14 January 2007

poets and musicians and war - oh my!

As I've often told Ginsberg, you can't blame the President for the state of the country, it's always the poets' fault. You can't expect politicians to come up with a vision, they don't have it in them. Poets have to come up with the vision and they have to turn it on so it sparks and catches hold.
~Ken Kesey

our friend forrest whitlow is featured on neil young's anti-war music site. we took bebe to see him play friday night - you KNOW he was dancing and singing along! at one point, he escaped and made his way to the guitars behind forrest. when will got to him he was strumming away, saying, "riley do'ed it! riley do'ed it!" ah, my little future music maker...

in any event - i wanted to share forrest with you all too. he's one of the most talented and prolific songwriters that i can think of, and i'm honored to know him. not to mention, he's a really great guy to boot! what follows are links to two of my favoriteofalltimeinifinity tunes:

homeland security

as an added bonus, here's an interview that yours truly did with forrest a few years ago - and a few pictures:

Forrest Whitlow recently released Sunrise In Reverse; his 6th CD of original music. For over six years, Forrest has played his music to the crowds at Prospero's Up Close & Personal concerts. He consistently has good crowds, and we have - frankly - sold more Whitlow CDs than any other musical act. We thought it was high time to sit down and let him tell you a little about himself.

Kara: Is Forrest Whitlow your real name? It's the perfect rock n roll name!
Whitlow: No it's a nickname given for getting a nasty finger fungus when I was growing up in the hills of Kentucky...of course it's my real name!

Kara: Would you change? To what? Why?
Whitlow: Not a chance. I worked hard to overcome the nicknames, the jokes, the ribbing growing up, like "Four", "Wedgehead", "Woody", "Trees", "Whit", "Frosty", not to mention "Gump" - I was named after Forrest Gump ya know. Yeah, I guess if I had to, "Frostie" would be it.

Kara: What is in your CD player right now?
Whitlow: Sunrise In Reverse by me - sorry, it's truly is in there and I should be sick of listening to it. But I'm not, and that's a good sign 'cause I've been intimate with this project for over 5 months now, going over and over it, listening to it over and over.

Kara: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Whitlow: A red bellied sap-sucker...as well as Mighty Mouse...Super Man...and especially AquaMan.

Kara: You are/have been a member of a book club (philosophy, I think you said). If you were allowed only one book, what would it be? Why?
Whitlow: The Gay Science by Frederich Nietzsche. It's a beautiful literary anti-system of philosophical aphorisms that ask questions, make you grapple, and invite you to question the status quo and create your own existence by testing this or that theory via living it out. If it doesn't where it matters, then it's a failed philosophical system. Nietzsche was a very good poet. Some of his poetry is in there as well. And Gay can also be translated Happy… and I wonder why, 'cause life is or should be a great adventure of experiment.

Kara: Is there anything you are hiding - from someone, from the police, from yourself...?
Whitlow: I am a law abiding citizen, most of the time. Most of the time in public I hide the fact that I have no friends by paying folks to be my entourage, my friends. In reality, it's their job. But people think I'm really popular in Wichita and Prague. I'm hiding from my debts...too much self indulgence with hiring friends and making records that no one buys. It's an addiction. I'm alone really. and when the money's gone and I have no more friends or songs then it'll be check out time - just kiddin'.

Kara: What's your sign?
Whitlow: Sagittarius

Kara: What are your top 3 influences musical or otherwise? Why?
Whitlow: My philosophy professor in college who taught me that learning was a dialectical process. It was as much of how I interpreted the philosophy I read, my reaction, my critique as it was a philosopher telling me that it's this way and no other. Basically to think for myself and not be scared, to give my opinion in class or in a paper and come up with something of my own rather than just regurgitating the lectures word for word. Long answer...he was the coolest.

Neil Young 'cause he carved his own path, took his influences and made the most out of them, wrote from his heart, from what he observed, with great passion and is such a maniac on guitar, so visceral. His music makes you feel.

Dad was the hardest working man in the farming business. Still can put in a pretty good day. Smart man. Very creative - you have to be in order to farm. He gambled and won most of the time. One with the earth. Now there's a hero for ya. I love my dad. Funny thing is, all this stuff with farming he did to put us kids through school, I doubt he ever thought or thinks about it in a spiritual philosophical way. Artist? Yes sir. Very wise man though taciturn.

