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Ted Sirota : The OFN Interview

Photo: Bob Coscarelli

Ted Sirota, Chicago-based drummer and leader of his band, Rebel Souls, is like many musicians playing this music—a rugged individualist that has much to say on his instrument and in his charts.  Sirota sat down with One Final Note for an informal, yet candid conversation on topics ranging from his personal and musical inspirations, his family, why he makes Chicago his home base, and most significantly, his work with Rebel Souls.  He is honest and expresses a sincerity and candor that is refreshing—in other words, he doesn’t sugar coat.  By the way, for those of you that may have missed it, the group’s Delmark release Breeding Resistance is one of 2004’s best, showing a bright future for this spirited drummer, bandleader, and thinker.

Why do you do what you do—what keeps you going?

Well, I guess that the obvious thing is that I love music and you get to a certain point where you get so involved in it, that every aspect of your life involves thinking about it all of the time.  It is just on your mind and it becomes part of you after awhile.  I started playing when I was ten and that was 25 years ago.  Since I was 15, it was a real serious thing with me, so, I tell some people now that I am condemned to music [laughs] because to even try to get another job at this point—there are plenty of things that I know that I can do, but I can’t prove that to anybody with a resume or anything like that.  There are times when I think about just saying, “screw it”.  It is very difficult at times, especially with a family.

Has having a family changed your motivation? Has it made you more focused on music or has it put doubts in your head?

It does both, it just depends on the situation.  To have this place [Sirota’s studio] and to have my kids come up here and hang out with me, sometimes they’re just hanging out for my lessons and they help.  I’ll have them demonstrate things to other kids and they’re up here playing the piano, drums, bass, guitar, and everything.  I think that’s going to be a really rewarding thing for them when they grow up.  It’s just normal for them and having all of these great musicians around the house, coming through—they don’t know who they are.  They’re just...

Daddy’s friends?

Yeah, my friends, but I think when they grow older, they’re going to appreciate all of this stuff.  I wish I had when I was a kid.  So I try to have all of the toys out and then to expose them to all of this culture since they were in the womb.  My wife was performing when she was pregnant, so they were in the clubs with us [laughs] before they were even born.  I think that helps me keep things going.  On the flipside, of course, it’s hard to keep a steady income and that kind of “stability” doing what I’m doing.  The other thing that keeps me going is that since I was a teenager, I have no interest in participating in the everyday workings of the system.  I think what I do is outside the realm of perpetuating the illness of society and as little as I can take part in the everyday exploitation—you can’t avoid it—if you live in the system, you are part of it.  But, I still don’t have any interest in wholeheartedly taking part in exploitation.  That drives me as well to stay where I am at.

You mentioned that you started playing when you were ten—what inspired you?

At that time, nothing inspired me.  At my school, we could pick an instrument at that point and I picked drums.  If I look back, I think it’s probably because I was really into sports.  I was really into baseball and I played soccer, hockey, and basketball.  I was running around all of the time and I think that the physicality of the drums probably attracted me, although I didn’t know that at the time, but if I look back, it makes sense.  I took piano when I was in kindergarten, first, second grade, whatever, but I didn’t continue with it, so when it was time to pick an instrument, I went with the drums.

Was that here in Chicago?

I grew up in the south suburbs.

You said you started when you were a kid.  How did things progress from initially picking your instrument?  In other words, in your early years.

Well, again, I had all of these other interests.  I was just your average kid like that, where I had all of these activities, mostly sports, and drums just became another activity.  So, I would go to my lesson every week and I would practice, but I didn’t necessarily like it any more than I liked playing baseball.  That was a big thing with me.  Meanwhile I kept practicing and I kept going to my lessons and learning so by the time I was about 15, it hit me that I thought I wanted to be a musician and I already had five years of experience of learning the rudiments, learning how to read, and getting my technique together.  I didn’t even realize that I was doing it, but, I was, so when I did make that decision, I had some foundation.  When you are 15, five years seems like a long time [laughs].  It’s a third of your life.  So that helped—I feel like my teachers gave me a good grounding in the rudiments and the foundation of playing the instrument.

Was there any one teacher that...

