Almost any musician will say that they are “in it just for the music,” but it’s obvious that there are very few bands out there that actually live up to this statement. New York City “future rock” band, Outernational, however, is one of the few that does. They don’t believe in intellectual or artistic property, they don’t mind fans downloading their music for free, and they play a unique brand of politically charged rock n’ roll that makes you think as well as dance. I had the opportunity to talk to lead guitarist Leo Mintek about their music, SOPA, “future rock” and Tom Morello, before Outernational took the stage at Mohawk Place Wednesday evening.
Artvoice: So, tell me what’s new with the band. How has your newest album been doing?
Leo Mintek: We released our new album Todos Somos Illegales on this website called Bandcamp and we did it as a name-your-own price download, because we’re trying to get our music out—far and wide. We want people to have it for free; we want people to share it with their friends, and also we’d love people to contribute and give money because we’re still paying off costs from that album. I’ve been pleased to see how many people are contributing generously as they download the album.
AV: So it does work—this whole “name-your-price” thing?
LM: It’s working well. The music is getting out and I think it can go a lot further. We funded the whole album on this site called Kickstarter, which does something called crowd funding, and our fans donated generously to the project because they thought it was important. We really relied on the people to get this band and this music out there. We had a whole bunch of people writing letters to other fans and other people saying why they gave, why Outernational is important, and why they want to see these albums out this year. We had people making Youtube videos; you can see twenty or so videos on our Youtube page of people saying why they gave and why they think Outernational’s art and music should be out in the world right now. It’s really inspiring and really fueled the fire for everything we’re doing right now. So, we’re giving the album away. So go to Bandcamp and get it. You can put in ‘0’ if you want. Just get it. If you like it, share it—that’s all I ask. If you pay for it we could use it, so go ahead!
AV: As a musician, what are your thoughts on SOPA?
LM: SOPA is bad news. PIPA is bad news. I’m really glad that it got canned—for now. I mean, at the end of the day, intellectual property is bullshit. I mean, that’s they type of thing that keeps AIDS drugs out of communities that need them. What’s really bad about SOPA is, that it was just a pretense. What you’re really doing is you’re giving the government the power to censor. That could be a lot of websites. You just can’t trust this government with that kind of control at all. They would and will misuse that.
I actually think part of SOPA was inspired by the Arab Spring this year, where these middle eastern countries ousted dictators where a big part of the organizing was done by Facebook, Twitter and the internet in general. I think they’re very aware of the power of that.
AV: You’re unsigned right now, but how do you plan to navigate the music industry without compromising your intellectual and artistic integrity?
I’m not worried about “selling out” at all, because we are so clear in what we’re trying to do and firm about our mission. I mean, we are trying to get out there in a big way, we’re trying to reach a lot of people, and we’re doing that from a very passionate grass roots approach right now, but I’m looking forward to building with other people…building a team around the band, from inside and outside the industry.
As for record labels, they’re in a funny situation these days so I don’t know if that’s going to happen. If it does and they’re passionate about this band and this message and this art, I would welcome them to our team. I’m trying to get this out for this generation and for the future.
AV: Tom Morello himself has said that Outernational could be the next Rage Against the Machine. That is quite the compliment. How do you feel about it?
LM: [laughs] He did say that. It’s very inspiring, and he’s really coming at us for the message and the purpose of the band—to become this generation’s radical revolutionary band. That’s what we set out to do, even when we were in the basement learning how to play. What I think is really cool is that Rage is a lethal band, and damning in their criticism of this system and its horrors and hypocrisies. But, what I think Outernational brings to the table that even a band like Rage doesn’t is that we are trying to provide a way out of this. We’re talking about a revolution, new social relations—how to get from this fucked up society and capitalist nightmare to a new future. We really think there’s a way out of this. We’re not fucked, and we’re not just fighting the good fight for the sake of justice. We’re trying to win.
AV: is that what you mean when you call yourselves “future rock?”
LM: Yeah, it’s all for the future, man. This is not shortsighted, this is not for right now; this is not about us. This is about getting to a new world. It’s not just for America, it’s not for taking America back—that’s foolish and doesn’t make sense. We’re talking about liberating the whole world, breaking borders and breaking the chokehold America has on the rest of the world and creating a new society. I see sparks of it everywhere and we’re going to make it happen. —max soeun kim