Talk It Out - Randy Stern - NYC
Randy: You know my name is Randy Nerve?Jodi: For real? Your last name is Nerve?
Randy: We all call ourselves Nerve. Like the Ramones were all named Ramone.Jodi: Oh, pills that’s cool!
Randy: I read some of your interviews and I really liked them. Howard Dean, viagra buy Moby…I read them when I first met you, and I remember the general feeling. It seemed like you were talking about positive things and drawing the positive things out of the people you were interviewing. I don’t know, I just liked it. They didn’t seem like your typical, run-of-the-mill interviews.Jodi: My feeling is that you were seeking something in yourself and that’s what you found. So, I’m excited that you found positive, happy things in yourself. So what is it that jazzes you? What is it you feel most proud of in your life?
Randy: I’m very proud of something that lately has also been causing me a lot of grief and stress, which is kind of sad in a way. It’s my music. It brings me pleasure and pain. It’s sometimes difficult being in a band situation where you have all these personalities to deal with. But I love making music. It’s what I do best, and I’m recently realizing I make music to be of service. It’s something I read about in the Artist’s Way, and it really struck me. I’m making music to do service. And, I need to be in a joyous, spiritual, God-filled, centered place to be of service. Music, to me now, is not about making the money, and the going on tour, all that stuff and the chicks and the record companies, na na na. It’s service, man. It’s service. I try to put a message in my songs. I’m not like, a deep Bob Dylan kind of guy, but I just try to sing about love, healing, and peace, and the crappy things that are going on in the world that a lot of people might not be aware of, because they are plugged into their televisions, and they’re plugged into American consumer culture, and they’re drugged by it. They might not be aware of what’s going on. I was talking to a reasonably intelligent person who I respect the other day, and I mentioned to this person the recent Rolling Stone article by Robert Kennedy Jr. about how the 2004 election was stolen, blah, blah, blah, and I just assumed everyone was aware of these issues. She was like, “stolen?” She just seemed clueless. She was like, “I’m no fan of Bush, but, you know, I just figured the people in power are doing the right thing anyway.” And, it just seemed so ignorant.Jodi: Are you talking specifically about the voting machines in Ohio?
Randy: Oh, that’s just one part of it. There was so much crap going on. There is so much. You can read about it. Just not in the mainstream press, who are all a part of it. It’s out there on the internet, independent newspapers and magazines. It’s all out there. They can’t censor everything.Jodi: I think what’s interesting about what you are saying is that you’re giving service by telling us what you know about politics and by educating the people about issues that are really present, and corruption in our government that is really present. This is a corrupt administration, and that’s an objective statement. There have been laws that have been broken. People have been shot! Dick Cheney’s partner! I’m just teasing. I’m not trying to be controversial here, I’m really not, I’m just teasing, but what I am trying to do is have you share what you do know, because we are coming into an election, and I think the people need to be informed and ought to be informed this year. What’s at the heart of what you think is really going on, and what can we do as we move toward November, to prepare ourselves and to make sure we are voting and our voices are heard in accordance with our inner most desires and vision for our country?
Randy: First of all, let me just say, I’m not a political-oriented artist. I’m just trying to put music and songs out there that have some sort of meaning to me, whether it’s something politically-oriented or relationship-oriented or something that’s about love, or self-healing. The songs you listened to off myspace, I don’t think those were the political ones.Jodi: Yeah, one of those was about addiction.
