DS Interview: Bryan McPherson on new album “Wedgewood,” being banned by Disney, and the toils of being an activist folk punk

Photo credit: EA Zimmerman

It would be easy to start a story about Bryan McPherson by understating the fact that he’s had an interesting last couple of years. In three years since the Boston-turned-California folk-punk songwriter released his sophomore album, American Boy / American Girl (State Line Records), McPherson has toured the US with fellow solo acts like Tim Barry and Cory Branan, toured Canada with the duo Winnie Brave, opened for Dropkick Murphys in something like ten different countries, spent some time living in a hut in an activist camp in northern California, gotten a fair amount of traction for writing a song about Kelly Thomas (a mentally ill man killed by police in Fullerton, California) and has been rather infamously been banned from playing at venues affiliated with the omnipresent Walt Disney Company.

And yet, stating that McPherson’s had an interesting couple of years says less about what he’s been up to recently and more about the fact that just maybe, you haven’t been paying attention until recently. McPherson cut his teeth in the subways and small clubs in Boston. Though he’s equal parts punk and folk, and though that crossover scene has unquestionably exploded over the last handful of years, McPherson plugged away for years before ever catching serious traction in either genre. “In the punk scene, (this sort of thing) was nonexistent,” McPherson tells me as we meet up at a coffee shop in Dorchester, the notoriously gritty, blue collar neighborhood located south of the financial hub that is the center of downtown Boston. “I got involved on the folk side of things at Club Passim (in nearby Cambridge)…but I was a little too punk for that crowd, so I never really fit in anywhere.” While he was too punk for the folk crowd, McPherson’s acoustic firebrand tendencies fell on deaf ears in the punk world in the early goings. “It’s ironic,” says McPherson, “because punk, where it’s supposed to be this rebellious, free-thinking thing ends up getting rigid. (This is) supposed to be this ting that breaks through lines!

For myriad reasons that are perhaps best left to discuss in other areas, Boston can be a bit of a fickle place to come up as an artist. A handful of years ago, McPherson headed west. He wrote American Boy / American Girl half in Boston, half in his new home state of California. The Golden State has a way of calming people, of ‘chilling out’ those whose East Coast tendencies have them wound perhaps a hair or ten too tight. Yet when it came time to write the follow-up to American Boy / American Girl, McPherson found more than enough material to stoke his fires, literally and figuratively. “I was sleeping in this hut in Northern California on an activist center/ranch in the mountains…where I did the ‘pre-production’ for the album,” says McPherson. “There was a big wood stove in the hut that I was in that was called a Wedgewood, so that’s where I got the title from.”

Not exactly a protest album in the stereotypical sense, Wedgewood, due out June 10th on McPherson’s own OFD Records, is full of sometimes violent imagery of “wood, friction, burning, fire, smoke.” McPherson has spent more than a decade telling the plight of the working man, railing on injustice and intolerance and the power structure. While those themes are still front and center on Wedgewood, McPherson indicates that the times, they are a-changin’. “This record is kind of putting to rest my anger in a lot of ways,” he notes in a tone that is both cautious and insightful. “At some point, (anger is) just fucking useless. It burns you up. You can use the fire, but you’ve got to be careful because it can fucking use you too.”

McPherson initially shopped Wedgewood through traditional label routes, but found the process becoming increasingly unnecessary. As a result, he went the Kickstarter route, turning to crowd-funding to get the album produced. He set a bit of an ambitious goal, and had to wait nervously by to see how realistic that goal was. The result? “We hit the goal in five days,” says McPherson, “twenty-five days ahead of schedule.” While initially met with some trepidation about the Herculean effort involved with self-releasing an album in digital, CD and vinyl formats, McPherson seems relieved at how well the process has gone. “No one is going to work as hard as you are at this level. I don’t want to half-ass it, and I don’t want to hand it off to someone who’s going to half-ass it.”

