WETN Interview

Artie Terry

April 17, 1997

Announcer: Hello! And welcome to another special edition of The Exchange, hosted by Wheaton College Professor of Communications, Artie Terry. Today's guest on The Exchange is writer, recording artist and performer, Rich Mullins. Before we get to the interview and live performance, here is Rich Mullins with "Hope To Carry On", from his album, Never Picture Perfect.

[Hope To Carry On]

AT: Hi! Welcome to the show, The Exchange. I'm Artie Terry. Today my guest is Rich Mullins, singer, songwriter, performer. Rich, welcome! Good to see you!

    RM: How are you?

AT: I'm ok! Thanks for coming down. I know you have, like, a bunch of stuff to do, and you're busy and all that kind of stuff, and... it's good to see you.

    RM: It's good to see you.

AT: I have so many questions... they're gonna let us talk for awhile, and then also you're gonna do some music. Is that right?

    RM: Ok!

AT: Cool!

    RM: (laughs) You tell me what's all right!

AT: You're doing music! The first thing I want to do is ask you about music in general, and how did you gravitate, or, how did you become involved in music?

    RM: Much against my parents' wishes! (laughs)

AT: To be sure!

    RM: Because, I just, from when I was real little, I always liked music. My great-grandparents lived right next door to us and I would... they had a piano, and I would go over all the time and play. I think my dad didn't want me to get involved in it totally because he wanted me to be a jock. And, like, there was just no way that was gonna happen. So I think he finally just gave up.

AT: (laughs)

    RM: Then, when I didn't get a good... in elementary school, when everybody else did, he let me take piano lessons as a consolation prize. And actually the consolation prize turned out better than the grand prize.

AT: Let me ask you this. When you look back, and you think about the things that attracted you at the earliest, what were the things you heard that made you -

    RM: Hymns.

AT: Was it hymns?

    RM: Yeah. I think, I guess, yeah, hymns would be when I was real little. Because I don't remember my parents even listening to a lot of music. I mean, I don't remember the radio being on. I think my sisters had a little record player, but this was back in the late Fifties, and if we wanted to hear music we would all go up to my cousins'. And at their house they had records and stuff. And we'd go up there. But I don't think I paid a lot of attention to pop music until the Beatles came out.

AT: Let me go on. If you were to... the Beatles. We could do a whole hour on the Beatles. Let me ask you about that, the Beatles.

    RM: Um hum...

AT: What song was it, I'm sure it's - I know what song it was for me, what song made me 'click.' What was the song, what made you hear, that made you want to go...

    RM: It was the Ed Sullivan show, and I remember we were watching it, and my parents were really disgusted, and I didn't know why. But I pretended to be disgusted, just because I didn't want to get sent to bed. I'm sitting there pretending to be really disgusted, and I'm going, "Gosh, I would give anything to do that." And I don't know what it was. It was a... see, I was right there when everything was happening, but I was just a little too young to understand it. But something happened.

AT: You know, I know, it's hard, because that's similar to my own experience. The girl who lived next door to me, I grew up with, had, she had a copy of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" And the Saturday night before they were on Ed Sullivan, we went over to visit. Our families were really close and she takes me upstairs so we can listen to a few records and stuff. She was playing this one record over and over, and I didn't get it. I'm like, "What? Why are you doing this?" And then, the next night was the night they were on Ed Sullivan. And it was like, "Oh, I get it!" And it was so obvious... I think a lot of people in our own generation, that when that happened, like, it changed stuff.

    RM: But what I wonder is... you know, I grew up in rural Indiana, and I wonder if that was the first time when I realized that I, as a guy, could be cool.

AT: That's interesting.

    RM: That guys could do something besides raise hogs.

[performance of "If I Stand"]

AT: I have a quote here, from an interview, about music, and I'll read this verbatim from this interview. It says, and I quote: "'The thing that's cool about music is how unnecessary it is,' Rich says with characteristic candor. [Rich chuckles] 'Of all things music is the most frivolous and the most useless. You can't eat it, you can't drive it, you can't live in it, you can't wear it. But your life wouldn't be worth much without it.'" How did you arrive at that conclusion?

