>CDNOW: >Discography : John Trudell : features -- "Dangerously Eloquent" -- >By: ERROL NAZARETH > > "Some people might think it's appropriate that Blue Indians, the latest >CD by John Trudell, is on a label called Dangerous Discs. Appropriate >because Trudell -- who served as national spokesman for the Indians of All >Tribes Occupation of Alcatraz between 1969 and '71 and as national chairman >of the American Indian Movement between '73 and '79 -- was viewed by the >U.S. government as a major threat to national security. > > Indeed, an FBI memo -- from its 17,000-page file on the Native American >icon -- says, "Extremely eloquent ... therefore extremely dangerous." On the >riveting, Jackson Browne-produced Blue Indians, the acclaimed poet offers >ample proof that he's still as eloquent as ever. Over a stark mix of blues, >rock, percussion, and Native American singing, Trudell offers incisive >commentary on life "in the unnatural society." > >Errol Nazareth(EN): Please clear something up for us. I keep hearing that >the FBI amassed a 17,000-page file on you. Where does this number come from? > >John Trudell(JT): From them [laughs]. This file was put together between >1969 and 1980. We requested it through the Freedom of Information Act in >1979, and in '80 they told us they had 17,000 pages, but they were only >going to give us 60 pages since it was a national security issue. > >EN: Do you feel you're still perceived as a threat? > >JT: They need enemies. I watch my back, but I have my careless moments. >Mentally, I'm always on the move. I don't think they're watching me every >day, but I do think they check up on me every now and then. And if something >political or controversial is coming along, they might dabble in my life for >a while to see if I have any relationship to this stuff. > >EN: That's scary. > >JT: I don't know how scary it is, but it tells me how insane they are. I'm >no economic threat, no political threat, no military threat, but it tells me >something about their paranoia, how disconnected from reality they are, and >their insecurity with what they perceive to be their own power. If they have >to pay all this attention to me, and all I do is think and talk, it tells me >more about them. If [the FBI has] to pay all this attention to me, and all I >do is think and talk, it tells me more about them." > >EN: Is it easy to stay in anger mode when you've gotta deal with all this >stress? > >JT: I look at anger as healthy. It's like sadness. There are certain >feelings we're given, and there's a reason we're given them. I think anger >is very necessary to our survival and reality, but we live in a >technological reality where people are being programmed not to accept their >anger. And when it's not accepted, it turns into rage or madness. If we >understand anger, I think we can use it as fuel for clarity and focus and >accomplishment. It doesn't have to be a distorting experience. > >EN: Talking about anger and guns, "Dizzy Duck" deals explicitly with those >issues. > >JT: I wrote it about 10 years ago. I was walking down a street in San >Francisco, and I walked by a big and tall shop, and I got this idea of a >little duck walking by this store [laughs]. But this duck had an attitude. I >was very pleased with it when it was finished. > >EN: "Wish You Were Here" qualifies as the most poignant love song I've >heard. I sense it was written for Tina [his wife, who was killed along with >their three children and his mother-in-law in a house fire hours after >Trudell burned an American flag outside the FBI's headquarters in >Washington, D.C. To this day, Trudell remains convinced government >operatives were responsible for the incident]. How hard was it writing it? >And is it hard reciting it in concert? > >JT: It wasn't really hard. It was spontaneous, it was just something I >wrote. I wrote it back in '81, and I had it and always liked it, and had it >put away and thought about using it as a song, but the right music never >came along until the song we have with it now. There are certain songs I >don't perform, like "Tina Smiled" and "After All These Years." I may try and >perform "You Were," but it's very difficult to do that. > >EN: The last time we spoke you told me, "The music industry suppresses >feelings at the expense of getting an emotional reaction." Whose music do >you feel communicates reality and feeling? > >JT: I don't listen to a whole lot of music. I'm a big fan of Ani DiFranco. >I respect her writing and the fact she went out and made it happen without >waiting for a record company to make it happen for her. So, I know there's >depth in her music and that's it's based upon real feelings. I'm a big >Jackson Browne fan; I respect the intelligence in his writing. > >EN: You'd also said you feel that "hip-hop's been very valuable to the black >community 'cause it's given it a power base in mass media; it's addressing >the political realities of the community." Is there an art form emerging >from Native American communities that's accomplishing what hip-hop is doing >for the black community? > >JT: The music is developing and starting to take form. Twenty years back, >most Native bands were doing cover songs, whereas now there's a >proliferation of Native groups that are writing original stuff. > >EN: A couple of lines from the title track jumped out at me. "Emotional >siege in civilized stains" and "oppressor man builder keeper of the cage." > >JT: Yeah, the world is now an industrial reservation, and everybody is the >Indian, and our common color is the blues."
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