“In a campground, when a bear attacks, you don’t have to be the first or fastest camper to get out, but you don’t want to be the last. MCR
On July 22, 2014, the Verge.com published a post-mortem on whistleblower and uber-activist Mike Ruppert titled, ‘The Unbelievable Life and Death Of Michael C. Ruppert’.
Writer Matt Stroud interviewed associates and friends of Ruppert including Wes Miller, Carolyn Baker, Jack Martin, Jessy Re and Ruppert’s ex-wife from a brief two year marriage of twenty years ago. Hungry for first-hand accounts and quotes from those who knew Ruppert most personally and intimately, Stroud and The Verge chose to quote me using something I supposedly shared with Carolyn Baker during my only conversation with her immediately following Mike’s suicide. From the Verge article:
Doug Lewis, Ruppert’s close friend, Colorado roommate, and bandmate in New White Trash, declined to be interviewed for this story. But Baker told me: “About two weeks before Mike left Colorado to come out to California [in February, 2014], Doug confronted him and said, ‘Mike you’re an alcoholic.’ And Mike grabbed Doug by the collar and slammed him against the wall and cursed him out. A week later, [Ruppert] gave notice that ‘I’m leaving.’”
Six weeks earlier, on June 4, 2014, I was contacted by Stroud who requested an interview. His approach was casual, “…writing a long obituary…just came back from a trip out west…would love to talk with you about Mike…”
When I asked him, he said he didn’t have an angle. Ruppert was a man made of many sharp angles. Not to disparage those who did interview with Stroud, but I declined the invite, not wanting to go fishing.
Until now. relative to my personal and creative relationship with my most excellent and closest friend, bandmate and creative partner Mike Ruppert, my goal, short of an initial tribute, was to keep silent and let the music of the New White Trash do the talking and to push the future forward by producing a third and final NWT album, to be a work of tribute to Mike, his memory and our friendship. NWT bandmates Kristen Vigard and Andy Kravitz agreed, and we recently set in motion a fundraiser in hopes of raising enough to produce the work.
Considering the circumstance – of being quoted out of context and wed to a storyline wildly out of sync with reality – I’m writing to set the record straight, first with Carolyn Baker and the Verge, then with the story itself.
That Ms. Baker has nothing positive to say about Mike is odd considering how he continually opened doors by promoting her works and personage including inviting her to be guest host on his popular live radio show, the Lifeboat Hour. His final offering to Carolyn Baker was to insist, in a very last breath and underscored in his suicide note, that she take over as host of the Lifeboat Hour, a position she now fills.
After reading the Verge article I contacted Carolyn Baker to remind her how the conversation we had immediately following Mike’s death was private, personal and confidential, and wondered how any of what I shared with her would end up as an attributed quote. To do so is unethical and disrespectful to Mike Ruppert and to the personal and creative relationship we shared.
I reminded her also that the story she spilled to the reporter for the Verge was false on counts of timeline and how the events portrayed in the article as occurring ‘two weeks before Mike left Colorado…’ actually occurred in February of 2013 – at least a year previous, and under circumstances dynamically different than those described. To use for her retraction, I wanted Carolyn Baker to know how these events of February 2013 did not lead to Mike leaving Colorado, but to a positive change in Mike and in the day to day dynamics of our overall relationship. I suggested to Ms. Baker that a public apology and retraction was in order. To date there has been no response from Ms. Baker other than an email to say how she was unaware our conversation was private.
For the record, what did occur in February of 2014, about two weeks before Mike left Colorado, was a civilized conversation between us where I recounted for him my recent trials and tribulations from being immersed in a situation with a alcoholic sister while taking care of my 92 year mother who was 8 weeks in a San Francisco hospital due to a debilitating accident. That conversation with Mike, in which I recounted the difficulty and dissonance on numerous levels of dealing with an alcoholic, may or may not be considered a reason (among many) for him leaving Colorado. But to state as much, or to insinuate as much as the writer does is wrong and does a disservice to Mike and to our relationship.
