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:
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
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
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
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
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.