"Radio Retaliation is definitely a more overt political statement," says Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation. "Theres no excuse for not speaking out at this point, with the suspension of habeas corpus, outsourced torture, illegal wars of aggression, fuel, food, and economic crises. Its hard to close your eyes and sleep while the world is burning around you. If you are an artist, this is the most essential time to speak up. So thats exactly what they do with their new album.
Recording in their Washington DC based studio, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, better known as the international DJ and production duo Thievery Corporation, have managed to blossom in the heart of a city they often refer to as Babylon; a poignant reference to the traditional Rastafarian distaste and distrust of a corrupt and unjust modern system. Although the city is best known as the seat of an aggressive American Empire, paradoxically Washington DC has long been the home of a music subculture legendary for fierce independence, a staunch do-it-yourself work ethic, and conscientious social activism exemplified by genre-defining pioneers like godfather of go-go Chuck Brown and indie punk rockers Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Fugazi.
Likewise, although some may lazily pin Thievery Corporation as the soundtrack to their cocktail infused late night soiree, the duo have always drawn deep from the well of independent and confrontational music subculture their home town is known for, to produce an ever expanding globally conscious catalogue of music that is difficult to classify. Starting in 1996 with two international underground hit vinyl singles "Shaolin Satellite" and "2001 Spliff Odyssey," released on their own indie record label ESL Music, Garza and Hilton soon released Sounds from The Thievery Hi-Fi; an album that defined a genre and crystallized their distinct "outernational sound" aesthetic. Over the next decade the duo would remix the likes of David Byrne, The Doors, and Sarah McLachlan, and record three more critically acclaimed albums of original material, each one transcending the last in scope, style, and message: The Mirror Conspiracy (2000), The Richest Man in Babylon (2002), and The Cosmic Game (2005).
Now Thievery Corporation gear up to release their incendiary fifth independent studio album, Radio Retaliation, in September 2008. Radio Retaliation finds inspiration in the uncompromising political music of groups like the Clash, Public Enemy, and Fela Kuti and is without a doubt Thievery Corporations broadest and most progressive album yet. The album imparts tough socio-political messages largely absent from todays popular music.
"Apart from a few independent bastions, there is no musical or informational freedom on the US airwaves anymore. Theyve been bought up, consolidated and homogenized. Music is suffering and society is suffering too. Radio Retaliation is about an exodus of conscious people who are willing to acknowledge something is wrong with the official version in news and culture," explains Hilton. "The album cover image is that of a Mexican Zapatista fighter. They wear masks to shield their identity from right-wing death squads who prey on them and terrorize them, threatening to kick them off their land or worse. Peoples movements, like the Zapatistas, are a great source of inspiration for us and thats clearly reflected on the new record."
"This record is also our most internationally oriented," adds Garza, describing how Radio Retaliation touches upon the eclectic sounds of Jamaica, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. "We worked with artists from around the world. The roots of our inspiration have always come from what is happening globally, and at the moment there is so much happening, on every level."
With Radio Retaliation Thievery Corporation raise the bar with a new cast of musical collaborators including Nigerias afro-beat heir Femi Kuti, Brazilian star vocalist and guitarist Seu Jorge, Indian sitar virtuoso Anushka Shankar, Slovakian chanteuse and violinist Jana Andevska, and Washington DCs own go-go originator Chuck Brown. Also returning are long time microphone co-conspirators Sleepy Wonder, Lou Lou, Notch, Zee, and Verny Varela.
A defining element of Thievery Corporations sound has always been its decidedly organic quality and this is clearly evident in the rich productions of Radio Retaliation and recent live tour dates. Despite their minimal beginnings, Garza and Hilton have adopted a growing cast of collaborators over the years, vital musicians and vocalists who contribute to a dynamic 15 member live band. Playing sold out venues and festivals worldwide, Thievery Corporation dazzle thousands of music fans every year with their kaleidoscopic live show.
With the help of long time partners, the UN World Food Programme, Thievery Corporation also aim to provoke conscientious thought among their audience. Garza explains, "We definitely want to contribute to the opening of ears, eyes, and minds. With our live shows its a poignant example of music and culture mixing together in an explosive vibrant way. To see a Persian singer singing in Farsi, as America debates on a war with Iran, next to other band members from all corners of the earth singing in Spanish, Portuguese, French and so on, it makes people wonder . . . and if you can get people to question the things around them, just a little, then thats not such a bad thing."
"Lebanese Blonde," Thievery Corporation
In short, what you can expect from a live set by Thievery Corporation.
DC's Thievery Corporation — made up of DJ duo Rob Garza, Eric Hilton (both pictured) and their vibrantly diverse ensemble of performers — produces a lounge-lush fusion of electronica, reggae, acid jazz, psychedelia and the world flavors of India and Brazil. They put on a pretty heady stage show and are bringing it to the Ritz Theater in Ybor City on Saturday, October 10; Ancient Astronauts provide support. Tickets go on sale this Saturday, August 15 ($38.50 GA/$60 VIP).
Here's the press release/band bio/info about their latest album, Radio Retaliation (videos after the jump):
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay,
and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes.
No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email.
Letters may be edited and shortened for space.