MM: Really?
NM: Yeah‚ it's just not in the air any more. I mean‚ sometimes it happens‚ but not like it used to. It's not like the good old days (laughs).
MM: What's your take on what's happening?
NM: I don't know. I think World War III has begun. It's just a very different air.
MM: (pause) I think you're right in a lot of ways...
NM: It's confusing to me as a songwriter in a lot of ways - and it's not all bad. I love philosophy and I love thinking‚ and as a culture dealing with these huge concepts is exciting to me. I still haven't necessarily found my place in it all or the voice that thrives.
MM: You have certain feelings and philosophies about what's going on in the world‚ and your place in it. So you sit down and start playing your guitar and write about how these things make you feel. So what do you think it is that makes it confusing to you? Is it that feeling that people aren't with you?
NM: Well...if you look at the classic protest songs from back in the day‚ say "Masters of War‚" a lot of it was scathing attacks on the man. And...that's a great feeling.
MM: Sure‚ it's represents that anger that people are feeling and makes them feel like they have a voice.
NM: He even sang‚ "I hope that you die and your death will come soon‚ and I'll stand over your casket on a pale afternoon‚" or something like that. Try singing that now. Try singing that about Bush. I know some people are pulling it off and thriving‚ but I'm not (laughs). I can talk about it in so many ways and in so many angles - like philosophically from the angle of pacifism. You know‚ is it okay to say‚ "I hope that you die and your death will come soon?" It all gets so complicated. I did write this one song that finally got me past the brink a little bit called "Protest Song" and we did it a few times on the Surprise Me Tour. It's about how it's hard to write a protest song - actually the first line is: "It's hard to write a protest song‚ to love your enemy and know right from wrong." After I wrote that song I started getting a bit better at it. I don't know what it is...I've always felt strong about‚ I don't know if you would call it politics‚ but stuff like that. I've always loved reading about history‚ and I always loved reading about statesman‚ and you know‚ just wanting my brain to be a part of all that stuff - having my brain be part of the evolution of culture and different renaissance eras or the birth of ideas. Just loving all of that and wanting to be part of creating a world that was based on righteousness - and wanting my art to be a part of that. But it's always been a tough one‚ you know‚ like Dylan ran with his tail between his legs from politics after awhile because you realize you're putting yourself into a corner. So it's always been complicated‚ but now after September 11th‚ I feel more compelled then ever to express my thoughts on it and I feel less able then ever to do it in a way that works. It's a shame that I'm so hung up out there. Maybe if I met some girl I'd start writing love songs again and forget about it (laughs).
MM: (Laughing) Sure. I think it's interesting - going back to the Dylan line‚ "and I hope that you die‚" - that kind of anger‚ it's all just human. And that comes out...maybe that's not right or wrong. The other side that scares me about all this - with 9/11 as the reference point - is not about that event‚ but about how we got from that event to where we are today. How come we're at war? Why did this lead to war? I think for a moment that event...just for that moment there was that brink of hope.
NM: Yeah‚ it was a huge moment.
MM: Yeah‚ like maybe there's hope (laughs). It's a confusing time. And you're right - people who used to feel one way no longer feel that way. They aren't with you anymore...they're not with us anymore. I mean‚ man‚ it's scary even looking at famous people‚ you know‚ some of these people that almost used to be a voice of reason and now they're like...a good example is someone like Dennis Miller.
NM: I knew you were thinking of him (laughs).
MM: I saw him and I thought "no way!" I completely thought he was joking. Not that I ever paid a whole lot of attention to him‚ but…
NM: I know. I went through the same exact thing with him.
MM: I'm sitting there saying‚ "You have to be kidding me! What is this?" After this event happens you decide not to think anymore?
NM: I think to a certain extent people that were pacifists before then - even if they thought it was still true‚ they no longer thought it was possible. It's interesting talking about that "gasp" where a good portion of the world had that open wound moment where love could have happened. I can't tell if it was when the planes hit the towers or if it was when we started fighting back or which one was the moment that the pacifist just said‚ "Oh‚ this isn't going to happen." I'm not exactly sure. There does seem to be a lot of pacifists that were that way before who then after 9/11 became aggressive or nihilistic to the vision. And then someone getting up on stage and singing‚ "the answer is blowing in the wind‚" is just sort of like‚ "whatever." (Laughter) You know‚ they put Dennis Kucinich up on the TV screen and he's portrayed as this little tiny head with a high squeaky voice. I think I saw that on Conan and I said "that's perfect." That's exactly how it feels - a little guy in the corner with a high squeaky voice. I go up there and sing a song about the war on drugs and I feel like I sound like (sings in high squeaky voice). (Laughter) Oh man...
MM: Right‚ like‚ "Isn't he cute? Okay‚ time to move on."
NM: Right‚ where before at least in some dream world it felt like we were leading the cavalry‚ leading the revolutionary thought‚ still dreaming of the new world. The other thing: I really want to be entertaining; I want to take their minds off of their worries as well as any other idealist can. That's always a thorn in the side; I don't want to be up on a pulpit or trying to change the world. The beautiful thing is back before I found this place it was entertaining and it wasn't too heavy...I feel like I had a better relationship with the world. I feel like I had a better grasp.