I received an email from a music magazine’s publisher asking me to contribute interview questions directed to him. He stated that nothing was off limits. I could ask him whatever I wanted. I composed the following email and sent it to him. He replied an hour later saying that his magazine had one rule. “NO religion or politics.”
So much for “nothing is off limits” questions. He knows me, my work, my band. I don’t plan on following this up with him. I guess I’m allowed to ask, but he isn’t going to answer.
Here, for the record, are my questions.
In November, the abstract I submitted to the EMP (now Museum of Pop Culture — MoPOP) Pop Conference was accepted. I’ve never applied before, but with the focus on music related to politics, I felt compelled to contribute.
I submitted a presentation titled “How I Became a Successful Agent for Radical Social Change” during which David (Lester) and I will draw from our 60-minute classroom presentation “How Art and Music Can Change the World” which outlines how we came to inspire the co-founders of the 1990s social movement known as Riot Grrrl.
Actually, the dates are significant. I applied on November 8, before the polls closed, but when I received the acceptance email mid-December, both the title and the content of my talk seemed entirely different than when I submitted it! It felt like we’d slid backwards a fair few notches with little foreseeable hope of resuming the kind progressive social change that positively impacts the vast majority.
With these concerns in mind, here are my questions for you!
How do you think music that relates to politics will manifest under a Trump government? Will there be an upswing in political bands and events?
Do you think art – and music specifically – can impact the direction the US is taking?
As people re-evaluate their news sources (go Teen Vogue!), do you, as a journalist and publisher, see a new role or responsibility, or will your content mandate remain the same?
Which American bands with progressive lyrics come to mind in terms of having the potential to address, inspire and motivate large groups of people? Or is that even something a band and music fans should concern themselves with? Should lyricists continue to focus on ‘love’ as a major theme, obfuscating their feelings and song meanings through semantics and idiosyncratic references? What would you like to see happen on the lyric frontier?
I’ve noticed that Americans seem to love mystery when it comes to celebrity engagement. There is a love of speculation. What is that person really like? Do you think transparency in terms of the directness a band might want to take with its lyrics and interviews would negatively impact its likelihood of success? Is the tradition of mystique worth protecting in this coming era?
Would now be a good time for lyricists to use their words in ways that have previously seemed vaguely unnecessary or should we wait until it we’ve exhausted other forms of protest before we expect the arts to address and reflect the decline in the quality of life?
Which do you think will occupy people’s mind’s more in terms of time spent in spectator mode – escapist entertainment or activist culture? By that I mean, which will seem to be the more demanding of following?
I’m basically in the music industry, but way out on the D-I-Y fringes, creating art that intends to connect beauty, truth and understanding for people who are not willfully destroying tolerance. I would have chosen an entirely different direction if I’d been in it for money or fame. You come into contact with music and people I know little about. I recall years ago a local band pulling out of a benefit show to free political prisoners. Word got back through the community that their management thought it might be bad for their career. They did have a very nice career, as it turns out!
Do you think there a fear that writing political lyrics might be damaging to a band’s career?
Is there a lack of confidence there in terms of making a misstep or is it simply an industry taboo to state what you believe if you think there’s going to be backlash?
Do you think bands care more about being famous, “making it big” or affecting progressive social change with their music?
For myself, I find writing the lyrics for political songs quite difficult. I feel a huge responsibility to get it right even though my audience is minuscule. I want to say things in songs that will be interpreted, first of all, the way I mean them, and, second of all, to have them used as fuel in individual lives. That’s a tall order. I’ve been formulating a plan that would bring creative types together to work collaboratively on such material as a sort of sounding board and checks and balance element to the process. Working (writing) with an opportunity for other people’s input (not necessarily from those directly involved in any given project) may be a way forward for political content.
Have you considered anything new for [your magazine] to regularly feature music related to politics? Maybe a section where artists writing political lyrics could talk about what motivated them, what they mean explicitly, what they intended to achieve, what sort of response they’d had in terms of feedback, networking etc.