Interview: Rob Tyner Lead Singer MC-5
The following interview with Robin Tyner, lead singer of the MC-5, the major Detroit avant-rock band, was recorded by John Sinclair in the first week of May, 1967, for THE SUN. The MC-5 has been together for almost three years and has developed into one of the most exciting bands to be heard anywhere. The group comprises Tyner, lead singer, harmonica, autoharp, etc; Wayne Kramer, lead guitar; Fred Smith, rhythm guitar; Michael Davis, bass; and Dennis Thompson, drums. Their first 45 single, "I Can Only Give You Everything," has recently been released on the AMG label, and an album is being planned now. Tyner himself is not only a brilliant singer and leader but also draws, does cartoons, writes songs, and is writing a book of exercises for lead singers which will be published soon by the Artists' Workshop Press/Detroit.
JS: Let's talk about the music...
RT: Well, as I see It, the real music scene in Detroit is doing all right. But the whole -- the population of all the musicians -- and there's an awful lot of young musicians in town -- the percentage of these people who are really into it is so low that you never get to hear any of it. I mean if there is somebody in town who is really into it, you know, in the straight teeny-bopper scene, we never get to hear them. I've heard very few bands in this city that I can even listen to--like, there's Billy C. and the Sunshine, I have to mention those cats -- but the whole thing is like very appalling. Because being a musician, I've lost all my sense of being entertained. You know, I can't be entertained at all, because I'm an entertainer. I know that this isn't like, AH! A SHOW!, but just guys up there working a job like I work a job, and I've lost my concept of that. But to see somebody get up there and actually work, like work on a musical plane, to get onto these planes and just drive and work like a motherfucker, you just don 't see it. Except, of course, when you 're listening to the three or four good bands in town, or in the area--the ones I've heard. And I hope to God there's more people, you know. And there will be. Because the real people are getting good, so the people who copy them will have to get good. So pretty soon it'll be... well, I have no worries about the scene, let me put it that way. Because it's just going OVER THERE, you know, from all the contact. Like, you go to the Grande Ballroom and what do you see? You see, like, Billy C. and the Sunshine three times -- there are bands who are Billy C., or who are the SpikeDrivers or the Southbound Freeway, you know, you find that even now there's a small amount of hero-worship going on, and copping different numbers and things. It used to be that you'd go to the Grande and there 'd be 4 or 5 MC-5 bands, 2 or 3 Billy C. and the Sunshines, the Back & Back Boo Funny Music band.... and those people used to be sort of a driving influence there, but it's gotten so far now that we can 't even play there any more. At any rate, the musicians who do copy, who've got it down, you dig, and they'll be getting into it pretty soon. Because every band comes, you know, you get five people together, or four people, in a band, who have got it, and you'll just come. One night you'll be up there on the stand and you'll just come, and the people will flip out, and it will be together, I felt it in my group, you know, like "unhhh, unnhhh, i'm coming,' and then POW! -- one night we EXPLODED. We didn't care if the people dug it or not, and musically we just exploded. We used to do our "avant" numbers as sort of unleashing a monster on the crowd -- we didn't even care if they liked it, we hoped they hated it, because we were killing them, we were shooting them down with these monstrous amplifiers and we just didn't care. We were obnoxious. We 'd get up and do all of our tunes, and then at the end, we'd COME.
JS: "Black to come," yes. That always makes me think of William Burroughs, you know, "People of the earth to come out. . . "
RT: The job is getting rougher every day, getting more and more demanding, on the part of singers in general. There are people in the world who are shooting the scene farther and farther, and it's going so fast that you have to RUN to keep up with it. A year and a half ago, back in the early days of Mick Jaggerdom, that 's when a singer didn't have to DO anything but be a singer and do his act--and he didn't even have to sound good, because that was hip back then -- sound a little raspy, sing a little flat, and that was cool, because a little farther back it was Sinatra, you know, and he didn't do anything either. But nowadays, singing... I mean listen to Spencer Davis for a minute, and you can tell that he's obviously IN IT. He took a left, turn at Ray Charles and . . .
JS: Disappeared ....
