MEDIA ROOTS– A couple of weeks ago, John Vanderslice killed his headlining show at the New Parish in Oakland. As he milled around the merch table enthusiastically greeting dedicated fans, I approached him and asked if he would be willing to conduct an exclusive interview for Media Roots. His response was unexpected- a charismatic and resounding “Yes” that rang with genuine interest.
Even more disarming than his excitement for the interview was his likability. Not only is John an amazingly talented songwriter, musician and producer, but he is also one of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever come across. More than anything though, he is an excellent storyteller.
Throughout his impressive and lengthy discography, three albums stand out as the most politically motivated: 2004’s Cellar Door is a raw, activist rock album with brilliant underpinnings in its lyricism; 2005’s Pixel Revolt is a more refined, beautifully structured album full of the same political angst; and 2007’s Emerald City, named after Baghdad’s fortified “Green Zone,” is a rock solid gem, brilliantly combining both the production quality of Pixel and the dark undertones of Cellar Door.
John’s songs are mostly narratives told through the eyes of different characters, giving him the ability to explore dark and controversial issues in a uniquely perceptive way. The political commentary throughout these albums range from 9/11 foreknowledge in the song Exodus Damage to the story of prostitution in Afghanistan in Trance Manual. The song White Dove explores humanity’s capacity to forgive horrific crimes of war, and Tablespoon of Codeine is about numbing your mind in order to cope with reality.
John Vanderslice’s sound can’t be boxed into any particular genre. It encompasses folk, rock, strings, electronic and experimental sounds. When his unique and amazing lyrics are added into the equation, his music transcends classification.
He runs the all-analog recording study Tiny Telephone in the Mission District of San Francisco, where bands like Deerhoof, Spoon and Death Cab for Cutie have recorded. I was lucky enough to sit down with John at Tiny Telephone for an in depth and candid conversation about the struggles of independent musicians, the US political system and foreign policy, and for some exclusive interpretive insights on a few of my favorite songs.
To read the full transcription and article please go to http://mediaroots.org/into-the-mind-of-john-vanderslice.php