Rock the Votes Ambassadors

Featured Rock the Vote Artist

Rockin Playlist
Song Name Artist Album Genre Time
1. 100 Little Curses [EXPLICIT] Street Sweeper Social Club SSSC Alternative 4:03
2. Fight! Smash! Win! [EXPLICIT] Street Sweeper Social Club SSSC Alternative 3:34
3. Promenade [EXPLICIT] Street Sweeper Social Club SSSC Alternative 2:31

STREET Street Sweeper Social Club

Rock the Vote: Let's just do a brief band bio. How did Street Sweeper Social Club form?

Tom Morello: We (Boots Riley and I) met on a tour- it sounds very sexy… on an anti-media consolidation tour ( laughs) with Steve Earl, and Billy Bragg. I was with the Nightwatchman. It was a folky sojourn across the country. I was a fan of Boots and The Coup. I had never met him but someone suggested he be a part of it- a different element to it- and he was spectacular on the tour. I got to hear his lyrics in a different content- we were his back up band as acoustic guitar players so his lyrics came thru much more than they do on his records, I think. I realized what a brilliant lyricist he was and the venom and satire that are in his lyrics are just PHENOMINAL. He is a VERY charismatic front man. We became friends … then over the course of five years we played many shows together- he opened for the Nightwatchman tour several times, I played guitar on a Coup record, so we became good friends and collaborators. He was always the first one to say "yes" when I asked him to do a benefit show. Then, when Audioslave broke up, Boots and I had a very historic meeting at a Brazilian restaurant in Los Angeles where I made him an offer he couldn't refuse. I said, "We're in a band. It's called Street Sweeper Social Club and it's gonna be revolutionary party jams!" I handed him a cassette tape of music and said, "Start writing!" The biggest challenge of course, for him was trying to play the cassette! ( laughing) He literally went to twenty different stores, and as he says he asked dope fiends if they had stolen one out of a car lately! So, that was the biggest "hurdle" early on. Then we recruited Stanton Moore who plays in a band called, Galactic- he is a very awesome New Orleans drummer. We were down there doing some post-Katrina work and just ran into him. He was playing in a funk band in a juke joint. We thought that guy is fantastic- so, we got his number. I played guitar, bass and produced the record, Boots did the lyrics and Stanton played the drums- and here we are today.

RTV: Do both you and Boots share the same political views?

TM: I would say definitely. In the five years before we were in a band together, I fell in love with Boots lyrics. He is a spectacular lyricist and when Audioslave broke up it was very important to me to only be involved in music that expresses my world view- whether that was doing Rage Against the Machine reunion shows or whether its doing Nightwatchman albums or whether its doing Street Sweeper Social Club- its very clear to me that feels right. Early on in the writing process Boots said, "What do you want me to do- what direction?" I said, "Be yourself. Do the things you always do and it's gonna be great. We're going to put it in this context and it's gonna be fine."

RTV: So, Tom Morello, what are your political views?!

Tom Morello: Well, THAT'S a broad question! ( laughs)

TM: I believe in an uncompromising vision of social and economic justice- that would be a very succinct way of putting it.

RTV: You're music has always had a unifying presence…can this country be unified politically, socially, economically?

TM: I'd say absolutely not. There is a clear dividing line whether you want to call it- the have and have nots. The workers and the bosses. The ruling class and the rest of us. ** The very cool Boots Riley comes in to join us***

RTV: Anything you two clash on?!

Tom Morello: Pretty much everything else! ( laughs)

Boots Riley: We have to watch VH1 "History of Metal" all day!

TM: That's a big bone of contention- we watch it all day and all night. ( laughs!)
( we segue back to the political view question..)

BR: I am not for either party in the way that Che Guevara was probably non partisan. The big changes we have seen came along whether its affirmative action, civil rights legislation, Medicare, the eight hour work day…

TM: The weekend

BR: None of these changes became by electing the right person into office. They came because people scared whoever was in office to do it. And not just scared them with the idea they might not get elected or reelected, lets be clear. Scare them with the idea that businesses were going to loose money- and elected officials, one of their jobs is to watch out for the corporations- the ruling class wallet. So, if you can scare them that a movement will grow around an issue that will freeze up the money… then there is an effect.

RTV: So, the last election saw the awakening of the great sleeping giant- the youth vote! How can we keep this momentum going… especially with huge local and state elections looming?

TM: First of all, I am so impressed with the Rock the Vote brand. I run a non-profit called the Axis of Justice- we kind of sublet to grassroots organizations, and whether its Amnesty or Rock the Vote… somehow, whoever is in charge of gettin' it out there is pretty impressive. It is a noble goal to get people to go to the polls- and it certainly makes a difference in peoples lives… whether its Prop H… or… my concern has always been when asked to do Rock the Vote stuff is that… as Boots says ( regarding voting), "that's not how change happens." It's how reforms can sometimes be nudged. I want it all! I want it all! I think that there is NO reason you should EVER compromise in the kind of world you would like to see AND to fight for the world you like to see…. And sometimes a place like Rock the Vote becomes a "safe haven" for people by… well, I voted every four years….

