Taken from Urban Ambiance Journal (October, 1995)
At 4pm I went by the Great Hall to see if I was going to get hooked up with an interview with the Digable Planets and Spearhead for the school paper before the show at 9. Unfortunately, after an hour of patient waiting, I was told by the student entertainment head to come back later because a lot of things were going wrong. I was a little worried since I not only had to wait longer for the interview, but because I still didn't have any physical tickets in my hand.
I came back at 6:30pm and waited patiently... again. I saw Butterfly from the Planets and heard him talking about some Ohio Players sample that no one else had used in some particular way. I tried to put all negativity I had heard about aside and figured maybe they weren't such dicks after all.
A few minutes later I heard Butterfly talking with his manager about an interview they had to do. I figured they were speaking about the interview with me for the paper, so I stepped up and introduced myself. Butterfly looked at me condescendingly while his manager (some old guy who didn't seem to give a fuck about any public relations that wouldn't make him money) asked, "Well do you have a time set up?" in a tone that made it seemed like he couldn't believe that some college student would have the nerve to talk to him. I began to answer and he said, "No. This is another interview. You have to set up a time!" I looked at them both and said, "Well, we tried, but I guess it just didn't work out..." and walked away ignoring anything else they had to say.
At about 7:15 the student entertainment head introduced me to Spearhead's manager (a man with dreads down to his knees). According to the manager, who was a much more pleasant person to deal with, he had told the group that they'd have no more interviews since they had ten the day before. Then Michael Franti came out and the manager said, "I know I told you there would be no more interviews, but this man is with the school paper and would like to speak with you." Michael Franti, all 6'6" of him (a foot taller than myself) stepped to me... face-to-chest... and looked down at me, "What the FUCK you want?" I had nothing else to say except, "Damn... you're tall." He was playing and I told him that I had been following him since The Disposable Heroes ("Damn, I knew somebody was following me," he responded, looking behind himself) and that I wouldn't take much of his time.
This interview is what followed.
LAZE: What happened between you and Rono Tse (also of The Disposable Heroes)?
MICHAEL FRANTI: We still chat from time to time, but I'm mostly out on the road. I'm busy with Spearhead, he's got a group called Black China.
LAZE: I noticed a big change in mood between HIPOCRISY IS THE GREATEST LUXURY and HOME. What inspired the change?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, pretty much we're trying to deal with new ways of communication. When I was out with Disposable Heroes, there would be times when we were touring... one time in Australia we were doing an outdoor festival and there are people out there half naked throwing water at each other and we're up on stage shouting "Television, the drug of the nation" and smashing TV sets. It just didn't go together. We just wanted to do something with the groove to get people's attention and then hit them with the message.
LAZE: I read in The Beat, the reggae magazine, that you listed Macka B as one of your influences. Could you expand on him and who your other influences are musically and lyrically?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Pretty much, I've always been inspired by artists who have written good music first, but then they also they put in the music things that are taking place in the world. I've always loved Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Matabaruka, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and Jimi Hendrix.
LAZE: What is your opinion on issues in hip-hop today, like Tupac's final interview or the recent announcement about Eazy-E having AIDS?
MICHAEL FRANTI: I haven't read Tupac's interview as yet... (quietly) and I don't think it's his final interview. But... in regard to Eazy-E, first of all, I think it's a terrible tragedy, of course, that anytime anybody has AIDS. I think it's important that if you feel you're at risk, you need to be tested. And if you don't feel that you're at risk, you still need to practice safe sex. You see that one of us has been infected, but then also... there may be people outside of hip-hop that disagree with a lot of things that Eazy-E has said or have disagreed with gangster rap. It tests your compassion, 'cause that's really what this is about compassion for people with the disease.
LAZE: What do you feel is the direction of hip-hop compared with the direction of your own music in the future?
MICHAEL FRANTI: The direction of hip-hop is ever expanding. It's in a long line of black music, and every now and then along that journey one thing will shoot off to a side and sprout it's own wings and things shoot off of that. It's all part of the family tree.
At one point you could have said that rock music was Chuck Berry and Little Richard, then it became The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Whitesnake and Iron Maiden, then Counting Crows and Nirvana, you know, all different types of music. So, the same thing with rap. We may have been at one point where you said it was Grandmaster Flash and Run-D.M.C. and now it's Luke on one side, Snoop Dogg over here, Salt -n- Pepa over here, Digable Planets there, Guru here, and us somewhere else and other people doing other things. Me'Shell N'deceocello... you know... hip-hop will ever expand.
LAZE: How do you feel about freestyling and it's seemingly increasing importance in becoming an MC?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Freestyling has always been important in every style of music whether it's hip-hop, jazz, or rock up there playing guitar, whatever it is. It's always been a part of rap, and I don't think it's any more important today than it was years ago, it's just that people are more aware of it, maybe.
LAZE: How's it been touring with the Digable Planets? [I asked this question more out of personal curiosity than anything else after my brief encounter.]
MICHAEL FRANTI: Well... it's cool... you know. They have a big band and they take a long time to do sound checks. Our sound checks have been kind of late, if any, at times. But the people in the band, they're cool... it's all good. Almost all of the shows have sold out.
LAZE: As I was sitting here, I began to think of "Socio-Genetic Experiment" where you mentioned your nationality. Could you expand?
MICHAEL FRANTI: That's my ethnic roots. You are part of what your ethnic roots are, you are part of how you grow up, and you are your own individual decisions that you make each day. Although I'm considered, myself, to be a black man, I don't just deal with things on whether it's a black thing or a white thing, I try to deal with things under the God that put me in the situation that I'm in today. And that's whose side I'm on.
Despite the short time I had with Michael Franti, it was an interesting experience. He didn't seem to let showbiz get to his head in the least. He was polite, and even hung around out with the fans during the Digable Planets set (at which time I thanked him once more for his interview and congratulated him on a good show). And even though I had numerous tape problems (note to self: use new batteries during an important interview), things came together nicely.
Both Spearhead and the Digable Planets had good sets, but Spearhead seemed to tear the set up just a little bit better. I guess it's easier to enjoy a band when you can relate to them rather than looking up at them as a group that can't get their heads out of the clouds, you know what I'm saying?
Originally appeared in HardC.O.R.E..
... any % of U is as good as the whole pie ...