McPherson is presently in the midst of a tour of the UK and mainland Europe with fellow anarcho-folk-punker Louise Distras. When the month-long run ends, the duo will flip-flop support and headlining roles and come to the US for a month’s worth of dates in support of both of their new albums (Distras’ Dreams From The Factory Floor was released in the US on 5/5/15 on Pirates Press Records). The razor-sharp acid tongue that has been McPherson’s trademark is still very much present on Wedgewood, and should continue to make for raucous, albeit at times confrontational, crowds wherever he plays. A song like “Kelly Thomas,” for example, which tells the entirely true tale of an unarmed homeless, schizophrenic man beaten to death by police officers in Fullerton, California, several years ago. The police officers were subsequently acquitted of any wrongdoing. Sound all-too familiar? The subject matter struck a nerve in front of a Long Island crowd on one of McPherson’s recent shows opening for his hometown buds in the Dropkick Murphys. “I look around and half the crowd is police officers or in the military,” recounts McPherson. “I know it’s going to be rough, but I just said ‘fuck it’ and played it anyway.” The result? “They fucking booed me. And they were just shitty. But it ended up being a really good performance…I didn’t take it laying down!” You see, the song is not anti-police; it’s anti-brutality, and pro-change. There’s a big difference.

If you’re going to try to make an omelet, you’re undoubtedly going to crack more than your fair share of eggs. “You can’t do this and say the kinds of things that end up in the songs I write without having to expect a backlash,” says McPherson. Perhaps the biggest backlash came recently, when McPherson was banned from opening for the Dropkicks during a recent show at the House of Blues in Disney-owned Anaheim, due to material that was considered anti-police and overly political (editor’s note: repeated inquiries to the Disney people resulted in a giant wild goose chase that ultimately proved fruitless). Did some of us overblow that whole thing? “At first I was like appalled, but then I thought, this is a cool thing!” says McPherson, rather triumphantly. “I’m glad to be banned by Disney! I don’t like Disney. I don’t like Disney movies. I’ve never liked Disney since I was a fucking child. I’ve always thought it was cheesy, fake bullshit, so to be banned by them, that must be good!”

Read our whole Q&A with McPherson below. We cover an awful lot of ground, as a couple of former Dorchester residents are wont to do over coffee (or tea, in this case). Wedgewood is due out on June 10th via McPherson’s OFD Records. Pre-orders are available here.

Certain questions and responses have been edited and condensed for content and clarity.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): (The then-upcoming European tour with Louise Distras) is a little more intimate than when you were just over there, huh?
Bryan McPherson: Yeah, a little! A little different from the arenas and the coliseums that the Dropkicks play.

How does your stuff translate over there in Europe?
Well. It went really well!

I did great in Germany. They loved it! A lot of people speak English over there, so there’s not really a language barrier or anything.

I’m not really tapped into the protest-punk scene on the other side of the pond, so I wonder how that particular thing translates. Obviously there’s a big market for it here, and it seems like there’s a big market for it in the UK, but as you get more into mainland Europe…
I don’t even know, is there a big market for it? (*laughs*)

I feel like there is, because I feel like three-quarters of the newer stuff we write about lately is somebody’s acoustic folk side project, or a lead singer that’s been around for a while that isn’t doing the band thing anymore. But it seems like there is a market for it; I don’t know what your take is as somebody who’s actually doing it…
I guess yeah…

Where I just get to sit on my laptop and write about it a couple nights a week!
There is, yeah. I’m able to do it here, so there’s a thing going on. I don’t know really what’s going on over there other than what everyone else does, you know?

You do a couple weeks just with Louise solo, then she’s got a band coming on, right?
In England, she’s playing with a band. She’ll have the band and I’ll be still solo.

Is that a goal for you, to do a band thing someday? Or is that not really your element?
I mean, it’s always on the radar. It’s not necessarily a goal. I don’t look at being solo as not reaching a goal. I consider myself a folk artist first, not like one of those guys who just got bored with his band and picked up an acoustic guitar and just kinda jumped on the bandwagon. That’s kind of what you see a lot of now. I’ve been doing this from ‘go’. I’ve been doing this since no one had ever heard of it. It was like “what do you mean you don’t have a band?”.

Was this (Dorchester/Boston) a tough place to do that in?
This is a tough place! (*both laugh*) But yeah, I got involved on the folk side of things at Club Passim. In the punk scene (this sort of thing) was nonexistent. People looked at you like you have seven heads, you know? So I got involved over there, but I was a little too punk for that crowd. So I never really fit in anywhere.