Reading the Verge article and attempting to deconstruct the journalistic intent of the writer, It is unseemly how in one paragraph the article acknowledges I declined to be interviewed (quoted) and then follows this by attributing a quote to me without confirming authenticity and without seeking my permission to attach my name to my own “quote”.
On July 27, 2014, I wrote to Verge Editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky and to the writer Matt Stroud to let them know the quote is false, as is the information it contains. In my letter I outlined how actions attributed to my person or my word did not take place as described, and by publishing a false and unattributed statement, I alleged how the Verge has published a libel and committed negligence. There has been no response from the Verge to my request for a retraction.
Here is what transpired between Mike and I back in February of 2013 –
Months earlier, in June of 2012, Mike sent me an email from Sebastopol. He was despondent, said he was paying too much rent, that he had grown weary of the radio show and was looking to make a move and get back to the music.
Colorado would do him good, but I knew Mike needed to convince himself so I sent a series of links to my neighborhood, the great San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado, a place I had discovered on my travels twenty-five years earlier.
I pointed out to MIke the raw and epic beauty of the valley. I emailed pictures of the Sangre de Cristo range as seen from my living room windows. I also sent him links to the rich history of the valley, geographically, geologically and through time as a sacred Native American space – known as the Big Space to those tribes. I made sure he knew about the fine well water here at my ‘el rancho’ and about the hot springs just a mile up the road. I also let him know about the extremely cold winters and windy springs because Mike did not do well in the cold.
And I outlined the plan to be recording Age Of Authority, the second NWT album, by mid-November of 2012.
Mike reacted positively, and on August 20, 2012 with his dog Rags riding shotgun, Mike pulled his loaded Rav4 through the front gates leading from Cosmic Highway 17 to the front door at Red Cloud at the far north end of the San Luis Valley, ten miles north of Moffat, a place similar to what the English would call a ‘wide spot in the road’. We were well beyond the spot and way beyond the wide.
Red Cloud Ranch is 40 acres of quiet solitude, no TV or radio, only the sound of me picking and scratching on my guitar. In the months prior to Mike’s August 2012 arrival, I was feeling a renewal of sorts, I was falling in love all over again with the overtone of sound.
Mike settled in to the master suite at Red Cloud and was on air that next Sunday live-broadcasting the Lifeboat Hour from Southern Colorado. Mike Ruppert was back in his groove and no one was more pleased than me.
Mike and I first met in late February 2008 at a dog park in Venice, Ca, We initially bonded because of our dogs. Squishy, my rough and tumble brick of a dude; and Rags, Mike’s happy-go-lucky mutt full of slobber. But the two became fast and best friends, a precursor of what was in store for me and Mike.
When our conversation came around to music, and I gave him a copy of a recent project, Mike was overwhelming in his praise; he dug the bare and rough edges and heard the message thread of social commentary throughout the material.
One thing led to another, and soon Mike was invited to my place, the Venice Arts Club located in the heart of Venice.
I realized much about Mike his first night at the VAC. He was impacted by the scene, emotionally, outwardly, and in every way he was thankful and grateful for the invite. He had been lonely and in need of a scene and of company and conversation from people of all ages, including my two teenage daughters and a steady gaggle of friends. MIke hung his hat that night at the VAC, and that night a childlike quality emerged from him, like a genie escaping the prison of his bottle. There could be no doubt how Mike was in the mix to stay.
Mike and Rags became household figures. Mike was ever courteous, always a gentleman, always brought food items for the grill and wine for the evening. He would wash dishes when they needed, clean up a wine spill, whatever, he just got busy doing what had to be done.
Mike was floored with how we could record a guitar or vocal track in the middle of the room with a dozen party people within reaching distance of the mic. Occasionally we’d ask for quiet, but we weren’t after quiet, we were after vibe. And we got it in spades. To quote Andy Kravitz, ”we like ambient and background noise with our music.” So yes, the sound of tinkling ice cubes and clinking glasses can be heard on numerous recordings put out by the VAC, including the NWT releases.