RT: Right. He shot it right out there. You just can't be a "singer" any more, you got to DO IT! You got to be so together musically. . .your voice has got to be so good, man, because the people demand it. They won't let you shuck any more. Listen. ..I'm no longer talking to John Sinclair, I'm talking to the public: People of the world, the next time you see a live band, and they go up there and do top ten material, or shuck around material, you oughta turn on them and say PLAY THE MUSIC -- either play the music or GET OFF THE STAND. Tell them that ....
The lead singer of the future will have to be the most versatile cat in the band, because he has to be THE solo instrument. The lead singer and the lead guitarist are the ones who do actual note-run solos. The rhythm guitar player any more does feedbacks and keeps the sound up. The rhythm guitar is no longer just a-chink a-chink a-chink, it's an art all in itself. Anybody can go the note-run route, you know, like lead singers and lead guitar players -- you can express yourself beautifully with runs, you hear it all the time -- Jeff Beck, Mike Bloomfield, they can run it down with notes. But it takes more to play a different game -- the rhytm guitar has to carry the band's sound all by himself. He's got to BE THERE. And I haven't heard
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too many of that kind of player yet...
JS: Well, I think you've found one. . , (IN UNISON): Fred Smith. . . (sigh)
RT: Yes...l'd like to thank all the cats in my band for getting as far as they have, and I wish them luck for the future. (Laughter) But as far as being a lead singer goes, in another year and a half the lead singer will have to be the most multi-instrumental person in the band. Lead singers should be in there playing tenor saxophone, and alto, and bassoon, oboe, everything else.... harmonica which is like a sanctioned instrument for rock and roll. I got onto that the first time I heard Mick Jagger, Grimshaw brought the record over and I knew the second I heard it that I had to be a singer. So I had this harmonica I 'd picked up a couple weeks earlier, and I got right down in there with that. I tried for months and months but couldn't do anything with it. Then one night I was at a beer party and some cat told me that all blue notes are "in" notes --draw notes -- and that did it. That straightened me right out. Every lead singer should have a whole range of instruments, like say, Joseph Jarman has...bells, wind chimes, gongs, and anything else that makes music. I've been playing organ, autoharp, chromatic harmonica, japanese flute, recorder, and something else ...I can't remember what it is. (Laughter) That 's why I began going into the realms of the sonic. . .playing feedback off the microphone. Hey, singers! You've got an instrument! Anyone who's got a sound system has got an instrument. You can play the microphone.
JS: I've always wondered how you picked up on that. Did you hear someone doing it, or did you just discover it?
RT: We were playing at a party at Betty Conn's house one night, a wild beer party, and we played "Hang On Sloopy" for 45 minutes, and I said to myself, "there's got to be something else we can do," because my voice was gone, and I 'd been playing harmonica until my mouth bled, you know, and I felt that there was something else we should be doing--because I had to keep the level up there, we were using guitar, bass and drums at that point and we just kept going and kept going. That was when we were first getting into it, getting farther than what comes out of the radio speaker, and it was a question of what could we do to take it even farther. So I told everyone, in the course of the song, to listen because something really spectacular was going to happen. And they wanted something spectacular, you know, everybody was just sweating and screaming, because if you take a tune like that and drag it out, it gets so much power, it's like a mantra, you just say it until it's got so much power that you can't hold it any more and it explodes, and it HAPPENS. So I went over to my line speaker and shoved my microphone into it, and some glorious and beautiful sounds came out of the speakers and the amps. So I began doing that profusely.
JS: When was that? Who was in the band then? Were they working on feedback by that time?
RT: That was about two years ago, and we had just begun to break into it. That was a few nights before we actually did it on stage. We did it in Dearborn, and we just EXPLODED out there. The first night we did "Black to Comm," we wrote it down in Kramer's basement, and Fred Smith discovered that you could turn up the Super-Beatle amp until it was unbearable, right, and started playing the opening chords to "Comm" spontaneously and smashed a jar! At that time our group - we had Pat Burroughs and Bob Gasper on bass and drums. Gasper now has a really beautiful, very tight band --the Endless Chain-- really together. Gasper's a tight drummer anyway. Burroughs elected to go into the Marine Corps.
JS: Is that when Michael Davis joined the band?
RT: Right. And we picked up Dennis Thompson from Lincoln Park--he played in a bar with us a couple nights, and I guess we just scared him into being our drummer.