That must be a hard thing to go through or a deflating thing to go through at times. Because both of those scenes are supposed to be all-encompassing and inclusive and whatever, and yet to not really be accepted by either one of those, I could see that being…
It’s annoying…

Yeah, or deflating. Like, “screw it, let me just get a Marshall stack and a Les Paul and write those songs,” you know?
Yeah, I know. It’s like…you do what you do, or at least I do. And you just try to stay true to what you’re doing, because that’s what I enjoy. If I wanted to “sell out,” I’d start doing covers or something, you know what I mean? It’s difficult because those different scenes help each other a lot. It’s like, “well, we’ll put on this kind of show and get all these people who play this kind of thing.” And it’s ironic because punk, where it’s supposed to be this rebellious, free-thinking thing ends up getting rigid. You must fall in these boundaries or these lines or else it is not this thing! But it’s supposed to be this thing that breaks through lines! But at the same time, it’s also good because I kinda feel like I have an original kind of thing going. My own sort of…whatever I do!

Do you get comparisons to other people a lot? I find that your sound is pretty unique in a lot of ways, and you can sorta tell that, at least at some level, you cut your teeth in the subways and busking and stuff like that.
Yeah, I mean I love Bob Dylan and folk music. I love punk rock. It all kinda worked its way in there at some point.

Do you get comparisons that get weird to you, or annoying to you now that you get a little bigger?
Pretty much any comparison I find annoying! (*both laugh*) I can’t think of anyone specific. But I do get some weird ones every now and again that make me go “wow, really?” (*laughs*)

But it seems probably pretty easy for people on this side to pigeon-hole because, since you’re in the punk scene but you play an acoustic guitar, you must be Tim Barry or Kevin Seconds or someone like that. And I love those guys both, but you’re not that!
No, I mean, I released my first acoustic thing (“Live at Club Passim”) back in 2004, the live EP. Before that I was putting shit out in 2001. It was terrible, but I put it out. If anyone is like “oh, were you influenced by…” not Tim Barry because he’s been doing it for a million years and he’s awesome, but some other dude, I’m like, “I don’t know, I’ve been around…”

Haha! Yeah!

“Wedgewood” is going to be number three right?
Yeah, third full-length.

What was the songwriting process for that? Is this the first one since you moved to California? Or was that “American Boy, American Girl”?
“American Boy, American Girl” was half-Boston, half-California. This one is all California. I’m always writing songs, but these songs were selected from…when “American Boy, American Girl” came out, a lot of people were like…well, a couple people were like “you wrote that at Occupy!” And I’m like, “no, it was done and out before that thing even happened.” These songs…not all of them, but the beginning of them, half of them anyway…were from around then. So they were very influenced by my involvement in Oakland and everything that I saw going on during that. The rest of the songs have just been over the last couple of years from touring around and traveling and stuff like that.

They kinda all fall in that realm, and it’s a very fire-centric record. There’s flames burning as a theme that’s interwoven throughout. I was sleeping in this hut in Northern California on an activist center-slash-ranch in the mountains. That’s where I did all the “pre-production” for the album, and I was going over the songs and how to perform them. And there was a big wood stove in the hut that I was in that was called Wedgewood, so that’s where I got the title from. Wood, friction, burning, fire, smoke…the whole thing kind of came about like that.

At what point did the theme actually become a theme? Was the goal to have a theme tying it all together?
The theme emerged a couple years ago, in 2012, with fire in just a few of the songs. That’s where the fire and the burning started to come from. It probably worked its way in to the rest of the songs subconsciously through the songwriting process. It became evident in the recording process. The original title was going to be “Weatherman,” which was kind of a play on the Weather Underground, but then I found it kind of violent and I don’t want to be perceived as violent. This record is kind of putting to rest my anger in a lot of ways. It’s kind of the culmination of using anger in that fire…at some point, it’s just fucking useless. It burns you up. You can use it; you can use the fire, but you’ve got to be careful because it can fucking use you too. It’s kind of the build-up and culmination of that to whatever the next chapter is going to be, which I kinda already have an idea of for my next record…but I’m not going to tell you! (*both laugh*)

No, and I wouldn’t ask you too! On the record, anyway…(*both laugh*) When you say a culmination of how you used that anger, does that mean you’re in a different place now?
I’m in a different place. A little bit. I mean I still have the anger…

Is that the California part?
Trust me…no. I’m still angry, I still have that. But I’m not using it to the degree I have been over the last couple years.

