Whitehouse have been agitating for social change through their music since their inception in late 2006. In 2010 Whitehouse won the emerging Indigenous artist’s grant out of the cultural minister’s office of the federal government, inspired by ex-Midnight Oil frontman and cultural Minister at the time Mr Peter Garrett. With this grant, Whitehouse have been able to produce their debut album, make a music video, get signed to Gadigal Music and now get on the road to promote their album A Funky Intervention on their first East Coast Tour, starting in Byron Bay on the 5th July. The main lyricist and frontman Grant Saunders aka Sonic Nomad was kind enough share his thoughts with us.
What’s the message you want your fans to take away from your debut album?
That there are a lot of injustices in this country enacted against the first peoples of this land by those in authority and power. I hope that by parodying a serious issue like the intervention in the NT that more people can begin to sympathise with our cause and assist us in the fight for basic human rights. Elements of the Stronger Futures Bill for instance need to be abolished like income management, and the permit system reinstated on Aboriginal lands. Our people need self-determination not mission management. Aboriginal self-determination is the only real path toward real reconciliation and equality. I think that message is loud and clear from the artwork on the front cover to the 4th track on the album PM Gonna Save Us.
Do you think music can really influence social and political change?
I think so. I know that Bob Marley, Midnight Oil and Grand Master Flash, definitely made me think outside my own selfish needs and desires as an adolescent Australian in the 1980’s. Rage Against the Machine, Tupac, Public Enemy, NWA introduced me to the US streets of Urban Black poverty, oppression and other global issues in the 90’s, but not much sadly has inspired me politically or socially in the 00’s. Whilst conscious or message music might not have a direct impact on social and political change I believe it can inspire and educate those whose job it is to motivate change. It’s also what conscious musicians do off stage that counts and we try our best as social activists online and at the front line.
What change do you want to inspire with your music?
Positive change obviously. Each track has a different motivation. PM Gonna Save Us hopefully inspires people to lobby against the NT and Federal Governments to reverse the Stronger Futures Bill and give back self determination to the Aboriginal people. The 26th hopefully inspires people to rethink the significance of Australia Day on the 26th of January, the date of colonisation and come up with an Australia Day that is more inclusive of Aboriginal Australians and other migrant communities who also now call this place home. I am Humane hopefully inspires Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to think about society’s labels and our identity and question what makes us similar rather than different. Fear in My Belly hopefully inspires people with thoughts of suicide to not give up. But remember ultimately this is a funk album so initially I just want people to enjoy and dance to it- they can choose to think about all those other levels later and if they are inspired to do something positive then great.
Has any music ever inspired a change in you?
I don’t think I can pin point a song or an artist that has inspired a change in me. I think it’s the sum of many things that have shaped the person I am. The environment I grew up in, what I learned from my parents and other elder mentors, school, people met on travels and of course the music and other art forms I have listened to and absorbed over the many years. I think my soul has been nourished by the right things and I think I am a better individual because of the many positive influences, including lots of conscious music.
What is unique about the Northern Territory music scene?
I am not from the Northern Territory so I’m no expert but what I’ve found unique on my many visits to the NT is the amount of Aboriginal music performed and recorded in native languages. I think it’s so valuable to support the Aboriginal music industry in the NT and elsewhere because it is the contemporary way of preserving language and culture, which is incredibly unique to Australia.
What inspired you to create your funk/hip hop sound?
Listening to James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Dr Hook, Queen, Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone, Run DMC, Naughty By Nature, Tupac, NWA, Public Enemy, Parliament, RHCP, RATM, Bob Marley, Kanye West, The Roots, J5 and so many more. I think our music is a mash up of all the influences that each band member comes to the jam with and thankfully we all have similar tastes in music so our jams come together fairly smoothly and our writing almost effortless. It truly is a pleasure to be working with these guys who are so professional, talented and know how to have fun at the same time. For this album though we had some great inspiration from a fantastic producer in ex-Thirsty Merc guitarist Sean Carey of Trackdown Studios and A&R Department’s Song Doctor Matt O’Connor who together inspired us to reinvent ourselves again and turn our angry distorted RATM inspired funk grooves into Sly and the Family Stone slinky funk with electro 80’s Cameo beats and a spoken word vocal delivery ala Gil Scott Heron stylee.
