INTERVIEW WITH MC-5
Permission of Jazz Press Inc. and by courtesy of Patricia Kennealy
Morrison, from her website www.lizardqueen.com
Reprinted by Permission of David G. Walley
by-David G. Walley
This interview took place in the New York apartment of the MC5's press agent Danny Fields, the day after the Detroit band signed their new contract with Atlantic Records. Present for the MC5 were Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred Smith, Dennis Thompson, Michael Davis and Brother J.C. Crawford. Patricia Kennealy observed.
Wayne: We need to talk about music because music really needs to be talked about. It's the most personal thing. The most important product.
David: All right, how is the energy level of music concerned with the MC5's aims and goals? Is music a radicalizing tool?
Wayne: Oh, there's no doubt about it. Music is, as you know, the killer efficient communication form. It feels good, it feels better than reading something.
David: It's sort of like a cathartic effect.
Rob: [laughter] We're from the Midwest - we don't know any big words...
David: Where do you think this approach is going?
Rob: Structurally, music is going to become much more complicated - with much more content. Musically speaking, there are these many many traditional rules - you know, things that are supposed to be done with rock and roll and are not supposed to be done with rock and roll - all that's going to break down.
Wayne: Well, I'll give you an example. Taking things beyond what they've always been. You know, it's the same musical problem that has been faced by every generation. You have this usually rigid network of rules and regulations, and people putting on music that doesn't mean anything. You have to go beyond. For there to be any progress in music, that has to happen. These old principles have be surmounted with new principles, you know, and new ways of dealing with music, and new ways of conveying music, using music as a communicative , educational, creative and recreative medium, which it is.
David: A friend of mine said that he thinks rock music is just going to go into pure sound.
Rob: Oh, certainly. Pure sound energizes. The more energy in the sound, the bigger the sound that gets to you, the more intense the experience is, and the more intense the experience is, the more intense reality is - your metabolic reality at that moment, you know, an intensive feeling of your metabolism - that's where you find your reality. And music is equated on that level too, because it does make metabolic changes. Like on the stage, I notice metabolic changes at every instant. So fast - your heartbeat and your respiration and everything, because you're using your body 100 percent - that's what music is supposed to make you do. It's supposed to use your body 100 percent, so that you can force yourself out, put out as much energy as possible and make a perfect circuit so that there's an energy flow between the music and the audience, it all becomes one big thing, and it reinforces itself and everybody feels pure and clean. We send it out, and they send it back to you, and we send it out harder and it culminates in a reaction - things happen in the room.
PHOTO: NORM SNYDER
Wayne: Can we take this back a little bit? I'd like to give you background so you know exactly what we're talking about, as it came to us in terms of energy . When we first started - ever since we were aware of music - we always knew that there was certain music, certain records, that really made you feel good. There was something there, something that just really hit you, you know? And when we started playing music, we just played the tunes that really moved us, that really made us feel good. And at that time we called them "drives". Made you feel good, you know. And so everything we did, music, all the arrangements, were always with this driving consideration. Because we wanted to have that drive.
Rob: We knew it felt good, that's all we knew about it. It feels good to play music like that, you want to be involved in making music like that. Rocking on -
Wayne: So we met John Sinclair, and he helped us to the whole concept of energy which is essentially, man, if you take everything in the universe, take everything that the mind can conceive of, anything, everything, and break it down, you can only go as far as energy.
Rob: So you see, we make an analogy between that and the energy content in the music. The more energy there is, the closer you are to what things are actually made of.
Wayne: In other words, energy is freedom. Energy is real, as opposed to a fantasy that exists only in somebody's head.
Fred: Because everybody knows that if we take as much energy as we can and put towards doing one thing, then it'll get done. The more energy you put towards it, the more you get done.
David: The more energy you raise, the more energy you get back.
Wayne: So the parallel with music is that music with the highest energy is the most real music, that does the most for your meat, so we realized why energy music was the music, and the music that wasn't high energy we couldn't relate to.
David: But the music fuses all of you together.
David: But the one thing I do get, leaving the music aside in some respects, is that you're so together, that instead of five separate energies, you're all there.
Wayne: The energy is explosive.
Rob: Well, you take the energy in one person's body, you know it's X amount, but if you fuse it with X number of others, the power of the equation increases proportionally. It's like you say you put in so much energy and you get something back, but it's increasing instead of decreasing - as far as like money goes.
David: Yeah, I know, it's always an increasing thing, and like when you try -
Fred: There's a parallel there then to the whole Movement too.
Wayne: Right, that each person who involves himself has received another person's energy, and it is only a matter of time until there's enough energy to...
