Interview with Lonnie Jordan (War)

Interview with Lonnie Jordan (War)

The themes of your music dealt frequently with the problems in the communities, like poverty and overall hard life in the ghetto. Years later, how do these problems differ?

Well, it hasn’t changed and I know that music set a sound barrier, which is beyond the time barrier, that its still there. Situations, problems still occurring, it’s the same situation since Vietnam and before that. All we get was a few lyrics were a reflection of the people, like a mirror, like their expressions on paper. That’s what’s really coming from people, that they wish there wasn’t a war. We also gave them what they don’t acknowledge, that the world is a ghetto. Everyone’s world is a ghetto, not just yours. So don’t think that just because you see a person driving a Rolls Royce they can’t get a flat tire on the same freeway as you and have the same situation as you. And don’t think that his big house got no roaches either. His house is bigger so roaches got a bigger place to hide. So we are pretty much talking the same situation, just different faces, different family.

And people with bills. Everyone got the same situation just on different levels. Bigger bills and bigger heart attacks (laughs). They could even have bigger ones then other people, ‘cause those people don’t have the same burden on them.

With the Vietnam war you talked a lot of harmony and peace in your music.

Harmony in melody. Using the harmony as in harmony in music and harmony coming from the people in the ghetto, that’s how we use harmony.

Now we have a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. What are your thoughts on that?

For me it’s a fast track to the last war, Vietnam. Same situation, Nixon, Bush. There is no difference. Nothing’s changed, people still getting killed over political purposes and it really has nothing to do with the little people. Again it’s the same monopoly. The more war the more money the politicians make. Nothing’s changed. The more money in the pot for Congress, everyone involved in the White House… In the mean time, we, the soldiers, got our own war. Our war is what we believe what our country has told us to believe, that we are doing it for the purpose of our country, United States of America. United States of Dollars. USD. I don’t mean like the food approval, I mean United States of Dollars. That’s what it is about. Unfortunately the people like you talking about it are probably getting killed. Realistically speaking, nothing against my country. I love it. It is a money-making country, powered by dollars. Unfortunately the big people are also powered by dollars. So we all have our own constructive way of getting power, which is the almighty dollars. That’s all it is.

Your music became the voice for a lot of the people from the ghetto. In the 70s Hip Hop began serving the same purpose. What are your thoughts on the state of Hip Hop today?

I think its just another form of music, that’s all. Just another form of art, rather. I would have to say, once again another fast track, that Hip Hop, rap reminds me of blues in my era, coming up. Same concept. Its street musidc, just like the blues, everything was based on the streets, just like our music. Except for our music wasn’t just blues, it was a mixture of universal street music. That’s what I call it, universal street music. It’s a multicultural band, call it the mixed salad, rainbow coalition, whatever you wanna call it. Everyone is from a different part of the world in my band. Basically again, I believe that Hip Hop, rap is just another form of art, like blues.

You are (Lonnie Jordan) the last member of the original band. Besides the people themselves, what major sort of changes did your band go through over the last 40+ years?

(Exhales) Death. 2 members passing away and then differences of opinions. The older you get, finally you see another light of day beyond music and beyond personal situations. Just things started changing, like a marriage. That’s basically the change. Its just that me, I didn’t want to let my fans down. So I continue to do what I do.

How do you feel the world and its perception of your music had changes during that time?

They are the same notes, still harmony and melody. Actually I don’t see the change. Except for a lot of the younger people don’t have the access to tools, to musical instruments to learn how to actually play and create from that. The only instrument they have is the drums machines. Back then all we had was instruments, like acoustic guitars, pianos and stuff. So we could sit down and actually play with stuff. That is how we created music back then and our stories came from the streets along with the music. Nowadays it’s all electronics. Also, politically we don’t want to afford it, we took it out of the schools. Now why did we do that? ‘Cause again, we go back to the same policy, its all about making the almighty dollar. Why did we take it out of the schools? We know that answer. (chuckles) We won’t go there. So unfortunately kids nowadays, they are making a lot of money, but unfortunately not gaining a lot of art knowledge behind their dollars.

You’ve infused many different music styles into your repertoire. If you were to pick the most characteristic, what would it be?

I can’t really say. I never knew then and I can’t really say now. All it is is just getting on stage or in the studio and jamming. Everything comes out. Coming from Los Angeles, we’ve had a variety of influences and I’ve always listen to the music coming out of New York. People like Mongo Santa Maria, Joe Cuba, Willie Colon, The Palmieri Brothers, and at the same time I was listening to country music, gospel music at home. Then it started changing as the years progressed. So, no, there is no particular kind of music. We can do classical, whatever we feel like.

You’ve put out 27 albums altogether and are also famous for a high number of live shows. What do you think plays a greater role, playing in front of people or doing studio work?

I think both because we pretty much put the same concept in the studio, because we bring the same people to the studio, so we could have the same vibe. People come in, we start partying, jamming, it’s just like having a live show. We are the reflection of the people, that’s how we write. People actually give us something to write about, we just pick up the pace and we write.

Talking about writing, how often do you write new material?

No new material lately, but we are contemplating it now. Every time we pick up our instruments to play our old songs, we always have something to add, that’s in-between and is creative. These guys are a collective just like we had in the early days with the original guys. That’s writing, we’re just not doing it with the pencil yet.

How do you differ from The Lowrider Band?

The way we differ is I’m doing it as WAR and they are not. They did write the original songs, we grew up together, but essentially we had a divorce, so the difference is I’m WAR and they’re not.

No other band has ever played for these many years as frequently. What’s your secret?

Our fans. We see when we get on stage all of these smiles, they enjoy the familiarity of the music they grew up on. There are a lot of memories, flashbacks to back then.

Your music has been sampled a lot through the years. Who do you feel did the best work off of your music?

There’s been so many, it’s hard to tell. As another form of art, it’s all good. I don’t think there’s been an artist or a band that outdid everyone else. They are all good. They all went into the studio and put their hearts into it.

What’s next for you and the band? How much longer do you plan on performing?

Hmmm… at least 80 more years, I’d say. Then we’ll do DVDs, like a collage of different audiences, to let them know they were involved with us in singing along our songs and stuff like that. We can’t miss anyone, so they don’t say ‘Why wasn’t I included?’ So we’ll do the US and the rest of the world to let them know they were all involved. (laughs happily)

Do you have many fans from the younger age group or are they mostly the fans you’ve had for many years?

We have both now. There are a lot of younger curious fans that are involved now. A lot of them come out with their parents, their uncles and they are having flashbacks, you know? The younger kids are just like their parents. I’m watching the same movie all over again. They are just another breed off of the same tree.

I’d have to write my book, really, there’ve been so many experiences we have had back then. Even the Eric Burton WAR, singing Spill the Wine, we were one of the few first ethnic groups playing back then, with all the rockers. There was Sly Stone, Chambers Brothers and Carlos Santana, as far as ethnic groups.

Hendrix also?

Well, I’m talking about bands. But Hendrix was a friend of Eric Burton, so we had a chance to jam with him many times. You gotta remember, Eric coming from the band The Animals came with a lot of history also.

Hendrix played with you the day he died, isn’t that right?

Yes. We got a chance to meet a lot of different artists.