We've done a lot of coverage on the Rock the R3volution tour, from its announcement to almost inevitable collapse. The confluence of music and politics has always been interesting to me. Political art can be cringe-worthy ("boot up 'yer ass," anyone) or undeniably beautiful ("a change is gonna come").
Trevor Denton of Sun Ghost and Danny Torgersen of Captain Squeegee aren't your typical conservatives. They are young guys who voted for Obama during the last go-around, but they are typical of the strange sense of unease that permeates our culture. Nearly everyone is fed up with the unwillingness of Washington to accomplish anything, and a pro-weed, anti-war guy like Ron Paul represents a dynamic shift away from the establishment.
Of course, that isn't all he represents. It's hard not to identify with the Libertarian ideals of self-sufficiency, accountability, and personal liberty, but there's a certain fatalism to the you-do-you and I'll-do-me ideology. In my interview with Henry Rollins, he hit the nail square on the head: "Ron Paul and Rand Paul say this hilarious bullshit like, "If my house burns down in Texas or gets swept away, it's not up to the people from New York to help me. I don't want to take their money. They worked hard for their money; they should keep it for their own state." No Ron, it's the United States, so when a twister comes through your state and Texas is out of money -- as crazy as you are -- me, the Californian's money is coming to help you. Because you're my countryman. That's team America. And that's real patriotism -- where he is my neighbor."
The Rock the R3volution tour is a strange, fascinating case. Like the Occupy Wall Street Movement, it's shaky, not all that organized, and features a lot of fringey, pretty scary weirdos. But it also features some genuine voices, and some unique ones, members of the 99%, people who might not have all the answers, but are willing to ask the questions outloud.
Torgersen, Denton, and I discussed our differing views on Paul, his policies, where he seems to have a valid point and where he seems pretty wacky. We ended up with far more than I could fit in print. Read on for some extra bits about the role of the federal government in our lives, and even more important (for the purpose of this blog, at least) the role of politics in music.
Up on the Sun: When I think of Ron Paul, I don't really think of rock 'n' roll. Danny Torgersen: He probably doesn't listen to much rock 'n' roll. I think he probably just listens to audio books about Austrian economics. [laughs]
But I guess regardless of your criticisms of him, he's pretty punk. The guy is consistent -- which is rare in his line of work.
DT: It's been decades, too. That's what's crazy. I didn't even know until about a year back -- I've liked him for a while -- but he's been a congressman for 33 years. 33 years. That is so long. You have to really like America [to stick around that long].
UOTS: For a good chunk of those years, he's been considered the crazy old uncle of the Republican party. And now a lot of people are taking him very, very seriously. He's got more traction this time around than he did in 2008.
Trevor Denton: He does a lot of yelling [laughs]. But we were just talking about that. He's been saying the same things for so long, and now that he's successful, it's not because he's been pandering for votes, it's because everyone else is kind of caught up to what he's saying, like "Holy shit," you know?
DT: He's also been kind of an economic prophet. He was the only congressman in Congress, in 2006, to warn everybody about the housing bubble. 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.
UOTS: Do you guys consider yourselves conservatives?
TD: No, not at all.
UOTS: You guys both voted for Barack Obama in 2008. It wasn't my first election, but voting for Obama was the first time I felt really excited, like I wasn't just voting for the lesser of two evils.
TD: I felt that way, too.
DT: If he had actually done half the things he said he'd do, I'd still be agreeing with him to some degree. You know, I was definitely motivated by the anti-war stuff, I was pretty fed up with the situation. He seemed like someone who would do something about that.
TD: To me, Democrats should really pay attention to Ron Paul. 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...
DT: I think there are a lot of young people who are into the idea of dropping the paradigm. Where it's...we've had the left/right thing for so long. Now we're looking a top/bottom thing coming [laughs]. You know, where the actually pie chart for where you are positioned, it's conservative or progressive, or libertarian or fascist. So there's all these people wanting Libertarian ideals. 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.We've been so indoctrinated with the left/right thing. Maybe both of them are contributing to a problem.
I think a lot of people agree with that, and that ties into the Occupy Movement.
TD: When you look at the issues that people are raising with the Occupy Movement, you need to look at it from a macro perspective. What is the basis of all these problem? Talking about a point-by-point [solution] isn't possible in a democracy unless you can do something about it. And and this point we can't, which is why we've taken to the street. It's just like, the system is broking. We want all these things, but all these things are branches of one tree.
DT: I don't think there would be a lot of people at Occupy Phoenix if there wasn't a whole series of problems. If there were just a couple things, there wouldn't be the kind of upheaval...the most immediate solution is awareness.
UOTS: Democracy should be messy. There should be room for all these discussions, for disagreements about this stuff.
TD: If that wasn't the forefathers plan, they wouldn't have made the Constitution amendable...society changes, you have to adjust to that.
UOTS: I don't like a lot of what gets classified as political music, but when it's done right, when it leaves room for discussion, it can be such a powerful force.
TD: Someone like John Lennon.
UOTS: Or Woody Guthrie, or Billy Bragg, or Neil Young. These are people who use music as a way to voice the frustrations of the disenfranchised.
DT: One purpose, besides just the expression, is the sharing of information. That's something I liked about Zack de la Rocha [of Rage Against the Machine].
UOTS: You don't think of Creedence Clearwater Revival as a political band, but "Fortunate Son," it took political ideas and cast it in a personal light. Songs like "Born in the USA," and "The Ghost of Tom Joad," by Bruce Springsteen (my favorite) really do it right, because they are about politics from a human perspective. I mean, "Born in the USA" is such a misunderstood song.
DT: That's part of the genius.
TD: Somebody was talking to me about Randy Newman, and they said, "I love 'God's Song'," because it's so spiritual." It's like, 'Have you listened to the words?' That's about how mankind should hate God for everything he's done to us. But it's done in this pretty, satirical, sing-songy way...Oh, it's the guy from Toy Story.
DT: It seems like there's a deficiency of political music right now. I like Muse has always done a pretty good job.
UOTS: Muse always came off as kind of sloganeering to me.
DT: Really? They inject information into their music ,very much so. I've listened to a lot of them.
TD: I guess Green Day made a big political splash.
DT: Uggg. So misguided.
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TD: I heard a shitload about it, though.
UOTS: I guess it got people talking, right?
Sun Ghost and Captain Squeegee are scheduled to perform as part of AZ Rock the R3volution tonight at Club Red in Tempe.