Rob: To cover all levels. That's the basic principle involved here, all these different people, all these different groups, and different organizations, are each covering a level; the Black Panthers cover a level, and the Motherfuckers cover a level, and the SDS cover a level. Fusing all those energies together, it's going to spread. That's because everybody is jostling for position on these levels, you know, who's going to cover what level.
David: Then you shouldn't have an argument about levels at all, it should just be power, but that's the thing.
Rob: That's the thing we've been talking about, that's the confusion that's always held people back on this planet. Everybody is involved with all this bizarre confusion and stirring up all kinds of lies and misinformation flying back and forth. That's the very thing that's held the people on this planet back for so many thousands of years.
David: The realization has only become really apparent in the last 20-30 years.
Rob: Right, because we're a young race, and we're just now reaching puberty, so to speak, because there's so much emphasis on sex right now, and there's a whole thing building up, and we're just beginning to grow up; the race, the species, is just going to grow up.
David: When will this be?
Rob: It'll come when its time has come.
Wayne: A whole new species.
Fred: Our kids, your kids-
Rob: Chromosome-damaged kids-[laughter]
Wayne: And those kids aren't going to go through all the stuff that we've gone through, they'll just be starting off cool to begin with.
Fred: They ain't going to be repressed.
Rob: Right, exposed at an early, early age to their whole metabolic thing. You know, kids are hip to metabolism 100 percent - they know what feels good and what doesn't feel good, and they're hip to energy blasts. Man, you see kids in a playground? I mean, you did it yourself when you were a kid, running until you were sweaty and just flipping out - it just felt so good. And you know, you'd cry for hours, man, until you were so pure that you couldn't stand yourself and went to sleep, just like that. You were into these high energy blasts all the time when you were a kid, but then it gets repressed as you get older because you have to grow up.
Wayne: Not just repressed sexually, but repressed on all levels, and you rot inside, and you're no good after a while. All that energy that you should be pushing out, it's kept bottled up inside, it just burns you right out - you're a hulk.
David: So you know, what I question sometimes is the method; you know, it's pure, the energy level, it's good energy - but how you channel it, because -
Rob: Nobody is in any position to tell people how to discipline their own personal energies, you know what I mean? It's like when you become exposed to all that energy, you have to grow, to be that powerful. I wish I could say it more clearly, but that would take in all levels - it's like walking around with a gun in your pocket. Know what I mean? You have to be a gentle dude. When you have the energy of the universe burning through your meat, you have to be killer gentle, because you know that you can explode at any time; you can take care of anything on any level and be so intense that people would just be blown back from you. So you have to be cool; it's like Superman walking around.
David: But we are supermen, because we finally figured out -
Rob: Because we know how to get all the energy.
Brother J.C.: You finally figure out the whole key to judgment - because everything, everything on the human level, everything we go through, it's all a test, everything, everything. You're being tested every day. You're being tested by our boss, you're being tested by your teachers, and you're even being tested after you die, to see how much you leave behind. Being tested all the time. The whole thing is, make the killer judgment - judgment is what defines your actions, you know. What you want is to receive a judgment so pure and so clean and righteous; you'd just always be doing the right thing, all the time, doing the right thing for you but at the same time the right thing for everybody else. Now it's all a matter of direction. If you're going in the right path, you're going in the right direction, getting further and further out to attain the killer understanding of yourself, yourself and your people, and your planet and your universe and your God, and your whole Mother being and whole Mother universe - either go in that direction, centrifically out - or you go centrifically in, towards the planet, weighing yourself down with properties and fame and go down - right down -
ROB TYNER - PHOTO: RAEANNE RUBINSTEIN
Rob: And wind up buried.
J.C.: So you can only take that one direction, to reach out, to reach out to everything to everything. As long as you're going in that right direction, you'll be cool. Plants don't grow down.
Rob: Music can fuse with people, it can bring the people together. Music is an experience shared by all people. It's like water, know what I mean? Now, you can't tell anybody about water. They either drink it or they don't. If they don't have enough sense to drink it, then what can I say?
David: Dig television - television hasn't gone anywhere - the last person who did anything with television was Ernie Kovacs, and that was in 1960.
Rob: Even the people who have hold of it, man, aren't using it as they used to. They used to use the sapsucker to reinforce all the bullshit values. When I was a kid it was all about the war, all propaganda films on the Second World War. I see movies now where they said, "Get all those Nip bastards," and it was just like that; I saw it on TV and you know, I dug it - I saw them Nips get shot right in the neck, man, and I loved it. But the thing is, that was used to reinforce all their bullshit propaganda that they put out about the war. "Mom and apple pie" garbage.