Well, I only had one teacher, her name was Karen Hazelrig.  I don’t know where she is now, I should try to track her down, but she was down in the south suburbs and she taught me how to read, she taught me how to hold the sticks and how to get my coordination together.  I studied mallets with her too.  She was primarily a mallet player.  When I was about 15 and I started to get more serious, she felt like I had reached a point where she couldn’t teach me anymore. I was getting into the coordination of playing jazz, four-way independence and stuff like that and I didn’t know it, but that’s where she ended.  So she recommended this teacher to me, Jack Mouse.  He teaches out at North Central College in Naperville now, but at the time, he taught at The American  Conservatory downtown.  Before I could drive, I’d take the IC [the local commuter train] down to Michigan Avenue and go to my lessons there.

Photo: Michael Jackson

After that, I’m assuming that you came to a crossroads, if you will.  What next?

It was getting time where everyone goes to college and starts applying and taking the tests.  I started listening to a lot of Reggae music.  When I would go down to my lessons at The American Conservatory, a lot of times I would stick around and go over to Rose Records and buy records.  Then I’d go over to the [Joe Segal’s Jazz] Showcase, so I figured out I could get in there, so I saw Max [Roach] and Tony Williams, Billy Higgins, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Kenny Washington, Mickey Roker, Roy Haynes.  I would go sit next to them at the Blackstone.  I started getting interested in music, at the same time, I was still playing baseball and I realized that I wasn’t going to make the major leagues at that point so I started to think—and all of these people are going to be lawyers and doctors and whatnot.  I realized that I don’t really want to do any of that shit [laughs].  I was at a concert, it was Pablo Moses playing with UB40 and it hit me—“yeah this is what I want to do”.  So I started to concentrate on that more and thought about going to music school, because up to that point, it never really occurred to me that I could make a living and that could be your profession.  Once I realized that it was a possibility, that’s when I decided that that’s what I want to do.

So you went to Berklee?

Yeah.  I just applied to two schools—Berklee and the University of Miami.  I didn’t really want to go to school at that point—I figured that if I wanted to just play, what good is a college degree going to do me?  But my parents insisted that I get a college degree and I think they wanted me to go to a Big Ten school like Indiana—we visited there.

Like a lot of folks around here...

Yeah, but I wanted to be in a city.  I grew up in the suburbs and I used to come downtown as much as possible, but I had to get out of there and I just did not want to be in Bloomington, Indiana.  I didn’t want to be in Miami.  Basically, I wanted to be in New York but at that time, there wasn’t a lot that I was aware of as far as great choices.  New School hadn’t started jazz yet and Berklee seemed like the place to be so I went out there.

After Berklee, you came back to Chicago.  Why did you come back here?  Why not gig in New York?

Well, there are a number of reasons.  Number one, I had to work a lot of different part-time jobs, hustling to pay my rent.

In Boston?

Yeah, in order to take care of myself.  It wasn’t a huge responsibility, but I had to work.  There are a lot of guys that didn’t work.   I don’t know if they had trust funds or what, but I had to work and I was trying to work playing but Boston is not really a working town for musicians.  I was playing in Reggae bands and those gigs were helping me get by, but rent was expensive and for about the past three years I was there, I lived in these huge houses with ten musicians living in them.

In Somerville or something like that?

Yeah, Somerville.  I was getting tired of that.  Friends of mine from the houses that I was in were moving down to Brooklyn and they were all moving into houses with six other or seven other guys and I didn’t want to do that.  I had a girlfriend at the time.  I figured that if I was barely making it in Boston, if I went to New York, I’d be getting in at the end of the line, barely making it in New York and working more hours at a day job and that would defeat the purpose because my goal was to play as much as I could.  So, I stayed out there for about a year after I graduated and then the previous year, Jeff Parker and [trombonist] Sara Smith had moved out here [Chicago] and we had a band before that.  I decided to move back home, partially to re-form the band with them.  [Bassist] Chris Lopes moved out here.  The other part is that I knew that it was easier to get by out here.  I saw musicians working more and it was home for me, although I didn’t move back in with my parents.  It was cheaper and I figured if I moved to Chicago, I would be playing, getting experience performing in front of people, whereas in Boston, you were always playing for other students and intellectuals.  Except for some of the Reggae gigs and some of the blues gigs I did, I didn’t have the experience of playing and performing for everyday people and I wanted to get that experience.  And then I was going to move to New York.

When you got back here, what sort of gigs did you do?  I know you played with Eddie Kirkland for awhile.  Did anything stand out, since I assume you played a lot of gigs?

I met Rob Mazurek right away and worked with him and Lin Halliday, maybe the first week I was here, called me.  I thought that was cool because I had seen his records on Delmark and heard about him.  I was looking for whatever, I just wanted to play.  So I started playing with Lin at the Get Me High [Lounge].  Just a bunch of local musicians like Pat Mallinger and people like that.

