MAKING AMERICA GRATEFUL AGAIN

The damndest thing about Hunter is he writes from a place that’s very prophetic. He could write about something that you don’t really understand—metaphorically or otherwise—just beautiful prose and poems and wordplay. And then, all of a sudden, you run into a situation that you can’t explain in life and one of Hunter’s lines explains it perfectly. That is genius; that is magic. So when you’re faced with that, you can’t turn away from it. It’s just like the Grateful Dead—once you see those words, the music flows. And the words become part of the music. I call it “the magic.” It’s dangerous stuff because you don’t know where it will lead, but I like danger in music. There should be a struggle to it. It should have everything that life contains.

And then, all of a sudden, Trump came around and, my God, I can’t imagine any artist not being inspired by Mr. Trump. He’s gut-wrenching. So I started to scream, and the only way I scream is through the music. Hunter wrote a lot of this stuff before Trump—I don’t see it as being totally political, although it says things about politics and about all of the things that I find amazingly destructive, disturbing and life-threatening about the existence of somebody like a Mr. Trump. He comes from a place that inspires the best in you, actually. How can you fight something like that? How can you live with it? How can you turn that energy into something good? Trump had a great influence on me—not necessarily in the best of ways.

OLD AND NOT IN THE WAY

The other part of this album is just feel-good dance music. My attempts to mix lyrics and dance music have been semi-successful in my mind, some more than others. But that’s not been my forte. As you know, percussion and bass music are my first loves. This record has a lot of rhythm. Zakir Hussain, Giovanni Hidalgo, Sikiru Adepoju—all of my Planet Drum mates—are all over this. And now, in the days where digital technology has caught up, you can actually perform on these robots and sound droids using the latest technology; combine that with many of my pet sounds from over the years that I’ve been holding and saving—things I’m emotionally tied to, whether they be grooves, sounds or rhythms—and voila! I also reached back in history to some of my favorite archival recordings from over the years that I’ve fallen on.



As a trustee at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, I’m exposed to the world’s music. And also, I’m on the board of directors at Smithsonian Folkways. So I was able to embed these amazing sounds from the past in this new electric music. I took an old 1944 Alan Lomax recording from Tampa, Florida for “WINE, WINE, WINE,” and “Auctioneers” was a recording of an auctioneer selling tobacco. I’m hoping to bring awareness to these recordings from around the world.

Someday, I’d like to take RAMU on the road—take it out to sea and see what it does. Thinking about when I go out live, I might want to use Jason [Hann of The String Cheese Incident and EOTO] because of his electronic sensibilities and also because of his very powerful backbeat. I’ve played with Jason over the years, and he’s joined The Rhythm Devils a few times—he’s a solid drummer. I asked him to come in and do a little double drumming, pepper the record and reinforce my parts—that added a little more weight to them.