Randy: Really. The song “Really”. Yeah, it’s about addiction. It’s service. I want to put some kind of message out there. Yeah, a couple of the songs, I’ll give you the CD, there are a couple of politically-oriented songs on it. But, I’m not a political artist. I’m not extremely well-educated on this stuff, but I do know what feels right, and I think it’s pretty clear that what’s going on right now is just outright wrong. Fucked up. I don’t articulate it in conversation well. But I can put it in music, I can put it in song. I can put it in lyrics. If you really want to know how I feel about what’s going on, I’d rather you hear my songs, because I get all tongue-tied when I talk about politics. I wish I could talk about it better. I wish I could be a politically articulate person when I speak, like a politically articulate musician, like a guy like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Very politically active in his music, and if you hear him talk about this stuff, he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. While I have the words in my head, I can’t get them out. Basically, we’re all being lied to. I think we live in a system that doesn’t allow the individual to really live up to his full potential. Unless you really, really, bust your fucking ass….which I do. Most people, the average person is too worried about paying the bills every month. How they are going to get food? How they are going to feed their kids? They’re too caught up in the day to day to be concerned with other things, with larger things, with war, with poverty, THIRD WORLD POVERTY THAT OCCURS IN THIS COUNTRY. In this fucking country, the richest country in the world, there are people living in extreme poverty. The average, regular people are just struggling to live everyday, and so when you’re struggling to have a life, you’re not thinking about these things. And rightfully so. And, I think a lot of people are in the dark about what’s going on, maybe naïve, buying into the idea that everything we do, we’re doing in the name of freedom, and in the name of democracy, and it’s so not that. It’s so undemocratic, and so not about freedom.Jodi: I want to dispel some of the myths that are propagated in our country, and one of those myths is that we are the wealthiest country in the world. A country in as big a debt as we are cannot possibly be the wealthiest country in the world. It’s impossible. I think people should know that. What do you think about that?
Randy: I think you just enlightened me. Not that I have any illusions about us being in debt, which is funny, but how quickly I am to say, “We’re the wealthiest country in the world.” Which is sort of true, but we’re wealthy because it’s twisted, because we are in debt. We squander money on killing people, plundering, polluting the environment that we live in. That’s a big issue. Have you seen the Al Gore movie?Jodi: I haven’t seen it yet. What’s it like?
Randy: You’ve got to see it. I’ll see it again. I’ll go see it with you.Jodi: Alright.
Randy: It’s hard to get excited and say, “Oh it was great,” because it’s not a “feel good” movie. It’s truth. The title says it all. It’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” He’s putting some truth out there and it’s hard to swallow.Jodi: What’s interesting, and it goes back to your desire be of service, is there is a common ground in the name of service between the musician and the politician. Both started out to do something good for the world, to be of service, to do something important for others, for their community, to make a difference. Obviously, some musicians only want to be powerful and get all the chicks and dudes and money, and glory and fame; and some politicians want absolute power and will corrupt with no regard to consequence. Some wanted to be the President of the United States, or the Congressman of xyz town to say that they accounted and amounted to something, which to some degree is the American Dream. What little kid doesn’t want to grow up to be the President of the United States? But, I think deep down, the best politicians and the best musicians are there to give service, to deliver a messenge, to change the world for the good. That’s why I’ve always done the kind of musician interviews I’ve done, because I’ve always found those musicians to be the most fascinating people. The most interesting musicians have something important to say and say it to be of service. And that’s why I’m also drawn to politics and to politicians, because I’m also somebody who wants to give service, and make a difference in the best possible way I can. So, I heard Krist Novoselic, from Nirvana is running for a political office in the Northwest (I can’t find info on the web to support this – someone please let me know if this is true and in what town. I know he is vocal in support of election reform.), and you mentioned Eddie Vedder. What do you think about musicians entering into the actual world of politics?
