Politics and Music: Mark Berube

Mark Berube and the Patriotic FewMark Berube, a Canadian indie musician who performs folk-inflected indie with his group, Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few, discusses his perspective on music and politics. This is the third in a series of interviews with musicians discussing political perspectives. 

What role do politics play in your music?

Politics in modern music can very easily have the tendency to be preachy. I avoid this sort of statement as much as I can, unless I really want to put some balls behind something. I prefer subtlety, like “Ojala,” by Silvio Rodriguez, probably one of the most potent and subtle statments made in a song against Castro.

Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few – “Flowers on the Stones” | download

What role do you think music should play in politics?

Music has always been a reference point for society to bounce itself against, or it has been pure escapism. Most of the time it fills an entertainment quota in politics … you only have to look as far as Palin’s use of “Barracuda”.

Would you ever allow a mainstream political candidate to use your music in campaigning? Why or why not?

I honestly don’t think any politician is going to be asking to use one of my songs.

Would you consider throwing your endorsement behind a candidate you were passionate about?

One thing that was amazing about Gandhi for example, was that he never actually became a politician, ie. leading a party, but his presence and advice were so heavy he was able to operate outside the political realm but still have enormous clout. I would endorse someone like that, but not a politician.

Why are the political opinions of popular musicians such a hot topic with their fans?

It would be hard for some people to continue loving some folk singers music if they found out he was a leader of a KKK group. I know I would. Is it possible to truly separate someone and their political beliefs? Not sure…there are the famous examples Wagner, a huge anti-Semitic … Dali more or less complete fascist. Their art is amazing … but …

Do you think there are major problems with the modern political system? Does celebrity involvement play a part in this?

Modern politics have definitely become more slanderous in the public realm, to the point where it’s almost pathetic, i.e., Canada’s political campaigns right now. Either the contestants belittle their audiences with tried homegrown folksy semantics, slander each other, or dance around poignant questions. I have yet to hear an interview so far in the current Canadian campaign where one of them came off truly confident in what they’re saying and not trying to say answers they think people want to hear. The shape of the voice can be extremely telling. Of course this is a bit idealist, but better to start with the ideals then move down I figure. What did Churchill say … Democracy is the worst sort of government but better than all the other options.

Celebrity involvement … it’s always been there, just different celebrities now, maybe more pop culture based, which would explain the trajectory of today’s campaigns.

Are you following the 2008 U.S. elections? Are there any thoughts you’d like to share on what you’ve seen?

Yeah, I’m following it a bit. I’m definitely pro Obama. It’s interesting that so many Republicans worry about him having no international experience when they elected Bush II, and he’d hardly ever been out of America, and very obviously failed geography class in elementary school. He actually seems a hell of a lot more proactive, whereas McCain fills the typical aged reactive approach. I think a lot of people are tired of that approach … and McCain dies and Palin is suddenly leading the US …

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