Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Interview with Billy Bragg

It's not bragging to say me and, Billy B, the Bard of Barking (that's a place in Essex! Billy's not barking mad!), go way back. When we got together at Vazacs in the East Village to chat about his seriously strong new record, "Mr. Love and Justice," and his book, "The Progressive Patriot," the conversation was so heartfelt we decided to bring it to you in four parts. Welcome to Part One. Having not seen each other for yonks, of course Billy and I had to talk about the past. But mainly, we focused on now and the future. In the First Punk Wave, Billy was the sort of man-of-the-people muso who'd drop by the office when I worked on the rock weekly, New Musical Express. Any time there was a front line cultural happening, like for Rock Against Racism, Billy would be there -- one man and his guitar singing of how things really are and how they could be, in the spirit of folk hero Woody Guthrie (whose lyrics he set to music.) Billy's commitment to helping change our society has only grown stronger over his twenty-something year career -- as has his command of music. If his solo singer/songwriter stuff cut through hypocrisy like a knife, the new, almost orchestrated material drops a bomb on the bad in our world -- and hands bouquets to the bright and bold. So there was much to discuss when we met on a brisk but sunny morning, including what the record's name really means, fatherhood, the work he's doing to bring music into prisons, and who William Bloke would vote for if he was a Yank.

Billy Bragg Interview: Part 1
The Punk Professor sits down with Billy Bragg in the first of an exclusive two-part interview.

Billy Bragg Interview: Part 2
The Punk Professor sits down with Billy Bragg in the second of an exclusive two-part interview.

You can also meet up with me again soon for a big ol' reasoning with Mick Jones and Tony James of Carbon/Silicon, who've been lurking in the swamps of punk since they were in The Clash and Generation X respectively. And if you want to join the conversation -- hey, you know where to write.