learn how to climb trees anymore. We don't need to learn how to throw spears. We don't need to change shape; we can walk upright. We need better brains at dealing with shit. Because we're not equipped for it right now. And that's the thing—it's what my entire record is about, how to deal with that shit. How to not check out. That's a thing I think about and worry about constantly. How to be aware but not be crushed to fucking death by it. Because it's easy. People whose entire lives are political action, I don't blame them, because if you look around you see a thousand fucking burning buildings. You've got the tiniest thimble of water and you're constantly running back and forth until you fucking collapse on the goddamn front lines. Or get shot. Fuck.
SO: It's crazy. It's about this form of communication where people are throwing smoke signals. And the thing is: before, these smoke signals might take six months or a year to reach each other, so you hear about these people in Brazil who did this thing where they took over a factory, and then three years later somebody tries it in Germany, and then six years later somebody in Oakland decides to do it. Now, it happens in Egypt today and it's happening in fucking Greece tomorrow, it's happening in Oakland the day after, and then two weeks from now it's happening everywhere, and then nine months later the fucking right wing is using those exact same tactics for themselves. And this election is proof of that shit.
AB: Absolutely. And it can't just be the flow of information, it's not just the flow of information. There's something in us that is evolutionarily geared towards that. The Arab Spring is the craziest thing in the world. It's so crazy to watch how fast that happened. Countries that have all been mired in the same thing forever, dealing with the same problems, and they're small countries, people have friends and family who migrate across the border. It's not like they're all isolated. They're not separated city-states. They aren't islands before boats. The information was already there. But something about the trigger of that guy setting himself on fire, the way it triggered things, and the way that it continues...
One of the real positive things that I've seen out of all of this is the American changing opinion on homosexuality. How fast that changed. How fast that changed from five years ago. One of the most proud moments I've ever had as an American...ten years ago, the idea of gay marriage in a state
like Virginia would have had like ten percent support. And it's legal now. It got legalized before the feds made them do it. Was the first state Iowa or something? It was a Midwestern flyover state that legalized gay marriage before California did. That sea change was incredible, and so fast, and it swept everyone up, and it was beautiful. It was such a positive thing. So there are positives to it. But there's also this weird backwash of co-option, what PEGIDA is rallying with is what they rallied against. It's bonkers.
SO: A lot of Donald Trump shit is straight out of anti-World Trade Organization stuff.
AB: The parallels between—again, this is getting back to this joke about how all my friends with Black Flag tattoos are now starting to have more in common with my friends with rebel flag tattoos. The movement against trade agreements and TPP and stuff like that, those are straight out of the books that we've all been inspired by, these are bad deals. And then you see Trump say it, and you go, “Goddammit.”
It's a weird thing. I fucking loathe both Hillary and Donald Trump, and I look at both of them and they both say things that I agree with, and that fucks my whole shit up.
SO: No matter who wins, we lose this time. It's really bad.
That's a perfect segue to my next question. I don't know if this is true or not, but did you used to
be a Republican?
AB: Yep. For sure. Again on anti-trade, anti-government. It was before I knew what libertarianism was, it was when I thought anarchism was a t-shirt thing. Like 2002. My family is not religious; it had nothing to do with that at all. It's really interesting to watch my father, who was a Democrat until after Carter. He worked on Carter's campaign. He's from the South. Then he became a Republican in the Reagan era. Watching my father struggle in the past few years—my light switch went off real quick. I started to look around at shit and see what was actually going on and realize that these people are not actually representing small government. Bush was one of the most expansionist imperialists of all time. I was like, “Whoa, this is not what I want.” I had shittily put up with a lot of the Christian conservative social issues—a deal with the devil kind of thing...but I learned really quick, because I was young and impressionable and had a lot of people to talk to about the whole thing.
But what was interesting was watching my dad change. He's in his sixties. It was the whole Snowden thing. My dad's military. My dad was a Green Beret. My grandfather was one of the original members of the CIA. He was in charge of the U2 surveillance project over Russia. Almost every member of my family: military, fighter pilots, World War II, Gulf War...I come from a military family. My dad was a Green Beret. He grew up in the South. He was lucky. He's a smart man. He's a compassionate man. But he had his set of beliefs. And the Snowden revelations came out. His first response was that this guy's a traitor. And then he started to read about it. And I watched him, over the course of a year, become like, “This guy's a hero. He's an American fucking hero.” His initial response was that he was putting military lives at risk. He's putting intelligence operatives' lives at risk.
