Tag Archives: 2018

A Protest Music Interview: Lee Brickley

Last August, a debut album was released called Songs For Rojava. The songs are all dedicated to “freedom fighters around the world” and a special focus is directed towards the Rojava revolution. The musician and activist behind the album is a self taught singer-songwriter, writer, activist and, more specifically, an anarcho-communist. All this led me to believe he’d be a perfect fit for a Shouts interview. Hit the play button above for a protest music soundtrack to the interview!

 

Who is Lee Brickley?

“I’ve been a freelance writer for the last five years, but my real passion has always been songwriting. After teaching myself to play the guitar at age 12, I started writing my own music almost immediately. Since that time I’ve written thousands of songs on many different subjects, but in recent years my music has taken a political slant, and that has thankfully put me in a position where I now have somewhat of a fan-base and am able to release my music publicly.

If you’re asking about my political views, I’d call myself an anarcho-communist, in that I believe it is possible for society to organise in variations of a commune-like structure without an authoritarian state at the helm. This is why I find Democratic Confederalism (the system currently in full swing in Rojava) to be of particular interest, and thus, why I chose to release my latest album that attempts to educate listeners on the Kurdish struggle and the Rojava feminist revolution.”

 

When did realise that you wanted to send out a message through music?

“I think I realised it was important to write songs aimed at educating, amusing, and encouraging social change when I was very young. Even as a 12 year old with my first £50 guitar in hand, I attempted to replicate the greats like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. I might not have quite understood the significance of their lyrics back then, but their songs spoke to me more than any others.

It has only been during the last couple of years that my songs have begun to get attention, and I believe that is because conditions have deteriorated across the world, and the international working class is closer to revolution than at any point during my lifetime. I write songs about worker’s revolts, I write anti-monarchist music, and I despise the class system. The number of people who agree with me seems to increase every day, and so, as a songwriter, my natural instinct is to create a soundtrack for the revolution.”

Lee Brickley quote photo 2

Has your music always been political? 

“My music hasn’t always been political, and I have hundreds of songs about other subjects. I just think the current political situation globally should encourage all artists to turn their talents towards the issues at hand. We’ve had decades of freedom to dream and create art in all forms on all subjects, but the planet is in a terrible state, psychopaths are in control of nuclear arms, and 99% of people on this Earth are nothing more than slaves. I think it’s time artists and intellectuals did their part, just as the Kurdish, British, and Internationalist volunteers do in Rojava.”

 

What is your connection to Rojava? How did you learn of it? Why is it important to you?

“As I said, for me, the ideology behind the Rojava revolution is highly appealing. It’s not perfect, and it never will be – nothing is. However, it’s an ideology based on real democracy, freedom, and equality between races, religions, sexes, and minorities. Whatever happens in the future in Rojava, the ideas of Abdullah Ocalan and his ‘Manifesto for a Democratic Civilisation’ writings are some of the most rational, compassionate, and empowering I’ve ever come across.

I want to see an international revolution in which the people of the world remove the current banking system completely, redistribute wealth, eliminate the oil and gas industries in favour of renewable energy sources, remove all monarchies, aristocrats, and those born into positions of power. I want to see a bottom-up structure of organising society where people make the decisions that directly affect themselves, and upper-structures are only there to implement the will of the people. I see this happening in Rojava, and so it’s something I must support. And I encourage all others to do the same.”

 

How is the music scene where you live, in terms of activism and protest? Do you feel alone in using your voice how you do or do you have comrades around you doing similar things?

“There isn’t much of a music scene for political music where I’m based, and so most of my releases etc happen online. However, I am planning a tour for 2019 which will see me play around the UK, Ireland, and Europe. I should be announcing some of the dates for that tour in a few weeks.”

 

How do you feel people are receiving protest music these days?

“Due to the state of the world at the moment, and the fact that politicians are clearly only focused on keeping the peace while dictatorial corporations pillage and rape the planet – I think people are now looking to protest music more than at any point since the 1960s. Which is good news for me because it means more and more folks out there are listening to my songs, but I’d imagine those in positions of power are getting rather concerned. And they should be concerned.”

Lee Brickley quote photo

What’s your take on musicianship vs. journalism? Many protest singers used to write about very current topics, like a journalist, and some do still to this day. Do you think the media is not doing its job today?

