A little while ago I had to debate the GOP and Democratic candidates in a forum for a CA State Assembly race, and I wanted to make sure that I was breathin’ fire when it was time to hit the stage. Headphone on. A bit of The Locust. BOOM! Public Enemy. POW! Hot Snakes. WHAM! I was set.
Music can feed the revolutionary flame. And maybe it’s time we add a new weapon to the arsenal.
New York’s The Last Internationale, featuring Delila Paz, Edgey Pires, and Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk, recently released “We Will Reign” on Epic Records. According to allmusic.com, “Bill Ayers, the former Weatherman and current author and educational theorist, wrote the liner notes for the album, and gives them a ringing endorsement, declaring that the group is picking up where the late Pete Seeger left off.”
That’s heavy stuff, Bill.
If the message this outfit delivers packs that kind of punch, I’m gonna take a guess and say that The Last Internationale is gonna find their way to the ears of many of us on the Left as we do what we do. To find out a little bit more, the band was kind enough to tell us why they do what they do.
MS: How, in your opinion, can music be used as a weapon in the fight against capitalism?
TLI: Music can turn people on to politics, draw crowds to rallies, feed the soul with revolutionary fervor, expose the ruling class, etc. Pete Seeger, however, was correct in saying, “If music alone could change the world, then I’d only be a musician.” Most musicians are members of the working class and need to get down and dirty with their fellow workers if they are serious about changing the world. Just recently, for example, we organized a benefit concert to promote California’s Proposition 47, and Delila and I also went knocking door-to-door to tell people to vote for it. This was a community effort that resulted in victory. We like to think that our part as musicians and activists played a small but important role. Now imagine if every band did the same?
MS: Given that it’s November 5th, can you share some of your feelings about electoral politics in the United States?
TLI: Voting is simply a tactic within the overall strategy of social transformation. I vote for the issues when I vote for third party candidates, and I vote because not doing so constitutes tacit consent of what politicians and the rich are doing in our name. The overall fact is that voting will not bring about revolution. The upper class will never give up their power and will defend it with the most brutal forms of oppression.
MS: Would you mind telling us a little bit about your political development as individuals?
TLI: From a very early age I sensed that something was wrong with the society in which I lived. I had an innate distrust of authority, rebelled against the status quo, constantly got in trouble for questioning my teachers and the curriculum, was attracted to rap songs that said “fuck the police,” felt uneasy in shopping malls, etc. It wasn’t until I heard the band Rage Against the Machine, however, that I started to realize that there was some kind of systematic scheme that was keeping us stupid, oppressed, and apathetic. I started reading books from authors like Chomsky and Zinn, got hooked on news programs like Democracy Now! and then later in college a whole fountain of knowledge opened up and I become a campus organizer. Now here I am still trying to organize.
MS: Bill Ayers states in your bio that “These power-house rebel-rockers hold the torch with renewed confidence and a sparkling fresh spirit.” How is the band’s spirit fresh? What is your objective?
TLI: I think he was referring to the band’s sound and lyrics on current affairs and the problems facing us today. The band’s objective is to be the most dangerous rock and roll band of the 21st century.
MS: Your album is titled “We Will Reign” and I was wondering if you could explain the meaning behind the title?
TLI: We like for people to draw their own meanings from our art. One thing I could say is that the album title is very uplifting and empowers people to think in terms of achieving the impossible.
MS: What does a revolution sound like?
TLI: It sounds like the people going into congress and telling our politicians to pack up and go home. It sounds like workers unionizing. It sounds like workers taking over factories. It sounds like the opening up of jail cells and shutting down the prisons. It sounds like the crash of the stock market. It sounds like students taking over their universities. It sounds like feeding and housing the homeless. It sounds like ending racial, gender, and economic inequality. It sounds like the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglas, Rosa Luxemburg, Evo Morales. It sounds like a million people marching in the streets. It sounds like a good idea!
MS: Emma Goldman saw the value in dancing. Just curious, how are your dancing skills? Do you have mad skills?
TLI: As long as it’s not another hipster 80s dance party for pseudo-activists.
MS: What are your feelings about the development of the music industry over the past 20 or 30 years?
TLI: The industry is as corrupt as ever. There seems to be a growing DIY “scene,” which is a good thing, but musicians are less socially conscious than they were 30 years ago. Radio has gone to total shit, too. Just like doctors get kickbacks from Big Pharma for contaminating your blood with poison, radio gets payola to contaminate your brain with Top 20. Our mission is to change all that.
MS: Do you think the U.S. Left is ready to rock? A lot of folks express dismay about a perceived lack of organization and unity among the Left in the U.S. Is that an accurate assessment, in your opinion?
TLI: I think the general public is ready to rock. The Left in the U.S. is still very disorganized and hasn’t made art an integral part of resistance. As you probably notice, there isn’t enough music at rallies and protests. It’s a shame because music is such a great rallying tool. It incites people and makes protests a lot more interesting. I hear people from the Left complain about this all the time. I know leftist groups usually try to get some big name artists to join their cause, but they should be more focused on the smaller bands and growing organically with them. Imagine if the Left was so organized that their influence helps get radical bands into the top 20 and in return those bands attract millions of people and donate millions of dollars to their cause? I’m not suggesting that activists start organizing campaigns to blow bands up — far from it! I’m simply saying that in a community where people support each other, artists have a greater chance of getting their art to the masses and channeling all that energy back into the movement so that it can exponentially grow.
MS: It’s the eve of the revolution. Where will The Last Internationale be?
TLI: Where we are right now — in the streets!