That next morning Mike rang me – woke me up – wanting to know at which dog park to meet that afternoon. And so this became our regular thing, that we would check in with each other and figure out where to meet. That same afternoon he turned over a signed copy of Crossing The Rubicon. Until then I didn’t know his past, only knew he was good to his dog, he liked music and that he grew up in Venice.
So he spilled the beans – former LAPD cop, whistle blower, author, personality, the works. Impressive achievements but most of all he came across as solid of character, impeccably sincere and honest, forthright, funny, and dry with a down-twist of ironic humor.
There was a shameless quality to MIke. Relative to the music, it allowed him to ‘step up to the mic’, and to ‘dare to suck’. Almost immediately he was itching for the opportunity to take on a musical role. He explained how, when he was out of high school and living in Venice, he would occasionally sing covers with a local bar band.
When Mike first did step up to the mic, it was with a swagger and a richness of voice, and we figured this was someone we could work with.
Andy and I had been plotting a next project and were toying with the term ‘New White Trash’ because it represented what was current in 2008/2009 America relative to the financial collapse and meltdown.
We explained to Mike the concept of the New White Trash and how there was a ‘manifesto’ being written relative to the music and the message. Mike insisted I send it to him. He sent it back with added content, polished and ready for publication, hence the foundation of the NWT would always and forever include a cornerstone bearing Mike Ruppert’s name.
Other good things were happening for Mike. In early 2009, Mike called me one morning and insisted I be at a certain dog park that afternoon. “I’ll be there with a filmmaker,” he said, “with a camera and crew. There will be a sound guy.” That was Mike when he was on a mission. Facts came first. Then second. Even third. “He’s someone interested in doing a documentary about me and I want you to check him out.” Mike knew and appreciated my own history in Los Angeles and in the film business.
Later that afternoon Squishy and I walked to the park and met Mike with filmmaker Chris Smith who went on to write and direct the documentary, Collapse.
There was a lot of Hollywood in Mike, a shade of flair, even a dash of savoir-faire, and occasionally a juggle of joie-de-vivre. He had graduated Venice High School, Class of 1969. Venice is Hollywood, Hollywood is Venice, even back then. The movie Grease was filmed at Venice High School. Give the man some perspective. This wasn’t Kansas.
By all accounts he was beyond a model student. He was setting a precedent, he had a obligation to some higher calling, some fixed star called justice. Mike operated with a sense of purpose and a strong turn of mind – always a direction.
There are important, crucial and essential elements to consider when assessing someone as dynamic as Mike Ruppert. Here are two excerpts from Mike’s self-penned biography:
”I was taken by a desire to follow in the family tradition and place myself in harm’s way for a good cause – a rite of passage and an initiation.”
“Buried within mainstream news sources were precious nuggets of information that if located, understood and pursued, could reveal the actual intent and direction of government actions, as opposed the glossy, slick and sterile patina of government and media spin.”
As our friendship deepened, Mike shared with me his struggles with depression, anxiety, alcohol and a not altogether pretty picture of an emotionally fragmented family history. Mike could be impatient with the world, as if time was against him. You could be whip-smart, but if you didn’t see what Mike saw coming then in his mind you were a fool. Mike did not suffer fools.
The recording of the New White Trash debut album, Doublewide, began mid-2009 and continued into 2010. It had grown to include 37 songs. Eventually, I cut back on the party scene to focus on mixing the material. Mike began experiencing difficulties, withdrawals from a diminished party and music scene and was growing impatient with wanting to hear finished songs.
His impatience boiled over into demands for specific songs to play on the Lifeboat Hour. I was all for the exposure but not until the material was ready for public consumption. So I told him to chill out and wait for the material to be processed. I had to remind him I was the driver and unless he was willing to risk the life of the project, don’t bother the driver. He understood and backed off and our relationship resumed a seamless and respectful course. Doublewide was released January 11, 2011.