Is that a hard change?
No, it’s a good change! It’s not nice being angry all the time, you know? It starts out like a drug. First you’re just shooting up on Tuesday, then next thing you know, you’re shooting up every day, all day and your life is a mess, you know? First you’re just angry at this (one thing), then all of a sudden, the anger attaches itself to all these other aspects of your life. It’s not working anymore. That’s not to say that I’m not going to write angry songs. I’m certainly still angry, just take a ride down Dot Ave with me in the van and you’ll see (*both laugh*). For me personally, (“Wedgewood”) is a build-up of that, and then on to the next thing.

Do you listen back to the old stuff then…
Very rarely…

Or even when you’re playing older songs and you’re trying to put yourself in that mindset when maybe you’re not really there right now, do you find yourself wondering what you were so angry about or wishing you’d written things differently? Because obviously you’d approach certain things differently now than ten years ago.
You know, I don’t. At least, nothing on “Fourteen Stories” and “American Boy, American Girl.” I mean, yeah, sometimes I’m like “well, that’s a goofy line!” (*both laugh*) But whatever, it’s already its thing. I don’t really self-criticize. I’ll criticize the production and the recording! I’ll be like “oooh, shit, shouldn’t have done that” sometimes. Songs are like kids, though. You’re not like “I wish that kid was different.” Well, maybe some parents are. At this point, I’m just kinda like “it is what it is.” Some people like songs that I don’t really particularly like playing anymore, but I’ll play them anyway sometimes.

Is that a weird thing to get used to? Especially if you write something and maybe you don’t identify with it anymore or whatever, but then somebody tells you it’s their favorite song and that’s the song that gets to them the most?
Yeah, that’s where I take myself out of the equation and where I just do my job and sing that song. I’m not going to go home and play it by myself! (*both laugh*)

You did “Wedgewood” by yourself, right? You’re putting it out by yourself? Well, OFD Records?
Yeah, OFD Records.

I love that name, by the way…and the 20,000 people that’ll understand that reference! (*both laugh*) Why the decision to do it yourself? Just not really the need to use a label nowadays?
It was actually not my decision. Of course, I didn’t want to put the record out myself. I know how much work it is. A lot of people think you just kind of go *poof* and there’s your record. To do it right, it’s a lot of work. I was talking to a couple of labels and just…it didn’t seem right, or it seemed kinda sketchy, or for whatever reason it just didn’t work out. I was almost going to put it out with a label but then I said, well, I’ll just put it out myself. So far, I’m happy with that decision. Because no one is going to work as hard as you at this level , you know? I care a lot about how things are presented. I don’t want to half-ass it, and I don’t want to hand it off to someone who’s going to half-ass it.

That’s gotta be a difficult decision, I could imagine. But it also seems like it’s a decision that more and more people are taking to eschew the normal…
Well, there’s not enough help out there. If there were more labels that do more than “hey, give us what you already did, we’ll basically give you a few thousand dollars, we won’t do any work other than hosting it and giving you the money, and then you can have half after we get all our money back.” It’s like, do you know how much money was spent making this record?!? I’m living in Wal-Mart parking lots, touring around, which I love doing, to perform and “sell” the record, and you’re just sitting there waiting for some outside circumstance to occur that makes it popular and lets you cash in on it. I’m certainly down…there’s great labels out there doing stuff, but no one’s hit me up! (*both laugh*)

Are you glad you did it this way? The process in and of itself of just putting out the record, never mind that it was yours, are you glad you did it?

I am very glad. I’m glad that it worked out the way that it worked out. Absolutely no hard feelings with anybody. I’ve learned a lot. Now I feel like I can do the next one, you know? Hopefully this keeps building and whatnot. I would rather not tap into the Kickstarter thing again, though that was great. We hit the goal in five days, which was mind-blowing, actually. Twenty-five days ahead of schedule, we hit (the deadline).

That really is pretty amazing.
Yeah, it was wild. I felt like I was on the stock market!

Well, except that the bottom won’t fall out on you, like it can on the stock market.
It can actually! People can change their pledge up until two days before the campaign ends. I had a very big contributor throw out a chunk of money and it went over (the goal) and they went to change their pledge the next day to add more money and it went WAY down. I was like “what’s going on!” Now I know how they feel on Black Friday down on Wall Street.