RTV: Kind of like you have paid your dues to society.

TM: Exactly. So, I make believe that the world is unjust… I make believe that racism and economic equality are big problems, so I voted, so, I'm ok- I'm done. THAT is my concern. The wheel of history is in the hands of EVERYBODY reading this. It's not just going to the ballot box… it is using your creativity, your power, your intellect to get your hands on the wheel of history and you CAN make any kind of world you choose.

BR: Something that was always said when I was in high school was, "The LEAST you could do is vote!" It is a very small form of political expression although it IS political expression. If more people were involved in their communities- in organizing their communities in these issues that DIRECTLY affect some of these things and people- then, I think they would more likely to vote on an issue that had to do with them and they would be more aware of what's going on. In South Africa in the early 1980's there was a youth group called The Young Comrades. They did some really… outlandish to some people… some outlandish things… they burned down liquor stores because they thought liquor was affecting people and making them not fight back. Cops that were murderous- they would put them in a tire. These were twelve and thirteen year old KIDS. Anyway, the way I learned about them was a documentary on PBS… these were kids that because of what happened in Soweto ( black youth clashed with South African authorities)… had not been to school since they were maybe seven BUT they were talking about world issues and leaders and things that were going on with the United Nations. They were talking about local politicians and even about the history of the United States in a much deeper and profound way than people five years older than them IN the U.S. The reason is- they were engaged with the world… therefore, they were so much more conscious of every little thing that was going on. SO, people are not going to feel engaged by just voting… they're going to fall off from even doing that.

RTV: That's why we need to keep this going! HOW can we keep this momentum? What can we do?

TM: That is a question since 1992 people have been asking me. "What can we do?" I've never liked the snobby answer that is given by some activists: "Why are you asking me? You should be doing it!" That question is exactly why we formed Axis of Justice. If you log on to and you click on the state you live in … then you click on the issue you're interested in…it tells you what to do. Today, call this number if you're interested in peace issues- we spoon feed you! The biggest answer is there is such a culture of cookie cutter consumerism…. Keep them in front of the Playstation. For me, my political awakening was racism on the playground. My real political education was when I was involved in an underground d school newspaper in high school. All my friends worked for the regular school paper- and it was dreary and dull and we wanted to write about apartheid and death squads in Central America and the fact that the Dean was a dick ( we all laugh!) and we couldn't do any of that! So, we made a paper and it was just sort of for fun… and the administration CRASHED down on us—all the sudden we were involved in a political struggle!! And I thought, WOW it's not just happening in Soweto its happening in Libertyville, Illinois! We engaged the ACLU and we ended up with three times the circulation because we had very amusing comic strips drawn by Adam Jones of Tool who did show you that the Dean was indeed a dick! ( laughs!!!) And we wrote what we wanted and it was that revelatory moment where you realize that you're part of the world. The things you read about in history could include you- its not just something on a shelf somewhere.

RTV: Right now millions of young people are without healthcare. I lost my job (with that my health insurance) and at the same exact time my mother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. I took care of her- and was denied coverage OR it was way too expensive for me to afford with little money coming in. This situation needs to change!

TM: It's like there is oxycontin in the water or something! ( laughs!) Imagine if they tried to take health care away in France? People would turn it upside down! Imagine if they gave these billion dollar checks while people were starving- they would burn down the Eiffel Tower but we're just like, "Oh, bummer.We don't have good health care." Its an interesting sort of sedation.

RTV: Your self titled debut (out June 16) is nothing short of stellar. If I am headed to the voting booth, what song by Street Sweeper Social Club should I be humming?

Boots Riley: Nobody Moves (Til we say go)!

RTV: What are "three little curses" ( it's a play on the bands song, 100 Little Curses) does each president inherit?

BR: One of the curses they inherit is how to hold the balls of the ruling class in one hand while signaling for everyone else not to look! LAUGHS!

TM: And wave the flag with your teeth at the same time!! LAUGHS!

RTV: What inspired the smoldering "100 Little Curses"?

BR: Times of needing bills paid. Running to PG & E ( Pacific Gas and Electricity Co) before its too late to get the electricity turned back on again. Realizing that some people do not have to deal with this BUT they also are, sometimes responsible for everybody else having to deal with this.

RTV: Your song "Fight! Smash! Win!" Is that a victory song regarding November 2008?

BR: It's not.

RTV: Do you know what I mean?!

BR: Unfortunately, I do. ( all LAUGH!)

TM: One thing about these songs- because the choruses are very broad, are very sing-a-long, and very stadium ready are revolutionary nursery rhymes. The lyrics have a depth and a complexity to them- that's one of the strengths of the band. In the same way of those early Joe Hill and Woody Guthrie anthems- you're able to sing after one listen. That is the important part of the thing- rather than being in a college lecture- you CAN sing, "Whoa Whoa Whoa!" and "Fight! Smash! Win!" – it's more open to interpretation.

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