But watching that shift—and it's still a struggle in my father. He is so heartbroken by this election. Heartbroken. And he's not a religious person at all. He's a small government guy. But he's also a two-party guy. He doesn't believe in the third party thing. He voted for Ross Perot and he regretted it, because Clinton got in. That's been the most fascinating thing to watch. And to watch his beliefs just become muddied, confused. He's a fully grown adult—it's important and it's good, but ultimately it bums me out because I can see that it makes him sad because it matters to him. And he worries about my future. He worries about his kids' future, and grandkids and all that. He cares about us. And he cares about America. He believes in America, he loves America. He does believe
that America is the greatest country in the world. It's a struggle for him, though, because he sees America doing things that he thought his country would never do to him, or the world. And he is struggling with it.
It makes me sad because it makes him sad, because I love my dad. But it's also very exciting to me as a person who in high school and college was voting a party line and had a set of beliefs that was just basic and uninformed. And then I saw the world, and the world taught me, and I came back much more happy, ultimately, much more nuanced, and understanding that it's much more complicated than a fucking party. But it's been interesting to see my dad going through that, especially.
SO: That's fascinating, man. How has anarchism influenced you? I know you have a lot of friends who are anarchists. So I'm curious how that has influenced you over the years.
AB: It's ultimately where I've found myself finding the most joy. And again, getting back to what we were talking about before: at the end of the day, my goal is happiness. I want to have a happy life. And I have found joy in this concept of just doing the right thing and doing it on your own or doing it with your friends. The weird collective anarchism of European squatter culture was a real inspiring thing to me. It's changed the way I think about music; it's changed the way I think about the business of music; it's changed the way I think about my own happiness. It's made me much more calm, as a person, about politics and about the future of the world. And it's made me embrace the reality that there is going to be terrible shit that's going to happen—and it's not that I don't get upset when I watch the news sometimes, and it's not that I don't cry when bad shit happens in the world; that all happens too. I'm not a fucking stoic. But it's definitely brought me peace. But I wouldn't call myself an anarchist; I don't know what to call myself necessarily.
When I was a little kid—I wasn't raised religious at all, but my grandmother was Polish Catholic so I was baptized or whatever. It wasn't until a neighbor kid told me that there were people that didn't believe in god that I even knew that that existed. And when I heard that, I went, “Oh, wait. That makes way more sense to me now, that that's an option.” I didn't know that there was a D) on the list. And it was the same thing—for the longest time, anarchism was a Hot Topic t-shirt. It was a punk style and not a life. When I saw it as life in action, I went, “Oh, well that makes a lot more sense to me.” And it was like, I guess I'm kind of that. But I'm not really that. I would never be so bold. We have friends who are anarchists. Straight up fucking anarchists. And I know that I am not completely that, so I would feel a little bold calling myself that. But it's definitely a profound influence on my life.
SO: Have you ever looked at the relationship with rightwing libertarianism and how it branches off from anarchism when it comes to the state?
AB: Yeah. One of the things that's really interesting about what's going on with the Republican party right now is that it already happened with the John Birch Society back in the sixties, and William Buckley and at that time the New Republicans working to reshape the Republican Party, which ultimately led to Reagan's election, because the Republicans were becoming this extreme- right John Birch thing, and Buckley and all these people worked their asses off to expel these people from the Republican Party, to push them to the outside, to separate ties from white supremacists, and ultimately make the Republican Party this party of American prosperity or whatever. Rightly or wrongly, whether it's an illusion or not, that was their goal. And they achieved it. And they had a great run, in their eyes, of Reagan-Reagan-Bush.
What's going on with them now is the same thing. And it's this weird blend of rightwing libertarianism that's terrifying, that's borrowing from—man, when I started reading up on Gary Johnson, and then at the same time I fell down this alt-right meme hole on Instagram (which is a
fucking depressing and sad and outrageous place to be, it's so upsetting), I started to see those alt- right people talk about Gary Johnson and just call him a shill and all this shit. And I'm not enamored with Gary Johnson by any stretch of the imagination at all—
SO: “Shill” is like an anti-Semitic code word, when they say it.
