Tag Archives: politics

Exclusive demo listen: Darkest Before the Dawn – new protest anthem by Josh Gray

Since singer-songwriter Josh Gray released his first EP, a little over 2 years ago, he moved to Nashville and has been fine tuning his craft as well as keeping his fans in a growing suspense. Now he has just started a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund the recording of his first full length album with the help of music fans everywhere. Many record labels, in Josh’s opinion, “don’t think truth sells” and he is “not willing to compromise” so he is reaching out the people. As part of letting his protest voice be heard Shouts is premiering exclusively a rough, yet somehow perfect still, demo of one of the songs of the upcoming album, entitled Darkest Before the Dawn.

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Like a quiet, gentle anthem of a song, it focuses on Josh’s voice as it floats beautifully through issues such as mass incarceration, racism, patriarchal abortion laws and gender equality:

“every orientation and gender deserves equality, you ain’t saving souls, trying to control, the lives of those, you’ve never seen”

Josh has never been one to shy away either from holding his own country accountable nor the acknowledgment of his own privilege in this world:

“let’s stop arrestin’ for minor possession, if this is the land of the free, ban private prisons that enslave millions, because they don’t look like me”.

When we asked Josh what the song was about he replied firmly: “It’s clearly a protest song and it covers a lot of ground. I’d prefer to not say exactly what it’s about and instead let the listener find out for themselves. If you listen and it pisses you off then you’re the kind of person who needs to hear it.”

Be sure to check out the album campaign and be a part of creating something positive in this turbulent world. And listen to the exclusive feature below:

 

Kickstarter Campaign Link: https://kck.st/2OwIhOA

 


 

David Rovics (interview)

David Rovics’ life has been political since the day he picked up a guitar. Listening to his songs one can hear that storming from his guitar and lyrics. His latest album, Ballad of a Wobbly, covers topics such as the recent Grenfell tower fire in London, the Rojava conflict, the FBI’s Palmer Raids of 1919, the attack in Charlottsville, as well as general pleas of love and understanding for the people, creatures and nature all around us. The first and title track of the album focuses on the so called Wobblies, or the International Workers of the World (IWW), a union formed in 1906 and still operating today is some way. From there David takes us on a journey around the world and back and forth in time. I contacted David and asked him a few questions about his career, the educational part of his music and about an upcoming Facebook Live Event that he is hosting in a few days.

 

As a veteran protest singer and songwriter, many people know your work, but for those still in the dark, who is David Rovics?

Well, that’s a very existential question to begin with…!  I grew up in a woodsy suburb of New York City and I was raised by musicians, one of whom is a lifelong union member (the other of whom would have been, given the opportunity).  I haven’t really fallen too far from the tree (not that I would have admitted that when I was younger).

Has your music been political since the day you picked up the guitar?

I guess I have been political since I first picked up a guitar, but whether the music has been has varied.  I’ve gone through phases of playing a lot of bluegrass, Irish traditional music, and other kinds of things.  There are political elements everywhere, but in terms of writing songs about current and historical events, I got into that pretty early, but not right away.

Political music has not been known to go hand in hand with popularity. How do you feel people are accepting your activist music these days? Has it changed since when you were starting out?

I’ve never had any kind of mainstream success, I would say to put it simply.  Whether that’s because the music is political or not is hard to say, because most artists never have mainstream success, whether they’re political or not.  But I have a good base within the left in many countries.  In Europe this has been a brilliantly consistent thing ever since I started touring there almost 20 years ago.  In the US it’s been much less consistent.  I used to mainly tour in the US, but now I mainly tour in Europe, as a result of these changes, out of necessity.

What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Hopefully it functions on many different levels.  My hope is to educate people about current and historical events they’ve never heard about, or to help them think about events they have heard about in different ways.  In addition to the education aspect there’s the very important aspect of community-building — for that, people need to get together physically in physical spaces and do things together, like talk, sing, eat, drink, tell stories, listen to stories.  As a musician I give people an excuse to get together, which is important.  So basically there’s education and there’s inspiration, I suppose, those are the two main elements.

Do you think you will ever run out of subjects to write and sing songs about?

No, as long as the universe continues to constantly be in flux, there will be things to write about — as long as the Earth turns on its axis.  If the universe became completely static, that would be a problem, but it shows no signs of stopping. 

If all of a sudden all people on the planet were simply patient and kind to one and another, as well as to all creatures and the nature, what would you like to write about then?

There would be many beautiful stories within all of that patience and kindness.  That’s also true when kind people save others from being massacred, for example, but then there’s also death involved with such a song.  But it could be a great song with nobody dying in it, too.  In some of my favorite songs, nobody dies…

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Outside the music, do you partake in any activism?

Well, I’m currently organizing a gig for someone else — a Nigerian actor/singer named Tayo Aluko, so I don’t know if that counts…?  But basically no.  I found a long time ago that for me it’s best to specialize.  I sing at a lot of protests and do a lot of fundraisers for activist groups, but my only role within the unions, left parties, squats, etc., is to sing for them.  I know a lot of really good musicians and a lot of really good organizers, and I know very few who do both really well.  Which makes sense to me, because just between writing songs, recording albums, organizing tours, doing the tours, and raising kids, there’s no time left for anything else as far as I can tell.

Do you follow other active protest musicians? Do you have any favorites, current or old

Oh yes.  Favorites include Jim Page (Seattle), Robb Johnson (England), Christy Moore (Ireland), Silvio Rodriguez (Cuba).

You have a Facebook live event coming up on the 4th of August. Can you tell us about that? What else is on the horizon for you?

One of my main projects over the past year has been writing and organizing a section of my website that teaches people about history and current events through music and prose, at www.davidrovics.com/history.  As part of that project, I’m doing monthly internet broadcasts where I talk about this month in history, and any other subjects people want to discuss.  I’ve been moving from one platform to another to do these broadcasts because I can’t decide which to use, and I was banned from Facebook for a long time.  But this time I’ll use Facebook (I know it sucks, but I want to broadcast to people rather than to crickets).  Oh and as for what else is on the horizon, I have tours coming up in various parts of North America and Europe from August through November, and my first vinyl album coming out in December.  I’m going to the studio in a couple hours to record some songs for it…

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

I love the image of shouting from rooftops.  It makes me think of the art of Eric Drooker of New York City, which has the world’s best rooftops.  And it makes me think of my friend Brad Will, with whom I smoked joints on many rooftops, whether or not we shouted from them.  So yeah — go to www.drooker.com and look at some of my favorite paintings of my favorite rooftops…

Woxow (interview)

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.”

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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.”