Dennis: They can't do it with the Vietnam war, though.
Rob: I know; they can't do it because nobody is going to buy it, so they don't even mention it, they don't hardly even mention it.
David: Like nobody really fought in the Second World War, they never had real closeup shots of people actually getting shot. Like now, it's instantaneous, and five minutes later it's on film and in the can-
Rob: And Mrs. Smith sees her kind on TV getting his head shot off - it's just about like that. And it's just that supersonic nowadays, and it's just that close to home. Reality is creeping round the old front door and it's going to come barging through, man with all the macabre and the bizarre behind it - until it begins the ultimate flash, man, until somebody leaps out of the TV screen and rapes their daughters right before their very eyes. And it'll get down to that, you know, because something else is knocking on everybody's door.
PHOTO: RAEANNE RUBINSTEIN
Dennis: It's true, it's true.
Rob: Something else is knocking on everybody's door nowadays.
J.C.: You cannot escape it, you cannot purchase sanctuary.
Rob: True, where you going to run to, where you going to hide? So, you get down and get back - that's the decision. Man, I can't stand talking about governments, about war, shit like that, you know. I'd much rather talk about people and music, because that's the remedy for that whole thing right now. That's going to knock that thing down and fuse the people together because it feels so much better than any other method that I can see.
David: Some people are going to have to die.
Rob: Some people are going to have to die.
Wayne: They all worry about what's going to happen when they die. The whole culture is based on that.
David: On the belief in death.
Rob: In the killer death worship culture; but we're involved in the culture of life - life culture, and you're involved in it too. And we know what's righteous, and what's right. And we're just all trying to do whatever we must to bring about the righteous balance of the universe. Whether you call it that or not. We're trying to get the shit together, that's all.
Wayne: Let's get down to things that we really wanted to cover.
Fred: We wanted to talk about music.
Rob: Every time we go to an interview they want to talk about this and that, and we never get to - we have to talk about the revolution the whole time - [laughter]
Wayne: Well, what we're talking about is taking music from stage to stage. I'll go through it historically, man, from the past, so you can see how we come to this stage, but originally we realized that we would just play, just start on a theme, and improvise. So we played and we got very aware of dynamics. In other words, we built up and up and up and up, higher and higher, and better and better and harder and harder, more intense. Finally, we realized that we had to take things beyond Western music, music as we had known it before then, to other levels and other planes.
Fred: We didn't listen to any jazz musicians the only thing we listened to was hard rock and roll. We didn't get into listening to jazz until we met John [Sinclair] just a couple of years ago. So we came through with the rock thing, and just took that out.
Wayne: We realized that we had to get beyond the beat, beyond the key - into playing pure sound. As the expression - pure sound has a feeling; when you get into the sound as opposed to any progression of notes, you get a pure emotional reaction.
Rob: You get closer to the basic element of it.
Wayne: You get a more intense emotional equivalent, more intense, and more pure. You realize that music has emotional equivalents; in other words, how it affects your body, and when you get into pure sound, you're beyond, and progression - it's emotion itself.
David: Can you get beyond progression of emotions too?
Rob: New feelings should bring about new progressions. New progressions and new shadings and new everything. In other words, emotion has an unlimited potential. But our metabolisms are set up in such a way that they can be altered infinitely - you know what I mean. It's a very classic and beautiful and flowing thing that we're into. It's so sensitive, this meat that we have on our bones - and you can feel so many different shades - and new progressions will bring about new feelings in people. New equations will bring about new awareness and new perspectives. It only follows, if your body is feeling a new way, then you're seeing things and getting impressions in a new way.
Dennis: It leads to higher energy; the five of us would keep overcoming all of these inhibitions that we have through the past - and our energies are becoming more fused together, we're just getting higher and higher.
David: It's like you don't have a structure any more, as much as the kernel of one pulsating mind.
Wayne: Yeah, that's true. The music that we're talking about is not music - in the sense of music of the past. In other words, it's not music in terms of everything that people thought music was. We're talking about something else. We're talking about going beyond standard, accepted forms.
Fred: It took the media a long time to pick up on it -
David: The media doesn't listen to music, they listen to money.
Fred: Right, and what I'm saying is that three years ago we were playing stuff that would still be pretty far out today to these people. It's still contemporary, but by the time the media got onto it, it was three years old, and they're just picking up on it now.
Rob: Yeah, but the thing is, the longer they left it alone, the stronger it got. We became more convinced that we were right.
