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Sunday, January 25 2015 @ 08:15 AM CST

Interview with David Rovics

News ArchiveI could sit here and wax on about how cool David Rovics is and how politically and culturally important his work is, but I won't. Go and have a listen for yourself. David will be playing during the IMF/World Bank protests, Washington, DC. April 15-17 2005.

I could sit here and wax on about how cool David Rovics is and how politically and culturally important his work is, but I won't. Go and have a listen for yourself. David will be playing during the IMF/World Bank protests, Washington, DC. April 15-17 2005. [check out all the songs] [buy an album or 8]

You can learn more about David Rovics by going to his web site www.davidrovics.com, or [learn more by linking]

Now on with the show...

Q) Describe yourself in 8 words or less.

singer-songwriter, international terrorist.

Q) For those who don't know much about the different trends in current non-corporate music, and to orient readers, could you give a quick snapshot of what you consider your corner of the music world?

gosh, i don't know, do i have a corner? i'm honestly not sure how i'd characterize it. i suppose it's somewhere in the folk music scene, but not so much. probably more related to those who'd buy books thru ak press, or radicals on email lists who download mp3's. who are those people who download my mp3's? i don't know. i meet some of them at shows, but there must be more out there, and i don't know how i'd characterize them or whatever musical corner we're representing here. i know for sure i'm never played on clearchannel or npr, and that that massive potential audience remains only potential.

Q) What music styles or single musicians have been influential to you as a singer and/or guitar player? Besides J-Lo.

well, i suppose my biggest influences were people who do stuff at least vaguely similar to what i do, like jim page, phil ochs, utah phillips, buffy sainte-marie, pete seeger, woody guthrie, christy moore, etc. but i also have listened to a lot of (and presumably somehow been influenced by) rock and roll, afropop, nueva cancion music from latin america, reggae, middle eastern music of various sorts, and more... somehow tho it all seems to me to be part of the same global tradition of writing songs about stuff that's happening around us.

Q) Your songs are pretty damn powerful. "Hiroshima," in particular, seems to be trying to come close to some understanding of an unimaginable human disaster. What song of yours would you say (at least for you) has the most social impact?

thanks. "hiroshima" is a song i like a lot because of it's attempt to allow us to take in the extent of the horror of the event. of course it can't possibly come close, but hopefully just close enough to make people think and feel (and come to the same conclusion i came to a while ago, that we need to overthrow the u.s. government immediately). some of my other favorite songs that i've written would be similar songs, like "jenin," "promised land," "the dying firefighter," songs that tell stories and get us into somebody else's head(s). my favorite songs of other songwriters tend to be similar types of songs, like jim page's song "bobby cortez" or steve earle's song, "billy austin."

Q) The policy on your site says "the main thing is to get the music out there. You are hereby encouraged not only to buy CDs, but to COPY THEM in part or whole, download and distribute MP3's, sing the songs, photocopy part or all of the songbooks, etc."

We're interested in cultural work, and we think producing culture is politically important. We also think culture should be shared as much as possible. On the other hand, a lot of musicians have been coming out in support of record companies that crack down on music sharing. What do you think about all that's going on in "intellectual property"? Are there better ways of supporting musicians? Does someone's choice of who to support matter?

that's a big one, isn't it? i don't know how to separate everything, like how to separate principles from practicalities, and if i pretended to have it all separated philosphically i'd probably be fooling myself. but i'll just share some thoughts that are probably related to each other, tho to what degree, i'm not sure.

clearchannel and npr and the like have a virtual monopoly on the airwaves, and i think that making our music available for free is a way to counter that. i think somehow in principle making ALL of my music available for free somehow counters them more. i encourage people to download everything they want of my music for free, but i don't know to what degree that's in principle and to what degree that's about practicality. somehow with the existence of this technology, it seems wrong to limit people in a way that they're not limited with a cassette or something, or to do shit like lower the quality of reproductions to punish them for their transgressions, or legally attack people for "stealing" music or anything like that. so on one level it just seems like the natural thing to do is to say if everybody can easily enough get it all for free anyway, let's just make it as easy as possible and put it all up for free download on one website.

on the other hand, it's good to make a living, and selling cds and other "product" is a big and basically necessary income for most professional musicians, i'd say. it certainly is for me. so if all the free downloading were undercutting that i might feel differently than i do. altho if i did feel differently because of a loss of cd sales, i still don't think there's anything realistically or ethically to be done about this situation, and i still think the music should be put out there as freely as possible in order to at least attempt to counter the clearchannel monopoly.

but the reality for me and i suspect for other non-corporate musicians is that cd sales have been rising slightly since i started making all my music available for free download, while downloads have mushroomed. the mushrooming in downloads (about 200,000 in the last year that i know of) has not necessarily increased cd sales significantly or increased audiences at shows significantly, but it certainly hasn't decreased either of these things. on the other hand, for big corporate-promoted bands, cd sales in certain age groups are down significantly, and this is generally attributed to downloads, and i think that's probably accurate. but that's because when a big band like that comes out with a new cd people hear about it thru conventional media and then they go look for it for free download. for artists like me, people hear about me first on the web because of the free downloads, so this isn't an audience who would have ever heard about me and bought a cd in a store in the first place. this is the democratizing effect of the internet at work in the music industry.

