Michael Franti The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Published Feb 01, 2002Michael Franti is the leader of Spearhead, and is a musician, poet and activist from Oakland, CA. He currently lives in San Francisco.
Warm weather. It's freezing in San Francisco right now.
Mind-altering work of art:
Radioactive, the beatboxer in Spearhead, is also a brilliant painter. I've been really inspired by some of the works he has created while on the road. They really showcase human figures in relation to the mechanical world.
Most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
It was a show in Cuba that we were a part of with 50 Western artists and 50 Cuban artists. We spent a week collaborating together and writing new songs to perform in groups of eight. It was a beautiful show.
What has been your career high and low?
High would be the feeling I get right after I've written a new song. Getting emotions out into the world gives me such a sense of satisfaction and happiness. Low would be the isolation I feel sometimes when I am on the road and so far away from the people I love.
What should everyone shut up about?
I don't believe anyone should shut up about anything. Freedom is the ability to have choices in life. When you hear things you don't like, I believe it is best to address or combat those words with more words.
I would drop everything to play a benefit for:
To raise money to send George Bush to live in a village that was being bombed so that he could experience what it feels like.
What trait do you like and dislike most about yourself?
I dislike my addictive tendencies but I like the ways I have found in my life to overcome and manage them.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
I have kicked someone out of my band because he was involved in domestic violence that was the only time.
When I think of Canada I think:
I think of the year I lived in Edmonton with my family. I think of roller-skating at SportsWorld, which was fun, but also I recall many sad family memories related to my fathers alcoholism.
What is your vital daily ritual?
First thing I do everyday is yoga. Then I make breakfast for my three-year-old, talk to my manager and get down to writing songs.
How do you spoil yourself?
I've done a lot in the past to abuse myself so I spoil myself by being conscious of taking care of my mind, body and emotions. I try to eat well, meditate and do yoga.
What was your most memorable day job?
Being a bike messenger for two years. I enjoyed it because you don't really have a boss and it gave me a lot of time to ponder my lyrics and poetry. I really found the clash of the two worlds - radical bikers with corporate suits - to be an interesting one.
If I wasn't playing music I would be:
I'd be a fulltime traveler for sure. Just doing whatever it took to make ends meet.
What is your greatest fear?
It would be not feeling that connection with the people I care about. Basically, we all want to be loved by the people we love.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Everyone has a superpower, Creativity! What gets people through really hard times in life is creativity - writing about it or expressing it in some way.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
The most sensual experience I've had was being in a sound system in Jamaica. The people were beautiful, the music was beautiful.
Music and sex: Is there a difference? Why?
Yes, there is a difference! But I think the way music/ sex affects us can be somewhat similar. When at its best it's about intimacy and people connecting on an emotional level, full of love and sharing. When at its worst - it can be about superficiality, objectification, illusion and shame.
Strangest brush with celebrity:
We did a benefit for Todd McCormick who is in jail for growing medicinal marijuana on the TV show, Politically Incorrect. I was sitting next to Bill Maher and for the duration of the show he griped nonstop about the audience and the marijuana movement.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I would love to sit down and chat with Nelson Mandela. We'd have beans and rice, really fresh salad, good juice - maybe a smoothie.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Visiting her more often! My mom is really supportive of what I do.