Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Mar 14th 2008 2:00PM by Steve Baltin
More important, the always entertaining Robinson is having a blast with the new material, which the group celebrated by playing the album, its first studio LP in eight years, in its entirety over several sold-out shows. Spinner caught up with Robinson to talk about why time has been kind to the Crowes, why he may vote Green Party in the upcoming election and how music can still be a force for change.
What was the catalyst for 'Warpaint'?
The real catalyst for the whole record, the whole idea to shine up our locomotive and put it back on the track -- "I think we can, I think we can" -- was Rich [Robinson, Crowes guitarist and Chris' brother] sent me a couple of CDs' worth of chords and rough song ideas. I just set about really driving Rich crazy, turning all his songs inside out, making the verse the chorus and the chorus the verse, and doing all these arrangements really in my head.
Have any of the older songs changed for you?
It's funny because singing a song like 'Seeing Things for the First Time' at 41, compared to at 21 when I wrote it, at the time I had a rough idea of that feeling. But it was things that were going to happen to me as opposed to things that happened with experience. Our relationship is different with the songs, and that gets back to the audience because then the audience, they've gone through changes with you, they've put on music for all sorts of reasons, so I think that kind of energy transcends time with songs that you write, hopefully, if they're good songs [laughs].
That's interesting, because it's not only songs that change. Do you feel like you have a better perspective with the Black Crowes being older?
The first decade of the Black Crowes was simply like we are: very dynamic, emotional, f---ing chaotic, an intensely gratifying rock 'n' roll thing for us. We really believe that music is the thing we find has connections. But after 10 years of growing up, you can be the best of friends and music's an intimate thing to share, but wives, ex-wives, babies, drugs, egos, growing up, money, all the same s--- everybody has to deal with, and you're just going through it in your little communal group of people that, like anyone else, you're teenagers one day, you put a band together, write some songs, throw yourself into the void and see what happens. So it definitely changed everything.
Did that break give you a deeper appreciation for the Crowes?
I think so. But the real thing, as Miles Davis put it, "Music changes you when you're a musician." And I think within that we found our way to this music. It was work this time. When you're starting out and you're doing it the first time, everything's new, then it becomes something else. For me, I'm always interested in music and I'm super-proud of the Black Crowes, this record has really piqued my interest to another level of excitement about what this feels like, what we have to say and how comfortable we are with where we are. That has to do with experience and age. A band like ours feels strong and thriving when the music business is just a heaping wreck on the side of the road because we never removed ourselves from bohemia enough that we can't still scavenge from the wreckage. We're capitalists, but we want to be able to do it with a certain amount of ethical f---ing responsibility. Maybe all of those years of being so chaotic and intense pay off at a certain level because now we can deal with whatever's thrown at us.
You're right, stuff just comes around.
I'm a romantic soul enough to pretend that could be happening [laughs]. That would be cool. I think it would be hilarious for us to have a voice in popular music right now as something other than the cult status kind of band that we are.
Do you keep up on a lot of new music?
Oh, man, I'm an obsessive music collector and fan. I guess people would be surprised to know that I don't listen to that much hard rock music. I listen to a lot of roots music, psych, folk, Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, but I still listen to a lot of jazz, blues, like Roy Harper records lately, Bobby Hutchinson I've really been into. Sun Ra, J.J. Cale, whatever. So much stuff. It's always kind of been that way. There's always the archetypal, the Bob [Dylan], Neil, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Stones, that kind of thing that's always super-inspiring and enjoyable to listen to.
I think it's that way for most music fans, but when you were starting out there was that thing that everything had to be categorized.
I think it's better now because of the openness of it, people are less likely to just categorize something. Our side [before] of it was always it was frustrating because we felt people were missing out on the craft and the musical talent maybe by being wrapped up in what they thought it sounded like or what they wanted to call it. It's like, "Yeah, well you didn't come to the shows and you didn't listen to those records." But it's funny 'cause time goes on. I'll tell you this: We may have been considered a lot of things back then, but we've remained pretty pure to the source in terms of where it comes from and what we're trying to get across as a band. We've definitely maintained a level of integrity in terms of what it means to us, we didn't let people tell us this and that.
What are the issues you think are important in this election year?
I just don't believe it's real. I just don't think given the facts that people in control would behave the way they do. Sometimes I'm just like, "I don't get it." Our personal liberties, our personal freedoms are under attack all the time. In a weird sense, part of staying positive and part of being in a place and a catalyst for change is to just do it in your own consciousness. I don't think it's about being apathetic, but I also think it's about being realistic to your belief system. And my belief system would dictate that you can't count on [politicians] for anything except the rich will get richer, the divide will get wider, and the poor will stay poor. And until those things start to transcend into something else, you've got to take care of yourself. Again, you want to be able to make the right decisions. For me, personally, people think it's really silly and naive, but I would vote Green Party because they're not telling anyone they can or cannot have an abortion and they realize this planet is sick. It's one thing to hate your neighbor for having a cigarette, but it's time to hate corporations for poisoning things. People are always going to take care of themselves and their people, so when are you ever gonna feel that government is something other than just this out-of -control bureaucracy?
You say be a catalyst for change. Do you think music can still do that and have you seen that anywhere?
Yeah, totally. Look at Bonnaroo, that experience; look at Jazz Fest, still. A lot of it is a band can be whatever, and hopefully artists are sensitive and compassionate people; we would hope they were. But the reality of the vibration and the reality of what I'm talking about does always lie with the audience. You can go out and play the best you've ever played, and if no one is ready to get into the f---ing cocoon with you, you're just a one-man cocoon, which is comfortable and nice, and if you style it out right you're happy. It's a concerted thing and I think the real change will happen from within. It won't be handed to anyone, it won't be an easy answer, and you can't get it in a pill. It's gonna have to transcend within yourself. And it has to do with freedom and letting go of fear, which is probably a good place to end [laughs].