AB: Yeah, and there are so many...I just got my absentee ballot today, and was looking at all of the parties...because I'm registered in Minnesota, and Minnesota gets down. We let some far-out people on the ballot. I was reading it down, and I was like, “Holy shit, I didn't even know about this shit.” I was amazed to learn about that fucking dude in Utah, the weird Mormon guy who may take the state of Utah. And I saw the Delta Party on the fucking ballot—I don't even know who they are; I'm so excited to google them tonight. It's fucking insane.
There are people who are voting for Hillary because they can't believe what Trump wants to do to the country—but they are ignoring that Hillary is doing a bunch of stuff to other people's countries. They are able to block that out as this weird little American imperialism...at the end of the day, you really don't care about people in other countries. You really don't. If you're looking at it like that, you are choosing to block out the Secretary of State years of Hillary Clinton. You're choosing to block that out.
SO: Last two questions. I know you have to meditate and shit before you get ready to play. But I want to shift and talk about career stuff really quick. Brock is one of your best friends, right? You guys have been together since the beginning. Again, when I think about this whole revolution of everyday life and how it ties into you, I think about how one of the smartest things you did was to keep somebody around who you just really enjoy being with. So I guess I want you to talk about Brock and how that relationship has helped you grow as an artist.
AB: Honestly I wouldn't still be doing this if it weren't for him. For a lot of reasons. He was the initial person in Texas who pushed me around introducing me to people, and he had never had any notions of being a music manager. And even when we first started doing this on our first tour in 2003, he had been working as a computer draftsman for nine years, was sick of working in an office, and was like, “I'm quitting; you're graduating from school; let's go try it for a summer and see how it goes.” We never talked about management. It wasn't a thing. We didn't even think that way. It was like, “I want to go and do this. Let's see if it works, and if it doesn't, I'll go do something else, and you go do something else.” And lo and behold, over the course of years, over three or four years, we realized, “I guess you're my manager. You're driving me and talking to all these people. Strong-arming people, taking promoters to the ATM and making them take that $200 out and fucking paying us.”
And over the next few years, we started to figure it out, what does that mean that you're my manager? What are you actually supposed to do? How am I supposed to pay you? Where are we going with this? And honestly—you said “the company of a person I enjoy.” To be clear, there have been times in our relationship where we were ready to murder each other. For extended periods of time. There was a whole month once where we did not speak. We were ready to kill each other. The end of 2012. Interestingly enough, it was the end of the most successful year of touring that I had ever had up to that point, the most I'd ever toured, and by the end of it we didn't talk.
But one of the things that's been the most important about Brock: because we both didn't know what we were doing and we grew into this, we've both been really patient with each other's process and patient with each other's failures and successes. There have been times when Brock was not doing a good job as a manager. We addressed it, he fixed it, and we moved on. There have been times when I was not doing a good job as a professional artist. It's been addressed and it's been fixed. There's been a back and forth, and an understanding that at the end of the day, we
have now gone through so much fire together that we're not going anywhere.
The other thing on top of that: I could leave all of my money with Brock for fucking months, and I would come back and not a nickel would be gone. That's a priceless thing in and of itself. Though sometimes I wish he weren't so fucking honest with me, he will always be honest with me. And there are times when it ruins my day, or week, or show, or tour, but ultimately, at the end of the day, in the long term, that's going to be the most valuable thing.
And we have found our system, which is not traditional in any way. He is not a traditional manager. We do not have a traditional artist-manager relationship. I do a lot of the schmoozy stuff that other managers do, because he's not a schmoozer, and he lives in Texas, and he doesn't want to go out to bars and hang out and talk to people. But he does a lot of stuff for me that other managers would never do. He does shit that a personal assistant would do. There's a balance there.
Honestly, he is the most important thing that's happened to me. None of this would be possible without him. Because I don't have the drive to do it myself. I get too crushed under my own fear sometimes to do stuff, just to answer emails in a timely fashion or whatever. So I would never be doing what I'm doing if it weren't for him. Once I realized that, it was like, “Okay, cool. He's here forever now, and that's the deal.”
SO: That's cool. I just like watching that. I'm jealous of that. I wish I had someone I trusted like that.
AB: I was years into the process when I started to work with other musicians, and talking to people —you've said that to me before; Sims has said that to me before; people have been like, “Man, I would kill for a Brock.” And there was this realization—there were times when I didn't really appreciate what he was doing. And now having seen it reflected from other people and looking at it, it's made me over time really appreciate him. We're like a married couple. We spend so much time together. There was a period when we thought about moving back in together again, and I think we realized that was not a good idea. We do not need to spend more time together. Let's keep the shit going forward.