Do you have any particular ritual before you go on stage, or even a lucky charm you take with you?
As far as a ritual. I always acknowledge the Traditional owners of the land we perform on, ask for my ancestor spirits and God to bless my tongue so that I say the right things and I ask for the stage and the dance floor to be blessed so everyone has a good positive time. So far it has worked and I haven’t said anything to offend anyone yet and I’m pleasantly surprised each time we play the ability we have to physically move an audience from their seats to the dance floor.
Given you have been performing together since 2006 what is the strangest/ craziest/most unusual gig you have ever played?
Playing in front of NSW Parliament House to absolutely no one, miming to the PM Gonna save us for a music video – it felt really strange to be making a protest and everyone passed us wondering what the hell we were doing or didn’t really care. Check it out http://itunes.apple.com/au/album/a-funk-intervention/id513187627
When you have mastered the East Coast tour and the album is running hot what is the next thing on the agenda?
World domination moo ah ah ah…well maybe getting invited to other capital cities and regional areas in other states around the country might be a more realistic goal. Hopefully get our band on the festival circuit here and abroad. Having experienced playing at Fest Napuan in Vanuatu and Woodford Dreaming Fests we just love the festival vibe coz everyone’s there to support homegrown music among other things… and they (the festivals) usually pay a lot better than your average pub and club because they are usually government funded and/or sponsored, which is a bonus and would help us to actually make a proper living out of this thing we love making called music. On that note I’m hoping the tour also motivates us to keep writing and pumping out the funkiness, which I’m sure it will. I think the quickest time we wrote a song was under two hours and we have about 28 hours on the road- So I reckon we could manage another album out of this tour.
Because it’s more fun to do things together, which living Australian artist would you most like to collaborate with? Tell us why?
I would like to collab with a bunch of people but if I had to pick just one Australian artist it would probably be John Butler Trio mainly because they are a well known and established group of talented people who also give a shit about the state of affairs in this country, especially the plight of Indigenous Australians. I also think we could come up with a pretty interesting jam..come on John come and play with us!
What is your band’s music the best soundtrack for?
Well if ya took the lyrics out probably 70’s porn- just kidding! That’s a good question – maybe a Quentin Tarrentino film ala Jackie Brown or maybe a surf/ skater flick and hopefully some Hollywood block-buster that makes us all filthy rich with royalty cheques. They say if you’re in music for the money you’re in it for the wrong reasons, but its people who have already made lots of money in the industry that have the privilege to say things like that, like Lionel Ritchie on the Voice with his son in law Joel (Benji?) Madden. Ultimately I’m here for the music, my main love, but like any artist I want my craft also to help pay the bills- would be nice to be able to concentrate purely on making art instead of having to be distracted by a job I hate just so I can pay the bills and afford to keep playing music.
Where we can see you play next? A Funky Intervention has been enjoying a spin on community radio where can we get a copy?
The album can be purchased through MGM distributions and Gadigal Music as well as iTunes at itunes.apple.com/au/album/a-funk-intervention/id513187627
A Funky Intervention Tour takes in the following dates and venues:
Thursday 5th July, 8pm
The Brewery, Byron Bay, NSW
Fri 6th July 1:00pm
NAIDOC Family Fun Day, Musgrave Park, Brisbane QLD
Fri 6th July 8:00pm
Ric’s Bar, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane QLD
supported by Impossible Odds
Sat 7th July 12pm
Nurragingy NAIDOC FFD, Nurragingy Reserve, Blacktown, NSW
with Stiff Gins
Thurs 12th July 7:30pm-12am
The Front, Canberra, ACT
supported by Yung Warriors
Fri 13th July 8pm-3am
The Laundry Bar, Fitzroy, Victoria
supported by Yung Warriors, DJ Moto, Kay-Z and Lady Lash
Sat 21st July 9pm
The Beach House Port Macquarie, NSW
Fri 27th July 9pm
The Patch, Wollongong, NSW
Sat 28th July
The Roxbury Hotel, Glebe, NSW
supported by Marcus Corowa and others TBA