Whereas Doublewide was recorded in the laid back and bohemian atmosphere of an open-air studio in Venice, recording Age Of Authority was a whole other trip.
We were sequestered in Colorado at Red Cloud Ranch, at 8000 feet and twenty-two miles from the nearest town. Mid-winter daytime temps hovered at zero and the nights dipping down to minus 25 degrees. And then some.
By early November, 2012 Mike had made himself a staple figure in Crestone, a local town full of spiritualists, cowboys, musicians, hippies, freaks, basically an eclectic mix, a real slice of multi-flavor Americana pie. Mike’s appointed mission in Crestone was to make contact with musicians and other fun people to tap into. One evening in late-November, soon after we had set up the studio, Mike rang and said he was returning with some new friends. One of those friends was Jessy Re, a thirty-something banjo playing woman with a sweet and shy voice. Over time, her and Mike evolved their friendship and their relationship became more intimate.
Mike was a soul man, he could sing and he could dance. He moved like John Belushi, would get overheated in the same way, and would make sure he had your attention. It was not only Mike’s desire to be at the center of any situation, but a force of inertia, a gravitational pull that put him there and gave him the essential qualities of a frontman.
By mid November the days were short and the weather cold with snow. I had worked out the music for two dozen songs and we began recording basic tracks. Mike, an ever keen observer and listener, had become familiar with the material and kept ongoing lyric notes. Occasionally he would shout out, “what song is that?” I would shout back a song number, e.g. #4, or #24, etc.
Kristen Vigard, another New White Trash member, had moved to Taos from Los Angeles after we had completed and released Doublewide. Soon she and her husband Bryan and daughter Emily Rose began making the 2+ hour drive north from Taos beginning mid-Nov and staying for long weekends then throughout the holiday season and on for weeks through the 2013 new year.
Another NWT collaborator, the artist James Mathers, stopped off at Red Cloud late October 2012 with his girlfriend Lea Petmezas. On their third morning, Lea let us know how her and James and her four kids would be moving to the valley, just down the road from us, on the county road to Crestone.
You don’t know who someone is until you see them under pressure. You also don’t know who someone is until you live with them.
Kristen Vigard and I have been friends for 33 years and have been making music together for almost as long. Few can match Kristen’s vibrancy and creative output. Her history is formidable – the original Annie on Broadway, Morgan Richards on the Guiding Light, singing with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and as a solo recording artist. Kristen brings a unedited and unfiltered creativity. There have been numerous wild rides with Kristen.
In the pressure of the cooker we put ourselves in, blowups were inevitable, par for the course. Soon after the 2013 new year, Kristen and Mike got into it briefly over creative differences but it was over almost as soon as it began and we maintained our resolve and attention to the material.
By mid-February, 2013, recording was complete and so a shift of gears was taking place. The drinking, smoking and partying needed to cease and it became necessary for me to dive deep into the mixes, something that required a more focused, sober and less social approach.
Mike, being Mike, wanted the party to continue. He was never shy about conveying his relationship with alcohol, or about his long history in AA, or how he turned from AA. But by mid-February his intake had escalated, largely due to the come-down one experiences at the end of a highly charged creative period, especially when there is no where to go, and nothing to immediately replace the high one gets from making music.
So I called l him on it, reminded him that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Mike didn’t appreciate the assessment and we got into it in a fairly in-your-face kind of way. There was some general bashing about and I reminded him how this was my house and if he didn’t like the rules then he would need to leave. Simple.
A half hour later the situation had calmed, we gave each other a hug and that was that. To his credit, Mike took responsibility for the situation and immediately curtailed his drinking. We put it behind and life went on between us, smoother and better than before and for another year until he took his leave late February of 2014, eighteen months to the day from when he arrived.
Indeed the most positive, dynamic and endearing aspect of our personal relationship was a foundation built on Mike being at a place in his life where he was willing to surrender to the music, and the making of the music. It proves the man to be someone who was adaptable, rational and able to recognize his place in the mix, any mix, music or otherwise.
