Art and politics

By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  May 31, 2006

That was the beginning of another 30-year cycle — of an attempt to gain control of the culture by declaring war on the people of the revolution and what they’d accomplished. And leaders with a malicious contempt for the accomplishments of that revolution now run the country. These leaders have disgraced themselves and many of them are being taken to jail. And now, we as a people are tired of being so uptight that there’s going to be an explosion of freedom.

We need to begin to deal with the realities of life in an effective way. I thought that we Americans were supposed to be super efficient and super smart at solving problems, not only here but all over the world. What happened? I feel this culture is filled with creativity and imagination, and if it’s left free it can come up with the solutions we need.

The first problem is that years ago we made the decision to shift our development from our cities to the suburbs. When that started happening there was an outcry from the bohemians and that was taken as some kind of flaky proposition, but looking back it was completely practical, because our insistence on having a suburban culture has addicted us to fossil fuels in a way that is going to destroy this country unless we get smarter right now. We’ve got to start dealing with that and every other issue we’re facing, like global warming and the war in Iraq, and we’ve got to deal with it like intelligent, informed adults. And that’s the stuff that’s behind a lot of what I’m expressing on the album.

TD: The theme of identity seems to be an important current in your work.
TBB: Identity has been a big question in art for 100 years now. Picasso and the Dadaists and Cubists were addressing identity, and Jackson Pollock and all of the other brilliant abstract painters. When I’m making records, it’s one of the first things I try to establish. I want to make every effort to be sure that there’s a picture of the artist you can see, even if its meaning or content is ultimately unfathomable. I’ve always been looking for ways to frame myself that would allow my own truths and abilities to come out.

TD: You spent a lot of time experimenting in the studio before you started to record True False Identity in earnest. How did you arrive at the kind of percussive orchestral approach of the album? The only other artist who's really gotten into the same sonic and rhythmic territory is Tom Waits.
TBB: Tom has certainly been a bright light and a great friend, too. I’ve listened to his records a lot, and he and I have heard a lot of the same stuff. Before making the album I’d been listening to the likes of John Adams and Steve Reich and other modern kind of minimalist composers. The idea that hearing and performing music is more than a matter of notes is really important. Years ago the traditional way of writing and playing all fell apart for me and now I hear music more as rings and bings and bongs and pure sounds that people can express.

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