Rocktober: Get Out And Vote!

Lorin Ashton - Bassnectar

Is this election different than past elections, why or why not?

I think it's human nature to center ourselves as the orbit and the pivot of all current events and circumstances. But I am sure that during Vietnam, or the race riots, or slavery for that matter, elections felt equally urgent and equally severe in their importance. And in each case, human individuals changed the course of history.

I once heard Noam Chomsky answer a question about why anybody should give a fuck about politics when "we" all worked so hard in 2000 to support Gore (and continue the bounty and upward mobility set about by the Clinton Administration) and when we all tried SO HARD to prevent the War in Iraq, but to no avail.

Chomsky had a precious insight in which he said (I'm obviously paraphrasing here) that back in the straight-edge 50's during the McCarthy scare and all that was going on, people were slow to speak out against the government, and specifically the War in Vietnam, which erupted in the 60's. He detailed a timeline comparing the rate and magnitude in which people expressed dissent 50 years ago versus today, showing how in fact the hundreds of thousands of people responding in protest almost immediately these days is such a precious step forward, forward in terms of our ability to organize (via the internet, etc) and make a more powerful impact. These things take time. And we are making progress. And at some points we may not actually MAKE progress but perhaps will need to focus on simply not loosing any ground. It is all an ongoing process, and I do not think it is about seeing world peace in our lifetime; it's about each human diving headfirst into history with an exalting cry of enthusiasm and pushing things in the direction they believe in. And that's the beauty of Democracy.

But do not be fooled. We live in an aristocracy of sorts. There is a rich upper class in control of the big issues that affect the world. For many of these people, their grand father's grand fathers were also in similar places of social stature and power hundreds of years ago. These people do not let go of what they are born into, they feel entitled to preserve their way of life, and it transcends nations and religion and all the silly dogmatic distraction-based modern phenomena that are used to manipulate the masses of people under control of the "upper class." By using the illusion of Democracy, the brain-washing of Nationalism, public school curriculum, TV, and all the media outlets (which are also under control by the upper class of course) 95% of the world's population is kept under control. And there is always the military if other attempts fail.

So it doesn't REALLY make a difference if the Democratic Party or the Republican Party wins the presidential election. Every last one of them is entrenched in this insane system, and although Obama smiles broadly and speaks nice words, he is STILL a politician, and his trust needs to be EARNED.

That said, now is not the time for critiquing the Left. Because what matters right now is removing the neo-conservative mess of corporate-military-fascist-dictators from office (The Republican Party) and replacing them with a party that is a bit more dedicated to actually serving the people.

While the Democrats are not going to turn America from a racist, nationalist, religiously-zealous, uneducated, distracted, misinformed, hypocritically violent and selfish country into a healthy member of the world-body of nations of people, they have A FIGHTING CHANCE of returning our focus from war to health, from fear to education, from UNABASHED corporate crime to semi-less-unabashed-corporate crime...

Look, it is insanely difficult to really discuss these issues succinctly. At face value: YES! THIS ELECTION IS INSANELY CRITICAL. We just endured eight years at the hands of a rouge mafia who stole the election, stole the treasury, raped the constitution, ruled by spying and torture and threats and wars and the theft of billions of dollars and a compliant media that allowed them to do so. We can change this, but at least TWO things must be understood:

1. It takes commitment (time, energy, money, etc).

2. The issues all run WAY deeper than they appear at first. ALWAYS. And in order to really be effective you need to get involved and STAY involved. It goes WAY beyond getting Obama in and the Republicans out. Because as soon as Obama is in, it's time to start leaning hard on him.

The Republicans are the direct face of the upper class... there is no separation there. The Democrats are slightly less threatening by comparison, but at least in theory they stand for the middle class.

And all that trash about Sarah Fucking Palin... god. That woman will say anything and she does. But saying it does not mean it is real. The McCain/Palin ticket is 100% about maintaining control by the upper class. And nobody reading this is part of the upper class.

So it is fair to say if you are reading this, and you choose to vote for McCain (or you choose to NOT vote against McCain, and thus you strengthen McCain), you are foolishly and bewilderingly choosing to support people who want you to sit down, shut the fuck up and keep quiet.

And I am happy to say, that's not me.

I am ready and full of excitement and enthusiasm about this time. What an honor to be alive and ready right now!

What is the relationship between music and politics - and how, if at all, has this relationship affected your music?

