Writing about MC5 in a few lines is a difficult task. There are countless stories carried out by this band, which has become one of the most celebrated and influential of its generation.
Formed in Detroit in 1964, it became known as one of the most explosive, radical, loud and controversial bands of its time. His debut album, Kick Out The Jams, released in 1969, remains a reference for musicians around the world and is cited as a determining influence for punk, which would emerge a few years later, as well as for the grunge movement, which emerged in the years 90 and even for some metal bands, which recognize the overwhelming energy of the MC5.
In addition to the heavy sound, the extremely loud and chaotic shows inspired by avant-garde and free jazz, MC5 was also known for being one of the first bands to assume a radical, left-wing political stance. Coming from a city full of unions that fought for their causes, it was impossible not to get involved in political issues, and influenced by the writer and counterculture icon, John Sinclair, who was the band's manager, they were never afraid to express their ideas and were one of the first bands to protest the Vietnam War.
“I grew up in a time when every boy was involved in social and political issues, it was the 60s, the Vietnam War politicized everyone, the government forced you to enlist, sent you to war, killed people and you could end up dead. My generation never understood this war. The fact is that Vietnam never attacked us, and the theory that other countries like Cambodia could join against the United States was ridiculous, and false. The only reason was the oil that existed in the region. And should I kill for that? Of course not, this experience brought me a radical look ”, says Wayne Kramer, guitarist of MC5, who adds:“ Living in the United States at that time and perceiving injustices such as those suffered by the black population, totally deprived of their rights; they could not even vote, they were prevented from playing a leading role in society, they had to sit in the back of buses. Seeing people being jailed for ten years for having two joints ... these things made me look around and question why things were like this. The hypocrisy and contradictions were greater than I could bear and I realized that I had to act and that sense, that attitude, remained with me throughout my life ”.
The fury and progressive desire preached by MC5 were captured at the beginning of the band's first album, recorded live, in which vocalist Rob Tyner makes a speech calling for revolution and ends with the iconic phrase: “Kick out the jam motherfuckers !! ”, The same that caused a chain of stores to refuse to sell their records. The answer came in a full-page ad in the local newspaper, with an even more aggressive response, which culminated in the expulsion of the band from its label, Elektra.
More than 5 decades later, this record is recognized as one of the most important in the history of rock, and shows how much the band's speech and music are still up to date.
"I think it has to do with the purity and innocence of youth, we were young, 19, 20 years old, very sure about what we wanted to do, it was right in everything I was doing," says Wayne Kramer. “MC5's music was able to capture your time. In art you always try to capture the joy, but the MC5's message was different, we talked about self-affirmation, effectiveness and that you can make a difference in the world if you give yourself totally. Even if you are wrong, even if you make mistakes, you can learn from it and change the direction of the world. I feel like that moment is stored in amber, in space, something that travels in time, and each new generation ends up connecting the dots and returning to MC5 at some point, they discover the original verve, the true spirit ”, completes Wayne.
When asked about the current days, and if he thinks bands should take a more political stance, Wayne is generous and says that he doesn't judge anyone, that he doesn't care if a band just wants to be successful, or have worldwide recognition, the important thing is to act according to their heart, to do everything truly. But he recalls that nowadays the position in favor of equality and freedom and an activist posture are essential. “Activism is something necessary in a democracy, it is not just a word we read around, it has to be translated into actions, we have to work to ensure that democracy can prevail, that it can flourish, and that asks for my participation, your participation. If there is no involvement, we can lose that freedom as it did in some countries in Eastern Europe where elections are held every year but the leaders remain in power, pretending that this is democracy. All very close to Donald Trump ”, he quips.
Today, in addition to his music career, Wayne is dedicated to a project that helps rehabilitate inmates, something that touches him personally, and which he is very happy to be able to publicize.
“It is no secret that I was arrested, and that experience changed me profoundly. I entered the prison full of pride, with bright eyes, and I came out different, colder, tougher less successive to the yearnings of youth and more realistic about the world in which I live. I found out how much the authorities can mistreat humans. I know of people who have been imprisoned for longer than me and in worse conditions, who have been treated with more violence, more hatred, more resentment, and return to the streets with much more anger. These people have not been rehabilitated or even qualified, they learn nothing but how to become worse people. I didn't know how to sell drugs before prison, but I learned there, today I know how. The prison population grows every year, and I see such a revolt that I felt compelled to do something for them, something efficient, "says Wayne, who continues:" I always liked it when some artist came to prison to do a show for us. . It was important, and I thought I could do something like that. I talked to Billy Bragg, an English singer and activist who told me about a project that took musical instruments to prisoners to help with rehabilitation, and that project was called Jail Guitar Doors, after a song by The Clash, which they wrote about about my life in prison. So I decided to bring this work to the USA. Today we have managed to take instruments to 160 American prisons and we play a program that uses the creative process to help people find new ways to express their complex feelings, pains, memories and learn the importance of collaborating with others, something that everyone needs in their lives. vidsa, and that is discouraged in prisons, each must stay in his own world, in his own class. In our program we have a rule that there are no divisions by gang, color, class, sexuality ... we are all artists. Everyone who participates loves it because they rediscover what they really are as human beings, everyone has stories that deserve to be told ”.
All of these stories are just a small part of the life of Wayne Kramer, a respected and worst loved figure of all who know him. About two years ago he released an autobiography in which he remembers all his past, The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities, which unfortunately has not yet won a Brazilian edition.
But this Friday you have a rare opportunity to see this legendary figure telling his own stories and talking about music and activism in an interview with Inti Queiroz that takes place on the panel The fight must continue!, which will be shown after 8 pm as part of SIM São Paulo's programming.
Remembering that to participate you must purchase a subscription to SIM Community, or if you want to enjoy all the content, you can purchase a Pro-Badge credential, which gives access to the entire program.