David: What a modern musician has to do, a rock musician or a jazz musician -
Rob: A musician has to become familiar with not only his instrument, but the people he's playing with and to; that takes time.
David: But you know, it's always been a question of priorities; true musicians always suffer. Look at jazz musicians, they've been suffering for years.
Rob: Really, look at Sun Ra.
Wayne: But now, now things have moved around to a position where we can bring the change about, where we can put things in more proper perspective. In other words, we can talk into this tape recorder, and it'll show up in JAZZ&POP, that these people should listen to Sun Ra, they should listen to Pharaoh Sanders, they should listen to John Coltrane. It'll save your ass.
Fred: It's true, no doubt about it. It's the most powerful motivating force.
David: It's the most concentrated form of cultural change. It's power, it's the most powerful force in our minds and I know it's the most force in all our lives.
Fred: The Establishment has never recognized the common people anyway, and especially the common people's music. It just wasn't news that these "niggers down in the ghetto" were making this music. And the poor people's music has never made it because it`s never had a chance to get exposed.
David: We've always been hung up on imitation European culture anyway.
Rob: European culture is such bullshit - quite frankly. But today there's this other culture; it has its own media, its own ways of getting the word around, its own music, own life style - we're basically subversive. The mere fact that some people wear all the outside manifestations of a rebellion against all that bullshit - the long hair, and being dressed bizarre and things like that - they ought to be taking in other levels, also, but they're not utilizing their position. Therefore they're the Pig, because they're in a position to reach a lot of people, and just by default, by not utilizing their potential, they're repressing the others. That's a decision that we all had to face, to make an alternative for ourselves; and we had to construct one.
Dennis: Are you going to be the solution or the problem?
PHOTO: RAEANNE RUBINSTEIN
Wayne: Either the problem or the solution. Can't be both, because if you go on being both, there'll still be a problem. You have to be 100% the solution. And you'll be doing what's right and what's just. Suddenly, here's the concept of being either problem or solution, that naturally makes them consider - well, what does that mean? What problem, what solution? In relationship to what? Which brings about a whole new awareness.
David: Well, it's just then like making somebody think; if you can do that. Nine-tenths of the education in this country is militated against anybody thinking at all.
Rob: We're not for people thinking; we're for people doing.
Fred: People have called us the problem...
David: Who called us the problem?
Fred: Well, we're all a bunch of troublemakers except maybe you - [laughter]
Wayne: See, that attitude there would be the attitude of your regular on-the-street honky.
Fred: Well, listen. We go across the country, we go to a lot of colleges, clubs, and there's a lot of good people in all those places - the people want to talk to you, they want to talk to you about the revolution, and they want to talk about getting together and they'll talk about it, and this is revolution. We have to be doing these things.
Rob: The thing is that there are still a lot of people sitting around and not thinking about it, and not doing anything constructive or useful with their bodies outside of working on a job for the Pig. You know what I mean. And wondering when they're going to get up enough balls to quit, to start doing something that's really them. There's a lot of people right now in that position, it's a decision they have to face. Borderline cases.
David: Well, how do you kick them over?
Rob: Nobody can kick you over, man. I can't tell you who to sock it to. All we can do is to make the information available to them, and be an example, a living model, working out the problem.
Wayne: We'll continue doing what we can do.
Fred: You just have to be righteous and ready to testify at any time -
Rob: And keep in metabolic contact with the universe, and you'll know whether you're righteous or not. You have to keep in - the universe talks to you more plainly than anything, man. When you drink too much wine, you're going to be crawling around in your own vomit, Jack, and that's how the universe talks to you.
J.C.: You can blaspheme against God and the Mother, man, and still attain eternal happiness. You can blaspheme against the Son and still attain happiness. You blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, the laws of the universe, and you get your comeuppance, Jack, right there.
Rob: You jump out of that window, you meet concrete reality, actual reality. You violate those laws of the universe, it talks to you real plain; and you know, that concept applies on all levels. If you do too much of one thing, if you are day-to-day fucked up, it'll talk to you like that - know what I mean? Too much scag, Jack, the universe will have words with you. It will have words with you, and it's not pleasant when it speaks to you like that.
Fred: You're just not doing the things that the universe wants you to do.
Rob: Yeah, and that's the kind of righteous stuff you have to keep your eye on, because that's heavier than praying. God speaks to you physically on a metabolic level, and the universe runs the shit to you and tells you what's righteous and what isn't. And, from that, you can infer how to take care of the rest of your day, man, how to take care of the rest of your whole life, just by following those simple basic laws. It takes a lot of fumbling around until you get them down to the natural facts, basic natural facts.