Let's make a distinction, for me it is about the relationship between music and ACTIVISM. And that relationship between can be anything you want it to be.

It's different for everyone. On one hand, there might be kids on a message board trying to make a point that I should only play music and not combine political issues at all. These are the same people who might be directly affected by the content I am discussing, but they decide right off the bat they favor escapism to activism. These are the same people whose friends will get arrested in the Drug War, whose sisters may need an abortion, whose loved ones may be sent off to fight a war, whose grandmother is getting fucked by her health insurance, whose mother's job may be earning less money, whose father's investments perhaps just crashed in Wall St., whose future kids may grow up under a polluted sky, drinking brown water, or working in a sweatshop to create meaningless merchandise for some Asian or European nation; and they are telling me I should just make music.

I laugh at them because that is so painfully stupid and ridiculous. But I feel even more inspired because it means I just need to pull more weight. If they want to be escapists it just means everyone else needs to work harder. Perhaps they would rather run around taking non-stop drugs and only going to parties* rather than have me harsh their mellow, but I am fearlessly committed to speaking my mind, and making waves. And I believe in myself, which is a good thing. Even better, I am ready to be critiqued because I assume I am misinformed a lot and make bad decisions a lot, so critique helps me improve!

*Nothing against drugs or parties but there has to be a balance in my opinion. And that balance comes from people actively defending our civil liberties. I will work to defend the civil liberties of those kids just the same, through music or other means.

On the other hand there are people like Nas, Public Enemy, The Dixie Chicks, Kanye West, FreQ Nasty, Z-Trip, DJ Quest, John Lennon, Manu Chao, and KRS-One (and the list goes ON) who celebrate the inherent relationship between music and politics. And for myself, I see a direct relationship between music and politics via participation... by strengthening a community centered around positively impacting the world around us. I think that we (people alive today in this culture) are INCREDIBLY lucky. Music is a celebration of that, and it's also a magnetic force that brings people together. Music is also about waking people up... jolting people. People might be pissed off initially right when they are waking up, but I think it's insanely powerful and good to flip the fuck out and interact with other people at the same time.

For me personally, I don't think of my beliefs as politics. I think of them as meaning. They are thoughts and emotions that swirl inside of my electric brain and they come out in many forms. One of those forms is music. Music is this magical language that is so expressive and sublime, and if you want soul-less music (just turn on the radio) then that's fine, but my soul feels very deep and diverse (like I am sure yours does) and it explodes through music (and in many other ways).

In addition, THE ATTENTION THAT IS PAID TO A MUSICIAN is a *whole* different matter. And *THAT* in my opinion is where I have no other choice but to use it as a vessel for my creative thoughts, values, and convictions. I am not making music to be cool, to get laid, to take drugs, I am making it in part because it is a helpless and immediate reflex to the stimulus of life, and in part because it creates a wave of attention upon which I can deliver messages/meaning/content that I feel strongly about.

If you could speak directly to all American voters, what would you say?

1. It is vitally important that you actively educate yourself (though research, discussion, and the fearless exchange of open dialogue, debate, and criticism) because powerful people are working non-stop to keep you misinformed. And you deserve to think for yourself. What better way to do so than to personally cultivate your mind into the sharpest instrument.

2. Nothing you experience in this life is an irrevocable right. And most of what we enjoy in this culture we take for granted, and one day (soon) it could be taken away. Many of these luxuries and rights are given to us on the backs and necks of people who fought and died to give them to us. On one hand you owe it to (THE PRESENT) yourself and your peers to preserve this. On the other hand, do it for (THE FUTURE) your kids and their kids.

3. Read:
-Naomi Wolfe's "THE END OF AMERICA"


And then write a paper on it, seriously. Do not just accept what they say, but CRITIQUE it, analyze it, discuss it, learn more, and GET INVOLVED. And then have your boyfriend or girlfriend read it and critique it. And post it on your MySpace or Facebook and have everyone comment on it, and do not be afraid to learn that some of your opinions are incomplete or maybe uncultivated. BRING IT ON! You have nothing to loose, and everything to gain (and share). If you don't have a boyfriend or a girlfriend and you have a crush on someone, instead of buying that disgusting Axe deodorant you see advertised on TV, try giving them a well thought out paper you write on the state of the world and ask them to critique it.

Just an idea...

Much love and respect,

Bassnectar is on tour now, dates available here.

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