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Rock And Roll

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This interview with the UP, a revolutionary rock and roll band from Ann Arbor Michigan, took place at their house - which also serves as the White Panther Party National Headquarters Commune. The house is truly far-out--a huge white panther stares out at the street from the front. There's about 20 rooms, all decorated with tapestries hanging from the ceilings kind of like clouds in the sky, and with psychedelic posters (Free John Sinclair) pasted up on the walls. The members of the group are Scott Bailey, drummer; Frank Bach, lead singer; Gary Rasmussen, bass; and his brother Bob, lead guitar. SunDance: What's different about the UP? Like, there's a certain image that the words "rock and roll band" brings to mind to most people - apart from the music alone, that is. You know, images of intense commercialism, the whole groupie scene--just a lot of waste and ego-tripping and fragmentation. Where do you depart from this image ? Scott: What I envision as the "typical" rock and roll band is one in which each one of the dudes are living with a maid of some kind, in an apartment or something like that, totally separated, you know. And every once in a while or maybe even once a day they get together and practice, or if not they just have a lot of jobs, which they go to in separate cars and things like that. Whereas in our situation we all live together in the same house, eat off the same table, and do the same work. We practice at the same time, go to jobs together - it's like a total thing. Frank: And more than just being a communal rock and roll band by ourselves,we live with 24 people, who are deep into all other kinds of work - photographers, artists, poets, writers, printers, newspaper The house itself is really a community centeJBg %■. Scott: People are drifting in all the time and have these killer parties. And it ain't like the Record Biz coming over and talking about the next record - it's kids coming in from the street, just getting down, having a party, and getting high. SD: What exactly is the relationship between the UP and the White Panther Party ? Aj members ? Ê Scott: Yeah, we're members of the parb band is the cultural ana of the WPP. W educational work just bBtore or les what we do: by playing on staBhe way welay. by the things we say when Bc playing d the things we say and do whRve're not. 's all related to the program of the party. SD: Your whole life, thdpi, is that message. Scott: Yeah. Jjj SD: Commercial succeB' affectingï lot of groups in weird ways. One manifestatin of this are all the groups s __ ing themselves up. Coifd this happen to you-as you become more sufceessfu! record contract, tour, and thin like Ihat? Bob: Well, we know wha: smack does. We ínow what it i we can't relate to it, because it isn't a lü'e-druíííWBK Irug. And the Party is involved in an antismack campaign in the community--so that should help keep us off smack (laughter. ) 3D: Why do you think people are taking it, esecially bands ? Bob: Cause it's easy--it's a cop-out. K you're a junky for any length of time, pretty soon you don't care about anything - if you continue to live, if your music is progressing f orward-anything. It destroys all your energy. A lot of this has to do with the overall situation on the planet today. People are frustrated, they don't know where they're going, they don't see a real alternative. They think that the only alternative is to just cop-out, cause everything is just too oppressive and confusing. And the best way to cop out is to start doing junk. Cause you don't have to think about anything . . . SD: The MC 5 used to be the band that lived with the WPP, and there were all these dreams and visions about what was going to happen with them, you know. Now they're just star-tripping, into success and money and that whole scène. What have you learned from what's happened to them ? Bob: Like, John Sinclair and other people have said, and we agree, that for them to do something like that just means that they never really had the true spirit to start with. As soon as they started getting contracts, once John went off to jail, and people like Jon Landau carne in, they started getting away from the original idea of a true people 's band. Landau told them they were lousy musicians and they didn't know how t o keep a beat and they were sloppy and had to get it together and had to start using smaller amps . . . Their second album is just a manifestation of the changes they went through; of what happened to them musically, where their heads went--everything. Frank: Two years ago everybody thought things were gonna be a lot easier, the revolution was gonna be alot_easier. As it turned out, there was a lot we didn't know about, and we made a lot of mistakes. Some people reacted to those mistakes and went in the wrong direction completely--and some people just didn't. The MC5 reacted. Bob: Overreacted. And wo were living right next door to them all that time. Like, we've seen this movie bef ore, youknow? Scott: We've been educated, so to speak. Right, learn from i;: past. Do you all. as a iunctioning part of the White Panther Party. v revolution? What is the political inta!: -- you read, talk aboui--you see what ï'm Frank: We've ?. iTOd ifcunsltlcrcd i lassicalPr nary lit !WiH-Kung, Che u, Malcolm a. !VewfK SD: H M JyÉ'C in a. WtjmcÊ bandjHdiRao Ts% Timer'? WM 'M Frai. V, '. Ma o U.i'-iA ered ar, id bein I ' Ancáproceedii. t'ronVthR ,er ; andhigh ,er te do with 01 musi ,-k ': . roll that we' all b. n th. ! black . ve h. , rd, tl the highes oects o . pu( all ! the?3'" ' !: ; i i i -et]] nnliI fied, and concenfraed m sic. And i shoot it all back to thefBle. It's a i ating f orce. i t Scott: Oh yeah, readings's cool, but all you really gotta do is look out the window. r Frank: Like we think cf being a revolutionary rock and roll band more in terms of effect, you know? And not simply in terms of what people have read or who they've defined "revolutionary. " Gary: We ain't spouting a bunch of revoluti onary rhetoric. Like, revolution is what it's all about, but a lot of people are confused as to what it actually means. Scott: They think it's running around in the fir-pines with a 4-10 and a knapsack full of Molotovs, waiting for the next