Mike Ruppert was a gentleman, a thinker, an intuitive, an Aquarian, a leader, a doer, a sayer, a man of movement, a generous man of deep passion and conviction. He was a trailblazer and an incorruptible agent for the truth. He was an evolution of being and a fool for r&b, soul and rock and roll.
Mike Ruppert wore his heart on the sleeve of his conviction – that there are two sides to every story but only one truth, and that the truth of our tangled reality is found through the looking glass. Time and again he peered in, wandered through, took notes and returned with resolve.
Mike Ruppert made a name for himself exposing aspects of investigative truth to do with large scale crime and constitutional injustice and coverup. I toast Mike Ruppert for being such a portal through which the tides of truth whipped and the winds of justice howled. He arrived into this life with a sense of purpose, a destiny of soul. I’m sure he left with the same.
Finally, in character, action and deed, Mike Ruppert was a heroic figure, an errant knight messenger who in the face of all adversity had been delivering messages and is now to be considered on his way home.
The author –
In mid-2009, Mike Ruppert began recording with the NEW WHITE TRASH (NWT), a music project launched at the VENICE ARTS CLUB (VAC) in Venice, CA. For Ruppert, playing and recording music was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. In 2007, Ruppert returned to the Venice/Culver City area and reestablished himself in the neighborhood of his youth, a place where decades earlier Ruppert had graduated from Venice High School then went on to become a LAPD cop. In early 2008, Ruppert met VAC founder DOUG LEWIS at a Venice dog park, the two became close friends and it wasn’t long before Ruppert had found a home at the VAC and with the NWT, a project originally conceived by Lewis and his long-time musical collaborator, multi-platinium producer ANDY KRAVITZ. Broadway/TV actress and songstress Kristen Vigard would round out the core NWT group.
Early on, Lewis and Ruppert wrote out a NWT manifesto designed to articulate the music of the NWT. And in this video, viewers can watch a relaxed Mike Ruppert wax eloquent about his involvement with the NWT and ABOUT the importance of music in his life.
The debut album from New White Trash was DOUBLEWIDE , a 37 song double CD released January of 2011. Notable songs featuring Mike Ruppert include, AVALANCHE & EARTHQUAKE, RUNNING ON RUMOR, WEIRD KIND OF SENSE, GIRL’S GOT, THIS DAY IS DONE and BACKROAD.
Next from the NWT came AGE OF AUTHORITY, a 18 song CD released July 7, 2013. Notable songs featuring Ruppert include, LONG COLD WINTER, FOREIGN SOLDIERS, SUN OF YOUR LOVE, INNER REACH, DRIFTED, and FREE FROM.
When Ruppert passed away on April 13, 2014, plans were in place for a third and final NWT album. BEYOND THE RUBICON would complete the trilogy. The New White Trash have decided to go ahead with the production, recording and release of Beyond The Rubicon, a music project now dedicated to friend and bandmate Mike Ruppert. A campaign on STARTJOIN (www.StartJoin.com/btr) has been created as a platform for friends and fans of Mike Ruppert to fully fund the project. Additionally, the first song of Beyond The Rubicon titled, WHO I ONCE WAS, featuring Mike Ruppert on vocals, has been mixed and is now available on the NWT Bandcamp site. Who I Once Was is available as a free download, though listeners are encouraged to pay what they can – a little or a lot. All revenue from this song will go towards the production of Beyond The Rubicon.
Another opportunity for friends, fans and listeners to move this project forward is to purchase an electronic download or Sponsor Edition of Doublewide and/or Age Of Authority. Leave a short message indicating that your payment should go towards Beyond The Rubicon. Anyone doing so will in return receive a gratis copy – via electronic download – of Beyond The Rubicon before its official release.
Thanks for tuning in.
