When Rage Against The Machine released their first album they were criticized for being too “over the top”, too political and written off as a one-trick pony. Almost 20 years (?!) later, they’re revered as one of the great rock bands of our time and the only political band of any consequence during that time.
The Living Things have taken a similar path of bombastic rock, extreme political stances (including burning George Bush posters onstage or the infamous D.C. show where a rubber-masked Dick Cheney and Bush simulated sex on stage) and great musicianship. Like RATM, it’s taking a little time for the rest of the world to catch up to the message. Frankly, the lack of political protest music during the Bush administration was shocking and another sign of the dumbing of America. The Living Things first album, Ahead of the Lions contained the hit Bom Bom Bom and a ferocious set of rock anthems that should have propelled the band to even greater heights. Their new album, Habeas Corpus continues the agenda in a post-Bush world. Equal parts T-Rex and RATM combine to make another album sure to challenge a label and your brain.
We conduct some of our interviews via email since it allows bands an opportunity really put some thought into their answers. LT’s answers came back to us in all caps, which makes sense because everything they do is done…BIG.
TDOA: You recorded Ahead of the Lions with Steve Albini. His work as a producer is legendary, can you tell us what the experience was like? Very hands on or did he let you do your own thing? Did he advise you on the “sound” of the record or did he get to the extent of trying to change the structure of songs?
LT: STEVE IS A MAGICAL ENGINEER AND WE PRODUCED AHEAD OF THE LIONS WHILE HE RECORDED CAPTURED US AS A BAND.
TDOA: Many great bands never get an opportunity to have their music heard. How important was your ads promoting ITunes in getting your name out there?
LT: THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS CHANGING, AS WE ALL KNOW. ADVERTISING AND TELEVISION ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT TO GET YOUR MUSIC HEARD AS RADIO.
TDOA: We always ask bands about the songwriting process. Does having three brothers in the band make it a relatively cohesive process? Do you sort of anticipate and read each other while you’re working on a song?
LT: LILLIAN VOCALIST AND GUITAR PLAYER COMES UP WITH A SONG IN A BASIC FORM AND WE GO INTO OUR PARENTS SWEATY BASEMENT AND HASH IT OUT..AFTER MUCH BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS.
TDOA: How was your South By Southwest experience?
LT: LETS JUST SAY IT WAS EYE OPENING SOME HOMELESS GENTLEMEN JUMPED ON OUR STAGE AND BURNED DOLLARS BILLS.
TDOA: When did you become politically “aware” and what in your past brought you to the political views you now hold?
LT: OUR MOTHER HAS ALWAYS BEEN POLITICALLY AWARE AND FROM THE MOMENT WE WERE BORN HAD THE BILL OF RIGHTS HANGING FROM OUR CRIBS.
TDOA: Have your politics ever “cost” the band with a record label or with an opportunity to gain more exposure?
LT: HMMM. YES I WOULD SAY THE CORPORATE WORLD COULD HAVE MORE APPRECIATION FOR A MUSICAL ACT THAT IS SPEAKING THEIR MINDS IN REGARDS TO THE LONG LOST AMERICAN DREAM..WE ALL WANT THE GOOD LIFE WE ALL WANT THE AMERICAN DREAM BUT CURRENTLY IT IS BROKEN..
TDOA You’re one of the only liberal bands that hasn’t relaxed with the election of Obama. Please talk about your concerns in the age of Obama.
LT: TO BE HONEST ALL POLITICIANS HAVE A VERY CHALLENGING JOB. THEY HAVE MANY RESPONSIBILITIES THAT ARE TOUGH. FOLKS HAVE TO REMEBER THAT POLITICIANS ARE HUMANS JUST LIKE US NOT SUPERMEN THEY MAKE MISTAKES. PERSONALLY I WILL FEEL GOOD ONCE I SEE CHANGE
TDOA: Has the label ever asked you to tone it down?
TDOA: Are the urban legends about shots fired at a Dallas show or the Cheney/Bush-simulated sex story true? If so, can you talk about the events that led up to each and the aftermath?
LT: UNFORTUNATLY THEY ARE TRUE.. LILLIAN WAS SHOT AT AND BEAT AT IN DALLAS AFTER GIG FOR SPEAKING HIS VIEWS. AND YES WE HAD A SEX SHOW WITH CHENY AND BUSH SIMULATING SEX IN NYC AT ROSELAND BALLROOM AND THE NEXT DAY GOT DROPPED BY GEFFEN
TDOA: Rage Against The Machine advocated change, but rarely through force. What’s the ultimate political goal of Living Things.
LT: TO PROMOTE THE AMERICAN DREAM. THE DREAM HOPEFULLY CAN BE RESTORED. EVERYONE AMERICA SEEKS MONEY SECURITY AND GOOD HEALTH. AND THAT IS OUR RIGHT. NO ONE SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF WHEALTH AND HAPPINEES. BUT IT SHOULD BE ACHEIVED IN WAY THAT IS POSTIVE UNLIKE THE THEIVERY THAT IS GOING DOWN ON WALL STREET
TDOA: Do you ever worry that your political message will overshadow the music?
LT: ARTIST TAKE A SNAPSHOT OF THE TIMES…WHEN YOU LOOK BACK TO THE FIRST DECADE OF THE 21 CETURY AND LOOK AT LILLIAN BERLIN’S LYRICS AND LIVING THINGS MUSIC I CAN CONFIDEANTALLY SAY WE ADRESSED THE THE STRIFE IN AMERICA.. WE ADRESSED WHAT WAS HAPPENING WITH LIFE, RELIGION,POLITICS, PRESCRIPTION PILL ADDICTION, AND WAR.
TDOA: What other bands are you guys listening to these days? Top albums of 2008?
LT: KINGS OF LEON, LYKKE LI, MGMT.
TDOA: At the end of every interview, we ask bands to pick one band that they would like to banish from the planet. Every single band makes a politically correct statement and doesn’t go for the bait. Want to be the first to buck the trend?
LT: YES NO PROBLEM, DO WE REALLY NEED ANOTHER WEEZER ALBUM
Visit the bands website at: http://www.livingthingsmusic.com for tour dates and more.
Purchase the albums at Itunes.