Wayne: But it's necessary.
Rob: It's necessary, it's the killer experience and the purge: purification and a resensification on all levels. Resensify you back to your meat, because that's the way you take it in. Your meat is your senses, because your senses are made out of meat. And if you don't keep into contact with your meat...that's why all these straight people are so fucked up, man, `cause they let their meat loaf - and it just rots, it rots.
Dennis: Too fat to fuck.
J.C.: It's true, it's true. All these dudes walking around with their dick in a holster on the side, know what I mean?
Rob: Yes - and they're all on the rag all the time, and you can't have fun when you're on the rag. Everybody knows that. These people have always been on the rag and they don't know what it's like not to be on the rag, and they're scared of it.
David: It's being scared of facing themselves.
Rob: Yeah, right, it's like scared of `fessing up, scared of testifying, scared to get down because you might hurt yourself.
David: I wrote a thing which I think ought to get printed sometime, and I said, this government spends billions of dollars every year on tapping people's wires - and all they have to do is turn on the radio.
Wayne: Yes! Jesus, if they knew really what was happening, they'd shoot us. They would drill us with machine-gun fire in the streets.
Rob: This is the real world, and they oughta come on out and check it out - it's far out, but they have a whole other definition of what's really happening in the world. But, you know, we all came from that.
Fred: Right, it's true, we did, I know.
Rob: But it isn't impossible to realize your position in the universe, man.
Fred: It isn't impossible at all, but I tell you, the older you get the harder it gets. You're never as pure as the day you're born.
Dennis: And you're really open then, you're really pure.
David: But man, you get slapped on our ass when you come out.
Rob: That's natural, in order to breathe, man, that slap on the ass - that's a good thing. People need a little slap on their asses - and very shortly the whole species is going to get a little slap on the ass and start breathing and checking it out, because we've been holding back much too long, too long.
David: I live in the East Village, man, I walk down the street, and I can feel, all through my body, I just feel this energy, and I see the Man do his thing with his club - instant bringdown. I'm not saying that all cops are bad - there are certain cops that are really into it - but a pig, right? Okay, I see these guys who cruise around real slow, just checking you out, hassling you, and you think, what are they doing?
Rob: Man, they're just exhibiting the extreme of the honky culture; you know what I mean, the honky culture blended and refined down to one specific - at all levels. If you give them a chance. They're all like that, though, and they're all starting to get into that thing. They're all becoming super-cops, because this is the supersonic age. We got supermen walking through the streets, man. We got super-black militants, we got super-freaks, super-Puerto Ricans, man - and they just have to be super-cops. It's getting like that everywhere, because it's a hip thing to do in the cop circles. That's what they do, that's the things to do. They got super-equipment? We're going to get super-equipment too, man.
David: They've got bazookas, things like that -
Rob: Yeah, right, but we got music and the power of the almighty blessed universe behind us, man. There ain't no bazooka can stop that, not none. Because the universe will have its say, and it's about to speak real loud to everybody.
J.C.: When it happens, you get down, and you go right with it, man. You either get down or get back.
Rob: But we're just playing around, we're just dicking around with this stuff. Look what they're doing with TV, they're just dicking around with it, they're not using it for what it could be used for. It's a beautiful medium, just like rock and roll. Rock and roll's a perfect medium to get information to people, and like nobody is using it. They're just dicking around with it, because they don't know its potentialities and they don't understand their own energies as it applies to those potentialities, you dig?
Fred: It was a very big thing when they discovered the wheel, too.
Rob: That was only yesterday, you know - that was only yesterday. I want to keep re-emphasizing we've only had two million years of history on this planet. This species as we know it has only two million years of history. We're on the hip planet, man, a billion years from nowhere, on the fucking rim of the galaxy; the inter-galactic worlds are infinitely older than we are, and the people; and the species on it must be right in proportion with that. You know what I'm talking about? They've had more time to develop because they're close into the middle of the galaxy, and we are a young species. Dinosaurs ruled this planet and lived as almost the sole life on this planet for 160 million years. Now that's 160 million as compared with 2 million - when the dinosaurs' history was 2 million years into it they were just little things.
Dennis: Well, it's like that; the more time to develop, the more time you spend in reality, the more you have to dig it.
David: With all the equipment we have, all the potentialities.
Rob: I know, and the thing we're talking about is giving Superman the TV camera. And you're not handing it to no chimpanzee, you're handing it to Superman; and he's going to begin throwing out some flashes, man, that are going to be heavy flashes. You know what I mean?