BEYOND THE RUBICON
WHO I ONCE WAS
MIKE RUPPERT – ‘RUNNING WITH THE NEW WHITE TRASH’
NEW WHITE TRASH
After considering the future of the New White Trash relative to the passing of bandmate and friend MICHAEL C. RUPPERT, we are moving forward with plans to record and release a third and final NWT album titled BEYOND THE RUBICON (BTR) to include unreleased material featuring Ruppert from the DOUBLEWIDE and AGE OF AUTHORITY sessions, as well as new songs written while Mike was housing with bandmate DOUG LEWIS at Red Cloud Ranch in southern Colorado. Our focus, as always, will be on releasing material relative to the original NWT manifesto – matters of head and heart, war and peace, love, longing, and social commentary/protest torn from the pages of tomorrow’s news.
Beyond The Rubicon will complete the trilogy begun in 2009 at the Venice Arts Club in Venice, California. Along with Lewis, original NWT band members Kristen Vigard and Andy ‘AK’ Kravitz will be deep in the mix. In order to fund the project, our intention is a word of mouth campaign geared towards raising enough funds to appropriately record, produce, mix and master this final NWT album, dedicated to the life, work and memory of Mike Ruppert. Outside funding will be essential – we cannot begin this project without you lovely people – fans of Ruppert and the NWT. Our fund-raising strategy will be made public once we’ve settled on a course of action, either through a Kickstarter style campaign or by releasing one song on the NWT Bandcamp site and asking for double and triple digit payments for that one song to go towards BTR.
In the meantime, those inclined to immediately begin to move this project forward can purchase an electronic download of Doublewide and/or Age Of Authority. Leave a short message indicating that your payment should go towards BTR. Anyone doing so will in return receive a gratis copy – via electronic download – of Beyond The Rubicon before its official release.
BEYOND THE RUBICON
MCR & Doug Lewis
Andy ‘AK’ Kravitz
In September of 2012, shortly after Mike arrived here at Red Cloud Ranch in the great San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado, and before we got busy recording Age Of Authority, we were visited by two men who pulled in along the long drive leading from Highway 17. The older, the driver, said he and his son were looking at property and did I know anything about the property in the distance, how to drive there, what it was like, etc.
I’m looking at these guys, thinking to myself, no way is this younger guy the son of the older. Meanwhile, Mike had come out of the house and made his way over. He stood behind me and to the side. Of course he was packing. Without introduction, he called out, “So, you guys government men?’
It was a tactic, a quick jab. And it worked. Caught off guard, the younger looked at the older who hesitated, fractionally speaking, and it became obvious how they were, in fact, government men.
Their recovery attempt was hilarious. The older said, “No, no, were longshoremen, we’ve come down from Denver.”
After a beat, I said, “You’re a long way from shore, men.” Mike chuckled behind me. The older added, “But we’re from Oakland.”
It was too late. They were had.
Mike chimed in with a broad sweep of his arm, indicating the vast lone prairie surrounding us, “This used to be an ocean, once. And Dougie used to be a longshoreman. Isn’t that right, D?”
As they retreated, Mike muttered, “Government men”, and walked away.
* * *
Mike Ruppert was a soul man. He could sing and he could dance. Of late, the vision I have of Mike Ruppert is one of him knocking on heaven’s door. After a brief disclosure, the doors open and in he goes.
I take great pleasure knowing how Mike reached those gates before Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, or any of that host of unholy others. Upon their arrival, I imagine Mike’s conversation with the Gods of High Noon going something like this…
The Gods to Mike: “Dick and Don are here. And they want to come in. It’s your call, how do you want to handle this?
Mike, who has already stood up, snubbed out his cigarette, and is headed down the gangplank to meet the ‘little men’, looks back with a wry smile and says, “Let’s see if they can dance.”