    RM: (sighs) I think that comes from growing up in rural Indiana! (laughter) You know, you grow up, I mean... and that's the thing I love about Mid-westerners is, they're very practical people. And they... for a farmer, especially for a small farmer like my dad, everything had a use, everything had multiple uses. He figured out... he could just about do anything with any tool. And you get that kind of mindset, and the thing about music is that, it really is something that there's no... it's part of what I think is great about being human, is, you can't really explain what that is.

AT: When you got to the point where this music thing started to work - ok, I'm sure your family always had, you know you said your dad wanted you to be a jock and everything, you're trying to, "I know the direction I want to go in" - what was it like, to the point, was it a point where they finally realized, "Hey, you know, he's got something here, and this is gonna work for him," what was that like?

    RM: Well even... (laughs)

AT: That hasn't happened yet?

    RM: I'm not sure! (laughs) Because even after I was making albums, you know, my dad would occasionally say things like, "Well, what are you going to do about a career?"

AT: (laughs)

    RM: But I, real honestly, I mean, I talk about that side of my parents, but on the other side, I think my parents, I think they were really smart parents. I think they were, actually, pretty progressive for the time. And they were always, I mean, one thing that they really wanted me to know is, what makes me tick, what am I about, how do I approach life. And, I think they assumed that no one's approach to life was gonna be like anybody else's. And the way that we, the way that we encounter it, and the way that we deal with it, the way we process stuff, is all very individualistic. And I think what my parents really wanted for me was for me to be who I am. Even though I may be... whether or not they liked who I am. And I think that I was real lucky, in that sense. Because I think a lot of parents hand people over a blueprint and say, "This is how you're supposed to do it." And my parents, I think, kind of drew a picture and said, "Here's the good stuff in life. How do you get there?"

AT: Do you find... do they like the music? I mean, do they...

    RM: My dad liked country music, a little bit. But see, my mom grew up Quaker. And so she's got that kind of quiet thing. And, you know, the amazing thing is, I think it might be genetic, I mean, I think there's maybe a 'Quaker' gene, because, I find that, in my own, at my own place back home I don't typically have music on all the time. I mean, I maybe will listen to an album every day or so, but a lot times I don't even get through an album.

AT: When you do listen, what do you listen to?

    RM: I listen to a big variety of music. I really like the Chieftans... but you know what, I say that, I mean, I'm not sure that I listen to them all that much. [Artie laughs] The last thing I listened to was the sound track to Silverado. Just cuz I was working on some carpentry projects and I needed that little 'zip'.

AT: (laughs) You know, speaking of carpentry, when you're not doing music, what do you do?

    RM: Well, for the last... since last fall I've been building a house.

AT: Really? By hand? Yourself?

    RM: Yes! (laughs)

AT: Why do you laugh?

    RM: (still laughing) Well, because I'm so nervous that I'm gonna go home and it won't be there anymore! You know, you can plan on getting someone else to do stuff that we knew nothing about. But it's hard to get people to work for you when you're not around to check on their work. So we dug up the found... You know, we're building two... I live on a Navajo reservation, you know. So, we wanted to build these traditional Navajo eight-sided houses called 'hogans'. They're log houses, and they have eight sides. They're really, really beautiful to look at.

    And so we decided, we can do this, we can do this. We'll get someone to pour the foundations. So we dug, and being a musician I am not terribly, well, I know a lot of musicians who are wonderfully mathematical. I'm terrible at math. And so, man, we dug - it looked like the Grand Canyon by the time we dug out the, the trench where we were gonna put the footer. And, you know, got the footer poured, and then we're like, ok, we're gonna leave for a month. And so then, we hired someone to come in and put the foundation down. They never did it. We got back, it wasn't done, so we hired someone else, they didn't do it. So when we got back then we just did it ourselves. And then, since then, we keep going, we'll get someone to do this, we'll get someone else. No one does, so we, we've done it all. And it's, the cool thing about it is, first of all, a hogan is just a perfectly nice place. Even if you do it badly, it's cool.

AT: (laughs) Sounds like the kind of place I need to build!