Is there anything in particular that stands out?  Was it just a series of gigs and “networking”, if you will?

When we moved back here, we were very serious about the Last Kwartet, which was the band with Jeff, Sara, and Chris.  Chris and I lived together and we had a house with a refinished attic that was the perfect rehearsal space.  That was our goal and we were rehearsing a few times a week and we were very serious at that point.  That was the fall of ‘92 and it was about getting our shit together and the Last Kwartet was the main priority with us.  We were playing at the Hot House and The Bop Shop, places like that.

Did you record?

We never made a record [laughs], no.  But, I have a box of tapes.  I started transferring some of it to CD because I have some friends that have requested some of this stuff.

Will those ever see the light of day?

I don’t know.  I can transfer them, no problem, but it is up to everyone else whether they want people to hear it. I’m sure that some friends will end up with copies of it.  Who knows?  This was still before Pro Tools.  If I had this [Sirota’s rehearsal space] back then we would have made a record, but at that point, you still had to go into the studio and pay for studio time and tapes, etc.

Before we talk about your recent activity with the Rebel Souls, I want to talk about your technique.  What are some of your big influences, people that you have running through your mind when you are playing or composing?

There is so much at this point, it is hard to narrow it down.  If I start naming people, there are 50 people that influenced me that I don’t mention. Before I heard Max Roach, I was listening to The Clash, Peter Tosh, a lot of Punk Rock and New Wave—like the Talking Heads when I was in late grade school/high school.  I was influenced by all that stuff—Classic Rock, Hendrix, etc.  That is just a part of what made up my musical vocabulary.  Then once I got into Jazz, I guess Max [Roach] was the person that I really connected with initially and the music started to make sense to me because of how clearly he spoke on the instrument.

Is it because of the musicality of his playing, like “The Drum Also Waltzes” and things like that?

Yeah, it’s the space.  That’s what caught me.  I can run my mouth a lot if I need to, generally speaking, I don’t like to say a lot of things that don’t need to be said or have already been said.  So I just connected with the way he approached the instrument and then there are so many people that followed in his footsteps that I really liked—Billy Higgins and [Edward] Blackwell, Stan Levey, Dannie Richmond—so many people came out of Max.  Those were my favorite players, and then it took me awhile, I loved Art Blakey too, but I didn’t relate to him as much.  I thought that his style was kind of crude.  It wasn’t until later that I learned how important it was to be able to play with fire and energy where that kind of hit me and I had to learn how to play.  I could always play quiet and with a lot of space.  I had one class at Berklee with Hal Crook that he led and during one of the first ensembles, he said, “[y]ou guys play quiet great, but that’s the last time you’re going to do it this semester”.  He told us that we had to learn to play loud.  I always thought that drummers were too loud, so I said that I am going to play quiet and the other musicians will like that—and they did.  But, I didn’t know how to play with that energy and drive to really drive a band and that’s when I started to consider that in Elvin and Art Blakey.  They were people that I listened to to figure that out.

Photo: Bob Coscarelli

How did Rebel Souls come about?

It came about out of the demise of The Last Kwartet.  That band was supposed to be a collective and it was, but the communication level on a personal basis wasn’t mature enough, I don’t think,  where we could really pull it off.  So, it was like a collective in name but in reality it was sort of like brothers and sisters fighting all of the time.

Because you were in your early twenties?

Yeah, we were young and we were all doing our own thing and going in different directions and I didn’t really know much about communication and relationships at that time.  So, I’ve learned.  One thing I said at the end of that was that I’m going to start a band and I’m going to be the leader.  It wasn’t something that I really was dying to do.  In this case, everyone is going to know who the leader is and if I book a gig, there’s a gig and if I don’t, there’s not.  If I call rehearsal, there’s rehearsal, if I don’t, there’s not and people aren’t going to be waiting around to see what the other person is going to do.  So, I wanted to carry on the type of music that we were playing and the music that I liked and I figured at that point if I want to do it then I am going to have to take the initiative myself.  I found the musicians and Jeff [Parker] said that he was interested and he has been doing it ever since.  It started out me, Kevin Kizer, Jeff Hill, and Jeff Parker.

You recorded four records...


Would you say that the band has evolved?  Do you see it as moving towards some sort of end goal or are you seeing what happens at the moment?