Randy: I think more should do it. I think more regular people should do it. That is what politics is supposed to be, and that’s what it was meant to be, way back when. Somehow, over time, you find that the people who are entering politics are the rich, the wealthy, industrialists, the oil people. Bush comes from a huge oil family. Politics is supposed to be “the regular guy.” You mentioned before kids used to want to be President, and I don’t know if kids are having that dream these days, but back in the day, back before my parents, or in my parents’ days, kids thought about that. I think it was more possible for a regular guy to be President. Now it just seems it’s about how much money you have. You need millions. You need millions to have a successful campaign, or even a semi-successful campaign. I would like to see more non-business people, non-millionaires. I guess a lot of famous musicians are millionaires though. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’d like to see more people who you wouldn’t think are politicians getting in there. Because that’s what the American system was supposed to be.Jodi: I think being in a high office in America has always been an elitist game. But, I think there is hope, when you see somebody like Bill Clinton, who had a challenged childhood, who rose through the scholarship system to become the President of the United States. Not to say that it’s all or nothing, one extreme to the other, but I think that’s why Bill Clinton did appeal to so many people, and his popularity was so strong. People really did identify with him. And, I think that’s what George W. Bush tried to do by becoming the next-door-neighbor cowboy, and I think a lot of people bought that for a long time, but I think that was, sort of, another lie, because he never was that.
Randy: Of course.Jodi: He never knew poverty. Ever.
Randy: He never had to struggle for anything.Jodi: One is an acting job, and one is…and I’m not trying to put down the president, I’m really not.
Randy: I am.Jodi: I’m just trying to tell it like it is. One is a persona, and one is –
Randy: A person.Jodi: A person. And I’m not defending Bill Clinton either, I’m just trying to visually make a distinction between these two characters, these two people. I don’t know. Kind of going back to your music, because I think it’s important to dispel the myths. I think the American people need to know what is an urban myth perpetuated by the media. Right after 9/11, I’ll never forget that Vanity Fair had the President of the United States on the cover, and I couldn’t help but realize that’s where the propaganda machine really, really started with this administration. I don’t think it has stopped since. If we could talk more about, how do we destroy the myths in our culture? I think musicians are really great about giving an alternative perspective. People talk about thinking outside the box; I think musicians present a very great outside-the-box mentality, which is why musicians have been persecuted in other cultures, for being different, for being smarter. That’s why many artists have been persecuted, and we can’t allow ourselves to be treated that way, and we won’t. There has been a lot of talk about Bush and this current administration scapegoating, and there has been talk about scapegoating gays, because of the Federal Marriage Amendment. There’s always a potential for absolute power to corrupt and scapegoat artists, to scapegoat women. I think women have been bashed in the head with these anti-abortion, anti-choice legislative attacks to the point that women are a scapegoat for this administration as well, and we can’t deny that. I think it’s really important for the media to make sure we give voice to musicians and to alternative ways of thinking. That’s why blogs are so great, and the web is so great. We’ve got to be united against censorship where the government limits our information access; we’ve got to be very strong in action to push forward in what we know to be truth, which means dispelling all these political myths our country is putting out there, like the war in Iraq and the Middle East is great, current carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere are healthy, like Dow chemical really gives a flying shit about humanity. Do you realize how war heats up our planet? We really need to speak out and vote for politicians who support real people, people who are innocent. What you said when you talked about the everyday American is just worried about putting food in his or her mouth, that’s the way our economic system is set up. That’s the point.
Randy: Oh yeah. That is the point. Distraction.Jodi: The point is to distract us with poverty, and the hand-to-mouth -??Randy: Exactly. To distract us with everything. With entertainment, consumer culture, Coca-Cola, television, war. We’re just bombarded with images in TV shows that don’t say anything, with movies that don’t say anything. They plug into the consumer culture so you’re distracted by entertainment, by your economic situation, so people don’t want to think about this stuff. You talk to people and their eyes kind of glaze over. Not all people, but I think a lot of people. I don’t want to make a generalization, but I also travel, and we travel in more artistic circles and with people who are all trying to change themselves. I guess if you go outside of it, to the whole suburban, strip-mall kind of existence, maybe they would be a little more clueless than we are. Maybe. Jodi: Do you think one big problem we’re facing is that because wars typically benefit the economy, in a very upside-down way, that because some people are not suffering in America as much, because economically some people are doing better, do you think they tend to forget and think it’s not important to fight against the war?