That’s weird to be in that position for you.
It’s a rollercoaster. So I didn’t really feel that secure until the end. It was great. I don’t have the most fans in the world or anything, but I do have some people who are really in to it and they support me, which is awesome. That’s a good thing, because with the lack of “industry,” the people are left to step up if they like what you’ve got.

You’ve been doing this a while. Have you built yourself sort of a network of people across the country where you know if you’re going to Kansas or you’re going to Chicago or Denver, you have people you can stay with and places you can play and stuff like that?
Pretty much. It’s a big country, and not as much as I would like, but I’m able to do it at this point. It’s always difficult booking tours, but they manage to come together. I do have a network of folks out there which makes all the difference.

Are you totally in-house, Tim Barry-style when you do all that?
I have a booking agent now, and we wprk together on a lot of it. That’s on the most recent run.

When is the actual street date for “Wedgewood” yet?
June 10th. I mean, it’s not going to be in any stores right now, but that’s on all the internet sites and stuff like that.

So you’ll have them when you come back here? You’ll be selling them on the tour back here?
Yeah. The release date is June 10th and the first date of the US tour is June 11th.

In Portland, right?
Yeah, Portland’s first and then the Midway (in Boston) on the 12th.

So hopefully they’re actually in by then! I know people get backed up a lot, especially around Record Store Day.
I already have the CDs, just waiting on the vinyl. I talked to the manufacturer and they’re confident that it’ll be ready in the middle of May.

So you have at least CDs you’re bringing with you to Europe?
No, I’m not releasing it in Europe yet. I’m not releasing anything before the date here in the US. I’ve gotta give them a reason to have me come back to Europe! (*both laugh*)

What are your plans for after the US tour? Have you thought that far ahead yet?
I don’t know. I wish I could! I’d be better off. I’m really overwhelmed now with the European tour and the album release and the campaign for that. There’s a few pending dates on the US tour that we’re trying to fill, but after that, a couple of my own ideas are I want to do the West Coast and Canada. I’m looking at up the West Coast and across Canada for the next tour, then maybe I could do a pause here in Boston, catch my breath, then go down the East Coast and across the South. I haven’t been down there in a little while. But that’s all on the back burner. If I get any other offers to do tours or anything like that, I’m in to that as well.

So you’re pretty much dedicated to being on the road for now. You were just on the road for a few months essentially with the Dropkicks there (in Europe) and then here…
Yeah, I mean I can’t just go on the road for too long or I start to just go crazy. I don’t like to be on (the road) really for more than two months. I really don’t like to be on more than six weeks, but it’s the job. If you don’t want to be on the road, sorry, you might want to go do something else. I want to play music every day usually. I mean, I could move to Vegas and become like Frank Sinatra or something, or I can tour, you know?

Do you even have a home address at this point?
I did, yeah. But that changes often. I don’t see it in my best interest to always pay rent on some place I’m not going to be. I have all my stuff out in LA, I have a PO Box there and a storage unit. I have been in northeast LA for the last six months or whatever.

How do you think things would have been different growing up in LA as a songwriter versus growing up here?
I’d probably be singing surf music or something. (*both laugh*) It’d be very different. It’s very different out there.

There’s a lot of “here” in your lyrics. And maybe I just think in terms of “here” because this is the area I know, the Northeast and greater Boston in particular.
I think you’ll find less of here on the next record.

You’re not going Jack Johnson on us, are you? Barefoot …
I am, yeah. Except I roller skate instead of surfing! (*both laugh*) I mean, you’re always where you’re from. I think that’ll always be in there one way or another. But I’m not about making the same record over and over again. It’s not my thing. I don’t want to try to keep recreating a certain vibe because some people expect that or want that. As an artist, I honestly do it for my own benefit first. That’s just what I do. I’m always, I would hope, exploring new terrain with my creativity. But I don’t think I’ll ever be “from LA.” (*both laugh*) Or California in general.

I feel like northern California, Bay Area maybe there are some parallels maybe…having never been there!
California is California, don’t let ‘em fool ya! (*laughs*)

There’s been the occasional controversies, if you want to use that word, whether it’s the “What If Jesus Was Gay” song or the whole being banned by Disney thing…which I think is just amazing, by the way…does your songwriting, and your lyrics in particular, get you in trouble with certain audiences sometimes? Have you had incidents where people confront you?