Well, I guess that it is a combination of both.  I made the choice to be a band leader, but there’s only so much control you can exercise as far as having access to people and their schedules.  You have to deal with what you have at the time and then also, keeping in mind a direction that I want to go in or a conception that I am trying to get at.  So I think it’s evolved but it hasn’t been in a straight line—it’s gone in slightly different directions, and not always exactly in the direction that I wanted it to go in.

Well, you have some really big names, Jeb Bishop or Rob Mazurek or Jeff Parker, so I can imagine that scheduling is a nightmare?

It was and I am still trying to deal with that because dealing with just driving my kids everywhere [laughs]—that’s enough, but then to deal with scheduling adults, that’s sometimes too much for me.  I am trying to reconcile the contradiction between having the best musicians, my favorite musicians, and having musicians that are available.  You can have a band in your head but if you can’t ever rehearse and can’t ever perform with that band, it doesn’t really exist.  So I am trying to work on having a band that creates together and starts to work together, rather than just getting a date for a recording session and then rehearsing for a week, recording a record...

So, a real live working band?

Yeah, that’s my goal, really.

Are you at that point right now?  The reason why I ask is that it would be great to see a follow-up to Breeding Resistance.  Will that happen?

Yeah, we’re going to record again.  I hope to record in March, but I have a lot to do to make that happen [laughs] because I have to write new music.  That’s at the top of the list right now and also figure out who exactly is going to be recording it with me.

It might not be the same band?

It’s not going to be the exact same band because Jeb is taking some time off from playing.

Let’s talk about Breeding Resistance.  I wanted to get your thoughts on some of the tracks like “Siro-Wawa”—it’s different than your typical “jazz” song—you shake a little bit, you get your feet tapping.  Is that a direction that you’d like to see more of your compositions go in the future?

I always like to have that element in the mix.  When you are providing this rhythm, you want to see people move something—tap their foot, bob their head—just seeing people sitting there, not moving, smoking pipes, whatever...

What about Anthony Braxton(!)?

Nothing against pipe-smokers, but it sure seems like there is something missing there and that’s not really what I want to do.  I like playing when everyone is up dancing.  I like getting energy back from people.  That’s not only what I want to do, but that’s part of what I want to do.  Again, as I said, growing up with all of these influences, it doesn’t make sense to me to just play out of time, all night.  So that is part of the mixture that I want to bring, music that has a groove.

Less cerebral, to oversimplify.

Maybe.  It doesn’t have to be, but if people hear the groove and that’s all they think about, then that might be less cerebral for them, but if they listen to what the people who are soloing are playing on top of that, then you have both layers, I think.

A song like that can get to anybody, people looking for a little bit of funk at the same time as people looking for some angular solos.

Yeah, I think so, unless somebody is hyper-intellectual and just recognizes that it’s something that sounds vaguely familiar to something that they’ve heard before and then rejects it wholeheartedly on that basis.  It’s up to the listener, I guess.  I guess that that is one thing about moving back to Chicago is that different people come out to your gigs—yuppies come, blue collar people, people in my family.  They can’t relate, a lot of people. It’s intimidating some of the music that we take for granted and listen to.  You mentioned Anthony Braxton, some of that stuff, my mother-in-law is probably just not going to be feelin’ it, you know [laughs]?  Part of what I want to do is reach people and draw people into the music. Rhythm is a good way to do that.

Tell me about “Paper Tiger Blues”.

That’s one of those where I wrote this repeated figure and it actually came from a drum figure that I was playing and I wrote a melody around that.  There are a couple of different elements to it.  It is not really a blues, but it is kind of a blues and I was thinking a little bit of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, and some of these guys.  We talk for granted that the blues is twelve bars but their blues were so organic and sloppy sometimes, that the one chord might be five bars or four and a half—it might change from chorus to chorus.  The structure is a lot looser and more organic, so I intentionally made the form not a strict Blues form, just sort of hinted at it in that way.  And then the other aspect of it is to mock, to take this sad, tragic event that’s happening and still going on in Iraq and mock these people who are perpetuating this crime.  It is a Mao-Tse-Tung quote that imperialists look like real tigers but in reality they are paper tigers—they’re both: They are real tigers and they are paper tigers.  They have teeth and the ability to annihilate and destroy but they are also not invincible and we’ve seen throughout history that the power of the people is always stronger than man’s technology.  We learned that in Vietnam and I think we’re going to see that in Fallujah this week.  They’re going to destroy, they’re going to kill, they’re going to maim and ruin thousands of people’s lives, but they’re still not going to stamp everybody out.  They are still not going to win like they are talking about winning, so this song is supposed to have a little bit of a comedic twist to it.  I wrote this descending line but Jeff Parker came up with this incredible...


