Michael Franti leads Spearhead, anticapitalist, funky and growing in popularity. Guy and Joe caught up with him in Manchester here's what he had to say:
GR:At your gig in London when you were talking about Bush meeting the queen there was a great reaction. Your gigs are always interactive. What impact does the crowd have on your politics?
MF: As I travel around the planet I read the world. I meet people day to day and share what people are dealing with, their concerns in their own communities.
I try to absorb as much of it as I can and that all finds its way into my songs and my views on the world.
GR:Your gigs are always political. Do you always get a good response from your audiences?
MF: The short answer to that is no. When we do our own gigs people pretty much know the politics of the band and show up ready for that.
But when we support other bands I've been booed, had stuff thrown at me, people don't always dig what I have to say.
GR: In the UK we've had a lot of unsigned bands doing political music. The anti-war movement here has seen a lot of that. But globalisation has had a strong effect on the radio and the media. We heard about what happened to the Dixie Chicks when they made a statement against the war and the censored radio playlists in the US. Has that affected Spearhead?
MF: During the build-up to the war one of our band members has a sister who is in the military and his mother met at her house by two military intelligence officers.
They asked her questions about one family member who is in the military and another who is in a band that is openly against the war.
They had a file with photos of us performing at demonstrations, they had our bank account records, our flight records and were just getting information. The same is true of other artists~not just in music, but in film, painters, poets, writers, people who organise demonstrations. With the Patriot Act the laws have been changed in terms of how much they can observe people.
GR: At a gig you spoke about the British anti-war movement and how brilliant the demonstrations have been and the feeling. Has the British anti-war movement had an impact in the US?
MF: It has inspired those of us in the movement ourselves. But we don't see the demonstrations on American TV. They don't show any of it. For those of us who follow websites like Indymedia.org or other sites we know about what's going on in England and Australia and France and Germany and all these different places in America. For the average person in the street in America they don't know anything about the anti-war movement, except seeing a few people arrested in San Fransisco and New York.
GR: When Bush was here we brought down the big statue of him in Trafalgar Square. Wasn't that on the front page of the Washington Post or the New York Times?
MF:That was great but I was over here so I didn't see what the news coverage was like in the US. That was a great image and I'm sure it will have got great coverage.
GR: There has been a fantastic growth in your band's popularity. Along with Michael Moore's popularity, you must be hopeful.
MF: Yes, I am hopeful. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think it was possible to live in a better world. The challenge for those of us being political through art is to make the revolution irresistible. At our gigs, we try to get people dancing and having fun and plant the seeds in the lyrics that might take hold.
GR: What would a better world mean to you?
MF: What people are really shouting out for today is that human interests need to take priority over the corporate and military powers. There needs to be something more on the agenda than profit. We want a return to a time when people were concerned with universal healthcare, living in places where everyone can read, have a place to live, have a decent job. We don't want to have governments only concerned that the chief executive of each company lives in the best home they can.
GR: What message do you have to young people living in Britain today?
MF: We lose the path when we feel powerless, and we only feel powerless when we are not involved. The more we are involved in taking things into our own hands, the more we feel our power and the less we are just angry and frustrated. Find ways to become involved.
More can be found about Michael Franti and Spearhead at
Extracts from this interview first appeared in Socialist Worker