Robby's Words on the Music Industry, Politics, and World Affairs

Interview by Myshele Goldberg, 9.14.03

What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry? I know you sort of mentioned it a little bit before….

I think there’s way too few people involved in it. I guess that’s my overview statement of the whole thing. My overview synopsis of it is that there are too few people making all the decisions in radio, too few people making all the decisions in record companies at the distributorship level, at the publicity level. And I think right now, things have gotten to the point with the Internet, with technology and public opinion going the way it seems to be going, that the little guy seems to be having more and more of a chance, as far as the music industry goes. The only thing that stands between the guys who are sitting in front of computers at Sony trying to figure out how to make this new way of distributing music work, the only difference between themselves and myself is the fact that they have to wear a suit to work everyday. We have the same computers, the same software, now let’s figure this fuckin’ thing out, ya know what I mean? Excuse my French, but ya know what I mean? It’s like, people have spent so much time bitching and litigating, you know, it’s like, Jesus, you can’t litigate people into obeying an unenforceable law. But you can ask people, well, what’s gonna make this different? It’s like, we’re gonna offer full downloads of our CDs and PDF file graphics. What’s the advantage? You don’t have to rename all the songs. They all pop up on your hard drive and you get all the album graphics if you want to burn yourself a CD, you can. There’s things you can try to do. We’re gonna have every song on the record, you can preview it. After thirty seconds, it’ll turn over into a pay site and you can pay 75 cents and you just downloaded the song, however it’s gonna work. We’re just trying new things, seeing how people react. And if they do, we’re confident our signings are gonna be good enough. It’s just a question of getting people to pay attention and buy records now.

You recently gave a tape-recorded statement to Congress about AmeriCorps and music education. What points did you raise in there?

The point that we raised on the tape was basically what AmeriCorps asked us to raise, which we were in agreement with, that was that pulling money from educational funds for children is probably not a great idea. That system has been working for awhile now, and it’s unfortunate to see funding leave. They’re not without their scandals, as all organizations are, but the bottom line is, they’re trying to help people. And myself, I will answer you, I think it’s ludicrous to spent 87 billion dollars defending our oil trade and taking money away from kids. I think it’s ridiculous, and I think our government needs to re-examine a few of their priorities, absolutely.

You’ve said before that you feel a responsibility to share your opinions.

Well, only because people ask me. You know, I think it’s important. I have friends who are staunch Republicans, because they’re awesome, beautiful people, I just don’t believe in their political views. So we don’t talk about politics, much. If somebody asks me, yes, I’ll absolutely 100% give my opinion.

Do you think talking about the issues is important, and do you think ordinary people have any influence on world affairs?

Yeah – en masse. I think ordinary people can influence world affairs, it’s like anything else, you if someone who is charismatic enough brings about a good point, people will back them up and public opinion will sway. And when public opinion sways, and they actually go out and vote, things change. It’s a proven fact, you know? My opinion is that there’s a lot of injustices going on right now in our government. I feel like if I don’t raise my voice about that, that I feel things are that way, that maybe people who aren’t as comfortable expressing their views about it won’t either. Once again, if people ask me, I will give my opinion. But I don’t want to start fights. Not right now.

We’ve got enough fights going on in the world.

Nah, I’m just kidding.

You’ve mentioned before that you’re proud to see your fans participating in activism.

Absolutely. You know how good it feels to me, man, I can’t even tell ya! We were in Washington and we saw someone carrying one of those signs around in front of like, the White House, man. We’d been in Chicago and just coincidentally driving by peace rallies and seeing the signs up in the air. You know, yeah, it freaks me out, man! Freaks me out! Anytime anybody connects anything positive to us, man, that makes me feel so good. Cause I mean, we really try sometimes. Not all the time, but we really try sometimes to be that thing, you know, that thing that makes people feel like, wow, we’ll do something good, something positive instead of something negative. There’s a lot of negative connotations to our business, you know? And a lot of them rightfully so. But the point being, when we try, it feels really good to see that we’ve had some impact on this sometimes seemingly unsolvable problem that we seem to have ourselves in.

Are you guys going to be getting involved in the election process like you did in 2000?

Absolutely, 100%.

Anything your fans can do to help with that effort?

Um, we’ll let them know.

Cool.

Positively. Yeah, you know what they can do? Register.

Yeah. Oh, believe me, we’re pushing that.

Number one, that’s what they can do. Register, because otherwise it doesn’t matter. You’ve got no right to argue unless you vote.

Don’t vote, can’t complain.

That’s it.

Your wife is Japanese. Has her international perspective made you see America in a different light at all?

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Our sharing our lives together, I get a lot of Japanese news and stuff like that. We just read a thing from the Mayor of Hiroshima that would make your hair stand up on end, dude. It’s like, begging people to reconsider – America is trying right now to develop what they call practical nuclear weapons. You should talk to some Japanese folks about those things, see how practical they are. Touring all over the world, I’ve noticed, I feel like apologizing to people sometimes for the mess the world’s in right now. I’m incredibly proud to be an American because I think America is a great, great country. But I also feel that our government’s making some horrific decisions as far as national interests and international policies go. And aside from that, ya know, we had a huge surplus of money before they came into office. Two years later we owe more than twice as much, it’s insane. It’s just insane the way things are going. But like I said, I went around the whole world this year, went around the whole world last year. And it always sort of boils down to the same thing, that’s that the rest of the world has no understanding of what our incentive is here, kinda weird. I know I’m not standing on popular ground saying these things, but once again, you asked me, that’s the way I feel.

Absolutely. What are some positive things you see happening in the world right now? To end on a positive note….

I see people taking a look at what’s going on right now and going, “what the hell’s going on? Why is unemployment high? Why do we owe all this money? Why does the rest of the world hate us?” You know, it’s like people are finally starting to raise their eyebrows and the country seems a bit less complacent and a bit less blindly supportive after September 11th. Which was a horrible thing, but my God, I think it was used as a scapegoat for a lot of things. I think people are starting to realize that now, and human nature seems to be taking a bit of a turn at this point.

What do you mean?

I think people are starting to realize, after all that stuff that came down in 2001, I think people look at things in a different manner now. I don’t think it’s – there doesn’t seem to be mass-paranoia, does there?

Depends on who you talk to.

Well, yeah, I guess, I guess. There’s some freaks who live up in a cabin in the woods somewhere and do math all day. But I mean, I think in general, I don’t think there’s a doomsday prophecy right now, I don’t think people want that. I think people want to see things to get better. I think people are sick of seeing Americans coming home dead for no reason. I think public opinion is starting – You know, and I mean, once again, I will never say anything bad about any of those people who go over there, God bless every single one of them. More than anything else, I wish that A, they didn’t have to go over there, and B, that they get home alive. Cause once again, I don’t think there’s much of a reason for us to be over there right now. Aside from the fact that we f-ed things up so bad that we gotta be there, because it’s our global responsibility. Unfortunately we didn’t worry about global responsibility before we started this whole fiasco. As the rest of the world was telling us to stop. But anyway, the positive thing I see is that people are beginning to question this now. And the other positive thing I see is that there’s an election coming up. We can put a stop to at least some of this. I’m not a staunch Democrat, but I will probably vote Democrat. But I’m not a staunch Democrat, you know what I mean? I think the majority of them are probably as creepy as the rest, but it’s just at this point, we definitely need a change in policy. And the only way we’re going to get that change in policy is by changing the policy makers. And those policy makers are making some huge mistakes right now. And a lot of money.

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