“Despite the fact that my song called “Ocalan” repeatedly gets removed from Facebook and YouTube even though the lyrics are historically accurate and simply tell the life story of Abdullah Ocalan up until his imprisonment in 1997, I still think I can get away with saying things in songs journalists wouldn’t dare to write in their propaganda mainstream news articles. But even I appear to be treading a thin line. There are more and more people being arrested in the UK for supporting the Kurdish struggle in one way or another all the time. And there have also been some arrests of songwriters for releasing music on other subjects.

So I don’t necessarily blame the journalists for not having the balls to write articles that go against the official propaganda line of the state. They risk being classed as a terrorist and getting arrested just like me. The only difference is I realise that I have nothing to lose but my chains, and they’re wrapped up in their ever-so-important lives.”

 

What about activism versus art? Should they be mixed? Do you ever get feedback or criticism regarding that?

“There are a lot of people out there who think musicians and songwriters should keep out of politics, but those people shamefully underestimate the power music and lyrics can have over a human being’s perceptions. When the mainstream music industry is filled with songs about sex and getting wasted; what happens? We get a society filled with teenage mothers and drug addicts. People who listened to that music and took inspiration from it long before they were experienced enough to make a rational decision on the matter. Music is incredibly powerful.

If you want to start a revolution, raising an army and asking the IRA for information about their old gun-smuggling routes simply isn’t enough. Not this time anyway. If the people of the UK and other countries around the world are to rid themselves of their authoritarian rulers, they must be united in their efforts. Art and music are essential tools for educating the masses, showing them the reality of their situation, and teaching them how to free themselves.”

Do you partake in activism outside the music?

“Yes. I regularly attend protests for issues I think matter. I also write articles and blog posts, and sometimes I’ve been known to engage in a bit of guerrilla art.”

 

Who are you musical heroes? What about current protest musicians? Anything you are following or can recommend?

“My musical heroes have to be people like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, James Taylor, Neil Young, and Johnny Cash, but there are really too many to mention. As far as current protest singers, I’d like to mention a couple of people that everyone should check out. David Rovics has been writing and releasing protest songs for what seems like forever, and he really is a master in the game. Seriously. There’s also a guy from the UK who’s blowing my mind at the moment called Joe Solo. Check out his song Start a revolution in an empty room.”

 

What is on the horizon for you?

“I am about to record another eight songs that I will release under the title of “The Working Class Revolution EP” ahead of the tour of the same name I am currently in the process of planning in Europe. I still have lots of room available to book extra shows, and the tour will run from April 2019 onwards. If there is anyone out there who would like to arrange a show, please feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to discuss and send all the information.”

 

Thank you very much for participating and for the music. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

“No problem! And yes, there is! I give all my music away for free to anyone who asks for it. It’s possible to buy it online, but I upload it to YouTube, Spotify, and other places so anyone can listen for free. I also happily send out MP3 files of all my music to anyone who sends me an email asking. The reason for this is that I want to make sure as many people as possible hear and enjoy my songs, and I completely understand how tough it is out there at the moment financially. So if anyone wants all my music for free, just email me 🙂

Likewise, anyone who wants to support my music and ensure I can continue to write political songs, record them, and distribute them for free to the masses can make donations however big or small [insert: Lee’s PayPal site].

Thanks for the interview!”

You can also follow Lee’s work through his social media and the event page for the online concert here can be found below:

 


A Protest Music Interview: Raye Zaragoza

Cover photo by Terry Bruce Herring

Since releasing her debut album ‘Fight For You’ (2017) Raye Zaragoza has been titled a protest singer, and she is fine with that. Injustice and inequality inspire her to write songs that can power protesters in their fights for nature and fellow people. But Raye is also more than just a protest singer as she explains in the interview below. She tackles anything that inspires her with an enormously soothing voice and vulnerable honesty. Raye was kind enough to take time while on tour to answer a few questions about her music and activism.

First off, for those not familiar with your work, who is Raye Zaragoza?

“Hi everyone! I’m an LA-based, New York City-born singer-songwriter. My latest album Fight For You is a collection of songs of social justice and finding your voice. I’m very passionate about writing about topics that are not talked about in mainstream music such as politics and indigenous rights.”

How and when did you get into making music?