JS: The powerhouse..
RT: You see, the thing is that Dennis amazes me... I don 't want to say anything about Dennis--l'll Just embarrass him. , . . (Laughter)
JS: You have a lot of trouble with the technology, right? I know I've talked with people about this, like Marion Brown, the saxophonist, we were talking once about the artist pushing the technology to make them come up with adequate tools...
RT: Yes, soon there will be an amplifier that can take...
JS: The MC-5....
RT: That can take sustained feed backs. Oh, incidentally, I have to mention. . .if you singers want to play the microphone and the speaker you 're doing it at your own risk. Because you can melt down your whole system that way. It isn't a good thing for your speaker, but it sure is groovy. And I don't want some cat coming up and telling me that I made him blow his set up, you know, so make sure this part gets in, OK? That too is an instrument. Like one night I dreamed I vomited on stage. . .think about that one! But I feel that it's the duty of every lead singer to seek and find Joseph Jannan, and watch him! Because Joseph Jarman is the best lead singer I've ever seen. Only he's a lead singer that took the multi-instrumentalist route. In fact, most tenor players would make good lead singers.
JS: Yeah, they do, in fact, like Archie Shepp has said. Pharaoh Sanders, Archie, Albert Ayler, Roscoe Mitchell...Trane, all those cats.
RT: We saw Joseph Jarman out at Cranbrook last week, and it was one of the most amazing things I 've ever seen. Now, seemingly there 's no connection between rock&roll music and "avant-garde" jazz --they seem to be totally unconnected-- but they aren't.
JS: Right. These days most of the players come out of rock&roll, or rhythm & blues, anyway, like Archie Shepp says his biggest influence was Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and all those old screaming cats. Or Albert Ayler used to play with Little Walter's band. Like Pharaoh Sanders, on MEDITATIONS, right In the middle of "Consequences," playing way up In the fifth register of his horn, screaming his ass off, and all of a sudden you hear him throw in "Hold On I'm Coming"
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TYNER (CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7)
by Sam & Dave. Blows your mind.
RT: What I really dig is the new resurgence of the Memphis sound --that's beautiful, man. Carla Thomas and Otis Redding. Um um. Joe Tex and Aretha. Yeah. Aretha Franklin, if you read this, I love you. I wonder if you need a band to back you up. l'll just play harmonica for you if you want. (Laughter)
JS: Yeah, you know Aretha started out as a jazz singer.
RT: Naturally. I started out as a jazz freak. So did you, so did...I mean shit, you have to have your chops together before you can do it.
JS: That seems to be the difference, actually, with the new rock&roll, and that 's the thing that seems to me to be the most exciting thing about the new rock, outside of the music itself--that the rock players are becoming musicians now, not just plastic guitar strummers, bouncer up and downers....
RT: Well, yeah, I mean, what else are you gonna do? I'm sure everybody who digs rock&roll will thank the British cats very much , because they're the ones who started the whole thing, they made us into musicians....
JS: Right. And the British got theirs from the r&b people over here.
RT: They just turned it around, they just gave it the emphasis...I think they ought to be rewarded for that.
JS: Well, they have been. ... (Laughter)
RT: I think we ought a erect a shrine to them, to say "thank you very much." Because if they wouldn't've taken rock&roll back to where it started from, and take it on the right road. . .because, see, rock&roll began, and then it was perverted immediately--because of the American radio scene. Perversion. You know, it just became Connie Francis, and Bobby Rydell, and Fabian and those cats....
JS: That 's what drove me away from rock&roll back in 1959. Like, I'd been a rock&roll freak in high school, and then when those other cats came around I started listening to jazz and just wasn't interested in what those people were doing at all.
RT: After rock&roll became perverted, I watched it go down. And I was glad to see it go. Because it started off so beautifully, man, and it wound up so fucking malignantly corrupt, you know, that I was glad it just sank. Because after it sank, man, I turned my face toward Cannonball Naturally and all those cats. And then a young man by the name of John Coltrane took over my heart and soul for a while. And just at the point Coltrane was about to come, see, and I could have been there to see it happen. But by then I was watching the Beatles, and Mick Jagger and people, and getting my head tore up by cats who were doing the same type thing as the Adderleys were doing, only a little glossier Because for me jazz had remained a static thing. . .Cannonball and the people of his genre, Herbie Hancock, the Jazz Crusaders --remember those cats, "Young Rabbits" and all that shit.
