One of the most prolific, relevant, vibrant, and well-hidden activists is the mastermind of American High Doug Terry. American High is a band for the people!
You tend to write the happiest melodies to the scariest subjects. Why do you think that happens? And is it on purpose?
Bands in the 60s and 70s wrote catchy songs with serious, even dark subjects. Political songs, anti-war songs, anti-tax songs, songs about people who were wrongly imprisoned. But they are good songs. The kind that you find yourself tapping your foot to and humming later. We think songs are more interesting when they are multi-layered. Books like ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Animal Farm’ can be seen as stories about kids on an island or animals taking over a farm. But there are deeper meanings for those who care to look. I guess that’s why we are still talking about them decades later. They appeal to many different people for many different reasons.
When you decide you’re subjects which are usually quite heavy and deep, what’s inside your head, what are you thinking?
Usually we read or see something that pisses us off. Like a cop throwing a grenade into a baby’s crib. Or something that makes us smile, like the catchy silliness of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Zoo’. I mean, when you go to the zoo do you make fun of the animals enslaved there? We don’t, but we love the genius of their songwriting. There’s a strange duality there that’s hard to talk about. But it’s interesting. We like songs that grab our attention. Catchy songs. You know how, in general, Europeans do not expect happy endings to their movies and Americans do? Well maybe in a way we’re trying to make songs that have both.
As one of the most rebel activists in the history of music and on this planet how do you think your messages will help the world?
We hope a lot of people will listen to and like the songs. If that happens we believe many will agree with us and hopefully that will lead to change. There was a time when we didn’t think a lot about the fact that there are American military bases in over 100 countries and territories, for example. Then someone brought it up and we sat down and thought about it. No other country does that. Why? Why do we? Because we are more moral? We’re better? We didn’t question things then, but we do now. That is the result of someone with guts sitting down and telling us about it. That’s what we hope to do.
Do you think people are very shocked if they listen to your fabulous music, even dance to it, and then realize what it’s really about?
We aren’t trying to shock people, but maybe people need to be shocked. We were shocked when we heard an old man in Florida was murdered on his front lawn by police. He was sick of dealers selling drugs on his property, so when two undercover cops posing as drug dealers trespassed on his land he came out of his house with an unloaded old rifle. They promptly murdered him there and then. I don’t know if we just didn’t believe stories like that or we didn’t want to believe. But facts are facts. How can we prevent that from happening again if we don’t even talk about it? How can change happen when people don’t even know there is something that needs changing. One reason we picked Cheye Calvo as an example of the immorality of ‘no knock’ warrants is he is an upper middle class white guy. He was the mayor for crying out loud. So if that happened to him, what is going on in our nation’s poorer neighborhoods? The inner cities? Cheye Calvo has a voice but the poor and disenfranchised often don’t. So let’s not end ‘no knock’ police attacks because of Cheye Calvo, as evil and despicable as the crimes against his family were. Let’s end them for the countless and unknowable masses of crimes that must be happening to poor people all over the country every day. People who can’t call a news conference. People who have no voice.
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Stream Cheye Calvo by American High on Reverbnation