In case you hadn’t heard, the Street Sweeper Social Club is pretty damn epic. Made up of Boots Riley from The Coup and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, the band has shit they want to get off their chests and they’re doing it their way instead of to the beat of the music label “let’s make stars” machine. They recently released their Ghetto Blaster EP featuring a bunch of covers you’ll be sure to love. I got to chat with Boots about the EP as well as what you can look forward to from him and the Street Sweeper Social Club.
What compelled you guys to cover M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”?
We were putting our show together and when we first started, we had a whole bunch of songs that no one knew so it’s an easy trick to play a song that everyone knows [in between the new songs]. We changed the force of “Paper Planes” so much that we started making it our own and people requested a studio version of it so we did it.
Can you tell me about the new EP Ghetto Blaster?
We knew we weren’t going to put out a whole album but that we wanted to put something out quick, something that was a snapshot of where we are now. We started jamming together more on tour and we wanted to make something a little bit rougher than the last album. Our last album was pretty put together and polished and overdubbed; Tom played bass and guitar and then I came in later to do vocals. For this album we basically did it in a smaller studio, live, everything at the same time, five of us sweating it out and rocking out hard.
Is there a reason behind wanting a less polished album?
Because that’s how we come across on stage. On stage the energy is amped up twenty thousand times, not like the album.
Do you have a favourite track off the album?
“Ghetto Blaster” and after that “The New F**k You”.
Of all the songs you guys have created together, which is your favourite?
It changes a lot but right now “Ghetto Blaster”. It’s my favourite to perform. As far as a complete concept, probably “The Oath”. As far as something that Tom and I came together on the most, it’s a tie between “The Squeeze “ and “Ghetto Blaster”. As far as my favourite beat, “The New F**k You”. Then there’s “Scars” which is in the style that I’ve worked with most; it uses humour to point out pain.
Of all the Street Sweeper lyrics/rhymes you’ve come up with, which resonates with you most?
Right now my favourite lyric is from “Somewhere in the World It’s Midnight”.
Sometimes the night falls just so
You can’t see the scars
Discourse between the stars
Is dialogue of stolen DVD players and VCRs
The lyrics are about what goes on at night.
Do you feel comfortable rapping about everything or are there any topics/issues you steer clear of?
No, the only reason I’m doing this is to be able to talk about the shit I want to talk about. I’m not going to say things I don’t believe in.
Do you and Tom argue over your rhymes?
Not over the rhymes but over other things in studio. He’ll say “why can’t you rap more like Fergie so that we can have some Black Eyed Peas sales?” And I’ll say “why can’t you play more like John Mayer…so we can get more women at the shows!”
You joke a lot about Tom forcing you into the band and not asking you to join the band. What do you think you’d be doing had he not done that?
I’d still being working with The Coup. We’d both still be in music.
I ask this next question a lot but it’s always interesting to hear what different musicians will say. What do you think of the current music scene?
I think it’s wide open and because of the internet people are able to come out with new kinds of music that they wouldn’t have been able to before and they aren’t as limited by what the label says. They can get out there and let people hear their music and make a means for their music and themselves. It’s cool.
Do you feel like you have to up the ante to compete with this modern day playing field?
Yes. We’re upping the ante by making good shit that people can rock the hell out to. We’re doing Street Sweep Social Club because we have ideas we want to get out. We’re a bit different, people have to come find us.
That’s a refreshing mentality. It seems like nowadays people do whatever the label tells them, in order to make the most money, etc. So on a different note, what are you listening to these days?
Right now, a compilation cd of Ethiiopian funk called Ethiopiques. I like Janelle Monae a whole lot too.
Can you recommend a specific song? By anyone, any genre…
I would say “Cold War” by Janelle Monae.
What do you do outside of music?
I’m working on writing a movie, the next Coup album will be the soundtrack for it. Right now, life is full of promotion Street Sweeper Social Club. I think people will be surprised with the different feel of the album.
How long will you be touring the album?
I don’t know, it’s all last minute. Shows will be popping up all over the place. Probably some surprises!
Come by Vancouver!
I love Vancouver! It’s a beautiful city. I was just up there with The Coup.
To backtrack a little, what’s the film about?
It’s a dark comedy with magical realism inspired by my time as a telemarketer, it’s called Sorry to Bother You.
What would your ideal world, community, neighbourhood be like?
Where as a community in which the wealth that people create through their work is democratically controlled by the people.
Well thanks very much for your time. I hope you guys make it to Vancouver!