You know we were at the Folks Festival in Colorado a few weeks ago, and Kris Kristofferson got up and it had been a really quiet day. People weren’t really responding to the music … it was kind of chill … people getting into the groove. So he did some loud and proud protest songs, and that was when the crowd was like Yeah! That’s what we want. I couldn’t help but wonder why everyone’s not doing that. I have a hard time with [writing political songs] too, though.
Were you there the day that [Eric Schwarz] got up and did that “[Clinton] Got a B***job” … the b***job song? That was awesome! Standing ovation! Everybody was just like … it was so good to hear an articulate, humorous reaction to the insanity.
Well it is hard to do, I guess, that’s one reason why everybody’s not out there doing it more. I find that political songs are the hardest. You know, it’s really hard to take something so big that is infested with words that are very pedantic… you take a word like capitalism and patriarchy and try to make music out of it. It’s much easier to make love and trains and stars [into songs], you know, that s**t just flows. But when you’re trying to really speak to political issues in a song, it’s very tricky writing, I find. So you know, there’s that.
Yeah I think maybe also, I feel when I really want to write those songs, and I’ll sit down and I’m just so totally infested with news stories and all the information that’s out there … it’s just hard to kind of sift it down into a three-and-a-half-minute melody.
Yeah exactly. That’s one thing I think Hammel does so well.. Just straight up, shoot from the hip, from the heart, just you know, Don’t kill. Don’t Kill … God came down from the mountain … really to distill [all of that into] a listenable, core … this sort of message. Yeah, it’s hard.
I don’t wanna keep you too long. But what would you say is the most pressing thing you want to get across in your work these days?
Ohhhhhh … well I guess on this new record ... one thing I’ve been thinking about and writing about a lot is patriarchy. Back to that easy-to-say, oh-so-musical word. It’s sort of … bah … huh, let’s see. How to say it in 20 words or less? I guess I’m just looking around myself more and more at all the political crises: the ongoing war that the government is perpetrating; what’s going on around [New Orleans] and this part of the country; racism … we’ve never been able to surmount it in this culture; and that environmental crisis, global warming, and we’re all about to slip into the sea … there’s just so many pressing issues right in our face, and I think we have a tendency, [with] western medicine, the witch doctors that we are, to just go right to the wound and poke at it, and keep hoping that if we put the right band aid on, it’ll heal.
I’ve been looking at these political crises for myself in a sort of holistic way, and what I keep coming back to is patriarchy. I just don’t, from what I understand about the world, peace is not possible without balance. And patriarchy is inherently imbalanced. I don’t think there’s any such thing as peace within patriarchy. I think men are great, they have all kinds of awesome ideas about the individual and individual rights and this is very useful stuff for things like Democracy. But individualism leads to hierarchy, which leads to aggression; so I think just the masculine sensibility is not enough to guide us to peace.
I think the feminine perspective, which sees the world as a network of relationships, not as a hierarchy of individuals, is also an essential understanding. An emphasis on relationship and connection is sorely needed, in our governments and our cultures, to strike that kind of balance and shift the dynamic. So, I mean, it’s at this time, when I do many interviews and I’m faced with the is feminism really relevant anymore question … I’m sort of trying to put [it] out there more than ever now [that] our idea of feminism has stagnated and almost been abandoned by many, many people at a time when we should have evolved it. It should be embraced by men and women. I mean why don’t we call ourselves feminists? Young women don’t even [call themselves feminists] anymore, let alone women and men; and instead of feminism as equal pay for equal work – okay, we got that – but try to understand it as a consciousness shift. We have to use feminism all together as a tool to dismantle patriarchies so that all of us together can rise. It’s not … Feminism – not just for babes anymore
There’s your next t-shirt.
Page 1: Ani talks about the making of Reprieve
Page 2: Ani and I talk about the state of folk music and protest songs