My advise to Dick, Don, George and the rest of that ill-conceived ilk is this – If you’re thinking of heading heaven’s way, and knocking on those doors, think twice. You’re going to have to get through Mike Ruppert to get there. And you’re going to have show him you can dance. Good luck with that.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCTOBER 5, 2013
“This is dangerous music…in many ways. But Doug Lewis has always been a subtly subversive artist. So AGE OF AUTHORITY, the latest release by musician/producer Lewis and NEW WHITE TRASH, should not come as a surprise to lucky listeners who have enjoyed his previous political/philosophical/surrealistic musical journeys (especially the tour de force “Crudland” and “Tell The Time”). Those just getting into Lewis will discover a pleasingly quirky collection that shows calculated disregard for sonic tropes and clubland clichés. On Age Of Authority, Lewis pairs his truly insightful writing and lyrics with those of bandmates Kristen Vigard and Michael C. Ruppert to explore the moral ramifications of the disenfranchised masses struggling to survive in the new world order. It’s not exactly a message being trumpeted by mainstream media…and for good reason — in the Age Of Authority, we are ALL New White Trash.” – Michael Lynn-E Entertainment/True Hollywood Story.
A discussion with Doug Lewis:
VAC: This is the second album from New White Trash, with much the same ‘cast’. How did it come about?
LEWIS: After completing DOUBLEWIDE, the first NWT album, I moved the studio from Venice (CA) to the north end of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. Kristen and Mike Ruppert had moved out of Los Angeles a year before me, Kristen to Taos, NM, and Mike to Sebastopol. In August of 2012, Mike made the move to my place in CO, which was a year after I had established a base. Another NWT contributor, James Mathers, paid a visit with Lea Petmezas in Oct of 2012 and when Lea decided to move out here, James made the move as well. During the spring/summer/fall of 2012, I had worked out some songs on the guitar along with some bass lines and so making an album was a great way to spend the winter of 2012/13.
VAC: The music and vibe of Age Of Authority feels like a continuation of Doublewide, thematically anyway.
LEWIS: The big picture hardly changes – love and war, heart and head, these are the themes of the real world and of our music, so our songs are either wry love letters or views on events torn from the news of the day.
VAC: The tagline for the New White Trash is ‘music of the post-paradigm’; do you consider this a genre?
LEWIS: It’s more of a personal brand, in that, collectively, we encourage the music to move in ‘meaningful directions’, one of which, for us, is social commentary/criticism, another is the draw of our experiences in the form of – usually and ultimately – cautionary tales. The ‘post-paradigm’ reference came out of Mike and I drawing up a raison d’être to offer insight into the NWT in name and in musical direction.
VAC: Your bandmate Mike Ruppert is fond of quoting you – “You can’t write a protest song on a full stomach.” How does that relate to your work throughout the years?
LEWIS: The music of the New White Trash is the outcome of a shared and outspoken sensibility between Kristen, Mike, myself and others. We are all on the same side of the cultural fence, so to speak. And we share an appreciation for the process and the sacrifice it takes to make an art project and create a body of work like an album. Also, we’ve all been doing this a while and in our various different way – Mike with his activism, Kristen has been writing, recording and performing music her entire life, and me, Age of Authority is my 22nd album as a musician/producer. I’ve only ever made music with a cultural lean and a political pov. And I’ve only ever made music with those mining the same ground. Anything else, at this late stage of the game, feels pointless.
VAC: Over the course of making all this music, all these songs spread out over twenty-two albums, how has the process on songwriting changed for you, personally speaking.
LEWIS: For me, the most profound change to the process happened in 1995 when I amputated the ring finger on my left hand. My guitar playing, post the loss of that finger, continues to evolve in ways of physical dexterity and personal style. Chopping off a finger then expecting to resume playing the guitar is not something I would recommend as a career choice, but for me, over time, I have no regrets. Otherwise, playing guitar, writing melodies and lyrics, crafting a song is a task like any other; you commit to the effort and embrace the experience of tuning in, musically and creatively speaking. It’s about inhabiting a world and also enjoying the creative process as a form of meditation/work. Over the years I have become particularly fond of treating the recording process as a community event, open door/open room style.
VAC: Being a guitar player with an amputated finger places you in an exclusive club…
LEWIS: Like I said, not something I would recommend.