Yes! Yes! And it sucks! Half the time when I’m writing a song that’s like that, I think “man…this fucking song…I’ve gotta sing this now?!?”

Do you find yourself hitting the edit button because of how it might come across!
No! No, I mean, I’ve thought that, but I don’t really take so much responsibility for the songs. They’re just, like, this magical thing I’m able to tap in to, at least from my viewpoint. I’ve just been able to bring it in how I feel it was supposed to be brought to the world, but to the four people in Salt Lake City, I don’t know… (*laughs*) Sometimes I think, “shit, I don’t want to sing this fucking song.” Like I was playing this cowboy bar in Utah a couple years ago, and I had like four people show up to see me. And I’m like, “cool, four people came out from wherever, that’s cool.” And this girl was like “play ‘What If Jesus Was Gay’” and I thought…really? So I did and it was just kinda awkward, but her, I played it!

And then recently, I was playing in Long Island, opening for Dropkicks, and someone had tweeted me “you should sing ‘Kelly Thomas’ – people need to remember Kelly Thomas.” I wrote that song about Kelly Thomas who was killed by police in Fullerton, California. It’s on the new record. So I’m at the show, and I look around and half the crowd is police officers or in the military or something, and I’m just like, “they’re not gonna like this song.” I know it’s going to be rough, but I just said “fuck it” and I played it anyways. And they fucking booed me. And they were just shitty. I t ended up being a really good performance. Everyone who saw it was really stoked, they were like “wow, that was incredible.” I didn’t take it laying down. The Dropkicks had me on a wireless guitar because I was going to do a song with them. So I had my wireless on and I was just running up and down on the stage, yelling at them and shit. And then they were heckling me on Facebook the next day.

I can picture that crowd, the Dropkicks crowd, mostly being in to it, but then there’s also ..
There’s a conservative branch of that crowd which …they end up liking me sometimes until they hear the rest of my music! Then they’re like “what the hell? Who is this guy? We like that song “OFD”!”

But that’s part of it, getting booed and getting heckled, I guess.
Yeah, you can’t do this and say the kinds of things that end up in the songs I write without having to expect a backlash. People aren’t necessarily going to agree with some of the shit I say. You run into that risk if you’re opening up for any other band who has their own fans. They’re there to see (the headliner) and you’re this other person. I was lucky to be able to do those shows, but that doesn’t mean the Long Island police force is really looking to have me back. Although, I don’t think the song really attacks cops. It just tells a story of these two cops who killed this man.

Right, it’s about an actual thing that happened.
They were venting all of the negativity around the police forces around the United States that’s happening now on to this song that I was singing. And I was like, “tough shit, let’s have some fucking reform and make sure people aren’t getting fucking murdered and not being held accountable for it.” Everyone should be held accountable. Don’t blame a song.

That’s why a song like that is so powerful and so important, because it keeps happening…and happening…and happening…again this week it happened.
It’s crazy, I know. It’s like…things need to change, I’m sorry, we’re both working class, I get it. You’re my cousin’s brother’s sister. We live in the same neighborhood. This is not an attack against the working class, this is about that we need reform for how citizens are treated. And the protocol for what happens when someone mentally ill is having an episode and the cops come. Instead of subduing him or having an interventionist there to talk to him or treat them medically, you shoot them with a shotgun.

No…this stuff has to change, we have to look at this. So people will be, like, “oh, you write protest songs, right?” And I don’t really necessarily like that term. That makes it feel like it’s conscious, like “let me protest Obama’s latest reform, let’s put that in a song.” I don’t really do that. It just kinda happens. But with that song, it was more that I was outraged when I heard the story and when I saw the video. I was lucky…it was one of those rare incidents where I wanted to write a song about what happened, and I did. Honestly, I don’t think it’s the best song in the world. I mean I like it, but I wanted to use it to raise awareness. I was able to send it to the Huffington Post and get a little press out of it and help get the word out and stuff like that.

Have you been able to have a dialog…an actual dialog…with people who might be in law enforcement and might have been on the other side of the aisle about it? Aside from Twitter battles going back and forth or whatever.
Yeah, I do have some police officer friends and fans who have messaged me and are like “hey, I’m one of the good guys.” They think sometimes I’m a little too hard on cops or whatever, and I’m like…sorry! I’m not writing cop music! I’m sure you have your own bands that do that. I understand where you’re coming from. You have a difficult job. I just write the songs, I’m not really sitting there inserting things to take shots at people. I do have big supporters who are cops, and I don’t personally hold anything against cops.