    RM: Yeah! Well, it's... the problem is, I gotta find out why it has to have eight... well, they don't have to have eight, 'cause some hogans out there only have seven sides. Some have six.

    (Mitch starts guitar intro into 'New Mexico')

    RM: But I mean that the perfect hogan has eight. And, um, where was I at?

[Mitch sings 'New Mexico', Rich sings backup]

AT: What do you do when you're not doing music?

    RM: The wonderful thing about building something is when you do music, you're never done. The longer I'm involved in music, the more I really think that music is a performance, it's a performance art. It's not a product thing. It's kind of like that question: When a tree falls in a forest does anybody hear it. You kinda go, if you wrote a song out on paper, if you recorded a song and nobody listened to it, would there be music there. And of course I don't know the answer to that, but I know if there is music there, there's no point in it being there. That when it really connects is when somebody hears it.

AT: Let me ask you something. I just want to jump back one point, the performance versus product argument - the mechanics of doing an album, getting it distributed, getting it recorded, getting it out there, and usually touring behind it, dictate a certain sort of product consciousness with the people who have to do that part of it.

    RM: Right.

AT: Is that a problem for you when they say, hey, that's my music, and they try to, like, ship it out and try to get it to fit the 'box,' so to speak?

    RM: Yeah, that's sometimes difficult, but what you learn is that you have your public thing, and then you have your 'private' stock, if they just don't like a song. I mean, it's good for you, in terms of developing your sense of who you are, because what you learn is, from a commercial point of view, not everybody's gonna like everything you write. But you have to decide, then you have the opportunity to decide for yourself, do I still like this song, do I know why I like this song, what is good about it or what's bad about it. You get to still make your own evaluations. And if you decide the song is good, even though your record company doesn't like it, you play it for yourself.

AT: Does it happen very often, that you're done, and... how does that work, exactly, for people who don't know the system. Do you sit down with a bunch of people from the company and say, "Ok, we've just finished this, sit and listen," and then they evaluate, or do you send it to them?

    RM: Well, the way we've always done it at Reunion is, I have an A&R guy. A&R is 'artist and repertoire.' And what they do is, they kind of help you make selections about what songs you're going to record. And then you work with your producer. So normally my producer - Reed Arvin has done everything but one album with me. Reed and Don Donahue (my A&R guy at Reunion) and me would sit down, and I would bring in several songs I had written in the course of a year. If I wasn't a writer, what would happen would be, A&R would go out and look for songs for me, and that sort of thing. We kind of come in, and we kind of talk about, you know, I play them the songs. And then they take notes, and they go, "you know, we really like this, this one we're not really sure about, we really like this." You narrow down the list to ten songs. And I have input in that. It's not that you're outside the process.

    Then you start working on arrangements. Like, how are we gonna present this? What is this about, what is that about? The thing is, is as I've learned a little bit more about their expectations and that kind of thing, what I've been able to do is get more involved by being more selective before I even go in there. And kind of going, well I know there are things that I've written that they may like, but I just don't think really fits on this particular 'collection.' And generally, I think a lot of people do this, you generally approach an album as a collection. And there has to be something cohesive about it.

AT: Do you have a favorite of all the stuff you've done so far?

    RM: My favorite album?

AT: Yeah, of your own.

    RM: Well, there are two that are in big competition, and for different reasons. I really like A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. Just because that was a really hard album to make, because we were working with a lot of people. And everybody had a lot of ownership in it. So there was a lot of conflict. Which is one of the... that's one of the great things about I think as a Christian. I was telling someone the other day, man, I have so much more empathy for God now, I feel sorry for Him! Because you kind of go, as the writer, or one of the two primary writers (I wrote a lot of songs with a guy named Beaker), as the writer, you kind of have this idea of what the song is like, and you hear it the way, I mean, you get this distinct idea of how it's supposed to sound.

    Well then, you start working with musicians, and they change it ever so little, but for you it's a real significant change. Sometimes then by the time you get done there's the producer, there's the record company, there's all these people. Sometimes by the time you get done you listen to it and you go, "That's not what I wrote!"