“I started writing songs in my late teenage years, but I’ve been singing and playing guitar since I was 12. In middle school, I had a little band with my friends and we played Avril Lavigne and Vanessa Carlton songs at local restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, New York (where I lived in my pre-teen years). I grew up doing musical theater, and always knew I wanted to be a performer, but it wasn’t until my late teenage years that I realized being a singer-songwriter is what I always wanted to be doing.”

When did you realise you could use your music to spread messages of protest or activism?

“Although I had written some social justice songs before this, I really started writing songs with an activist message during the Standing Rock movement. During that time I realized how much a song can comfort and inspire people who are fighting injustice. Speaking up can be a vulnerable and scary thing, and music can truly make you feel stronger and not alone. Many of my songs from Fight For You were written about Standing Rock and my journey there.”

How do you feel people are receiving your political music these days?

“With the exception of the expected occasional backlash, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s really been amazing to hear stories about how the songs have comforted people in tough times.”

How important is it for you to send out a specific message in your music? Are all your songs tackling a political subject?

“No — not all of my songs are tackling a political message. I write songs about all kinds of subjects — like nature, love, heartbreak, New York City, California, and anything else that inspires me! I’ve definitely been labeled as a protest songwriter after this album, and although I don’t have a problem with that, it’s definitely not all I do. I like to write songs with light-hearted messages too!”

Photo-by-Ursula-Vari-with-quote.jpg
Photo by Ursula Vari

Do you find it hard to balance between being political and poetic in your lyrics?

“I think that’s exactly my favorite part about it — when the poetry meets the politics. When a verse or a line can help make sense of the madness around us. I feel like social justice music is really what keeps the movement moving and the activists inspired — so for me, even if it’s a challenge at times, finding the balance is the most rewarding part.”

How do you see the current music scene, is there an abundance of socially conscious music today or a lack of people using their voice and talent for good?

“I think there are definitely more and more artists speaking up through their music. I think regardless of whether an artist writes social justice songs or not, it’s very important to be vocal on their platforms. People look to artists for guidance and inspiration — so it’s important we share a positive message.”

What are some of your inspirations or favourite protest musicians out there, active or not?

“I love Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I also love my friends Calina Lawrence and Nahko Bear who are doing so much as activists and artists currently.”

Outside the music, do you partake in any other activism?

“Absolutely. Whenever I’m not on the road, I am very involved in my indigenous community in LA. Last year, I participated in the Run4Salmon, and March to Oak Flat — two indigenous rights causes very in need of support (everyone should look them up!). This year, I hope to return to both and continue to contribute to the protection of indigenous sites around the country.”

Photo 2 by Ursula Vari
Photo by Ursula Vari

What is on the horizon for you?

“I am currently working on my next album that will be released in 2019. I am also touring around the US, Canada, and Europe for the rest of 2018!”

Thank you very much for participating and for the music you make. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

“Thank you for having me! if you’re hearing of me for the first time, I hope to meet you at a live show soon!!!”

You can catch Raye currently on tour. Check out her webpage for further details.

A Protest Music Interview: WOXOW

A debut album featuring guests such as Ken Boothe, Akil from Jurassic 5, BluRum13 and others is no small feat. But that is exactly what Italian producer Woxow has just done. But Woxow does not only have some cool networking skills because Alcazar is also an absolutely banging album. Not only are the old school beats and smooth melodies super fresh but Woxow also set the production up with socially conscious themes which the guest lyricists followed.

Parallel to dropping his debut album, which includes a beautiful 7 inch of the track Chaos, Woxow has also founded a new record label called Little Beat More and apparently the world can except some more dope stuff coming out of there soon. I talked to Woxow and he explained to me how his ‘concept mini album’ is his input into a mainstream industry that disappoints him and how the music is a tool that can possibly unite people and spread some good messages.

“Yes, I wrote a concept for each song with a sort of a guideline, full of ideas, quotes and videos. I wanted the singers to talk about what you hear on the album. I’m a bit disappointed about the mainstream so I decided to do music for giving a little contribution, to spread good values. I’m actually a bit surprised how most people live this life. In the last years I’m trying to develop a sort of consciousness that makes me being a 99% vegan, stop buying the shit I don’t need, trying to be an ethical consumer, go for public transportation and bike instead of cars, do not waste, try to avoid plastic, recycling, etc…

And I have to be honest, what makes me crazy are not the people that ignore all these issues because they don’t know about it, or they don’t have time to dig it or because they’re trapped into the life of work, work, work. What makes me really crazy are the thousands of people out there who know the story, but then they don’t have enough will to be on this side or they don’t believe their little contribution can make a difference, or they’re just lazy. C’mon people, believe in it, we can do it.”

