Tom Morello, aka the Nightwatchman, has been very active and vocal in the music activist field recently, and spoke at length about music, activism and politics in a new In These Times interview.
In These Times: How does music tackle politically charged subjects?
Tom: “There has never been a successful wide-scale social justice movement in this country without a musical soundtrack, whether it’s the working class struggle, the civil rights struggle, the peace struggle. Music and culture have always been a critical component in both voicing and amplifying struggles for social justice.
I was transformed and encouraged by the music from groups like The Clash and Public Enemy, who made me feel less alone in my worldview as well as created compelling art. And that made it seem like change was possible and that change could sound kick ass at the same time.
So whether it’s with Rage Against the Machine or with The Nightwatchman, I’m consciously working in that tradition. First of all, the music has to be compelling. No one wants to listen to a Noam Chomsky lecture with a hip-hop beat behind it. The artistry is paramount in order to convey the truth that you’re telling.”
In These TimesAre there enough similar musicians with political guts and sophistication?
Tom: “Sure. From artists who’ve been around a while like Steve Earle and Billy Bragg, to the newer artists like Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes and Rise Against. Sometimes the artists that are making confrontational music are not always at the top of the charts, but they are certainly there and plentiful.
I didn’t choose to be a guitar player. That chose me. So once I’m stuck in that vocation, it’s my responsibility to find a way to weave my ideas into what I do. I think that’s everybody’s responsibility—whether you write for a magazine or go to school, whether you’re a carpenter or plumber, a teacher or a longshoreman—not to leave the integrity of your beliefs behind when you go to work. That’s how you change the world. You bring what you believe into the thing that you do.”
For the rest of the interview go here: