John's Words on Music, America, and the Working Class

7.25.02 - from Warner Australasia
for the full interview, click here

SUN: Don't you have some more say in what happens with your band? Say, if they wanted to send you to Bosnia, you could say no?

JOHNNY: Actually, we did play in Bosnia. We did USO shows. We also did the Concert for New York and Tribute to Heroes and raised some dough on our own.

SUN: What was that like?

JOHNNY: I talked to a lot of people who lost their husbands and wives on Sept. 11. I sat down with three guys from the New York City Fire Department and emptied a bottle of really good whisky with them and got into their heads. Those guys, they're the best. The salt of the earth, man.

SUN: So you didn't write any songs about Sept. 11?

JOHNNY: No, but I gotta tell you, there was a serious paradigm shift in my mind. I think we all started questioning our own mortality and the fragility of being alive in a complicated world.

SUN: Plus some of our more anti-American bands seem to be rethinking their stance.

JOHNNY: Don't get me wrong. There's a lot of problems with America and I can't stand (George) Bush. We did not elect that guy. That's a fact. It's a dirty situation and it's a covert coup d'etat that happened in our own country. It's wrong. And the thing that worries me about it is that we're given so many quick fixes and so many little pacifiers - cheap Taco Bell, 500 TV channels. It's going to erode. It keeps us distracted and divided. There's no more viable trade unions in this country anymore, expect maybe the Teamsters, but for the human beings that get up and live and work and do what needs to be done, they are completely being forgotten about. It's all about bottom-line globalization. They call it the race to the bottom. It's disturbing, man. I don't think people are very hopeful about what they're going to be able to leave to their children.

SUN: So, as a successful rock musician, what can you do about it?

JOHNNY: Open my big mouth. I'm trying to connect with Michael Moore. I need his advice about what I can do.

SUN: There are some who would sneer at the opinions of a successful rock musician.

JOHNNY: I have my opinion about it because I was there. I'm from Buffalo, New York. After they closed Bethlehem Steel, the oil company and the car plant, 30,000 people were just thrown out of their jobs. I was there for all the devastation that something like that caused - all the alcoholism, all the domestic violence, all the suicides, all the crime. It adds up to a huge human disaster. Buffalo was a great, great city and now the population is shrinking while the number of people living under the poverty level is growing.

SUN: It sounds like you're ready to put some of your opinions into your music.

JOHNNY: I never wanted to be the spokesman for a generation. I'm not qualified. But I have my opinions about social issues. I don't know if I'm brave enough to get on that subject in my music because I've always dealt more with personal issues. I want to grow as a writer, but I don't know if that's what I wanna do. I just don't want to talk s---. In retrospect, you look at a band like Rage Against the Machine and you go, 'You're full of s---!' You're raging against what machine? You're on Sony!

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