 

For a debut album, Alcazar boasts an incredible amount of maturity, depth and as previously mentioned guest features. I could only but imagine that perhaps Woxow has been lingering in the music industry for a while.

“Yes, I’ve been working in music for several years as promoter, tour manager, dj, etc. I’ve organised a reggae festival in my home town for 5 years until 2009 with names like Alton Ellis, Derrick Morgan, Mad Professor, David Rodigan, Dub Pistols and more. Then I joined The Sweet Life Society – that experience gave me a lot! I was mostly in charge of booking and tour logistics. We released an album with Warner in Italy and we toured all around Europe and USA. We were so lucky to hit some of the best European festivals including Glastonbury. I suggest you dig their new album Antique Beats, serious stuff. In that period I started putting my hands on Ableton and I’m so happy to have co-produced, with their help, 2 tracks, on that album.”

 

As mentioned above, Woxow got some serious names to drop political rhymes onto his debut production. But how did he get all these brilliant talents to collaborate on his debut album?

“I’ve done some research, mainly to find rappers that could fit with the project and I simply contacted them and proposed the collab. With BluRum 13 we already did something with The Sweet Life Society and Hannah Williams is a long time friend, I organised her very first gig in Italy at Jazz Refound Festival in 2010.

Regarding Ken Boothe, I had the pleasure of organising his gig in Marseille in April. After having spent 2 days we listened to the track, I proposed to him to do the feat and he said yes. To have Ken Boothe on my debut album is a real honor, even more if I think that he usually does not do lots of featuring (he told me it was his very first one on a hip hop beat with another rapper). Furthermore it represents a strong connection between the two music I love the most, hip hop and reggae.”

 

Woxow’s music has always been fuelled by protest. His love for hip hop and reggae has drawn him towards socially conscious music and he specifically gives a shout out to Massive Attack for mostly attributing to him turning to make protest music: “Their concert is not a concert, it’s a life experience full of sociological meaning.”

woxow official photo 2

 

Italy’s often turbulent political landscape has for decades been fuel for fiery protest music but before delving into some recommendations of Italian protest music, old and new, I asked Woxow about the current state of affairs in his home country, seeing how a new government was recently formed.

“It’s not actually that they [citizens] voted for the new government, they voted for 2 political parties (very different from each other) that then decided, against any expectation, to join together to create the new government. So basically all Italians are now completely shocked about it. I’m not really into that kind of politics, I think the power is somewhere else. I follow this kind of mainstream politics as I would follow TV series. And I don’t watch TV series.

There’s an Italian scene related to protest music, but I think it was much more serious a few decades ago, especially in the 70’s. We got lots of songwriters that were really protesting with their music (like for example Fabrizio de André). One I really and suggest you check out is Rino Gaetano. In fact he died at the age of 30, they said it was suicide but lots of voices say that he was killed and I believe so.

Then in the 90’s we had an awesome hip hop act which made the history down here, I’m talking about Sangue Misto (translation: mixed blood). They made just one album but it’s still recognised as the master piece of Italian hip hop. And the lyrics… ooooh, straight to the point: smoking and protesting against society. Other bands I have to mention are Casino Royale and 99 Posse.”

 

Through his newly founded label Woxow will be producing two newcomer artists soon and he informs us to stay tuned about that, which we will certainly do. Woxow states on his webpage that he’s been obsessed with music for quite some time so clearly it was thrilling to get him to name drop some acts he is currently listening to and to no surprise it was a long, tight list.

“I’m really into the new Kiefer out on Stones Throw. Then Mononome really excites me, Moderator, Emapea, the new Deca. These guys are my top beatmakers at the moment, you find some of them on the recent minimix I’ve done for The Find Mag.

I’m also into lots of solo piano by Nils Frahm (Screws is absolutely my fav), Akira Kosemura, chilly Gonzales, Lambert, Bremer/McCoy. Then I respect and follow the new London Jazz scene by all those guys around Moses Boyd, Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Ezra Collective, Yussef and Kamaal… they’re amazing.”

 

Finally, as to everyone we interview here at Shouts, we offer Woxow to shout something of importance from the rooftops:

“Yes, a quote I like: “Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.” Thanks, peace.”