Eco Wise Guy: As Ethnomusicologist Andrew Mark Discovers in an Exclusive Interview, Ex-Blue Rodeo Keyboardist Bob Wiseman Isn't Content to Just Sing about Environmental and Social Injustice. He Wants to Shock You into Action

Alternatives Journal, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Eco Wise Guy: As Ethnomusicologist Andrew Mark Discovers in an Exclusive Interview, Ex-Blue Rodeo Keyboardist Bob Wiseman Isn't Content to Just Sing about Environmental and Social Injustice. He Wants to Shock You into Action


Who Am I? It's the name of Bob Wiseman's film with Feist, but who is Bob--really? Maybe you noted him as Ron Sexsmith's producer, or saw him next to Meryl Streep. Perhaps you caught him at a comedy bar with Levi McDougal. He did win those three Junos. But whatever the medium and encounter, Wiseman is hard to forget. I suggest beginning with his first album, In Her Dream, with songs including "Rock and Tree" (about the murder of Salvador Allende for repatriating Indigenous lands), "No Commotion" and "Just Tourists" (detailing the French S.S. bombing of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior), and "Bhopal" (a rigorous lambast of Union Carbide).

Andrew Mark: What is your earliest memory of environmental injustice?

Bob Wiseman: It would have been through music, actually, from Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" and Dylan's cover of that song, to "After the Gold Rush" by Neil Young, and Randy Newman singing about the oil-barge spill on the Cleveland Cuyahoga River. As a kid, I was inspired to jump into the fold.

Why do you include so much lyrical detail in some of your songs?

There are some songs I've written where I have to provide background in order to believe I've really imparted enough information to the listener to mobilize them. I'm upset and, frankly, I want to make other people upset for the same reason. I love when I am affected by artists who knock me out, who shock me. Even if I am bad at it, I aspire to that ability.

What is your creative process?

Things f**k me up, and then I'll want to take a shot at memorializing them. I read earlier today about this 25-year-old in the States who spent two years rabidly organizing those who would prevent gay marriage. In the last month or so, he has done a 180, and now the guy's followers are trying to pretend their leader has not totally abandoned them. …

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Eco Wise Guy: As Ethnomusicologist Andrew Mark Discovers in an Exclusive Interview, Ex-Blue Rodeo Keyboardist Bob Wiseman Isn't Content to Just Sing about Environmental and Social Injustice. He Wants to Shock You into Action
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