Rock Against the TPP Kickoff Concert
Tom Morello (Prophets of Rage/Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave)
Evangeline Lily, Anti Flag (acoustic), Jonny 5 and Brer Rabbit (Flobots), Downtown Boys, Ryan Harvey, Evan Greer Taini Asili, Son of Nun, Lia Rose
By Dan Page
Ryan Harvey is a musician, journalist, storyteller and activist. He is also the co-founder of Firebrand Records along with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello. Firebrand is the co-organizer of the ‘Rock against the Trans Pacific Partnership’ tour that starts this Saturday at the Summit Music Hall, headlined by Tom Morello. The Marquee spoke with Harvey last week.
Ryan’s music is described as riot-folk — music intended to bring awareness of political, social and economic injustices. “Part of what I do as a musician is both discussing the political and the personal of social issues but also pushing on the cultural front of social change,” Harvey said. He is not saying that that music is the answer, “Songs don’t change the world. People who tell you music changes the world are simplifying history. However songs have always been part of the movements that have changed the world. We try to provide that.”
Harvey recently released a song called ‘Old Man Trump’ incorporating unused lyrics by Woody Guthrie, and he explained that he found the lyrics hilarious when he first read them. “It was kind of like hilarious because it is so quintessentially American that Donald Trump’s father was Woody Guthrie’s landlord,” he said. Harvey really wanted to do the lyrics justice so he worked with the Guthrie Family and Nora Guthrie to arrange the song. He recruited Ani DiFranco and Tom Morello to work on the track, “Ani, and me, and Tom are definitely part of that long decendency of Woody Guthrie’s impact, though we all have our very own unique twist on it.” Click to listen to > ‘Old Man Trump‘.
Harvey first met Morello in 2005 while touring with the Veterans Against the Iraq War. Ryan recruited Tom to play two shows in Chicago. From there the two stayed in contact. “We understood each other as both being these schemers who look for those intersections of music and political activism and we are always thinking about ways to take the extra step and do something,” Harvey said.
Harvey continued his touring throughout the U.S. and Europe. During his travels he met musicians and more importantly revolutionary musicians, like himself. “I thought I should try to build a project where I can help these artists out and get them more notoriety and bigger audiences and some money maybe so they can survive doing their music. I wanted to do it in a way that was like, you know, they didn’t have to compromise,” he said.
Harvey started talking with Tom about the quality and depth of politically focused artists in the world that needed to be heard. From these discussions Firebrand Records emerged. The label is still taking it slow, he explained, but ramping up. “We wanted to sort of earn what we have and prove ourselves as we grew instead of being artificially huge from the beginning,” Harvey said.
Evan Greer of Fight for the Future approached Firebrand about the Rock Against the TPP tour. “It was perfect for us. We were really excited about the idea and it’s exactly the type of thing we do,” Harvey said.
Ultimately Firebrand ended up as a co-organizer. As co-organizer Firebrand helped build a line-up for the tour — a line-up that includes punk, folk and hip-hop and a line-up that tries to break what he calls ‘genre-segregation.’ “When it comes to political and social change a lot of these genres of music, hip-hop and reggae and punk and folk, they at their core have this activist element of pushing for social change.”
Summit Music Hall | July 23