Right, and like you said, or maybe like I said, but it’s a story that actually happened. It’s not like you’re writing about all cops being bad, you’re writing about a thing that happened and that keeps happening.

And I think there’s just something about Long Island too… I remember something about Springsteen playing his song “41 Shots” in Long Island getting a bunch of walkouts at a show, and when Pearl Jam played “Bu$hleaguer” on the Vote For Change tour had a bunch of people walk out.
Oh really? Wow! Nice!

Yeah, it actually made it in to their 20th anniversary documentary that Cameron Crowe put out. They showed them coming out and playing “Bu$hleaguer,” and Eddie starts out in a George Bush mask and then he puts the mask on the mic stand and sings to it, and they got a whole bunch of people throwing shit at them…at one of their own shows!

Yeah! And if you’re up front, you’re spending $100, $150 or whatever to go to a show. They ended up with something like a thousand people walking out. And they’ve got half the band thinking “we don’t want to play that song anymore,” and the other half saying “no, this is art, this is why we’re doing it; we have to play that song,” like they should play it louder, play it earlier in the set!
Yeah! That’s what came into my head with the “Kelly Thomas” thing. Like, what am I doing it for? Is it there to preach to the choir, or is it there to do something more, you know? Again, I have to remove myself from the equation. What I think doesn’t necessarily mean what I should do. I write the songs and I have a responsibility to put them out there.

Did that song in particular prompted any discussion when you were in Europe? I know a lot of people on the other side of the pond, and when they look at our law enforcement or they look at our gun culture it’s just baffling to people. Does that prompt any sort of different discussion on that side?
With “Kelly Thomas”?

I don’t know, I didn’t play it over there. We’ll see how it goes this time. I imagine it’ll go well. Louise is pretty radical and I imagine her fans are pretty hip to that. I know that if you want to know about United States foreign policy or domestic policy or culture, don’t ask an American. Ask someone for Europe or Canada. They know more about what happens here in our government than most fucking Americans.

That’s absolutely true.
It’s fucking laughable. There’s my plug for waking the fuck up! (*both laugh*)

Yeah, except that I feel like the more of us that say that people need to wake up, it seems to get worse instead of better. I think there’s people that’ve been saying for a long time that people need to wake up and pay attention and look in the mirror and all that, but the Kardashians keep taking over…
Well, I mean there’s a massive propaganda machine that’s flooding people constantly.

Yeah, but we do have the right, and I think the responsibility, to turn it off.
Oh absolutely, I don’t watch that shit! (*laughs*)

It’s narcotic. I don’t know, people are kept just comfortable enough to just not get rebellious. People forget, this country was founded by radicals and fucking revolutionaries. You say those two words now and everyone gets kinda quiet.

Once the TV generations came about, it was sorta like “well, okay, that’s nice, but we don’t want to go outside.”

Lastly…did people make too much of the ‘banned by Disney’ thing? And maybe it was even me doing a lot of that, but I just think it’s an awesome story, I really do.
I love it! It’s fucking great! I don’t think they made too much of it. It kinda draws attention to what I’m doing. I mean you have (rock star announcer voice) “Dropkick Murphys! Blood or Whiskey!” Oh, Bryan McPherson singing a song…you’re not allowed to play. One guy with an acoustic guitar and some songs, that’s too dangerous! Can’t have him!

Right. You can have a band that plays “Pipebomb on Lansdowne Street” and “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced!”
Right! And nothing at all against those guys!

No, not at all!
But you have the image of the big crazy punk bands and Blood Or Whiskey…those guys are my friends and I think they were jealous that they didn’t get banned too! (*both laugh*) At first I was like appalled, but then I thought, this is a cool thing! I’m glad to be banned by Disney! I don’t like Disney! I don’t like Disney movies. I’ve never liked Disney since I was a fucking child. I’ve always thought it was cheesy, fake bullshit. So to be banned by them, that must be good! Honestly, I don’t even care about ever playing in Anaheim for the rest of my life. All of Orange County, for that matter. And you can put that in the fucking interview! (*both laugh*) Fuck off, Orange County!

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