Kara: This CD is something of a departure for you. It's more, well, political. What sent you in that direction?
Whitlow: You get subjects out of the way on past records. So that's part of it. There was mental/creative space for a new subject, a new sound. Me and my friend, each week, would meet and talk about the political climate since 911 really (and before), but it just became time to write something musically with more of a message. I can be very political, very crusade-ish in my songs. Still, I don't like to write so provincially and specifically that the song is tied to a time period and becomes obsolete. I try to make most of my songs timeless. Nor is it not overtly about bashing this person or that person - really... It's about the climate we have all created. Bush had to happen or someone like him. I don't like him at all. The cool thing is to put in the subtle messages (or not so subtle) "you're no soldier, you're a monster." Or the refrain of another song, "the good ole USA". People that don't really listen to the lyrics closely will probably interpret the latter as "our country rocks! Yeah!" But that's not what the song is at all - we are big bullies in the world. And we critics benefit presently from it as much as do the proponents of 'the Bush-Nation'. So I guess I'm rambling to say: someday there will be no such thing as Homeland Security and we will have all contributed to it happening. Actually, it is inevitable, empires crumble, and pride comes before the fall. I know it's cliché man…but…

Kara: Ken Kesey once told Alan Ginsberg that it wasn't the politicians duty to envision the future, it was the poets duty to conceive it and to talk about it with such passion as to set the world on fire. Do musicians have a similar responsibility?
Whitlow: When i wrote "homeland security" i felt a tiny bit like the Biblical prophet Jeremiah who went around talking doom and gloom, preaching the end, and that folks need to repent, mend thier ways before it's too late. Well, "homeland..." was kinda this feeling of being a prophet and it wasn't really a pleasant thing to paint some macabre scene of a world, an empire, us, blindsided by some lethal chemical onslaught. it's all symbol. i have no idea obviously how things will fall. prosperity may continue for many years to come. but hubris is a breeder of contempt...and history tells us that WE will be the meat and bread that feeds another empire one day. There's all kinds of music. Some of us musicians are also poets or ministers or philosphers and occasionally these things have to be said. other times it's total self-indulgent bullshit. but that's okay too. i try not to take what i say as some serious statement...it's just words and a guit-fiddle really. oooooooop.

Kara: Sunrise in Reverse is your 6th collection of original music. Out of all these songs you've written, do you have a favorite song? Why?
Whitlow: As Lou Reed might say, "that question sucks! Why would you ask me a question like that?" Ok, I'm a nice guy, sooo… The funnest song to play, and a fave all the way around is a tune called Ever Had off the first CD. That tune rocks both solo and with a band. On the Fly is the best song lyrically, musically that I've written, I think, but not always my favorite to play.

Kara: If you could work with any musician, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
Whitlow: I would seriously love to work with my friends of the past: do a record, play the old music again. Like Rick Gray (as far as I know, Rick is still alive). Like Todd Wiseman - great bass player. And Rechelle Malin - her voice is so wild and it fits perfectly with mine most of the time. That wasn't the answer you were expecting, but they all are the shit...if they are motivated.
Famous? It would be intimidating, but I'd love to have Ben Keith from some of Neil's solo albums play pedal steel on some of my stuff. It would be very cool to one day get to play a show or do a record with Stan Sheldon - a great guy with a ton of rock and roll wows to lay on ya. He was big time, and yet you meet him and he's just a normal, humble dude. And sure, I'd love to sit around a fire with Amie Mann, Beck, Paul Westerberg, Neil Young and trade songs. Do a song circle. I bet they'd be totally cool about it.

Kara: How many times have you be nominated for something by The Pitch or other KC organizations? Have you ever won? What's wrong with those guys?
Whitlow: I've not won anything ever. But being nominated is cool. There've been a few nominations. And the Pitch has been good to me. Very good. Jason Harper is a really cool guy. He seems to genuinely enjoy covering the music scene. And I appreciate the press I've gotten from Andrew Miller. Anyway, it's all an illusion, a fun game, recognition. You still, have to go to the toilet alone though, and endure your own shit. What?

Kara: You've been touring in Wichita, Des Moines Omaha and other regional markets - how's that going?
Whitlow: Very fun to travel. BTW, I've been through Des Moines, but I swear I've never touched a guitar string while in that town, swear! I've been fortunate to hook up with Borders Books/Music and they buy my CDs in bulk. I get to go to their stores and promote them and try and sell them. It's a pretty good deal. And they really like the new CD, so I'm gonna get that one out too. I'll be all over town, in St. Louis stores, Wichita, Omaha..........and wherever else I can fit in a weekend. Des Moines?

Kara: You changed produces & engineers for Sunrise, even spent a lot of $ to have it mastered by some guru in NYC. Why? Did it work?
Whitlow: We'll see if it worked. It worked if it sells - bottom line, baby! I think it sounds awesome. Whether it was worth the cost of the mastering (which, for the guy I got, I got a pretty good deal...cause Clarke knows people if ya know what I mean). I don't know, really. My ears are blown. I can't tell. We'll let the public decide. So, please, please paaaaaaaaaaaleeeeeeeeeeeeez! buy my the CD.


it's all i've got right now, as i'm in the throes of an existential crisis... how dramatic of me, huh? more on that later... most likely tomorrow.

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