Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Jul 5th 2007 10:00AM by Steve Baltin
What were you looking for in the cover songs you chose to complement your original material?
The record mainly focuses on Old Testament things. The things I like mostly about the Old Testament are the books of the prophets, and what I'm interested in really is how, although they're written thousands of years ago, they really correspond to things in our times, actually.
It struck me that this album makes a very profound statement without getting into specific political ideals.
First of all, I would be very much part of the Rastafarian movement. A lot of people think it's a religion -- it's not. It's an anti-political movement. We believe politics is the problem, actually. So I don't believe in politics. I wouldn't even vote, 'cause I just think they're all wankers, every one of them. None of them give a s*** about anyone or anything. OK, I'm sure there are one or two who do, but they don't get elected anyway. But also I get nervous when I see musicians getting involved with politicians. Fair enough you want to write a political song, but when you get to the stage, for example, of having your picture taken with George Bush you're bringing music into disrepute, in my opinion ... because music exists partly to challenge those authorities. And if you start becoming friends with those authorities, then how are you going to challenge them? So it makes me uncomfortable, like when Tony Blair was elected into office, suddenly he's inviting Oasis around for tea and Oasis are going because the politicians are very clever, they're playing on our vanities.
Are there any musicians whose political songs you admire?
Someone like Neil Young, I think pulls it off very well, 'cause he can do an entire anti-war album and it works 'cause it's not corny and, equally, it's not aggressive. That's what I love about the Rasta songs. If you take an artist like Burning Spear, he's written the anti-war song 'Throw Down Your Arms,' but it's the only anti-war song I've ever heard which doesn't judge the warmonger. It invites him to throw down his arms and come and have a party with everybody else. It's a very clever thing to be able to write an anti-war song that doesn't actually judge anyone. And also, obviously, to protest against war in an angry fashion is an oxymoron. You have to find a gentle way of doing it.
I often think throughout the centuries people have gotten stupider -- you can see it in art, actually. No one can paint anymore like they used to paint in the Middle Ages. I think the same has happened with music. No one can write songs like they did in the '60s, 'cause I guess people don't care as much or something. There's a kind of spirit that existed there that doesn't quite seem to exist now in songwriting or anything else. I guess people aren't as hungry as they were then.
It almost seems like a contradiction to say people are getting stupider, with all the technological advances. But maybe the technology is making everything too easy for people.
Well, that's what I mean about hunger. I think the difference is that people were really f***ing hungry then. Like back in the Middle Ages, if you didn't bloody paint well you didn't eat. Literally your entire life depended on doing well. Obviously, there are a whole lot of people who aren't well off or aren't comfortable, but the general thing in most first-world countries is the middle class, so everybody's comfortable. It's good to be hungry, not necessarily literally but metaphorically speaking. And I guess the old archetype is true: A lot of great art comes from suffering.
Do your kids turn you on to a lot of music?
My son, the 20-year-old, does, but it's the kind of stuff that I was into anyway. Like he's really into gangster rap, which I was kind of into anyway, but he's a lot more into it than I would be. So he's introduced me to a lot of Biggie Smalls stuff, which out of the corner of my eye I'd been interested in, but I never would've bought one of his records. To me, the rap movement is where you find ... I know there's a lot of shite in there as well, but that's where you would find what I would call real art insofar as art that's driven by hunger and necessity, where you have people who otherwise would have had no f***ing life, that didn't have any education, couldn't play an instrument, but were able to program a drum machine. Ice Cube, I think, is one of the greatest American poets ever.
What about your other kids?
My daughter, the 11-year-old, is a real fascinating character because she's a real eccentric for a girl of her age. Her favorite artists are Johnny Cash and Shane MacGowan, which is very odd. But Johnny Cash, she loves the murder songs, the real dark stuff. So she's having guitar lessons at the moment and she's learning to play 'Folsom Prison Blues,' which I think is hilarious, 'cause she's just a little girl. The three-year-old is obviously into 'Teletubbies.' He loves them, he gets very distressed when they're done. Then the baby just loves any old s*** you sing to him.
But to be honest, having four kids means you don't get access to the TV until 11 at night. So it's very hard to keep up with anything unless you catch something on the radio. I always find radio is weird now too, 'cause they don't play anything that makes anybody feel anything in particular. They play love songs, which is great, but no one writes love songs like George Jones anymore. So what's the point? If you listen to 'She Thinks I Still Care,' there's no point in f***ing listening to another love song. Love songs nowadays are all 'I'll die if you leave me.' I can't stand that. Partly, too, I'm just an old granny, so I'm completely out of touch.
How did the songs on 'Theology' change for you in going acoustic to band version or vice versa?
The way I did the record, the guys in Dublin, with the acoustic side, they didn't even know about the other one. And the guys in London knew about the Dublin one, but I never let them hear the Dublin one, 'cause I didn't want them to be influenced by each other. I kind of knew that the songs would translate very well from acoustic to any kind of genre, actually, 'cause I think the songs are very strong and 'cause most of them are only two chords. One would've thought that the excitement would come from translating them from acoustic to whatever you call it, built-up, but it was actually the other way around.
How has the way you view your older songs changed?
It's funny, 'cause I identify more now with the songs than I did at the time, which is weird. It's quite interesting to step back into your old clothes and see they fit you better. Some of them I can't really relate to, and some of them I couldn't sing now, 'cause I don't sing like that anymore. Like 'Troy' I would find very hard to sing. 'cause I'm not that pissed off anymore. But it's good. One song I'm really enjoying doing is a song off the first album called 'Never Get Old.' I was nervous at doing it, 'cause I didn't think I'd be able to manage it, but it just takes off and it's great. It's a real pleasure to sing it like that.
You say you relate to some of the songs better. Does it surprise you how much insight you had at 20?
When I listen to the stuff, I don't necessarily hear that I had any insight. What I hear is that I had a lot of drive, which came from the hunger to get the f*** out of the situation I was in, i.e., Ireland, no chance of work or a life. I think people maybe read a lot more into the music or the songs than was actually intended. I don't think I had any great wisdom particularly going on in there, and I think what hooked people was more the sound of my voice rather than what the songs were saying. When I rehearse them now I'm like, "That's a great song ... f***, I wrote this." And that surprises me. I thought they were s*** at the time. I couldn't understand why anybody liked them. I didn't get it.
And now you get it?
They're not bad. Some of them are a bit embarrassing, but some of them are pretty good.