Published February 1996, The Aquarian Weekly


Wayne Kramer

Fight the powers that be

The upcoming presidential elections and the general state of our nation deeply concern former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer.

"Things are gonna get a whole lot worse," declares the 48-year-old music legend during a call to talk about Dangerous Madness, his second release for Epitaph Records, "before they begin getting better."

"People like Newt Gingrich, Dole, Phil Gramm and Pat Buchanan are all well-financed, well-organized and know what they're doing," he cautions. "They're cold-blooded, they're ruthless ... and they're here."

"There used to be a vocal counter-culture that stood up against the 'bad guys,' " Kramer laments. "There doesn't seem to be anything like that today. People feel that what they think doesn't make a difference anymore, so they give up. I think," Kramer adds with a trace of sadness, "that our trust and belief in the system has completely evaporated."

As co-founder and co-guitarist (with childhood friend Fred "Sonic" Smith) of radically anti-establishment, pre-punk legends, the MC5; Kramer has been a politically active member of the rock and roll community since the heady days of 1968 when the influential guitarist and his band formed the White Panther Party, disrupted the Chicago Democratic Convention and exhorted kids everywhere to, "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers."

Despite the nearly 30 years that've passed since the MC5's first album, Kramer's commitment to activism and awareness is just as strong as ever and the 11 songs on Dangerous Madness are a bracing slap in the face aimed at an increasingly complacent Generation-X.

"The new album is just me carrying on the work I've always done," says Kramer modestly. "Music is a way for me to get the word out. Chuck D. calls rap the 'wire service of the black community' and I feel that rock can be an just as effective as a tool. You can take responsibility and you can make things happen."

"There's no shortage of things to write songs about," he adds. "One thing that really gets me is the war on drugs. Yeah, drugs are bad," says the one time methadone and heroin addict who did two years on a coke rap, "but, the war on drugs is worse. There are nations in this world that have a civilized handle on the drug problem, America needs to have the courage to admit its current policy is wrong and look elsewhere for guidance."

"There are over a million people in prisons across this country," says Kramer in disgust, "and nearly 80-percent of them are there for minor, drug-related offenses. I know who those 800,000 people are," he chuckles, "because I was one of 'em."

-- AL MUZER