    I kind of go, I think this is why people enjoy being creative, because in your world, you are god. I mean, not big 'G' God, but little 'g' god. You get to call the shots. If you want the grass to be purple, you can make it that way. And if you choose to collaborate, you bring other people in and they get to color it, and they get to do those other things.

    And it's a good exercise, I think, spiritually, because you have to set aside your own ideas. And the great thing, the reason that I like A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band was because there were so many people involved and there was so much conflict. And to watch that all get hammered out, and you end up with an album and you go, man, this shouldn't have worked. But I think it does. That was great.

    The other album that I like of my own, (laughs) and I don't listen to either of these! But I was at a radio station, and I had forgotten how much I liked Never Picture Perfect. And I was thinking about that when I was listening at the radio station. And I went, you know, this is an album that was pretty much me and Reed, just the two of us. And I remember it as being one album where, that was the album Reed and I conflicted a lot.

    But on Never Picture Perfect, Reed really heard something in my songs that I didn't hear, in themselves, and he really pulled it out. I mean, really. That was when I guess I had matured enough that I began to really respect what a producer does. And I realized, man, I sometimes have, like, clung to my ideas, not because they were the best ideas, but just because they were mine. And in his work he was able to take what I had written and really amplify it. So that was a great experience.

AT: When you have those creative conflicts, when you're collaborating with someone, is that the hardest part about what you do, I mean, of your life's work? Those times of conflict arise and then you have to A) resolve it as an artist, and then B) resolve it as a Christian, sort of resolve it with the attitude, I must love my brother, I must not bash him or whatever, is that the difficult part of what you do?

    RM: That's at least one of the really difficult parts

AT: Is that, how do you work through those things, do you go back on yourself and go, "You know, I should have done this

    RM: Yeah. (laughter) Yeah. Hindsight is 20/20. And it's very telling. I mean, stress is a, that's the test. That's when you look at your life and you go, "Wow, I'm not really very patient, am I?" Or, "Gosh, I really am controlling and manipulative, aren't I?" Or that's when you begin to recognize all of those things that you read about in human development classes, and you go, "Wow, I'm still just a young person, because, you know, I didn't handle this very maturely."

AT: There's two things I want to get to in terms of the collaboration question, one of the things, I got this thing in the mail. This is from a cd club. And there's a thing down here, and it's talking about your music, and it says, let's see, it talks about The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 1: "Though Rich had written and recorded a handful of albums that were striking for the strength and diversity of the songs, nothing could have prepared us for this. Modern songs, cycle of faith, The World begins with bagpipes in the distance." (which is very beautiful, by the way) "Then a child's voice singing the simplest of praise songs, 'Step By Step'" - here's the quote - "Written by Mullins' best friend, Beaker, shortly after Mullins had taught him his first chords on the guitar."

    RM: (laughs)

AT: And it goes on to talk about the rest of the songs on this album. I want to ask you about that. This is an anecdotal moment here, and... is that, would you like to tell us... ok, like, "Beaker, this is 'D Major,'" I mean, like, "Put your fingers in..." like, and all of a sudden he took off and wrote a song?

    RM: No, no... and, and this is where you get really confused, as you read that stuff and you go, "Gosh, I don't remember it that way. What did it, how did it really happen?" (laughter) I think Beaker played guitar before I met him. The thing that I liked about... Beaker and I have co-written for years now. The reason why I love to co-write with Beaker is because he's not a musician. And I think, as a musician, sometimes you get your head so far up your little musician world that you stop relating to people who aren't musicians themselves. And Beaker has the effect of pulling me back into "Here's the real world. Here is where people really live." He has that, he's kind of an 'Everyman' kind of guy. And so, this is the sort of, this is how... (laughs) this is how... yeah, I worked with him on guitar some. I don't know if I taught him his absolute first chord.

AT: Well, that's why I asked because I saw this and I said, "Well, that's sweet but is that really what happened?" I thought this was interesting, I got this in the mail about two weeks ago and I said, "I've gotta say this. I've gotta bring this next week and ask Rich about it."

