After 25 years, Living Colour still vivid
Speaking of where things come from and getting out of the way of yourself, how did that play out on the latest album? What were the things that were coming forth that you were trying to move out of the way of?
"The Chair in the Doorway" is exactly that. That’s exactly what that’s about. It’s actually from a phrase that Corey used to say all the time. He would say, "The chair is in the doorway and everyone is walking around the chair, but nobody moves the chair." It’s like getting in your own way. It’s like telling myself that I really want to play well. That’s a barrier to me playing well. It’s a complete barrier. My desire to be liked. I want you guys to like me. All it takes is for one person to fold their arms and scowl at me to destroy me. The thing is, human contact is kind of unavoidable. That’s one of the great lessons that we use against each other. The fact that someone wants to be liked and we withhold it. It’s like the seven deadly sins. They’ve got the seven deadly sins, but cruelty is not one of them. Cruelty is not it. Cruelty is totally allowable. A part of that is not to be cruel to one’s self. To accept that, on the one hand, for myself, to really take on preparing myself to get out of my own way. And then the other thing is letting go. The time is always now. I had an ex-girlfriend that said, "The time is always now." She said that back then.
What’s coming up in the future? Are you working on anything right now or are you focusing on touring?
We have plans, and plans are subject to change. There’s a lot of things I want to do, and hopefully I’ll get to do those things. I want to make another Living Colour record, I want to continue the conversation. Living Colour has been having a conversation with itself, and with the culture for over 25 years. What’s interesting to me is what we’re willing to say, what we’re willing to get out of the way of. For myself, it’s what am I processing as a songwriter, what am I processing as a guitarist, as a composer. And collaboration, what’s going on with that? That’s really what it’s about. At the same time, plans are plans. Politicians make promises and then they get elected and then they can’t do what they promised for whatever reason. Because it’s not as simple and the president’s not a king. These things happen. You think about things as they turn out, coincidences and ironies abound and life is filled with it. The human experience is filled with joy and pain and unfair things and "Why does that happen," and jealousies and all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s part of the human condition, so for my part, I hope to be true to whatever state of the human condition I find myself in. And I hope to be creative with that. The future is a country we haven’t gone to yet.
Another thing that often gets said about you guys is that there’s a political side to what you do and that there’s always some sort of social commentary in your music. Do you view yourselves as doing that, making commentary, or are you just writing from the heart?
The heart is in your head. Our heart is a muscle, the heart that we talk about as a Valentine, that’s in our brains. Emotions play out in front of a backdrop. Part of that backdrop is a particular economy. Part of that backdrop is the social milieu. Part of that backdrop is the conflict between different groups of people who have different needs. A movie like "Pretty Woman" is a love story, but it’s also about a rich guy and a poor chick. The fact that this guys’s rich and that she’s poor is something that’s happening in society. It’s combination. … You’ve got to fight for your neighborhood with an emotional plea so it’s not divorced from the emotions that are attendant.
Is there anything else that you’d like to say or convey?
I wanted to say that partly these days I’m in a heightened emotional state because I lost my main mentor, someone that made it possible to do all of this, A man named Ronald Shannon Jackson. I played in a band called the Decoding Society. The music was really influenced by the music of Ornette Coleman and I was part of his electric free jazz band. He was a giant. He was a very prolific composer. He was a very original composer. He combined the Texas blues with Eastern mysticism with psychedelic and open-ended improvisation. But his melodies and his tunes were really accessible. They had a memorial for him [Oct. 24] in Texas. He passed away from leukemia. My professional career starts with him, so I really want to mention his name because he is someone who, to me, is a great American. He’s like a hidden icon. If you want to find out more about him, there’s an obituary for him in the New York Times. He was incredibly important to me, and I love him a great deal.