VAC: What next for you and the New White Trash?
LEWIS: Looking forward to creating the third of the NWT trilogy, and hope to begin recording by mid-November (2013), although I’ve just received word that my 91 year old mother, who lives in San Francisco, needs some care, so I’m headed there now. We’ll see.
AGE OF AUTHORITY from the NEW WHITE TRASH arrives 07.07.13
Rough mixes of selected songs from AGE OF AUTHORITY have been playing for the past eight weeks on the LIFEBOAT HOUR, a weekly one-hour radio show hosted by MICHAEL C. RUPPERT on the Progressive Radio Network. Ruppert, former cop turned whistleblower, author of Crossing The Rubicon who was also featured in the documentary, Collapse, calls his show, “a nightclub at the end of the world”. The NEW WHITE TRASH is in heavy rotation, and for good reason. Ruppert, along with Venice, CA music producer and Venice Arts Club host Doug E. Lewis, formed the NWT in 2009, soon after they met over dogs at a local Venice dog park. According to Ruppert, “our dogs bonded and so did we”. Meeting Lewis allowed Ruppert to return to his roots as a singer and fulfill his dream of making music.
The result of their collaboration was released January 11, 2011. Recorded at VENICE ARTS CLUB, the album DOUBLEWIDE, a 37 song 2 CD set features a host of Venice locals including multi-instrumentalist and musical activist Wade DeVoid, former Broadway and Soap star, Kristen Vigard, artist and Warhol protege James Mathers, drummer/programmer Andy Kravitz, guitarist Michael Jost, former Shadowfax bass player Phil Maggini, among others.
Next up for the NWT is AGE OF AUTHORITY, due out July 7, 2013. Recorded over the 2012-13 winter at Lewis’ new facility – RED CLOUD RANCH AND RECORDING STUDIO – located in Moffat, CO, at the base of the Sangre De Cristo range in Southern Colorado, Age Of Authority is 18 new compositions from a this time smaller ensemble of players, including Ruppert, Lewis, DeVoid, Mathers, Vigard and with bass guitar contributions from former Frank Zappa bass player, Arthur Barrow.
Says Lewis, “Out here in Southern Colorado though we’re pretty much on the lone prairie, our goal was to make music in a ‘Venice Arts Club’ kind of way, meaning to involve the locals, to find whomever was into making music and had a desire to sing or play to come on down and step up to the mic. So we found some amazing talent in the town of Crestone, located about twenty miles from my place…just down the road. Turns out Lea Petmezas, who we met through James Mathers, is a gifted singer, as is Jessica Holopeter. We enlisted JeseRe Pulver on flute and also ‘Diamond’ Dave Steele, who contributed some acoustic guitar tracks.”
Kristen Vigard, who now calls Taos, NM, home and has been making music with Lewis for twenty years, spent the better part of the three month recording process driving back and forth from Taos through sometimes wicked winter weather, explains that, “…it was totally worth it. Anytime I have an opportunity to record with Dougie, I’ll take it. We’ve been doing this a long time together, him and I. He knows how to make a record and have fun doing it.”
Ruppert agrees, and adds, “making this album was endearing but also enduring because, unlike being in Venice at the VAC with the back doors open and the fire pit flaming and lots of people milling and chilling, out at Red Cloud in Colorado we had a much more isolated and harsh environment – extreme cold made it difficult to remain outside for longer than a few minutes, so it was the group of us spending most of our time inside focused on the tunes. But what a great process it is to work on songs, writing lyrics and rehearsing parts…I love it!”
As a theme, Age Of Authority is a coherent followup to Doublewide. Lewis and Ruppert established early on, by way of manifesto, a musical activism built on social commentary combined with equal part exploration of heart, told primarily through a series of cautionary tales…love, loss, joy, sorrow.
Pre-release copies of Age Of Authority are available for review to music bloggers and music zines. Please contact: BillyBollocks@mac.com
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