HIP HOP SPEARHEAD King Tut’s, Glasgow, Wed 30 May.
The Beatnigs, Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy and Spearhead: it’s quite a rap sheet (excuse the pun). As part of these three fine groups, Michael Franti has always questioned everything that is vile and corrupt in society and the music industry from racism to homophobia. You cannot say he is a man who has courted the easy life.
It’s been four arid years since Chocolate Supa Highway, Spearhead’s misguided big studio follow up their heavenly debut Home. Their new album Stay Human is an urgent cry from the frontlines using a radio show format and thirteen storming good funk, jazz, rap and disco tunes. It’s a heady, if none too subtle brew, but with a humanitarian agenda as broad as Franti’s, he has to make sure his is the clearest voice. Lounging between radio interviews in Germany, Franti spoke to The List at length about his new label, his new album and a new society; here are a few excerpts:
Franti on record labels . . . ‘We really decided when we left Capitol Records that we wanted to try and find a new way that an artist could be in
The right(eous) mix of music and politics
this industry but not beholden to the corporate nipple, so we recorded the album. We are just trying to be very realistic about the economics of being a band, so we don’t do what happens to most bands and succumb to this huge debt to their label that they can never get out of. The final straw with Capitol was when I had this meeting with the new president and he said “maybe you could do a song with Will Smith”. That’s when I realised it was time to go.’
Franti on Spearhead’s musical diversity . . . ‘When we got out of the deal with Capitol, I said to myself what if I only made one record in my life, what would that record be? What would it sound like? Musically, it touches on a lot of influences I’ve had in my life from funk, soul, jazz, hip hop, reggae; you know, acoustic roots.
Franti on the state of the nation . . . ‘The idea of rebellion in music is gone. It used to be “fuck the system because the system is fucked up”
but as people, let’s be good to one another. Now it’s like “how much of the system can I get for myself”. You see it in every form of music; in hip hop there’s the guys, gold, diamonds, women and hot tubs. With the boy bands; there are the clothes, the models, and the cars. Its all about consumption and greed, its not about people taking care of each other in these difficult times we’re living in; I miss that about music.’
ROCK THE DONNAS The Garage, Glasgow, Sun 27 May.
The hell-raising granddaughters of Joey Ramone
The Donnas want it hard. they want it fast and they want it now. They're reform school hell-cats looking for love but it‘s the kind of love that lasts five minutes in the back of a Chewy because these girls ain't got time for courting. In the words of the Judas Priest song they cover on their latest album they're ‘livin' after midnight. rockin' till the dawn. lovin’ till the mornin' and then they're gone'.
Or, as lead vocalist Donna A puts it. 'We're not that tough and we‘re not like super bitches but we get into trouble and it‘s just because you know. there are cops out there who are looking for it. There are all kinds of people who are just looking to give you a hard time and somehow. we always run into those people.‘ OK then.
If this all Spunds familiar it's because it is. The Donnas have borrowed their sound and image from girl bands like Shonen Knife and L7. who in turn borrowed their s0und from the originators of the ‘Hey Ho Let ‘s Go!‘ rock 'n' roll model. So. if yOu were telling it like it is you'd say that The Ramones are sadly gone forever but by the sounds of these four little girls from Palo Alto. California. the Spirit of Joey Ramone is very much alive and kicking.
Lamentably the girls. who‘ve all just turned 21. never got the chance to see The Ramones. Donna A is understandably gutted about this but she's more pissed about the ‘rock' personality the American media chose to be the spokesman on Joey Ramone's passing. 'Joey dying was sad but I was more sad that they did all the interviews with Bono about how sad he was — I mean. I couldn't care less how Bono feels.’
It's hard-ass sass like this that makes The Donnas so much fun. Plus the fact that their music makes you rock till you drop.
46 THE LIST 2-1 May—T Jun 2001
CROFT NO FIVE Glasgow School of Art, Tue 5 Jun; Belle Angele, Edinburgh, Tue 6 Jun and the Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Sat 16 Jun.
The new ‘house’ music
Six guys live at Croft No Five. fiddler Adam Sutherland being the latest ai'i‘ixal ~— and at 2? the Old man in the band. Gtiitarist Barny Reid revealed the group dynamic. ‘We were playing at Brittany's Lorient Festival and so was Paul Jennings. playing drums and percusscn in another band. so we poached him. Well. it was more than Just great mUSlC, we got on so well. Everyone in the Croft is close frsends. That's iriipo rant}
Interestingly. as Reid notes ‘There has never been any singing. That was not our intention. We're not really abOut Singing. It's really about interpreting tunes in this funk, Jazzy way — and making yOu want to dance.’
Tunesmiths lvlisna and John Somerville learned '.‘.’l‘:lSllf:S and accordion through the Highland Feis movement — readily admitting a debt to Feis Ros organiser Pita Hunter — who gave them another helping hand recently when she put Skye-based company MNE in touch With the band. reSulting in one of the wildest music videos broadcast on usually staid Gaelic TV.
For a new band. the gigs. Reid thinks. have been quite "up there"; Celtic Connemions With Capercaillie at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party for one. In fact we even started off by Supporting Shooglenifty at Awemore.‘ Playing with the Shoogles was a defining moment for the teenage band — it gave them the confidence 'to have a proper go at it.“ But that was three years ago. and thotigh their roots aways show. in the ill-y’OUf-la’,e interplay of fiddle. fast-fingered accordion and free-flov‘iing low whistles. it's the driving. gurrky grooves of the guitar-bass-drum rhythm section that defines the originality of tie Croft sound. and With effects and samples. next week's new Attention All Personne/ album. ‘Shooglenifty have always been a great influence. but they've been around for about ten years.‘ says Reid. ‘I think what we‘re now doing is moving the leSlC somewhere else. semen-there new.' fNornian Chalmers