Randy: That could be part of it too. Complacency. Comfortability. “Oh, things are okay.” But things are not okay for everyone. See my life’s goal is to make everyone comfortable. There are still people living in poverty, in horrible conditions, in this country alone. And never mind the rest of the world, the Third World, the extreme poverty that’s going on. I just envision the United States as nobody having to live in poverty, and I envision the world that way.Jodi: Let’s talk about who in America is living in extreme poverty. Obviously, we know the people in New Orleans are living in extreme poverty right now. Third World conditions without access to healthy, clean water.
Randy: Third World conditions in the United States.Jodi: Yes. No access to healthy water.
Randy: That’s unacceptable.Jodi: It is. Totally, Third World.
Randy: Yeah, UN-ACCEPTABLE!Jodi: Who else?
Randy: Who else?Jodi: Who else in America is living in extreme poverty? Who are we talking about here?
Randy: New Orleans is a good example. Extreme poverty. There are communities – you go into some of these inner cities, the ghetto, maybe that’s not extreme poverty, but it’s a bad situation. Why should a child have to grow up somewhere where just walking to school is walking through a battlefield, where you have fear for your life? Where an eight year-old child has to fear for his life going to school? There’s something wrong with that.Jodi: I think this is really, really interesting. I’m really excited we finally got to core of this Talk It Out session. I always like the moment when like, “Wow! This is it!”
Randy: I feel like I want to articulate this stuff, but…Jodi: Oh no, you’re so great. I can’t even tell you how great you are, because you basically have just turned the world around. Do you realize what you’ve done?
Randy: Just by putting these words out there? Well, we all do that.
Jodi: By specifically defining New Orleans as a Third World country, changes the world.
Randy: Yeah, well, you actually brought up New Orleans. I brought up the inner cities.Jodi: Well, you brought up there are Third World conditions in the United States.
Randy: Oh, yeah. Yeah.Jodi: And when I thought about what they would be, or what that is, it would have to be New Orleans. There’s no running water. There are people from any socio-economic level, and it’s like they’re on a deserted island down there. They’ve been deserted.
Randy: They have been deserted.Jodi: They have been totally deserted.
Randy: Nobody seems to care.Jodi: Nobody cares.
Randy: They’re not getting any help.Jodi: The government is spending billions a week in Iraq. These people can’t get ten million dollars worth of clean water. Right here in the United States, there are Third World conditions. Now let’s just look at that for a minute, because this is so huge! This is so important. I am blown away by how important this interview is right now, because it’s huge. If we have Third World conditions in the United States, the day has come. And, people would say over and over again, “America would never be like a Third World country.” And it is. How do we have a president that has created a Third World condition in the United States? Today. In 2006? People should be outraged that this is a Third World country. We haven’t let other countries in to help us. Do you remember how much we criticized Indonesia for not allowing foreign aid after Tsunami? We’ve done the same thing. It’s all a government ploy to privatize real estate in New Orleans.
Randy: I haven’t even thought about that.Jodi: We have Third World conditions, in a very real sense.
Randy: Yeah, I know.Jodi: People do not have running water in their houses. They don’t even have houses. And, we have a president and an administration that has completely polarized the balance of power, so that the balance of power has so severely shifted to the point that there are people with such extreme wealth, yet with Third World conditions right here in the United States.
Randy: Yes.Jodi: How profound an awareness is that?
Randy: Very. And people in the middle, most of us, are at the point where they’re struggling just enough to be distracted. Because, it’s the people in the middle of these two extremes that could make a difference, but for some reason they’re not making a difference, and I think it’s because we’re distracted.Jodi: Do you think we’re being brainwashed?
Randy: Yes.Jodi: How so?
Randy: Just by living here, we’re being brainwashed. The whole culture we live in. It’s the culture we live in. The culture we live in –Jodi: Is it because we’re being fed lies?