Yes, distortion that reminded me of a B-2 bomber.  Again, this is to mock these people and say, “see what happens, you think you’ve got it all under control and you strangled and starved this country for ten years and then you use the most powerful military force in the history of mankind on a small, impoverished third world country and you still can’t defeat it” [laughs].  That, to me, is the “Paper Tiger Blues”.

You said you had played a lot in Reggae bands. What were you going for musically in “This is The Takeover” and the way it is mixed?

Well, the previous three records were for Naim, it’s a British label, an audiophile label.  There is a guy here named Ken Christiansen who records all of their jazz and classical records and they are all done direct to two-track to a reel-to-reel that he uses.  So, you don’t have the option of going in the studio or anything like that.  This was the first record I made that was going to be released where I had the option of doing some post-production, some mixing and adding some effects.  I probably didn’t go as far as I wanted to, actually, on that.

Like “Scratch” Perry?

Yeah, but I wanted to give it a little bit of that flavor, so I actually mixed that here [in Sirota’s studio].  I’ve written a few tunes like that.  Part of the thing was that I knew this Delmark record was going to get out more broadly than the previous ones that were more hit or miss, so a lot of people are going to hear it and think that it is my first record, when it was really the fourth.

Which is probably pretty accurate, since Naim isn’t easy to come by.

No, they’re not.  They did get out there, but not as broadly, so I felt that I was reintroducing the band and I was providing a bit of the formula that I’d been working with up to that point and looking at it as sort of a second debut.  That tune is basically a Reggae tune with some definite Sly and Robbie influence on part of it.

Breeding Resistance is a reintroduction, but it is also your most political.  It’s more on the front burner—is this something that is going to continue, like “Chairman Fred” for example?

I can’t say for sure that I’d sample someone’s voice again or not—maybe, I don’t know.  The politics have actually been part of every record.  Not as upfront because I was censored by the previous label—they wouldn’t let me say whatever I wanted to say.  In fact, they wouldn’t even provide a link to my website because they didn’t like the links that were on my website.  I had some issues with them.  Delmark let me do whatever I want as far as that is concerned.

Except for renaming one of your songs.

Well, they have certain stipulations about what has to be on the cover and the names, etc., but they didn’t censor me politically.  On the first record, I wrote a tune for Mumia-Abu-Jamal and on the second record I wrote a tune for Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt. 

“Geronimo”, right?

Yeah, on the third record, there wasn’t anything, per se, on the record, but I did call it Vs. The Forces Of Evil and I was talking about—I wasn’t talking about Osama Bin Laden at that point, but...

Our continuing U.S. Foreign Policy?

It was actually a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing.  I had a hard time making that record and getting it done and I was blaming everybody that was getting in my way as well as the system.  This one went over pretty well.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to be responded to, but most of the reviews I saw and comments I got from people felt that it was refreshing and something that was missing.  It is not like we don’t need to continue the struggle, so this band will probably continue to be a forum for mixing that politics with, trying to influence people and educate a bit.  Maybe people will hear this latest record and go search and find out who Ken Saro-Wiwa was.  If ten people do that or five people do that, then that might make a difference in somebody’s life.  I’ve always been interested in the relationship between revolution and music and that’s what I am still trying to examine and get at. We definitely still need that, but I have to figure out a way to still do it and not be dogmatic about it.  I don’t want to become a caricature or the band to become a caricature of itself or be too predictable.  So, I am thinking of other ways to go at it.  Right now I am thinking of having this band specifically geared towards that and if I want to do something else, then start another group.

Photo: Michael Jackson

For those folks that don’t live in Chicago, what bands are you currently playing with other than the Rebel Souls—if someone wants to catch you on the weekend and what sorts of gigs are you finding yourself doing?

Well, people who know me mostly know me from the Green Mill. 

For those that might not know, what group is that?