[performance of "Creed"] (Rich on hammer dulcimer, Mitch on guitar)

AT: There's also something else here, it says, let's see, where's the quote here. "Space does not permit me to laud this record any further, but suffice to say that this is one of my top ten Christian albums of all time, and I have no doubt it will stay that way for years to come." It was written by the author here. What else can I say? How do you resolve that, when someone says, "In my life, this is one of the top albums of all time"? I mean, that's a pretty big statement.

    RM: Well, I just feel really thankful (laughs). You kind of go, I remember one time, 'cause I think I'm a little... I think I suffer from a 'messiah' complex. I think a lot of musicians do, and a lot of people who are put on pedestals. I remember one time we were getting ready to play at this... we were getting ready to do this concert, and there were a lot of people coming, and I was really going... I was just really having a personal struggle at the time. Every one in the band was struggling with personal stuff. I was kind of going, man, what a goofed-up bunch of people to have to go out there. And here's, you know, however many people in this audience, and we're supposed to go out there and give them hope, and we're supposed to go, you know, and I'm taking this walk while I'm doing this, and I'm going, you know, this is really stupid. You're calling on the wrong people. The wrong people, all the wrong people get the attention and stuff. And I was really kind of going, gosh, I wish the people were just coming to be entertained. Because I don't really know what I have to give them today.

    And I was kind of complaining to God about it. And I was walking along, and I saw this guy who was talking to himself, this old, possibly homeless man. And he was talking, and talking, and talking. And people are not only... they're either totally ignoring him and walking just by, or they're actually avoiding him. And I sat there and looked at the guy, and suddenly realized, man, what an honor people pay you when they listen to you. And what a tragedy that so many people are trying to be heard, and no one gives them a listen. And that kind of shook me up a little bit. It made me take back all of my complaints.

AT: Let me ask you about another collaborative effort that I have not heard. I read about this, and I was fascinated by the concept, the 'Kid Brothers of St. Frank.' And there's a musical attached to that. How is that, can you, just for the listening audience...

    RM: This is a long story!

AT: Yeah, I meant to, I mean, I'm very curious about this because it was a large piece of information I read about it. I was like, I've got to ask him about this.

    RM: Yeah. Well, when I was a senior in high school I saw the movie, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. And having grown up Protestant, I had no idea what the, I had no idea about the lives of the saints, of any of the saints. And I'd always just thought they were, you know, sort of like 'demigods.' I thought Catholics were like Hindus.

    And when I saw the life of St. Francis, this film, I was real kind of turned on to the whole... I was kind of going, that's really what I want to do. I mean, I really do want to live in poverty, I really do want my life to mean something. I really do want to imitate Christ, and live according to the rule of the Gospels, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And so I guess I have tried to do that throughout my life, but what I realized at some point is that you can't do that outside the context of a community. That Christianity is not a solo 'date,' it's a communal faith.

    And Beaker and I had talked about that a lot, and so we decided to form the Kid Brothers of St. Frank. Which was just kind of a very loose sort of - if you can have a loose commitment to each other - that we would, you know, have accountability, those kinds of things. And we called it the Kid Brothers of St. Frank just because we thought it was a funny name. Plus, we both, I think, wanted to be Franciscans, but we didn't even have the guts to be Catholics, let alone be Franciscans, and then, you know, because of the St. Frank thing, we had talked about gee, wouldn't it be cool to like rewrite the life of St. Francis, as if he were a nineteenth-century cowboy? And we talked about that for a long time, and never, you know, we were just tossing it around.

    And the biggest problem was that we had no idea what St. Frank would be like. And then I was at Friends University, and I was finishing up a music education degree, and I met a guy named Mitch McVicker. And I went back to where me and Beaker lived, and I said, "Man, I've just met Frank. I've met this guy who looks like him, talks like him, the whole bit." And now Mitch is in the Kid Brothers of St. Frank. (laughs) And we were able to, we were able to write the whole musical. So that's been a blast.

AT: So now how does that work? Is that, do you tour that, or is it recorded? I mentioned I read, I thought I read that it was recorded somewhere.