Randy: We’re being fed lies, but we’re also being fed fun stuff. We’re being fed junk food, junk entertainment, junk news. It makes it nice and comfortable. You go home, you sit on your couch, you flip through the stations. That’s how we’re being distracted. If you open a newspaper, if you look, the front page will be either some fluffy story about a celebrity or something really dark and scary, like a rapist on the loose, or some child got killed, which of course, is tragic and terrible, but how does that serve anyone? And you flip through it, and you wait until you get to page eight or ten and you see a little paragraph, a tiny little article about Iraq, or New Orleans, or something.Jodi: A First World country is living in Third World conditions. We need help. Our country needs some serious help. I don’t think we’re brave enough to ask for it. I don’t think our government is meeting our needs. So what can we do? How do we break free from this imprisonment we’re in, in America? I am saying it here, right now, “We are in a state of emergency!” Our country is hopeless. What do you think about that?
Randy: A lot of people don’t see it that way, though. It’s part of what makes it difficult doing anything about it.Jodi: Do you think I’m being too harsh and severe?
Randy: Possibly.Jodi: Are people going to say, “Jodi’s off at it again?”
Randy: It’s really hard to look at things that way, when look where we are. We just spent some money on some good food. We’re going outside. We can grab a cab to get home or hop on the subway. We have this nice, convenient peaceful life here.Jodi: It hasn’t always been that way, yeah? So, for the moment it’s peaceful.
Randy: For the moment, yeah. I just think there’s a certain amount of compassion that’s lacking in our political systems, in our business systems. There’s a certain amount of compassion lacking, and I think money is way more important than a human life. Way more important than a human life, and that’s the way the system is set up, and it’s just wrong. It’s totally, totally twisted. That’s why, going way back to the beginning of the conversation, that’s why I feel like artists, or at least me, I can’t speak for other artists, my mission is to be of service. To talk about things, and not necessarily just things political, because just talking about everyday life things is political in a sense. Changing yourself as a human being changes the world, so that’s political in a sense. It seems like everything is political in a way. I’m doing my best to live my life according to the laws of who I choose to call God or what I choose to call God. And, that’s a life that involves compassion and loving everybody. Not necessarily liking everyone, but just putting love out there, and that changes the world. That’s political again. So, how do we do all this, and you ask the question, “How do we change all this stuff?” To change the stuff directly almost seems impossible and insurmountable, but individuals can empower themselves. Get off the drugs. Get off the booze. Get off your ass. Shut off the television. Go outside once in a while. Turn off, I don’t know, Sex and the City and watch Bill Moyers for a change, if you’re gonna watch television. Just shift a little bit, make little changes, drive your car less, walk more, bike more. Things like, eat a little more healthy. You don’t have to become like a militant vegan, but go to McDonalds a couple of days less during the week than you normally would go. Eat more fruit, whatever. That changes the world, you know?Jodi: Organic fruit.
Randy: Organic fruit, yeah. But you know, for someone who eats McDonalds everyday, and watches TV everyday, and sitting on their asses, I mean, even if they went for the non-organic as a step in the right direction, I think it would be okay.Jodi: Not everyone can be as militantly organic as I am.
Randy: That’s how you change the world, and I try to do that through my music. To put those messages out there, because, I’m not just singing about political stuff, because as articulate as you seem to think I am, I don’t think I articulate that stuff very well. But, I’ll sing about empowerment. I’ll sing about getting over our addictions. And then, yeah, I’ll sing about the crap that’s going on in the higher places.Jodi: I think that’s great. I’m just so happy that you came to Talk It Out. I just feel like there’s one more thing I want to explore, and I don’t know how deeply I want to go there, because it’s very dark. I have some darkness within I need to reveal and expose. I feel like we can create danger and we call danger in and I feel like the more we threaten others the more other people threaten us.