JS: You talked about the American radio system, which was responsible for all that shit being popular, and it wouldn't let people know what was really going on in jazz at that time-Cecil Taylor, Ornette, Eric Dolphy, and all that beautiful music...
RT: Right! Radio stations ought to be bombed, right off the face of the earth. They're a malignancy on our growth. Phew. I mean there are some parts of this cancerous corruption, man, that are OK. But then...then there's radio stations. Any part of a cancer is still a malignancy, and you can't sacrifice everything for just one part that isn't so corrupt. But the AM radio scene is just ridiculous.
JS: It'll change, though....
RT: Oh, sure it'll change. It's got to change. If it doesn't, then nobody'll believe it. We Just won't stand for it.
JS: Like what you were telling the people at the Love-In Sunday, when the Seventh Seal and Billy C. were playing, that the people would have to demand to hear this music on the radio ..because they don't even know that the music exists, unless they hear it on the radio.
RT: Right, right Anything that comes out of the box--any air disturbance or turbulence that comes out of the speaker - has to be made by somebody. And it can always be made better. , Always. Any sound you hear can be made better. Remember that, man, because the depth and range of human musical ability is endless. Totally endless, man. You can do anything--ANYTHING-- you can make the most fantastically , gorgeous, soul-stirring beautiful phantasmagorical music, or you can make bullshit. You know!
JS: All bullshitters must be prosecuted! Semark had a beautiful story about that - did you see that? "The Judgment of Edmund Zwingy," it was , in CHANGE/2 I think.
RT: Yeah, I saw that! it burned into my skin! In fact, that was what turned my eyeballs to the malignancy, that story did. Read it, people--lead singer , musicians, pick it up and take a good look at it. Also, for your convenience, the quotation at the top of this interview- -you can clip it out and carry it in your wallet and look at it every time before you go on. Because John Tchicai wouldn't steer you wrong. That 's it! That 's the rules to the game.
JS: What about material? Like some of the things you've been doing lately that've been blowing my mind, making up lyrics as you go along that come out of the specific situation. Like at the Guerrilla Lovefare happening this winter, with all those beautiful vibrations flowing and throbbing in the room, and in the middle of "comm" you started singing, "Here we are people, Look what we can do".... Amazing. . . .
RT: That 's because the situation was amazing. It has to do with the situation, that's all. Don't forget--people listening to live music jump into a game situation and it becomes magic -- and it's beautiful, man, because while the vibrations are flowing all around you and it's magic, you 're still living in the real world. So during the magic, if somebody tells you where you are in the real world, it burns home. It hits you outside of the magic of the music ..it burns right through the magic of the music and hits you in the real world. The real world is terribly important - don't get hung up in the amphetamine-mouthed rapping, the real world is beautiful, and the music is magic.
JS: Singers and musicians were always, in ancient cultures, and in our own Western culture it's especially true, before "literature," in the oral culture all learning was passed on through the poets and the musicians.
RT: Magicians... .
JS: Poets were magicians
RT: Of course. Poets art magicians, everybody's a magician, man.
JS: And all learning was passed on that way. And now we 're talking about a return to an oral culture, less and less people read, and people are getting what they know off the radio, off the records. . .you can hear it, and that makes it more immediately REAL.
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TYNER (CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9)
RT: The thing is, people live inside the game structure, and they're just not involved. They can't be involved, man, because they get the world in a little picture tube. Everything happens in there. So if you haven't been in there, or if you haven't come out of a speaker box on the radio, then you don't exist. You dig. That's a pity, it's a sickening pity that it is, because musicians and artists, man, sometimes they die, people, sometimes they actually DIE. I mean, have a little compassion, people.