    RM: Yeah, it's been recorded, and in fact, the Friday night performance at Wheaton will be the first time that there will be a full-blown production of this. And also the first time that you can buy a cd of the soundtrack - of the 10 feature songs from the soundtrack. So, that is exciting. It was one of the more fun projects I've ever worked on.

AT: Let me jump to a more - I guess to a more philosophical kind of track here. And you may even have to take a minute to think about this answer, and that's ok.

    RM: No, I never think about answers!

AT: Oh, good! Ok, we'll continue the flow. If you weren't doing music, what would you be doing?

    RM: I would be teaching.

AT: Really?

    RM: Umhum.

AT: Anything particular?

    RM: Music. I would teach music. Because I think, the thing that I love about music, is that it's something that everybody can win at. I think there are two things in school - I think it's important for, in terms of how we develop as people, I think that everybody needs to work, and everyone needs to enjoy the fruit of their work. I think there are two areas where that can happen for everybody. One is athletics. And, especially now that you have... I think that for such a long time people, until... you know, I think the Special Olympics prove that a person can have profound challenges, and... but can still win. That athletics, that's the sort of thing where we're given the opportunity, not to compete with other people and beat them, but we're given the opportunity to stretch ourselves.

    And most of us, like, I have no physical genius about me. I can't dribble a ball and run at the same time, I can't do lay-ups, I'm not an athlete. But my experience as a kid was, I was made fun of so much that what I did then, is, I wouldn't participate. And I think I cheated myself out of a lot of fun. And I cheated myself out of developing skills that I think are there, not in any kind of, you know, talented way. But I think that just about anybody should be able to be athletic enough to participate in team sports and have a good time. Or run, or do solo, those kinds of things. But I think there's something that happens, I think it's good for you. I think everyone can win at that.

    And I think music is the other thing. I don't think everybody's gonna be, I don't think everybody has a genius for music. But I think that everybody can win at it. That a kid... you know I've seen this in schools, a kid can play a piece very badly by college standards, or, even by standards of where the kid is at. But, something happens in them when a kid does that.

    And so I kinda go... in order for us to... I think one of the things that we benefit from... and art would be another area... and interestingly enough, when they start making cutbacks, art, phys ed, and music are the first ones to go...

AT: (Interrupting Rich mid-sentence...) I was gonna ask you about that, because I was watching, I dunno, I guess it was CNN or something, yesterday, and Richard Marx was on and he was going about... He has a new cd that is out and he has taken on as a cause to really try to get schools to bring that back, to educate, have people. Have parents get to their congressmen or whoever and say, "We need this back in our schools."

[Bach mandolin duet]

AT: I wondered about that, I was thinking about, like, back in my own childhood, and I remember, you know, we did have a music class where even people who didn't play anything, they would sit down and say to them, ok, this is music. And this is Mozart. And this is Bach. And this is Duke Ellington. And these are the things that I came along with. And I started thinking about that, and I said, you know, there isn't any real appreciation for music anymore outside of, "I'm learning how to play this. I'm going to conservatory for this." So I wonder if maybe, at this point, do we, as Americans, and as American Christians, do we know enough about music, do you think?

    RM: Well, I'm going to just say this, I mean, you know, everyone's worried about what kids listen to. Tipper Gore is all on a roar about it, and I wish she'd go someplace else and roar. There's a... I think the reason why people like bad music is because they're not exposed, in a positive way, to good music. And I don't think that Bach is necessarily good and 'Ice T' is necessarily bad. I'm not sure that those labels apply in music. What I think happens is that our experience in music is very limited. And not only do people respond to music... you know, it's like, I've noticed that the metal heads all dress very much alike, they all watch the same tv shows, they all drive the same kind of cars. Jazz people all wear berets, and, you know, smoke little pipes, and that kind of thing. And you kind of go, people make an identification. Music comes to be representative of a certain subculture. And people tend to identify with these different subcultures.

    And I think what happens, I know when I was a youth pastor in a church for a while, or a youth director in a church for a while, and the parents were all worried because the kids were listening to music that they thought was bad. And they wanted me to do something about it and I was a little bit miffed, because I'm kind of going, why do your kids have stereos if you don't want them to listen to music? I mean, they don't have to have a stereo. And didn't you listen to stuff that your parents were worried about? [Artie laughs] But, you know, you've managed to be human enough to produce offspring, and hold down jobs, and stuff.