Randy: Totally.Jodi: You know, I worry about us. I worry about people who are standing up for what they believe in, and I worry about good people who are risking their lives in war. I worry about the silent folk who don’t stand up, and who are too afraid. I worry about our voting systems, and that they’re being manipulated and taken for granted. I can’t help but worry that our life is changing here, and I just really want to empower the people. If I could do one thing with my time today, it would be to say to everybody out there who may be reading this that you have the power to change your life. Only you, you think for yourself. A wise person told me, “Use your own mind.” No matter what everybody tells you, no matter what you and I tell them.
Randy: Yes. Exactly. Right.Jodi: No matter what anybody says, people have the power to change their own life and to do what’s best for them. We all intrinsically deep down know that things are not right. Our country is depressed. It’s up to us to step out of it. And snap out of it, and wake up, and make a change, and get in action. I think action in 2006 is the magic word. We need to Rock the Vote. We need to get out there and tell as many people as possible that there are myths, that there are political myths being spread. War is not power. True power is love. Like what you said, and what you say in your music. True power is compassion and healing, and giving people clean water, and helping people rebuild their homes and their community. That’s power. Reaching out a helping hand is true power, and that’s what I hope takes over our country real soon. I think we’re lacking, and I think we need more true power. God’s power. God’s will. I think we need a really healthy dose of love and kindness in our community. And, it starts with rocking the vote, or voting. Whether you like rock music or any kind of music or not, it doesn’t matter. The point is, is that you love yourself, and you reach out, and you help this country heal, and take a step and make an action toward a better, a more financially stable world and a more loving kind world, where people aren’t dying for propagated values. Where they are living for real dreams.
Randy: Wow! That was intense! I feel like you’re the interviewee. You’re just saying such powerful, powerful stuff. Such truth, wow! You just have an amazing spirit, Jodi. I feel honored to know you and to be doing this interview with you, which is really not like an interview. It’s more like a conversation and a dialogue, isn’t it?Jodi: Yeah, Talk It Out.
Randy: Talking to each other. Talk It Out. Exactly. That’s beautiful.Jodi: There’s something It in there.
Randy: That is beautiful.Jodi: We’re finding out what It is.??Randy: Yeah.??Jodi: We never really know. Sorry, but I never prepare an interview…rarely. Only once in a while do I write down questions. I want to feel what you say. You’re the inspiration for this whole conversation. I had no idea this is what we’d be saying.
Randy: Yeah. Me neither.Jodi: I am always an open channel.
Randy: Funny, I told you when we started I was really in a bad mood and feeling kind of dark, and that this interview might not be very good.Jodi: This was a good one. A really good one. So thank you.
Randy: Thank you, Jodi. Thank you so much. You’re awesome.Jodi: You’re awesome. Good luck to you in your music, and with you and with your music.
Randy: Thanks. And well… do you mind if I plug… I feel crass plugging myself after talking about the stuff we talked about.Jodi: You’re letting people know who you are and where to find you.
Randy: I play in a great band called The Nerve! I am also a solo artist. You can see me singing and playing guitar on the train almost any day of the week.Jodi: I love that.
Randy: And, I’m going to start branching out to bars and cafes and stuff too and possibly record a solo album, because as great as the band is, I need to express my own voice as an artist. I’m getting out there as myself, Randy Nerve.Jodi: Check it out, look for Randy Nerve.
Randy: And change the world, and go see, “An Inconvenient Truth”, the Al Gore movie. And go find a movie called, “What the Bleep do we Know.”Jodi: Oh, I want to see that! I want to see that!
Randy: Yes, you have to see that movie. And… uh… oh boy. So many things… Even in the mainstream, there are films that have a good message, and that are enlightening, and are still fun to watch, like “V for Vendetta.”Jodi: It’s not to dumb the masses down.
Randy: It’s putting a message out there. I think it’s so important. Like I said before you don’t have to be a deep Bob Dylan guy, but if you’re creating something for the masses, something that’s supposed to be artistic, say something. Say anything. And if you’re just entertaining, entertain intelligently. Don’t insult people’s intelligence.Jodi: I hear you, man. Thank you.