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Michael Franti (Spearhead) - conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Communicating Social Justice

April 2005

MVRemix: Which documentaries or pieces inspired you to actually create this?

Michael Franti: I've seen very few documentaries, but as a kid I was a film freak. I would go to the theatre on Saturday and go to the cheap show - I would see every movie that would come out and I'm still very fanatical about film. I love the cinema. I love the smell of popcorn. It really wasn't about the documentary to me, it was really about the experience of being in a theatre and being transported to a different world through sights and through music. The films that have always sat with me the longest and struck me the most were the films that were about real things. When I'd see something really incredible in a film and the end would say it was based on somebody... on a true story.

MVRemix: Over your career, who've you enjoyed meeting the most and who has shocked you the most upon first impressions?

Michael Franti: I think Fidel Castro. I was in Cuba and we did a big show with a bunch of American and European artists collaborating with a group of Cuban artists. It was right at the time where US started bombing Kosovo. I decided I would have to emcee the show and at a certain point I decided... I said it in Spanish, but I said the American people who brought us here asked us to not say anything political when we're on stage. It's just supposed to be this friendship thing. I've always been a political artist so I can't not speak about what's happening. I said "I hope that the conflict between the US and Cuba doesn't end the same way that what's happening in Kosovo" and the crowd stood up and cheered. Afterwards, we invited in the middle of the night to this thing none of us expected to be at with Fidel.

MVRemix: Moving onto a lighter note, which artists inspired your stage show?

Michael Franti: Fishbone, Janes Addiction, The Clash, Public Enemy... I used to work in a nightclub before I played music. So when I was just started I saw The Flaming Lips, R.E.M., Gang Starr, X-Clan... Really what I saw was the bands that were able to connect with the audience versus the bands, which just had hits. Sometimes they'd be really anticipating a great show and they'd come in there and see that the audience was standing still. Then other times, like first time I saw Sonic Youth - I was like "Who are these guys?" Then I saw their live show and I was totally blown away.

MVRemix: Tell me a little about Australia's "Love Kamikaze"?

Michael Franti: In 1998 I started recording songs that became the album "Stay Human," but that album was a very political record about the death penalty and about the shutting down of pirate radio stations in America. By the end of it, I had written a bunch of love songs or songs about sex and love and I felt they didn't fit in with the context of the "Stay Human" album. So I just put them away. Recently I went through cleaning out my studio and was playing old demos and old cassettes and stuff and I heard a batch of those songs. I was playing them for people and thought "That's a great record." We just collected a couple of remixes and a bunch of songs that were about sex and love and made this album. All the songs are a very dance orientated groove - a kind of funky record.

MVRemix: What's currently going on with regards to the new Spearhead album?

Michael Franti: We've been in the studio. In February we spent about two weeks in Jamaica recording a Drum N' Bass track with Sly & Robbie. Now we're in San Francisco and we're doing the keyboards, the guitars and the vocals. We'll have it in the can by the end of April, it'll come out in August.

MVRemix: Have fun with this one, a la "Fight Club," "If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight?"

Michael Franti: I think I'd fight Lee Perry.

MVRemix: Any particular reason?

Michael Franti: Because it would be an interesting fight. I can't imagine it being a fistfight. It would be some kind of fight on a different level, like an astro-fight. A spiritual joust!

MVRemix: Now would you win?

Michael Franti: I'm quite certain I'd be slain. I'd be the dragon and he'd slay me.

MVRemix: Aside from the documentary and the Spearhead album, are there any other projects you're working on?

Michael Franti: Those are pretty much it. At the moment we're just sitting down to watch a version of the film which is just the Baghdad portion of the movie. We're considering putting out two films. One about Baghdad and one about the Israeli-Palestinian concept. Right now we're watching a cut that we did about Baghdad that we extended and included more footage in. There could be two films. I wrote thirty songs while I was there and when I came back. Twelve will go on this next album and we'll probably just keep recording and have another album ready to go after that.

MVRemix: Do you have any last words?

Michael Franti: [ponders] I believe that music is a gift that was given to us so that if one person hears a drummer playing a drum in the distance, they'll run to them and maybe the two of them will come together and the person listening might clap hands. Then the power of the two people coming together is greater than the drummer sitting alone and playing. Because of that, I still really believe in the goddess of music. We should be observant of that and that file sharing and trading music online is a very important thing for us to have that opportunity.

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