Have you ever dug the radio on 6 o'clock Sunday morning, man, all those religious shows? Or 8 o'clock Sunday night, on some of the smaller stations? That time is being used by those people, turning out some little religious shows. But wouldn't there be a better chance that a human person could get ahold of that radio time and do something with it—get together a real amazing together religious rock&roll music show? And TV time — did you ever dig those Saturday morning cartoon shows? Some of them are so bogue, man, some of them are so senseless. Why couldn't we get some of that time and do something with it? I just wonder how possible that would be. Why don't some of our people get into that end of it, where we could see it and hear it on the media? I mean, our people are getting into the music thing, and really doing it, but you can't hear it on the radio. So we have to start taking over the mass media, because that's where it's at--that's where the consensus of the people's thinking comes from. It's part of their lives. We just have to show them that there's more than what they already know. What you can understand is limitless.
JS: And you can't understand something unless you are able to stand under it. Let it fall down on you, wash over you. Everybody wants to "understand" what's going on without standing under it, and that's the trouble. They want somebody to tell them everything, without going through it themselves.
RT: What we need is a sort of well-rounded home, man. Because like, calling ourselves a community, that sort of thing, we need the mass media. Because like you've mentioned to me in the past, man, we've just handed out too many handbills. It's definitely not
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easy. But if we had some people who were together enough to put together some radio shows, some hip TV shows, I'm sure that since we've already taken over the newspapers, we might as well hit them with all the barrells. We need people for the radio stations, and the televisions, and all of that. If there's anybody out there who's got a radio station they would like to lend out, or give away, or if anybody would like to give a nonprofit organization some radio time, I'm sure we could arrange something very nice indeed.
JS: Well, you know you can get all of that, but you know what you have to do to get it. The point in getting your own thing is that you don't have to do all that shit and you can still get what you want. Because the citizens seem to be looking to us for THE WORD, you know, for what's happening, and they've just now discovered that we exist....
RT: Like last week (Laughter). And now that they know that the beatniks have got it...and the most beautiful thing about this is that it's happening all over the country, man, all at the same time. The country is coming. That's beautiful, man. Because like two years ago I had absolutely no faith in the people of Detroit, or the people of America—I wanted the Russians to bomb them all right off the face of the earth, man, I wanted the whole world to explode, because everybody was a drag and I hated everything. All I loved was the music, man -- the music of the god. John Coltrane.
JS: "The music will see us through...."
RT: And it will, man, because we've already won. The music has always been the driving force behind everyone, man—the music, the music. Music is such a big part of American life today. Do you realize how much music there is to listen to? An it's all bullshit. It's too bad that it all couldn't be beautiful, because then we'd all be beautiful people. Because the people who hear the beauty of the music become softer. The people who hear the music throw off a little bit of their armor -- because the know that the person who is singing the beautiful songs is without armor, you dig, so you have to drop yours to listen to it. And the people to listen to the music totally are the people who listen to good music all the time, real music all the time, and they know that the world is open, man, and that you don't have to wear armor. That's why I can't conceive of the idea of any hippies that I know being violent at all, because they listen to too much good music for that.
JS: Right. Just like at the Love-In, you saw that the people who didn't have any trouble at all were the ones who were right there where the music was. The music was so out-of-sight that day
RT: Because the music sustains and vitalizes them....
JS: Sets loose positive energy instead of negative energy....
RT; The only people that cause any trouble are the people who can't hear you.... just like you can't hear with a football helmet on...
JS: Or a banana in your ear....
RT: Or whiskey in your head.
JS: All that stuff deadens your senses....
RT: And that's what the whole thing is all about -- if your senses are deadened, then your touch with out-
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side reality is lessened, man. And the more in tune with your senses you are, the more REAL you are. And you have to be real to hear the music. And your senses have to be as sensitive as the music in order to hear it all. And to hear like that, you have to take the football helmet off, and your breastplate and armor and swords and everything -- throw it away! Because you have to be as free as the music to hear it.
JS: And the music will keep you there...It's a beautiful circle.
RT: If you elect to hear the field of music, then that's all you can do -- you can't do anything else. You don't have anything else.
JS: You don't need anything else.
