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Taken from Eugene Weekly (Oct 28, 2004)


An interview with Michael Franti.


Michael Franti
Spearhead plays
the McDonald Theatre
How are you feeling?

Michael Franti: I'm tired. I'm on an hour's sleep. We were up in the studio all night. I'm writing a new album and I'm editing this movie about my time in Iraq.

During your trip to Iraq, Jordan and Israel this year, did you get some different perspectives?

Yeah, there were a lot of different perspectives. There were a lot of Iraqis that had a sense of hope that maybe things might actually work out for the better. They were very hopeful that with Saddam gone there was going to be an opportunity for them to have a freedom that they'd never had before. But things in Iraq are so difficult, and time and time again Americans are proving themselves to not be a security or peacekeeping force in the area, but an occupying army. With all the civilian deaths that occur each day there, it's getting more and more difficult for Iraqi people to understand that's it's anything more than a hostile takeover.

How did the organization of that trip come about?

In March I gave my manager a call, saying that I wanted to go to Iraq, and after her initial .

What the fuck!?

Yeah, exactly, after 'what the fuck,' and 'are you joking?' she went about this task of discovering exactly what you need, and we were surprised to find out that you needed very little in terms of any type of visa or clearance. You just show up, and that's what we did. The most difficult thing to overcome in terms of getting there was the fear of going. As we were planning the trip all the photos came out from Abu Ghraib, and part of my mind was imaging myself hooded in some cell somewhere. Also the first beheading had taken place as we were planning the trip, so the other side of it would have been captured and held as a potential ransom. And there's always the thought that you can be anywhere on the street and get caught in a crossfire or a mortar attack, or in some accident.

How close did you come to actual violence?

Well, it's all around you. Everywhere you are in Baghdad you can hear gunfire, mortar fire, especially at nighttime, and everyone carries a gun, so literally everywhere you look there's someone on the street with a gun. The closest we got to any live fire was at a refugee camp in Hebron, Palestine, and I was walking down the street playing music and some Israeli soldiers came around the corner and opened fire on the crowd. People died.

What was the most interesting thing you were asked in your last interview?

Well, it was about how people view America. I go to a lot of different countries. After this last election, people said to me, wow, Michael, Bush is really making life difficult for the whole world right now. We really understand that there's a difference between American people and the American government, but if Bush gets elected this next time around, we're going to have a hard time making that distinction.

You still run any ball? (Franti played college basketball)

Uh, you know, I don't very often. I played soccer a lot when I was on tour with Ziggy. We played soccer a lot with the band.

Can you still dunk?

I can still dunk. I'm 38 years old, so I feel pretty good about that.

Do people in your past say you're a good lover?

I would hope so, but I'd be more concerned that the people in the present say that.

Have you ever met the Dali Lama or do you have any plans to?

I would love to and I have yet to. That would be very, very exciting.

I assume he's waiting for you.


How's your body doing? The touring experience. Do you keep pretty healthy?

Yeah, I try to take care of myself, eat healthy, and I practice yoga everyday; I try to keep my body going. The most difficult part is getting enough sleep.

What's the number one way you've changed these last couple of years?

I try to be less judgmental about myself and others. That's one way. Another way is that I've become very clear in what I want to do. I want to be the most effective musical communicator of social justice I can be. I want to practice my music, become a better songwriter, become more able to touch people, to have first hand experience, to remain playful, and to pass that on to my audience. With urgency, but also with playfulness.

What's the most spiritual you get?

Well, when I'm worried about the future, when I'm dwelling on the past, when I'm not in the moment . I'm most happy in the moment, whatever moment it is. It's the experience of being able to quiet my mind. If I'm looking in a pond and trying to see my reflection, if I'm constantly dropping pebbles into the pond, it affects the clarity. It's when I arrive at a clear pond. I believe that God is contained in every breath of air, drop of water, animal and plant and rock, and when my mind is quiet I see the connection a little more clearly.


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