Ex-MC5 Guitarist Speaks, Part 1

Former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer is back with his second

solo album, Dangerous Madness. He's currently on tour; see ATN's review

in yesterday's ( Mar. 2) "Music News of the World." ATN Philadelphia

correspondent Chris Nelson caught up with Kramer just before the guitarist hit

the road. Here is his Part 1 of their conversation:

ATN: Terence

Trent D'arby sings on the title cut of your new album. At first I was surprised

to see his name on an Epitaph release, but then I thought about how you've said

that when you were growing up in Detroit, there was no distinction between

black and white music, and the pairing seemed fitting. How did working with him

come about?

Kramer: I bumped into him at the Schenker guitar

factory. I was building a guitar and he was also building one. He said he'd

wanted to meet me, and of course I'm a big fan of his. He said on his first

tour he took two CDs: Pet Sounds and Kick Out the Jams! We we're

talking, and I said I had a track that needed backing vocals, and he wanted to

help out.

He's a real bro. He showed up on time, worked hard...he was a

real collaborator and a co-conspirator.

ATN: Is he someone whose

albums you listen to in your spare time?

Kramer: I have, sure. We

both come from the same area of the country, I think he's from Cleveland, the

mid-west industrial belt. None of us were part of the east coast intellectual

scene or the west coast hippy scene....

ATN: I'm glad you mentioned

that, because sometimes the new album has a very heartland, rootsy sound

­­ I'm thinking of the lead guitar on "Wild America," and the ringing

rhythm guitar in "Something Broken in the Promised Land." To me, the music in

these songs seems to speak to where you're from geographically, just as the

lyrics to "Edge of the Switchblade" [from The Hard Stuff] speak to where

you're from historically. That sound surprised me, though, because I've been

thinking that you're out in L.A. now, working with L.A. punk musicians. Is that

sound something you were aiming for at the outset with this record, or did it

come about as the lyrics began to take shape?

Kramer: The best way I

can explain the process is that I reach back to the music that inspired me in

the beginning ­­ the free jazz that I use on "Dead Man'sVest" or

"Dead Movie Stars" or "So Long Hank"; or the Motown stuff, the James Brown, all

these bass parts that originally turned me on, the earthy Pete Townshend guitar

chords. It's like a slingshot. You pull the slingshot back to those things that

originally inspired me, and it shoots me out ahead to where all the new music

is going.

And the new music...if I'm influenced by a song Brett Gurewitz

wrote, or an Elvis Costello song, you bring it all with you.


There's a line in "Promised Land" that goes, "The cats sing along with Neil

Young records / How much more damage can I stand?" How much does that line

reflect the frustration you've expressed before about the lack of respect or

even mention that the MC5 received in the music industry's version of the

history of rock 'n' roll?

Kramer: Well that line wasn't directly

connected to that. On one level, the MC5 did get, and all along has got, mad

props from musicians, which was always more important to me. It was the suits

that left us out....

ATN: As one of the people who's proven his

mettle over the long haul, where do you see your niche in '90s rock 'n' roll?

Are you out there doing your job, showing you can keep up with today's young

guns, or is it more that you have the task of showing today's bands how to be a

challenger with substance, or is it something else entirely? What do you

see as your role?

Kramer: To be as irritable as I can! The

conditions we find ourselves in the latter part of the '90s, in an election

year...I look at my job as the town crier, riding through the neighborhoods on

horseback, saying "The fundamentalists are coming! The fundamentalists are


This shit is out of control in this country. The reason Pat

Buchanan is getting all this attention is that he's talking about, "There's no

jobs." He's hitting the nail on the head for a lot of people. When I was

growing up, my parents had jobs, not great jobs, but jobs...everybody got

along. That was before the rebellion of '67. There's no jobs today. The gap

between the working poor and the rich [keeps getting bigger]. Wall street is

not making any less money this year, and big corporations aren't making any

less money.

I agree with Pat Buchanan's analysis, but not his solutions.

He's a lunatic! To get down on immigrants ­­ America is a nation of

immigrants.... The average guy gets squashed in the process. There is a real

mean spiritedness in the Phil Gramms, the Gingriches, Buchanans. It's really


I'm trying to tell it the way I see it. It may seem gloomy

sometimes. But I gotta believe there are solutions. Twenty year old law

students, or a political scientist who will take some responsibility.... These

are dangerous times we're in.

To be


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