SO: Any book recommendations or anything?
AB: I've been slowly making my way through the Asian Saga by James Clavell. The most famous book he wrote was called Shogun, which is the fifth book in the series. He's an Australian writer, and it's about the history—if you read them in chronological order (he didn't write them in chronological order, which is interesting), the first book is Shogun and it starts with this sailing ship crashing onto the shore in Japan at a time when the Spanish and Portuguese had already come there around the horn of Africa, but no one had made it across the Pacific. It's historical fiction about the first Dutch explorers—British captain, Dutch crew—and the clash of Western and Eastern cultures. The next book is a couple hundred years later, once trade routes had been established, and then a couple hundred years later, and as you start to go deeper you start to see family dynasties emerge, both in Japanese and Chinese and British and Dutch shipping cultures. I love it. It teaches you so much, and ultimately it's the kind of book that leads you down a fucking Wikipedia wormhole where you start learning about Japanese court ritual or whatever the fuck.
That's my shit lately. I had to take a break, and I'm not reading much right now because I just plowed through five of those, and they're all like two thousand pages long. So I did that for a while. I'm taking a break from reading because I read so much in such a huge chunk. I read in bursts. I plow through twenty books and then stop for six months.
It's hard to read on tour. I'm very much in a podcast zone right now, which is a very tour-friendly thing.
SO: I love podcasts. They've basically replaced talk radio for me. What are your favorite podcasts?
AB: I listen to a lot of sports podcasts. But then I also really like Dan Carlin's stuff a lot. Hardcore History. I tiptoe into his political podcast every once in a while, but I never find it as engaging— though I agree with him on a lot of stuff and I think he's really thoughtful about politics and does a very good job about admitting his own biases—but I have a hard time getting into them because I listen to podcasts to get away from that stuff sometimes. Hardcore History is tailor made for me. Please teach me about the minutiae of Mesopotamia! Please teach me about the details of the Battle of the Somme. Teach me! I want this. It's all about me becoming the best Trivial Pursuit partner of all time.
That's my shit. I get so hyped when a new one comes out. I'll listen to it three or four times. Like you talked about with Bury Me at Wounded Knee—I want to remember the places. I want to be riding through Europe and go, “Oh, shit!” I want to know the things, and remember the details. I have a really good mind for abstract concepts and I could tell you the history of a thing in general, but I'm going to totally fuck up names and dates. I can tell you the arc and progress of things. I can understand systems but I'm terrible with specifics, so I listen to those a lot. I'll listen to them over and over again.
SO: I started looking at my podcast feed...it looks like my Twitter feed. It's so much fun.
That's what life's all about, man, just trying to find out what makes you the happiest. I hate to say
it, but that shit's important.
AB: It really is. And you hope, in that process, you don't become such a gluttonous asshole that you're trampling all over someone else's happiness to achieve that. But at the end of the day, man, I'm about joy. Spreading it, capturing it, maintaining it, living it
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Solecast #30 is an in-depth discussion with one of the editors of It's Going Down.
It's Going Down is an anarchist news and counter information website and has become a hub for radical activity & analysis in North America.
From their website, "We are a network of friends and comrades across so-called North America that seeks to provide news and analysis of when it goes down: riots, strikes, sabotage, occupations, expropriations, rebellion, revolt, insurrection, whether together or alone – we support liberatory revolt."
- Discussing their approach to spreading radical ideas, and allowing for a platform for people from various radical currents to come together
- Forming a radical pole against liberalism and the far right
- What a Trump administration means and what some possible points of interventions are over the next four years
- The need to reach out to working class folks in rural areas and getting out of the “radical” bubble
- A discussion of some of the most inspiring actions happening in the US right now from pipeline resistance, the prison strike, solidarity networks, fast food workers & tenants organizing, and the rise in anti-fascist organizing
- Placing the rise of white nationalism in the states & worldwide in historic context
- The challenge of dealing with liberals who wish to contain the struggle
- Why a dual approach pursuing electoral politics and street resistance will not work
- The growing conversation happening in the states now, people dropping their pretensions and moving forward
- How to contribute to IGD
Her recent experiences in Palestine
The Empire (hegemonic western powers and their corporations)
The Crisis of investigative journalism
The US Election & its grim prospects
The aftermath of 9-11 and how conspiracy theories have derailed the quest for answers.