    What I did was, I just started taking them to bluegrass festivals. We started listening to all kinds of different sorts of music, exposing them to all kinds of things. And telling them, man, you don't have to let your peers decide for you what you're gonna listen to. And it's more important to be who you are than to be who they say you are. And amazingly, kids started getting into other kinds of music, kids started kind of diverting away from this group that they were really sucked into.

    I think music education has failed in a... has problems, I don't think it has failed. But I think it has problems in a couple of areas. First of all, I think that, especially now in the information age, people are, people think that life has to do with practical stuff. You know, everybody has turned into someone from rural Indiana. And that's not bad, that's a good value, I mean, it's important that people can read, write, and do arithmetic. That kind of thing is very important. But that's not what makes us human. That's not where we get our identity, that's not where the magic happens.

    I think that it's important... I think music... the reason why music, athletics, arts, those kinds of things are important is because, what we really want to do is not make people who are merely good employees or good employers. That's not, that shouldn't be the goal of education. That is the goal of the government, and their involvement in education, because the government wants nice tax payers. And nice eighteen-year-old boys to send off to the next war they conjure up. What we really want in education is to help people become who they are. And music, athletics, art, those kinds of things do that. The problem is, the music education community has decided that their job is to indoctrinate people and tell them why it's cooler to listen to Mozart than it is to listen to anything else.

AT: Do you think that's because of the way music, contemporary music in our culture, has become so, I hate to even say commercialized - commercialized isn't really the right word I want to use

    RM: You know, my question about that is, so what is Mozart? What is he? Wasn't he just trying to pay bills too?

AT: I know! (Interrupting Rich multiple times) And if you go back into music history, a lot of what we know today as great music was music that was commissioned by the Emperor of so-and-so, or the Prime Minister of this place or that. But yet, in our society now it's like, it's commercial, it can't be good. It's a commodity, it's popular, so it's not high art or whatever. And I'm wondering, do you think that's connected to why we've kind of like just let this music thing drift? And art, too, for that matter, in schools and stuff.

    RM: Well, I think the preoccupation with what people call classical music is just pure ethnocentricity. They decided that what happened in Vienna, Austria, a couple hundred years ago or a hundred years ago, that that's what music is about, and that this is the standard by which we measure all music. They forget that there's a whole world out there. And it's... I think it's pure ethnocentricity.

[performance of "Brother's Keeper" by Rich and Mitch]

AT: That's interesting, because I know that if you... just recently I was in Tower Records, and I was like flipping through the 'World Music' section. And I'm saying, well, all music's of the world. It's just, this is the 'World Music' section.

    RM: Yeah. So like, so why isn't Cheryl Crowe in there? Where is she from, Mars?

AT: Exactly! Know what I'm saying? It's all from the world, we're all from the same planet, why does this have to be 'World Music'? And what was in there was like, some Brazilian, some Rain Forest, you know, all kinds of stuff like that. Now, if I lived in one of these places, if I was from South Africa, that would be the music. That wouldn't be, like, 'World Music.' So...

    RM: That's why I think the whole, the politically correct movement is so hypocritical, because they try so hard to be even-handed and they're so off-handed. You know, it's kind of like Melissa Ethridge singing these really sexual songs to women, and feminists aren't upset about how she objectifies females. But if I or you sang the same song we would be attacked as being, you know, that we're using women. I kind of go, well, thank God for Melissa Ethridge, now at least feminists understand that sexual drives are part of our human experience, and they're acceptable.

AT: Well, I'm going to use this as an opportunity for a really cheap segue because I'm gonna have you do some music now.

    RM: Okay!

AT: Rich, thanks for talking, it was great!

    RM: Thanks!

Copyrighted by WETN Radio, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, 1997

Return to Calling Out Your Name

In addition to the copyrights on the material presented here, the html code is copyrighted by Brian William, 1998. Please ask permission before electronically reproducing it.