MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG:Thanks for taking the time to chat. How are you?
BILLY BRAGG: I’m doing well, thank you. I’ve been waiting patiently this afternoon for [Woody Guthrie’s daughter] Nora Guthrie to get to her office. We have a little difficulty with … there’s a fascist party in Britain called the British National Party -- they’re a racist/fascist party, they have a record label, of course, and they just put out this album by this guy who writes white supremacist songs, and one of the songs is a rewrite of “This Land is Your Land.”
MAG: Oh man, that’s awful.
BB: Someone said to me earlier today, how do you think Woody would feel? I know how the guy would feel, I’ve always resisted speaking for him because it’s not my job, but lemme just tell you, it said on his guitar, “This Machine Kills Fascists” …how do you think he would feel? Hopefully Nora will be able to do something because she’s got the moral authority to do something about it, because they’re gonna give the song away in schools, believe it or not.
MAG: Is it depressing at all to know that in 2006, these things are still happening?
BB: You know what’s worse? These bastards won a seat on the council in my hometown. The first seat they’ve won in London for 10 years, and in my hometown, an industrial area in East London. My own people. It was just unbelievable.
MAG:So when you think of all the years you’ve spent fighting this kind of thing around the world and then you see it happen in your own backyard, what does that do to your spirit?
BB: Well, it just reminds me that the fight goes on. I came into politics to fight against these people with Rock Against Racism, you know, and if you look at my last album [2002’s England, Half English] I’m trying to address issues of identity again, and I think unfortunately that in the wake of 9/11 and in my country, since last summer’s June Bombings, which were done by British citizens, the issue of who does and who doesn’t belong has become a real big hot potato. In fact, I’ve been writing a book for the past year on this subject, and it really was inspired by this party, the BNP, winning a seat in my hometown. It made me think, is this all I am? And if this isn’t who I am, why not? What happened to me that makes me different from those people?
MAG: What do you think it is?