In depth discussion with Italian Autonomist/ Philosopher Franco "Bifo" Berardi on his book Heroes. Franco is the author of over 2 dozen books, played a deep role in the Autonomia movement in the 70s and helped found Radio Alice one of the first pirate radio stations in Italy. Heroes is a groundbreaking exploration of the links between capitalism, alienation, mass killings and suicide.
Topics of discussion:
- Mass killings & the society of the spectacle
- The relationship between ISIS & alienation
- Nihilism as the prevailing ideology of our times
- Black Lives Matter vs Black Power
- The crisis of the white race & patriarchy
- Neuroplasticity & The coming techno fascism
“Generals always are fighting the last war
We want to be fighting the next war”
Solecast 27 is a discussion of crimethinc’s most recent text, “From Democracy To Freedom.” Sole sits down with one of the crimethinc’s participants to have a wide ranging conversation about the perils of representative democracy and direct democracy. Crimethinc makes the distinction between freedom and democracy, that we need to begin a rigorous examination of the notion of democracy if we are ever going to create a truly liberatory politics.
“Democracy To Freedom ” is a reflection on many of the most recent resistance movements and revolutions, all fighting for one form of democracy or another. Why has every revolution failed? What is democracy exactly? Everyone from dictators to protestors to presidents express their love of democracy, its become a stand in for everything and nothing.
“The things we hold in common are not the most beautiful things about us.”
Topics of discussion:
- Democracy’s origins as a system of control, the rulers vs the ruled. Citizens vs non citizens.
- Democracy as a race to the middle
- Bernie Mania & The electoral spectacle
- How revolutionary projects & technologies get picked up and used by our enemies
- What happens when our demands are actually met?
- The role of policing
- Developing egalitarian systems of cooperation vs coersive institutions
- Creating spaces of encouter vs governing bodies
“The only hope of the human race is to find new ways of living in which we are not trying to rule each other.”
Solecast 26 is with Adam Brock cofounder of the Grohaus. Adam is a permacultist, activist and educator. The Growhaus is a nonprofit indoor farm, marketplace and educational center in Denver's Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. Their vision is a world where all communities have the means to nourish themselves, and our mission is to create a community-driven, neighborhood-based food system by serving as a hub for food distribution, production, education, and economic development. Sole and Adam have a wide ranging conversation about gardening and its relationship to revolutionary politics. Adam has a book coming out in 2017 called Social Permaculture, which takes lessons from permaculture theory and applies them to every day struggles.
Topics discussed include:
DIY Gardening as part of a revolutionary practice
Use of permaculture to regenerate eco systems in the face of global warming
Application of permaculture concepts in society
Lots of gardening tips, ideas & concepts
Scott talks about:
His take-backs from living in Palestine & Chiapas
His involvement with Occupy Oakland
A recent piece he wrote for the Institute of Anarchist Studies about anarchism with principles
A critique of Bernie-mania & the electoral spectacle
Music by ceschi
Solecast 24 is a report back from the Phoenix Anti Capitalist Conference. The first half of the interview is a discussion with the conference’s organizers about organizing in a politically hostile environment like Phoenix. Ed & Beth discuss the anarchist space they help run, and the philosophy behind their organizing.
The 2nd half of this interview is a recording of a panel that they did together about anarchist infrastructure, focusing on projects in Denver & Phoenix. Sole, Ed & Beth share personal observations, practices and thoughts on infrastructure and revolutionary organizing in their respective cities.
For more information on what these folks are doing check out Carpelocus.org
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Interview Recorded at the 3rd annual Phoenix Anti-capitalist Conference
Fresh from reporting from inside the Oregon Militia standoff, Sole speaks with Alexander “Sasha” Reid Ross on his work. Sasha is a co-moderator for the Earth First! Newswire, author, and contributor to Counterpunch & Its Going Down. His most recent book “Grabbing Back,” out now on AK Press is about the battle over public space. Sole & Sasha have a critical discusson of the Oregon Militia Standoff, its wider implication for the right wing/ patriot movement in the states and tie it in with the struggle all over the world over public space.
Topics discussed include:
- Oregon Militia Stand-off and fascist elements that played a role in it
-The link between the so called “patriot” movement, their white supremacist roots and a brief but highly informative history of the modern movement.
- The long term implications of Donald Trump’s electoral bid & the origins of the racist language he uses
- “The Global Land Grab” and the battle over the commons and private property being waged all over the world.
- The interconnected-ness of the struggle between the global loss of urban and rural land public space.