Michael Franti is the thunderous voice and poetic brain behind Spearhead, a band that melts hip hop, R&B;, reggae, and funk with a message of love and rebellion. Franti has long been outspoken on issues of political reform, peace, and ecological sanity. His documentary film, "I Know I'm Not Alone," follows his barefoot journey across the Middle East, guitar in hand.
Michael speaks with TreeHugger about his hopes for the new president, his efforts to live greener—both at home and on the road—and the making of Spearhead's new record, All Rebel Rockers.
Listen to the podcast of this interview via iTunes, or just click here to listen, right-click to download, or read the text version of this interview after the jump.TreeHugger: What was it like recording this new record?
Michael Franti: First of all, recording with Sly and Robbie is just an amazing thing. They can take any song in any genre and make it be funky. So I'd walk into the studio and have 20 songs written and I'd just sit in the hallway of the studio—which is all concrete and has this wonderful echo; and it's also, temperature-wise, the coolest place in Jamaica without being in air conditioning—I'd sit in the hallway and I'd sing the songs on the guitar, and Sly would tap out the beat on his hands or the back of his laptop, and Robbie would start humming a base line. And they'd say, "OK, we got it, let's go in the studio." And we'd just lay down the tracks and all like that.
And the amazing thing about recording in Jamaica itself is that there's a sound system on every corner. So every person is constantly inundated with sound and rhythm. And people really respond immediately to what they like, both by dancing or giving an approval of how they dig the lyrics.
And so you might have somebody just walk in the studio who you've never seen before, and be like posted up in the corner with a spliff in his mouth and he'll say, "Hey, mon. You know on the second verse, I think you need a new keyboard part."
And you'll look at this dude and you'll be like, "Who the hell are you, man? Are you producing my album now?" And Sly will be like, "No, he's right. We do need a new keyboard in there."
Because the music is so much a part of everyday, the people, they really know what works. You know?
TreeHugger: I saw Spearhead play outside of the Democratic Convention in L.A., it must have been 2000, with helicopters circling overhead and tear gas arcing through the air. That was the start of the Bush administration. But times have changed, it's eight years later, and now it's Obama. What are your hopes for the next four years?
Franti: I'm really excited. I feel like there's a new leaf that's been turned. It's like a large, dark cloud has been lifted over the heads and shoulders of all of us. Clearly, we face unprecedented problems today: the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and other places around the world. And climate change, it's connected to the wars, in that we're fighting a war in Iraq for oil, and controlling that resource there. We use that oil to burn in our cars and that contributes to climate change. And at the same time, there's a lot of manufacturers that are suffering economically, along with others on Wall Street. And so now we have this abysmal economic situation that we have to deal with.
I really feel like the optimism and the hope, but also the bipartisan nature that Barack brings to the table, it's something that we really need now. Because it's not going to take just the efforts of one man or woman to solve these problems, it's going to take the efforts of all six billion of us on this planet doing our part each day. And the resources of the corporate world along with the cooperation of governments, with the ideas of grassroots organizations, and the hard work and common sense of everyday people.
And with that, we'll overcome these situations that we're faced with today.