Damien Love trades licks with Spearhead’s Michael Franti, the Disposable Hero who’s refreshing the parts his other band couldn’t reach.
‘The most important thing that songs do is they reach the emotions. Sometimes you just hear two chords played one after the other and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. it can be so emotional. And then when you invest those chords with lyrics that can do the same thing —just the words by themselves — you can go into real powerful areas where other forms of communication can‘t. Music has a lot to do with imagination — you can't see it, and so much of our world is visual, but music is something you perceive in your body and in your head and in your heart and coming through vibrations in your eardrums. Like when I’m sad and i miss my girlfriend. i might listen to Marvin Gaye or Sade and it puts me in a certain mood. and if l‘m pissed off] might listen to ice Cube or Public Enemy. Music has that power to enhance or change your mood and take you to a different place.‘
With Spearhead. Michael Franti has made it his mission to engage people’s emotions in ways he felt he never could with his previous outfit. The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy. Where the Disposables threw up an abrasive, sheet-metal sound. coming on like alien jazz experimentalists let loose in a hi-tech wrecking yard. ramming their charged political barbs home with a noise as fucked-up and abstract as the world they described. Spearhead bathe the listener in a seductive, warm, recognisable music rooted in soul. reggae and jazz over a laid-back hip hop backing.
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Spearhead: pointing in the right direction
If the Disposables were about attacking what‘s wrong. Spearhead are about celebrating what’s right, or occasionally — as on ‘Crime To Be Broke in America' — simply reflecting and lamenting the state we‘re in. With Spearhead, the politics are at work on a more personal level. ‘Spearhead is about the music.‘ says Franti. ‘lt‘s about soul and ﬁnding a place to tame your demons. Disposable Heroes is about unleashing those demons.‘
First emerging in the late-80s with the industrial agitations of The Beatnigs, Franti came to prominence as a writer of often breathtaking power
with the Disposables. This eloquence. combined with the deep. mellow qualities of his voice, led to frequent comparisons with one of his admitted inﬂuences. Gil Scott-Heron, and. like Scott-Heron. Franti has witnessed various attempts at hanging the mantle ‘prophet-spokesman‘ around his shoulders. ‘Yeah. well, it only worries me in the sense that — l'm r10! the sole spokesman for my generation of people. There‘re hundreds of us. people who are spokesmen and spokeswomen. who are raising the voices for our times. and‘l’m not the only one. I'd never want people to depend on me as that. I speak my voice and there are some people who agree and some who disagree. And that’s how it should be.‘ With the welcome news that he and collaborator Rono Tse are reactivating the Disposable Heroes, spurred by the political turmoils surrounding the impending Presidential Elections, Franti can now
‘l’m not the sole spokesman for my generation of people. There’re hundreds of us, people who are
spokesmen and spokeswoman, who are raising the voices for our times.’
vent and tame his demons. Indeed. if one were to attempt to sum up his work, a useful guide would be to look at the two Williams he’s worked with: alien experimentalist Burroughs and rootsy traditionalist Bragg.
‘Billy — i always appreciate that he writes songs about anything. Love and war, he's not shy about either. And I respect his ability to just get up with a guitar and say what he has to say.
‘And Burroughs — he‘sjust like . . . a shit-disturber. He's always going to be one of those people who looks at the status quo and says, “Yo! l'm gonna throw a wrench into this machine any way i can."
Hope and party with Spearhead when you get the chance. There‘s time enough to be scared and angry
Spearhead play King Tut's. Glasgow on Sat 17.
‘We do the traditional stuff as well. It took a lot of the pressure off us.’
The pressure of being an indie-chart- topping band?
‘llo - lust the pressure of being slagged off.’
So this is where Cornershop are in 1995. Those fiery early singles of Asian-rooted indie guitar-pop, spiced up by the angry wit of frontman and songwriter Tilnder Singh, had them lumped in with the iluggy Bear scene - then, erroneously, with the emerging New Wave of New Wave - before Cornershop fell from favour and were
adjudged as having been crap all
flat so, and the new album, ‘Woman’s Gotta Have lt’, shows they’re not crap now either. A couple of weak, sub-Fall tracks aside, it’s a bravura display of imagination and inventiveness on a tight budget. The first and so far only single from it, the mantra-like ’Cam Juliander Shere’, has already staked its claim as one of the coolest singles
According to Tlinder, the idea behind Cornershop from the beginning has been ‘to use variants of noise and melodic Asian sounds’ to comment on Eastern and Western preconceptions of each other. And should that seem a little calculating in cold, hard print, note that Tilnder also thinks everything the band have done has been ‘very natural’.
‘A lot of our principles are based on William Morris as well - not heavily,
Cornershop: look out for in-store appearances
but we’ve certainly taken on some things. if you can’t do something, then get the people around you to do it, or learn to do it yourself. Just try to get your fingers in as many pies as possible, and that’s what we try to do, whether that be cover design or production, anything. Anything we can get our hands on, we’ll do it.’
Tlinder’s further been able to exercise his creativity in Clinton, the more dance-orientated outfit he and Cornershop guitarist Ben Ayres formed, “just to use more technology and dabble about in that’. Clinton have released one single, with another in the can, and, true to form, if it doesn’t come out on Wiiila, they’ll release it themselves. But whether the Clinton tag refers to George or Bill, he isn’t saying. (Alastair Mabbottl
Cornershop play The Cas flock Cafe, Edinburgh on Sun 18.
The List 16-29 Jun 1995 35