I have always seen my job as a musician to have several areas of focus. Of course - most obviously - the one where we make a collage of sounds, melodies and rhythms to create a (hopefully) pleasing result is the one where we define that what we do is make MUSIC, rather than say sculpture or painting. If that's the one that defines us, then the lyrical content of our music is one that individualises us within the broader definition - along with the differences in styles, techniques and genres.
The Tangent - and before it, Po90 & GFDD have always sought to exist in the backdrop of the world of contemporary society. It's a choice which means our music makes no attempt to be "timeless". The subjects covered by songs over the 8 albums so far released have dealt with a huge number of topics (a fan recently identified more than 40 completely different themes in our work) - which to very briefly indicate, stretch from the humanitarian crises in Burma to the death of Margaret Thatcher via the history of Prog Rock and the sad fate of war veterans in their twilight years. There are according to our source, 36 more totally different topics.
Our albums have had different moods and feelings - some (like A Spark In The Aether) very positive and upbeat reflecting the joy of life and music interwoven, others (like COMM) cautiously cynical and concerned about where we are currently heading as the current population of the planet.
"The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery" gets as close to being a "political statement" as we have ever done. We are musicians who lived through and saw 2016 - a tumultuous year in which a great deal changed - both on the playing fields of high government and in the way these changes were reported/relayed to us by the low media - and most importantly, the way we reacted to both the news and each other using the new technologies we now have.
In 1985 - after my youthful dreams of being a Rock Star had subsided, I met the band Chumbawamba. Had this meeting never happened, i am sure, totally sure, that my life in music would be some faded photos of what I used to do in my late teens and early twenties and a couple of old cassettes that might have been copied onto a computer ready for my 60th birthday. What the Chumbas gave me was a PURPOSE. A reason to write music, something that mattered, something that reflected the world I was living in. They wrote about politics, injustice, corruption, greed, dishonesty and - more importantly, they wrote of hope, togetherness and alternatives. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they didn't just rage against the machine. They had manuals and tools with which to FIX the machine. And don't laugh. I still think that they and the like-minded can do it.
My music has never sounded like theirs. Not really. My desire to follow in the sonic musical footsteps of Jon Anderson, Andy Latimer and Dave Stewart (keyboards player) did not have to use the same lyrical footprint as these guys - besides which Hammill and Waters had already plenty of ideas from which I could begin. But in short - before Chumbas my songs would have youthful angst, unrequited love, and other New Romantic ideas at their core... after Chumbas I was singing about the Berlin Wall, Apartheid and the Miners Strike in one area, and in another I was telling stories of other peoples experiences in this same world.
So - as you may be able to imagine - it's a long time now since someone first told me "politics doesn't belong in music". It's something I've heard now many times over the five decades in which I have made music. Progressive Rock Music has not been a hugely political movement since its early days - born out of the late 60s counterculture against a backdrop of student riots, political upheavals, Vietnam and the Cuban Missile Crisis - its flowery rebellion was homogenised a lot quicker than it should have been - as is anything that sells by the million.
I find, curiously, that a great deal of the belief that "Politics does not belong in PROG" comes from people who are into Pink Floyd - a band who have been one of the most conspicuously left leaning bands in the genre - particularly in the era from "Animals" to "The Final Cut". I do find that in the world of the Progressive Community there ARE people who wish that I'd shut up talking about Media corruption, they like the songs but wish maybe that I'd put a foxes head on, pretend to mow a lawn or release a giant floating pig. And I totally, totally understand.
Why would anyone WANT more doom and gloom from a record they have put on for PLEASURE, when all the politics they could ever want to hear is available on their phones, radios, tvs and even wristwatch?
Why, in a world full of instant comments boxes, video blogs, social networking groups etc is the view of an unimportant prog rock keyboards player worth having?
My own answer to this has to be reasonably modest. But - away from the hurly burly of actual politics I have always found that the framework of music (something I love and understand) can shape my own political views and help me formulate my own opinions. These come from diverse sources from Bob Dylan, via Joni Mitchell, Roger Waters, Henry Cow, Peter Hammill, Public Enemy, Rage and of course to Chumbawamba and the Sex Pistols. It was not James Callaghan or Edward Heath that angled my political incline, neither Thatcher, Obama, Trump or Farage. it was the people who sang about what these people did. It was Peter Hammil's "The Future Now", Public Enemy's "Fight The Power", Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" Joni Mitchell's "Harry's House/Centrepiece" and the Chumbas "Fitzwilliam" which spoke to me in MY language about the world I lived in.
I wish, in my own little world, to be able to emulate those legendary commentators I have just mentioned. Set my own stories and feelings like stones into the silverwork of music and allow them to sparkle seductively to anyone to whom such a thing is alluring. To ask questions for which someone - somewhere, MIGHT have an answer. That's why I do this. It's the REASON I do it. So when someone asks me why there's politics in my music - the answer is honestly that there is music in my politics. There is music in my life. I am engaged in writing my own soundtrack for my own life like so many other people. I have enjoyed sharing so many others experiences through the vehicle of music, that this is my natural response. To do the same for others.
There is no point me denying. I am liberal (and some!) - left leaning, typical artist who wanted to stay in the European Union. Our band The Tangent was formed, developed, blossomed in that bizarre concoction of Capitalist Business Bureaucracy and True Spirit of International Co-operation. We hope the band falls into the second half of that equation. The events that led up to the Trump victory and the EU Brexit referendums were divisive, hate filled, based on lies (on BOTH sides of BOTH arguments) and were curated by a totally out of control and extremely biased popular press whose ownership falls firmly into the "Capitalist Business Bureaucracy" category and whose only interest in International Co-operation is in the value of assets in whichever country is under the microscope.
I am not a politician at all. A government with me in it even at a low level would be at risk of daftness, unreliability, chaos and almost 100 percent inefficiency. The question might be raised "well why does someone like you feel empowered to write about politics then?" Well because there are Politicians and there are people who live in the world that they create. I am one of these people. A person who they do not know who writes about what they do and how it affects us. Our (BIG "our") music is feedback, it's a comments box, at its most forceful it's an inquiry committee.
There are 2 members of parliament who own Tangent family records to my knowledge. Their names will not ever be forthcoming from me, my band or our record company. One of them is a member of a party that one would not associate with us. And yet s/he loves the record and its message. And although that person has made decisions that go against what I believe, voted for actions I would oppose, I feel somehow that I have had my say, that their interest in music and lyrics will influence their decisions at appropriate times. This applies to every work of art in all fields in history.
We could be bland, we could be "nice" - we could even mow the lawn and wear the foxes head. Instead though we'll just carry on doing what WE do. You can love it, you can hate it - you can filter out the lyrics and just enjoy the music or, like many, you can enjoy our lyrics if you can get past all that Prog Rock noodling. And if none of these.. well, there's billions of other great bands out there. If you're looking for the band who sings how great the Tories are though, you'll find your CD shelves a little bare. Sorry - that was one punch I could not pull.