p-i-i-i-n-g to come by, and, you know, blow him up. That's not what it's all about. SD: What is revolution to you ? Scott: Well, mostly education. Gary: Rebirth, you know? Scott: Education for the rebirth. Frank: It's what's new, what changos people, what's unique, what brings about something higher, something better. It's what brings people closer to themselves, closcr to freedom, closer . . . Gary: To each other. We just played this job in Nebraska, and when we played all the people stood and started dancing and sweating and getting high and moving around. These people would never have been brought together like that if it wasn't for rock and roll. SD: So your situation is truly unique: you live communally, you're the cultural arm of a political party, you're all these really weird and different things. How does this affect your music ? Because the music is the most important thing, anywuy. Bob: Well, the lyrics talk about revolutionary things. Like the sony "Sisters, Sisters" is about women's liberation. "Just Like anAborig-ine" is a song about people freeing themselves stepping out of the death-mold, and getting closer to the planet. As opposed to singing aout balling eighteen different groupiea in one ight or shooting bogus dope or just being uckeel up and -which is what so many roups talk about. H SD: D: you do much orignïial material? Frank: Jout a thirH what wc do is original. SD: WhMroduc s it? FMv all writoM together. Wc take drug' and play, and when we ' down What was that ?, " and go "Well, OK," anH play it again. Then people HRe come down to the music room SHWnheir ideas; "I think it would really sound good if you guys did that just one more Lime there. " We get criticism frora 24 differsnt people, instead of four, like most bands. And they're all listening to the music just as intensely as we do. Scott: In your normal band you have four, may)e five musicians. They do their tune and get t written down and then put it on record - not eally knowing what the fuck they think about t. "Well, the kids'll dig it, " you know? And hey wait until the charts come out in order o gauge the response. But the charts are ucked, and have a lot more to do with busiïpss-hype than with music So they don't ly know what they're doing, since what they do doesn't come organically out of a community-they're just doing it by themselves. SD: Alright. So the people in the house offer suggestions and help formúlate the music. Now there's also your relationship to the audience at jobs that you play. How does that affect what you do? Scott: Well, when you talk about rock and roll music you've got to be talking about moving. Moving involves energy. And the energy isn't one-sided, it isn't like the band is this monolithic generator that cranks out the energy and keeps it flowing, because that's impossible. There ain't nothing that creates energy. Frank: That's not scientific. It's not real. Scott: But there is an energy exchange. The band picks it up off the people while we 're playing and f eed it back out through various arrangements of wires, speakers, soundwaves . . . Gary: Notes and chords . . . Scott: And f eelings. And once all that goes out, the people piek it up and stomp some more and it comes back again. The more they stomp, the more the band plays, and the more the band plays, the more they stomp. It builds up to a peak. That's where you get high. SD: Have there been any really farout incidents where the energy level got so high that all sorts of strange things happened? Frank: Yeah, I remember the last time we were in Nebraska. Towards the end af our performance people started coming up on stage, bouncing and dancing, flying around--the stage was just fillcd. Scott: People werc falling over, reverbing off the cabinets, coming over and hitting the cymbals, playing along . . . Whew! SD: And you were digging it ? Scott: Yeah, we loved it! You would look up and see somebody that you'd never seen before, playing along with you, just going "A-AA-A-A- H-H!" Youknow. High. Gary: When we get toa place we're usually pretty whizzed which makes it easier to piek up what people are into. Usually you walk In and see all these people sort of into being cool. They want to make sure that that girl over there thinks they look good, or . . . Scott: Sitting in corners . . . Gary: Then we play, and they start getting into it; start dancing, start jumping and humping, you know. By the time we get done everyone's hot and tired, feeling good and sweaty, blasted, smiling, walking around. People get opened up, turned on to more than just their own world. Scott: It's a really pure form of communication. Frank: I guess it goes back to communalism, to what we do here. A tribal experience. When we play it's an experience that's shared all around by the people there. They're the band, we're the band, they're the people, we're the people . . . There's no separation. SD: So what you want t o do is make people more a war e of the energy within them . . . Scott: And how much you get if it's all combined. SD: And use that energy to . . . Scott: Bring about a change in the way people live . . . Gary: And the way they think. With a rock and roll band. everybody starts jumping around and listening to it, and everybody gets really turned on to their body and to everybody else's bodies. The whole pig ruse of separation just starts breaking down. Frank: You know, we start out working in these little corners against each other. If we get together, working as one, for each other, then we've created something higher. A forcé that can really change the world. Scott: And that competition and success stuff is all weird anyway. We don't need somebody saying "uh-oh, the person over there is starting to get into what I'm doing already--I'd better run him out. " K he's starting to do what you're into, then far-out, killer, join up. And do more. Frank: One thing we realize is that culture is not just a pastime. It's not just something that we do on the weekends--it defines who we are. It's how we live our lives. The things that make us come together--our music, our feelings, our sacraments--are the things that make us people. As a people we have strength, and can build a nation. Moving with oth. r people--black, yellow, brown, red--to win the planet for all people. So All Power to the People, and Long Live Rock and Roll !