The group is called Sabertooth [Jazz Quartet] and I’ve been there ten years every Saturday night from midnight until five AM.  That’s where people know to find me if they can stay out that late or they’re not too tired from their previous gig.  I might miss a couple times a year, but generally, the past few years, I’ve been there just about every Saturday night, maybe 50 [Saturdays] out of the year.  I play there with other groups, sometimes on Wednesday nights, sometimes earlier on the weekend.  I just did a weekend with this baritone player last month named Claire Daly.  I just played there with the Mike Alamana Quartet, which is a good band, and new band that he’s formed with Geof Bradfield in it.  So I am there with Sabertooth and the rest of the time, it’s all over the place.  Jazz clubs around town and then a lot of what I do is not in the public eye, like I said, I am supporting a family so sometimes I am out in suburbs and creepy places.

If I’ve never heard Ted Sirota, where should I start—recording wise?

It’s safe to start with the latest recording.  That is a pretty good representation of where I am.  I think that it’s a timely record.  Part of what you were asking before and what I want to do is to look at the times that we are living in and that I have this opportunity to make an artistic statement and what do I want to do with this opportunity.  I want to be able to, not just me, but have my kids look back in 30 years and see what was going on in the world at this point and that I was part of a chorus, a voice of people who were speaking out against the injustice that is going on around us.  I’d suggest starting with the Delmark recording, Breeding Resistance, because that is the only one that you’re going to find right now [laughs] unless you go to my website or Naim.  I am pretty proud of the previous record, Vs. The Forces Of Evil.

Was that with the same group that you have now?

No, that was with Rob Mazurek, Kevin Kizer, Noel Kupersmith, Geof Bradfield, Jeff Parker and myself.  I find that most people that know that band know Propaganda, that was the previous recording and Naim did spend some money on radio and print promotion on that one, so that one is the only one that most people know.  I am proud of all of them, even the first record is a good record.  I’d say pick up whatever you can find [laughs]. 

What does the future hold for you?

My goal is to keep learning as a human being and as a musician and improving.  I’m never satisfied with where I am at.  I’ve got to either quit music or I’ve got to keep growing, trying to absorb and challenge myself.  So I am trying to challenge myself now and sonically reach some different areas, some new areas.  I don’t want to keep repeating myself.  So I am just trying to figure that out right now, trying to surprise myself through the music.  Ideally, I’d like to be playing this music full-time, that’s my goal.

The Rebel Souls?

Yeah, or just creative music in general.  It’s just getting harder and harder with the way things are with the economy and society right now.

And the business, the music business.

Yeah, it’s pretty bleak [laughs].  It’s pretty rough.  I think people are coming to terms with that at least it is an incredibly difficult thing to do, if not impossible.  You know, some of the people you mentioned, even in this interview, who are considered to be brilliant improvisers still have day jobs.  I know some guys who are really well-respected and who I think are incredible in town and work as bartenders or at Starbucks.

They’ve got a good employee benefits package!

Hey, I know, it’s reality.  I keep that in mind, but that’s why I started playing—I started playing because I wanted to create and not because I wanted to play at someone’s bar mitzvah.  We went and did a little East Coast tour and I felt really good about it.  I didn’t make any money, really, but I felt really good about playing for people who came to hear the band specifically and playing our music.  That is what I want to do.

Will there be more tours?

Yeah, we will be getting out more, as soon as I clear off this credit card a little bit [laughs].  We’re trying to plan something for the West Coast and then another East Coast thing and some more dates around the Midwest.  Over the next six months or so, we should be getting out some more.

Probably after the new record?

Well, after that too, but I still want to try to work this one a little bit before we lay it to rest [laughs].   I guess I want to say one more thing that no one ever asked me about.  I read things about the band where they say, “well, this isn’t rebellious” or “their music’s not that rebellious”.  That wasn’t really my point at naming the band.  The name of the band came more from a political thing.  A political/musical thing where I was invoking the legacy and spirit of people like Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Stephen Biko, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Charles Mingus—these people, to me, had Rebel Souls.  They were never willing to just go along with the status quo and give up.  In all this adversity and insurmountable odds against them, they still went with what was in their soul and their conviction.  That is more where the name of the band came from and not from “I’m trying to blow people’s minds with the most revolutionary music”.

Well, right, you are not trying to hit someone over the head with your “agenda”.  It’s important part of it, but what is important is the music and sprit, right?

I think that they are both important, but whatever you want to come away with.  There are certain people that obviously do not care about the politics, but they feel strongly enough about the music that they can set that aside.  I hope that more people will connect with where I am coming from because that what’s creating the music.  But, that is up to the person, that is up to the listener.  I am not trying to ram it down people’s throats and that’s why I try to keep a sense of humor about stuff because you can’t make people do what you want them to do.  You can only try to put your thing out there and see if it influences some people.