Sign up for our mailing list Real artists creating records on their own terms

Sign up for our mailing list


Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Interview with Michael Franti in the Examiner

When it comes to politics, Michael Franti yells ‘Fire’ Dan Apczynski, href="" target="_blank">the Examiner

SAN FRANCISCO - In today’s highly polarized political climate, news networks and politicians are busier than ever, delivering messages as if preaching to congregations of devoted followers. To Michael Franti, Oakland native and frontman for the outspoken hip-hop act Michael Franti and Spearhead, the goal is less about delivering the message than challenging people to figure things out for themselves.

“Artists have a unique opportunity because we have a voice, but our voice comes through something that we create,” Franti says. “So when we write about political things and our cause, it brings up something that a news anchor or a politician can’t do.”

Franti has been exercising that voice recently, through his 2005 documentary about the Iraq war, “I Know I’m Not Alone,” and the 2006 album it inspired, “Yell Fire.” Blending hip-hop, rock ’n’ roll, reggae and folk sounds, each song on the album contributes to a call for hope.

On Friday, Michael Franti and Spearhead launch a U.S. tour in support of “Yell Fire” with a two-night run at the Warfield in San Francisco. When the tour was scheduled to commence on Presidents’ Day weekend, the group decided to host a “Letter to the President” writing contest.

“We were trying to think, ‘What’s a real, positive way that we can have these celebrations on Presidents’ Day weekend?’” Franti says. “We asked people to express their views, whether in support of the president or against … But the one thing that we said was, ‘Try to put some form of an answer.’ You know, not just ‘Here are all the things I hate about the president,’ but ‘here are the things I would do maybe if I were president.’ We got some amazing responses.”

The winners will be announced this week on Spearhead’s Web site,

“The main thing is that I’m not so much in the business of trying to change minds as I am in trying to open them,” Franti says. “When I took my trip to Iraq in June of 2004, and I made a film about it, that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to try to make a political case against the war. I just wanted to show people what the war was doing to people’s lives on the ground, both Iraqi civilians as well as U.S. soldiers. So that’s the way I try to work now.”

While it’s easy to make such claims, Franti makes it clear he is more about diplomacy than playing the blame game.

“I don’t think ‘bad people,’” Franti says. “I think we’re all in various stages of ripeness — we’re all gonna get ripe. What I’ve found in politics is, the more that you point the finger at other people, and shout and scream about how bad they are, the less chance you have to get people to come to a place where there is a middle ground that can be met. I’m interested in results.”

Facebook | Twitter | Google Plus

Browse by Artist

1430All Artists 92Tom Waits 54Mavis Staples 52Neko Case 51Lost In The Trees 50Sean Rowe 48Dr. Dog 41Jolie Holland
40Bettye LaVette 37Man Man 37The Milk Carton Kids 33Tim Fite 33DeVotchKa 31Islands 31Grinderman 29Tinariwen 27Galactic 27Wilco 24Michael Franti and Spe... 22Bob Mould 22William Elliott Whitmo... 21Nick Cave & The Bad Se... 21The Frames 21Son Little 20Joe Henry 19Booker T. Jones 19Sage Francis 18Saintseneca 17Yann Tiersen 16Ramblin Jack Elliott 16Jason Lytle 16John K. Samson 14Christopher Paul Stell... 13Daniel Lanois 13Billy Bragg 13Doe Paoro 12Xavier Rudd 11The Weakerthans 11Lyrics Born 11Rain Machine 11Mose Allison 11Roky Erickson 11The Antlers 11Andy Shauf 10The Swell Season 10The Melodic 10Xenia Rubinos 10Peter Silberman 9Marianne Faithfull 9N.A.S.A. 9Glen Hansard 9Deafheaven 8Solillaquists of Sound 8Cadence Weapon 8The Coup 8Cameron Avery 7Elliott Smith 7Eddie Izzard 7Greg Graffin 7Dead Man's Bones 7Alec Ounsworth 7Beth Orton 7Kelly Hogan 7Calexico 7Title Fight 7Prism Tats 6A Girl Called Eddy 6Busdriver 6Os Mutantes 6Kate Bush 6Broken Twin 6So Much Light 6Delicate Steve 5One Day As A Lion 5The Field 5Keaton Henson 5Beat Connection 4Ersi Arvizu 4Marketa Irglova 4Pops Staples 4Jade Jackson 4Los Angeles Police Dep... 3Danny Cohen 3Sierra Leones Refugee... 3Petra Haden 3Cass McCombs 3Japandroids 2Various Artists: RANGO 2The Drums 2Girlpool 1Tricky 1Joe Strummer And The M... 1Youth Group 1Blackalicious 1Antibalas 1Porter Wagoner 1Various Artists: ROGUE... 1The Locust 1Rogue's Gallery 1Kronos Quartet with Br... 1Simian Mobile Disco 1case/lang/veirs 1Merle Haggard 1Jeff Tweedy
See Full List+