A couple of years back I interviewed singer David Rovics…
When the G8 circus came to Scotland I was involved in one or two things with spinwatch.org. With a few other people I did some roving reporter sort of blogging for them. At various times through the week I met the man who is now currently the Scottish First Minister, cracked my ribs after tripping over a tent pole in a drunken stupor, then slept in a [cold] field before having to get up and go to a press conference thing and try to speak to George Monbiot and later Scott Ritter
A memorable week indeed, topped off by meeting a nice girl who I went out with for a month or so and with whom I am still friends
Throughout all of this week, the soundtrack was provided by David Rovics who played in and around the G8 alternatives conference which to my knowledge is still the biggest ever political conference ever held in Scotland. I was impressed at how the ‘Scottish’ press managed to almost completely ignore it.
All the things that happened, from the enraging, to the frustrating to the comradely, there seemed to be a Rovics song I had just heard that fit it perfectly.
His songs really worked so well with the events that when I got home I looked him up and found to my delight that all of his music is downloadable for free. Over time I have downloaded more or less all of it and still listen regularly.
So, taking all of this into account, frankly I was f*cking stoked when “the musical version of Democracy Now!” [quote Amy Goodman] agreed to do the ‘Unprofessional Interview’.
I asked my friend who is a musician himself and also likes Rovics’ music what he thought I should ask him and we started making jokes about the kind of music journalism where they describe music as ‘post-noise jazz’ or talk about ‘sonic-soundscapes’ or various other forms of w*nk. That conversation wasn’t helpful, but it was funny.
Thankfully, you will find David Rovics music to be nothing of that sort whatsoever. The folk/political singer who is [definitely] polyamorous and I think vegetarian is not from that kind of scene.
Let’s begin the next Unprofessional Interview.
No, wait a moment. Why did I say that? It’s not like it’s live. Do you think I have the money to be phoning and recording these people? This is all done by email.
Here he is, I have put links to various songs all the way through…
You’ve got one punch. Bush or Blair?
Tough competition, but Bush, for sure.
Have you ever had someone in the audience take serious objection to what you were singing about?
Yes, and it’s almost always a zionist who objects to my support for the Palestinian struggle.
You allow people to download all your music free. Was that a conscious decision or did you just fall into doing it that way? Do you make enough to support yourself?
It was a conscious decision, made originally because I think it’s the best way to get my music to the widest possible audience (for political reasons). But it also works financially, in a roundabout sort of way. For noncorporate musicians (over 99% of the musicians out there) free downloads works like airplay — you get a bigger audience that way. You may lose some CD sales, but you get audience and gigs (as a result of bigger audience). most noncorporate musicians make a living (if they make a living) thru doing gigs, not mainly thru CD sales, and most CD sales happen at gigs anyway, and they’re ‘impulse buys’ so it really doesn’t matter if your stuff is online for free anyway (or not), as far as that goes. Hope that made sense. I’ve written a lot more on the subject, such as my essay, ‘riaa vs. the world’ which people can read at www.songwritersnotebook.blogspot.com along with the rest of my essays…
Can we expect you to do a Bob Dylan and have your music feature in Starbucks ads while you are playing corporate gigs?
Who is Attila the Stockbroker?
A fucking great guy, an unrepentent communist, and a brilliant punk rock poet and songwriter from the Brighton, England area.
What is the last book you read?
The rise and fall of the third Reich.
Where do you record your music, excepting live performances?
In various small studios, mostly in Boston, but most recently in my new home town of Portland, Oregon.
What is the most bizarre place you have found yourself singing?
There are way too many choices, I have no idea which one to pick.
Is Obama a name change on the empire’s front door or is anything substantive happening?
Obama is a more intelligent, more charismatic and better-looking version of Bill Clinton.
How did you enjoy Glasgow, Edinburgh and Scotland in general around G8 2005 and in subsequent visits?
I enjoyed it tremendously. One of the highlights of my career, the g8 protests in Scotland that is. I always enjoy my visits to Scotland, but it’s always much better when tens of thousands of people are rioting in the background.
Even though the two countries, cultures and musical styles are similar I get angry when people call traditional Scottish music ‘Irish music’. What is the most amusing or despicable misrepresentation of your music you have seen?
It comes from the same sorts of people who would call Scottish music ‘Irish.’ Like the people who say I sound like James Taylor. These are people who have no knowledge of the genre, and the only acoustic musician they’ve heard is James Taylor, so of course I sound like James Taylor to them.
What music do you listen to?
Usually whatever my roommate, Allegra Ziffle, is playing on her computer or on one of her many instruments.
For your songs about Palestine/Israel have the loon contingent been in touch?
Oh yes, various sorts of them.
Who is the woman you duet with sometimes?
I’ve recorded two CDs with Allie Rosenblatt singing harmony. She’s a great singer and activist from Hartford, Connecticut, currently getting a law degree.
Do you do requests? Can I convince you to do a cover of this song?
Probably not. Nothing personal, I just don’t have time to remember my own songs and haven’t gotten around to learning new covers in years (to my detriment i’m sure).
What is the next song about?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. He’s a fascist.
David Rovics’ homepage is here www.davidrovics.org and all of his music is there. I suggest you download it.