Mi Ami on why Bob Marley is on its album cover (Hint: It's not a tribute)
By David Malitz
One of 2010's best records to date is Mi Ami's "Steal Your Face," an awesomely chaotic mix of punk, funk, dub and electro madness from former members of D.C. standouts Black Eyes. Some may recognize the album title - it's the same name used for a 1976 Grateful Dead live album. And Jerry Garcia's face appears on the album's back cover. And Bob Marley's face appears on the cover. Singer/guitarist Daniel Martin-McCormick used to live in D.C. but Mi Ami is now based in San Francisco. Has he joined the good vibes crew? Not exactly. This is leftover from a Weekend section profile of the band, who will play the Velvet Lounge on Thursday night. Martin-McCormick explains his Marley/Dead issues....
Daniel Martin-McCormick: No, it's not a tribute at all. The images on the record are Marley on the front and Jerry Garcia on the back. We were joking about calling the album 'Steal Your Face' which is [the name of] the Grateful Dead skull logo. And it was also a live album that they doctored in the studio and is apparently considered by Deadheads to be the worst recording they did. The Dead and Marley, to us - and also the Chili Peppers - are just running jokes in the band for this sort of [lame] hippie vibe or whatever.
But I got really enchanted with the phrase "steal your face." A lot of the lyrics on the record, and the vibe, have to do with a certain critique of American culture, and also examination of one's own relationship to themselves. Feeling alienated from yourself or from society. Alienation and panic, given the growing trend toward environmental collapse, widespread contamination of food. It seems like everywhere you turn there's just disaster pending."
("Getting some beaded Jim Morrison tapestry for your house, plus MP3 after the jump.)
So I feel like there's this alienation. And we have these inside jokes in the band about Marley and [expletive] like that, they represent figures who are supposed to be revolutionary icons. The Grateful Dead are supposed to be really free and Marley is supposed to be a revolutionary leader. Jim Morrison is supposed to be some shamanistic poet. It's not even that they're [bad]! Although I don't like the Doors and I don't like the Dead and I don't really like Marley, either.
Outside of listening to their music for what it is as music, there's this whole culture that surrounds all of them that's the [lamest], most grotesque, non-revolutionary, [expletive] corporate culture. And their images have become these symbols for being some kind of free individual man.
But buying a Marley T-shirt or buying a Grateful Dead T-shirt with Rasta colors and the skull or getting some beaded Jim Morrison tapestry for your house - it has nothing to do with being free. It's the ultimate lie of freedom. On paper they should have a lot in common with what I'm looking for in music. Grateful Dead - improvisation, crazy pan-genre traveling tribe thing. Like, whoa! Bob Marley blended rock and gospel and reggae and was revolutionary. Traveled the world. But it's like, it [expletive] sucks! It's no good!
This feeling of vomited up culture that you've been fed ... I don't really have Utopian ideals. I'm not trying to say we'll start a new movement. But just personally this sickness that comes from ingesting American culture and feeling like what you've been given, the options presented to you, are such lies. And that has nothing to do with Bob Marley the human, but the product that has been made out of him, his image, his ideas and, tangentially, the music.
April 14, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories: Be specific | Tags: Mi Ami
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