Q) In your interview with [link below] Baltimore Indymedia, you say that "I’m not really hardly at all involved with the folk music scene [...] Everything I’m doing pretty much is in the activist scene." We're interested in this kind of culture that has more allegiance to activism than to the world of art. Do you think we'll be seeing more voices like yours out there, and more people interested in producing cultural resistance?

i think voices like mine have always been out there, and always will be. as long as there's a world divided into haves and have-nots, there will be resistance. as long as there is resistance there will be music about that resistance.

the "folk music" scene is mostly apolitical. (i put that in quotes because any music that claims to be "folk" can't be apolitical, because people are generally political, so who's the folk?) they often don't call themselves "folk" anymore, they use terms like "aaa" (adult alternative acoustic) and shit. that's fine, i don't care, and i generally avoid the term "folk," too. if the acoustic or singer-songwriter or aaa or folk scene were more political i'd be playing more in that scene, i suppose, but as it is i just play for people who are interested in organizing events that have me in them, so this ends up being the activist scene(s).

anyway, yes, there are lots of others all around us, making art, music of various sorts, theater, documentaries, etc. in my view is often people like the riot folk folks (ethan miller, evan greer, ryan harvey, anna roland, etc.), all kinds of young (and old) hiphop artists coming around -- dope poet society, thought breakers, and other folks who i have on my links page... and there's stuff like this happening on every continent.

Q) How are you traveling these days? That is, can you describe a typical day?

almost exclusively by plane and rental car. touring about 85% of the year or so i guess. i don't know how many gigs, i don't keep track that exactly, but i guess around 200 a year or more. most days involve something along the lines of getting up in the late morning, finding espresso and a wifi connection, getting wired and checking email and downloading yesterday's democracy now! and flashpoints, getting in the rental car, listening to these radio shows on my ipod, smoking a joint, and driving to my next gig. getting to town, eating some food, meeting some wonderful people who i may or may not already know from being that that town before, playing a concert to somewhere between 12-200 people (usually more around 40 or so i guess), then doing various debauched and unmentionable things after the show. repeat process. sometimes i have time to read books and write songs. planes are good for that.

Q) In your song "Minimum Wage Strike," you specifically support the Wobblies or the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Union, and you have a great song about the elves (ELF). Songs like "Contras, Kings, and Generals," and "Song for Basra" are support of a different kind. Can you give people an idea of some people/ideas/organizations that are worthwhile or critical for them to support?

well, after the list of musicians on my links page i have links to various organizations, mostly really wonderful people doing essential stuff. there are people struggling in so many overlapping arenas. the songs you mentioned bring to mind of course the wobblies, and then the earth liberation front, voices in the wilderness, united for peace and justice, could go on... whatever your passion is, people and organizations are out there to plug into, and you are needed.

Q) It seems you've done "counter recruitment" at high-schools. Could you explain what that's all about?

i've done a bit of that. not nearly enough. administrations are generally very conservative in one way or another, and it's hard to find teachers/students/parents who are willing and able to set stuff up. but i have a program and i want an audience. what i do is just sing songs and talk, like usual, only a bit more talking. i introduce people musically and otherwise to the fact that there is an anti-war movement, here's what we're about, here's why we exist, here's why the war is immoral, dangerous for your health, imperialist, and should be actively opposed, along with your government generally. i sing songs and illustrate them, like "operation iraqi liberation," "who would jesus bomb," "when johnny came marching home," etc.

Q) If people think what David Rovics does is really nifty, what are the kinds of things they can do to support his work?

organize concerts for me, come to my shows and spread the word about them, buy cds, download mp3's and spread them all around to folks you know, call your local community radio station and get programmers to play me, it's fairly endless... vote republican... (the more bombs they drop the more cds i sell.)

Q) Thanks a bunch for taking time out and answering a few questions, David.

you bet! thank you!


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Interview with David Rovics | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
See David Rovics in New York City, April 22!
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 14 2005 @ 02:23 PM CDT
David Rovics in NYC
IWW Starbucks Workers Union benefit show

David Rovics, one of the country's most beloved folk singers, will be in New York City for one night only during his international tour!

Come support the union effort at Starbucks by joining us for some great music and cheap beer.

Also featuring political comedian Katie Halper and spoken-word champion Amina Munoz-Ali. After David Rovics, dance to inspired DJ rhythms late into the night!

$5-$12 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds
Friday, April 22
8 pm 'til late
57 Jay St. in Brooklyn
F Train to York, walk two blocks towards the river
See David Rovics in New York City, April 22!
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, April 15 2005 @ 08:12 PM CDT
Q) so, David... I was wondering how you would respond to those people who claim that you use your 'scene cred' as an easy way to meet and date women who are much younger than you, and also those who say that you like to do things like cop feels when you hug strangers who happen to be younger women.