RT: You don't want anything else. That's why my people gave me a little static before I entered the music business, you know, but just a trifle. ...And I explained to them that I felt the music, and I had to have the music and they realized that. They were surprisingly understanding, after they dug that. They were trying to keep me from evil influences, you know. They were as beautifully sincere as all parents are. The thing is that they understood when I told them that I had to have the music, when I showed them, they understood immediately, just as every young musician's people will have to understand. The parents are up tight because there's no economic security in the music business, but that's what's groovy about it. It hips you to the variables. It doesn't have to be the way they say it does. You know, the security change is very important to a lot of people. The thing is, if you know you've got it, then there's your security. You try to tell your people that. My people fortunately understood that. I told them, "I got it, hey, you know, I've GOT IT, I don't care what it sounds like, I just gotta
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TYNER (CONT. FROM PAGE 12)
do it" And that's your security right there. You know you've got it, so you're secure. It's as simple as that. You just go out there and do it. But you've got to DO IT to do it. And if you don't then you're slighting not only yourself but the universe too, because the universe is telling you to do it. Every molecule of your body says DO IT, man, and your body can't be wrong. If you don't do what your body says, then you're just constricting and torturing yourself.
JS: When do you think your music will be heard? Recording happenings, or things like that?
RT: The single is being heard now....
JS: Yes--kids, call your radio station and them to play the BIG records -- "I Can Only Give You Everything," by the MC-5....
RT: A skin commercial for the MC-5....
JS: Do you have another record coming out soon?
RT: We'll shortly be recording again, I'm sure, because our managers have decreed it. They've mentioned that we should do it again. So I guess we'll do it.
JS: Are you thinking about an album?
RT: I'm always thinking about an album I want and album right now!
JS: So do I!
RT: I want 4 or 5 of them.
JS: What about your management?
RT: Well, to clear that all up.... There is no hassle, anyway. The thing
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is, a lot of nasty articles were written, but again, we were speaking from one side of the fence, and there's more to it than that. We all got together and we talked it all over, and we reached a beautiful agreement. As far as provisions go for the music--which was all I was interested in anyway --we're totally and beautifully free to do anything we want. It was very gracious of them to do that, because very few woul Because a predominantly large amount of the business people of the world are just poor, scared people, and they're just scared of anything new and scared of anything that doesn't sound like, you know, the Beach Boys or whatever, because they got to GET THE MONEY, GET THE MONEY, SUCCEED, SUCCEED, SUCCEED, get up there and GET IT GET IT GET IT. But we've got some people who have a little more respect for the music, and I think we're very fortunate to have people who are sensible enough not to want to detract from the musical level.
JS: Now if you'll only get an album out.
RT: Oh, we'll get that, that's no problem. I mean, from here on in, as far as out own personal music goes, that's pretty much takencare of, and I'm very happy with the way things are going to be going. You see, the contract that we were going to sign, that was pretty much a standard general contract, and if you read the provisions outside of this game, you dig, it would sound a it constricting. But they're talking about abstractions with vast sums of money....like, ok, I'll be willing to take 10% of 3% split 5 ways from 17 billions dollars, you know, that' a lot of break. I don't care about that anyway-- that doesn't faze me a bit. It never has. That didn't stop be from getting into the music business in the first place, and it won't keep me out of it now. You know. The most important thing about he music is the music, not how much it makes or whatever happens with it, but it's the music that counts, and that will always be my firm resolution and it always has been. I mean if I find myself shucking I'll just drop out completely.
JS: Which you won't have to do....
RT: I hope not. Because I have some top secret plans that are going to take singing our there....
JS: What about the symphonies you've been writing lately?
