Danny Torgersen and Trevor Denton are two very different guys. We're huddled around a table at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe on a busy Tuesday night. Torgersen is firing off rapid-fire statements, punctuated by a unique laugh, akin to a cackle, one that half endears you to him and half freaks you out. "I got coffee earlier, but I just can't help myself," he giggles. "I'm at a coffee place." Denton is more reserved, slouching in his chair, keen to observe more than interject.
We're talking about "Rock the R3volution," a cross-country tour featuring rapper KRS-1 and local bands in each city, spreading the Libertarian message of Ron Paul. Weeks after our interview, the tour was canceled, leaving Torgersen and Denton, who helped organize the event at Club Red in Tempe, to sort out exactly how to proceed.
In a statement, former tour organizer Zak Carter says: "While I was very successful at both putting together an amazing team and finding liberty artists, I was admittedly terrible at fundraising and only raised a little over $1,000 in donations . . . I hope someone else takes up the cause of the tour, the Rock the R3volution Tour was never about me; it was all about freedom and Ron Paul. I'm very happy to know that several of the planned shows are still going to happen, thanks to the resourceful regional coordinators in Buffalo, Kansas City, Dallas, and Phoenix."
Torgersen and Denton opted to go ahead with the show, despite the lack of support from the national organization. Their bands, Captain Squeegee and Sun Ghost, respectively, will join Property Six, Per Capita, Voice of Independence, Rise, Concise, and Krooked for a free show at the venue. With genres ranging from the prog/ska of Captain Squeegee to the blues pop of Sun Ghost to the rap-rock, hip-hop, and metal of the other bands, the concert offers a diverse, scattershot idea of what the "typical" Ron Paul supporter looks like.
"We asked other bands to be involved," says Torgersen. "And they turned us down. They didn't want to be associated with it. I won't name names, but . . ." he trails off.
Music and politics long have been bedfellows, but pairing up rock 'n' roll with the conservative, free-market leanings of Ron Paul represents a strange shift. Is this the face of right-wing rock 'n' roll?
Not exactly. Neither Torgersen nor Denton identify as conservatives. Both voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. "If he had actually done half the things he said he'd do, I'd still be agreeing with him to some degree," says Torgersen. "I was moved by his anti-war [stance] . . ."
"But now he's proven that he's still willing to carry on the nation-building and the world-policing," Denton says, concluding Torgersen's sentence for him.
Paul's stances — anti-war, pro-legalization of marijuana, against the "corporate stranglehold on politics" — make the Texas congressman stand out from the GOP pack.
"To me, Democrats should really pay attention to Ron Paul," says Denton. "I'm more of a Democrat than I am a Republican, and I consider Ron Paul the top candidate, mostly because of the anti-war stance, and the [stance on] lobbyists. It ties into the Occupy Movement; it's not the point-by-point things we should be arguing about. Disagreeing on issues is putting the cart before the horse."
Both Denton and Torgersen have attended Occupy Phoenix rallies.
"We were there. We went. I gave a speech," Torgersen says. "The complaint is that [the Occupy movement is] convoluted with complaints, but the fact that everyone is being allowed to say their complaint in an open forum is already a step in the right direction. I don't think there would be a lot of people at Occupy Phoenix if there weren't a whole series of problems."
"People are dying for [the right to protest] in other countries," says Denton.
But despite his rock 'n' roll-friendly stance on weed and war, Paul remains a hard sell to many people who view the financial crisis as an example of the economic deregulation Paul espouses.
"People say, 'Look what the free market did to us now,' [but] I don't think that's a fair criticism," says Denton. "[It's not free-market capitalism] when you answer that kind of deregulation with bailout money. I mean, that's where things went wrong. I won't say that the free market isn't to blame at all, but it's not to blame as much as the corruption . . . [the bailouts] stink of paying back favors [and] continuing the circle jerk."
Torgersen says that Paul's economic policies make sense to him and that the strict divisions between "left" and "right" hold back the national conversation. "I think there are a lot of young people who are into the idea of dropping the paradigm," he says. "We've had the left/right thing for so long. Now we're looking a top/bottom thing coming [laughs] . . . it's conservative or progressive or libertarian or fascist. So there are all these people wanting libertarian ideals, [and] the opposite of libertarian is fascist. A lot of Germans had no idea what their country was doing. I think that this is the time for everyone to look into this."
Extreme terms like "fascism" aren't unusual for Torgersen, who isn't afraid to explore fringe ideologies. He recorded a dubstep track called "9/11 Was an Inside Job" with the group Chem Trails earlier this year. He views the Fed as an unconstitutional entity: "I don't care if I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it is a conspiracy when we can't even audit [the Fed]."
Like those in the Occupy movement, Ron Paul supporters are varied: frustrated with "banksters," America's wars, and the general state of the economy — problems Paul long has harped on.
"[He's] been kind of an economic prophet. He was the only congressman in Congress, in 2006, to warn everybody about the housing bubble," Torgersen says. "Everyone was like, 'Crazy Uncle Ron,' and now that these things have come to fruition, people are a little more willing to listen to him. It's almost like a movie script: It's like the crazy guy warning everyone about the Apocalypse, and then it's starting to happen, and maybe he's not so crazy after all."
"He released his economic plan, which balances the budget," says Denton. "Part of [it is] his slashing of five departments out of the federal government. One of them is the Department of Education," says Denton, with a hint of doubt in his voice. "When I first read that, it was kind of [startling]. Obviously, education is shitty, but I think reform would be better than gutting it. [Yet] he wants that handled on the state level. He's saying there should be social programs on a state level, [but] that shouldn't necessarily be the job of the federal government."
When I suggest that we live in an awkward state for that argument, Denton pauses, going back to the point that discussing point-by-point solutions isn't the overall goal.
Torgersen takes it even further. "What I think is beautiful about Ron Paul's message is that, deep down, I don't think his superior goal is to get elected," he says. "I think it's just to get the word out." And if Paul does win, "Well, sweet. [It] doesn't seem like he cares about that much that he gets booed at the debates. He knows."
With polls indicating that Paul will not receive the Republican nomination, and the collapse of the Rock the R3volution tour on a national level (fitting, in a way, given that infrastructure is not much of a Libertarian value), Torgersen and Denton view their goal as one of spreading the message and fostering a conversation — and they are more than happy to discuss differing views.
"I think one purpose political music can share — besides just expression — is information," Torgersen says. "A deficiency of information has allowed a lot of these things to pass. As much as it's an expression and ideology, [political music] is a way to share information that wouldn't have as much of a reception if it weren't music. You know? Some of Squeegee's music is political, [and] I just make it because I'm inspired."
Thu., Nov. 3, 7 p.m., 2011