RT: I've been writing some strange symphonies, yes. We're hoping to put on a series of concerts in the near future, and we've been some symphonic pieces that we hope to perform in a quiet and dignified atmosphere. They couldn't really be done at a record hop, not at this point, so we're looking for a new way to present them. The forms of the music....we'll keep on supplying the people with as much music as we can, you know, I mean as much music as is artistically feasible for us, as far as having people dance and get sweaty, because that's what they're supposed to be doing anywa
That's why we do numbers like "Can't Explain" and "C.C. Rider" and "Tobacco Road" -- we want people to dance, you know, that's an integral part of the music, to get people's reactions to it and if we see people doing beautiful movements to our music, then we have no recourse but to think that our music is beautiful. And sweating-- sweating is very important, it lubricates the body-- that's why you see me standing up there in a pool of sweat, I just sweat like crazy, because it makes me move so good. Just open the floodgates and let you body evaporate. That's fantastic. That's what it is -- just let your body evaporate. That's the best tribute that a person can give to a musician-- just stand there in front of him and sweat to his music. You know, the music burns you up--burns all the fat off--just burns you lean. That's why we play the way we do, that's why I stand there in the middle of "Can't Explain" and scream "Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!" like when we play at places like the Grande Ballroom -- they have seats down in the front where people just sit and watch the bands, and that's how it should be, I mean people should be at ease so that they don't have any body hangups, so they can sit down and just let their bodies disintegrate and just be a mind and an ear, you know, just listen to the music. Feel the music and watch it. But any more, man, I .....if the audience doesn't vibrate back, if you don't play for an audience that vibrates strongly, then it'll either turn us off completely, or it'll shoot us to heights to try and make the audience vibrate back -- because we know they can vibrate, we've felt them vibrate before-- I mean I know all these people personally, I've walked up to them and talked to them and, you know, said things to them and said "Hi" to them and tried to get near them-- because the people have to feel the music, you have to get down to a personal level with the people, make it a personal thing. Instead of being a radio-speaker-symbol for music...I'm not just music, I'm a human being and I'm talking to you, each and every one of you. I'm not just singing some abstraction, I'm talking to you--making personal contact. You have to, in order to tune your music to the people.
JS: You take it out of a dramatic mode, which is what most "entertainment" is all about, and put it into a personal mode. What the young bands don't seem to realize is that if you get up there and sing somebody else's material, then you're just an actor, and you throw out the really human possibilities of music. You hear bands do songs because they're hip,, or on the charts, that's one thing... but like you told me about a song like "Tobacco Road," how that relates to specific concerns of yours, like your own concept of community and that whole change...or the way the Jefferson Airplane does it, you can feel that the song means something to them.
RT: I think the Airplane has the best version of that song, because it's got all the sadness in it. Now you take a lot of people, I don't think they realize what they're creating. Take a tune like "C.C." -- think about "C.C. Rider"-- when Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels do it, it's jumpin' and groovin' and drivin' hard and ballsy....But you take that tune and write it down on a piece of paper, look at the words, scan it, see what they look like, and it's amazing, the meanings in there. But it's turned into such a horrendous thing-- people just kept chanting the words over and over and it became so profound....
RT: Certainly--magic. Magic's very important. I had a dream about the long-haired angels from outer space just as I wanted to get farther into the music. I began dreaming about angels, dig it, and that's why I know the whole thing is divine. See, the angels come to earth in a ship, and the ship crashes and their instruments get smashed. The beautiful long haired angel people from another world, I don't know where they're just beautiful musical people. Their culture is based on music, just like ours is going to be, and so their people sent the best and most sensitive and most open of the musicians to show our people, to communicate with our people, and their instruments get smashed, right? This all happened in my first dream. And they found that they could lay the musical instruments of this world, because....
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JS: Because they were musicians....
RT: Right. And ever since, I've known that something strange is happening. The first tune I ever wrote was called "Long-Haired Angels Screaming." We haven't ever done it with the band. "On a thousand real stages / throughout the land / More than prophsied by the eyes of man / Long-haired angels screaming in the night / their amplified carols / Try as you might / you can't get them off your mind / don't ask me why / They have voices piercing as the birds in the sky / and the beasts on the land and the fish of the sea / and you and your brothers and your sisters and me...." You dig? That was my first tune. And ever since then I've known that that's my vocation. I have to do it. Because the angels are here, man, they've entered human bodies. Maybe I'm not the same being I was—maybe the dreams took over, and maybe I'm an alien. That's why the music happened, that's where the music's coming from. Sun Ra tells you that, man, Sun Ra...you ask him if that's what's happening, if that's what happened to him, and he'll say "yes, possibly".... When he talks about leaving the planet, he means when he goes from this planet to the others as our ambassador. Right? As the ambassador who will state the mental and physiological condition of the people of earth. I sincerely believe that. And I want to play on the show with him.
Note: Robin Tyner and the MC-5 will be playing on the show with Sun Ra and his Myth-Science Arkestra when they come to Detroit Saturday June 10, for a concert in Upper DeRoy Auditorium on the WSU campus, brought to you by Trans-Love Energies Unlimited and THE SUN. Watch for more details. Magic lights by the Magic Veil Light Co.