As four coloured men from New York City playing loud and heavy music that defied genre and racial stereotypes, Living Colour were always a band with something to say. Their sixth album, Shade, some four years in the making, is no different, and is set to feature a mixture of originals and topical cover versions.
“We spent a great deal of time making this record, and really cultivating what we wanted to say on this record,” declares singer Corey Glover, a man you might also recognise from his acting work in movies such as Oliver Stone’s Platoon. “And that was, that there are motions bigger and broader, and also smaller and more significant, that are rarely being talked about in terms of rock tunes.”
Explaining that Living Colour worked on the album, “little bit by little bit, in fits and starts,” Glover insists that Shade is an important record for the band. “We wanted to get it right, to get it to a point where we could say, ‘okay, this is exactly what we wanted it to say, and this is exactly how we wanted it to sound’. So, it was an arduous process, but we just kept hammering at it."
Glover feels the interpersonal relationships between the four band members have progressed dramatically since they started playing together over 30 years ago.
“Well, there's a lot to be said for familiarity, that I've known these people for a very long time, you know? In some cases, we've known each other longer than we've known our spouses, longer than we've known our children. We're a family.”
…and getting along better because of that?
“Not necessarily,” he laughs. “But you know, we get along enough to know that what we have is a goal that we have to get to, and that we have to stick to. That we have to make something of. So, I'm in no way afraid of that. This is a family that, when things change we roll with it, and we understand that things have to be done. Some families can't deal with it, they can't deal with change, can't deal with adversity. We, on the other hand, that's what we live for. Because that makes the music really interesting.”
In truly interesting form, Glover describes Shade as “a deconstruction of the blues,” explaining that, “the blues has a lot more than just its raw components. Your typical blues goes from one point to another point, and it's all sad, and it's all horrible, and it's all bad - but there's subtleties to it.
“On this record we have three songs that I can give you as an example of what I mean: we do Robert Johnson's Preaching Blues. That's your very typical blues song, but it says a lot more than just that things are so bad and so sad, but that you need to move through your issues, right? And then we do Notorious B.I.G.’s Who Shot Ya, which one might not think of as a blues tune, but I think it's very typical of a blues tune. Then we do Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues, which is another modern interpretation of what the blues are.
“There’s original songs about being able to understand yourself without manipulation,” continues Glover. “That we live in a world where everything is sort of stratified - it's like it’s either liberal or it's conservative. It’s good or it's bad. But you have the ability so discern what's good or bad, and the truth will always win out. The truth is always more interesting than nuance, to me.”
Truth, however, is becoming something of a rare commodity nowadays. The new American President is certainly approaching truth from a different angle, to put it gently. Considering President Trump has angered millions with his seeming lack of grip on reality, and his remarkably narrow-minded and bigoted politics, Glover shows remarkable equanimity towards the man.
“Well, yeah, you know… you expect a politician to lie. Everybody does - but this, I think he’s taking it to new heights nowadays.”
I ask Glover if, as someone who has had to deal with intolerance and bigotry on multiple fronts in his life, does Trump's attempt to discredit the Muslim religion and the media concern him. His answer is again more measured than expected.
“Oh yeah, but it's not the first time that's happened. It won't be the last time it's happened. And the thing is truth always wins out. It always does. Right wins out more often than not. And wrong chips away at it constantly, but it always rights itself. It always course-corrects itself, all the time. To me, this is just a swing of the pendulum.”
When I express surprise at how positive his attitudes are, Glover quickly explains his perspective.
“This is not the first time I've been through something like this,” he declares. “I'm old enough to have been around with Nixon, old enough to be around with Ronald Reagan. I've been around with Bill Clinton, I've been around with Jimmy Carter. I've seen it all from all sides. Nothing changes. That's what's the most interesting about that whole process. Everyone's got their hair on fire about Trump, but nothing's really changed.
“A song like Who Shot Ya - which basically was Biggie’s attempt at talking about the idea of why and how people get killed in the streets - it's 20 years old… ain't nothing changed. Nothing’s changed. Inner City Blues is 50 years-old. It hasn't changed either. [he laughs wryly] So why would I expect, because somebody comes in to office, that it's going to change anything, that everything's going to change for the worse or the better? It hasn't yet.”
As understanding of this dangerous swing towards intolerance he may be, Glover has far from given up and accepted defeat.
“But you fight against it - you fight for the right for things to get better,” he suddenly declares passionately. “You always fight for what's better. You always fight to make things better. But don't expect that one person is going to change things in any direction one way or the other. That's not what they do. It's up to you as the people. The government is not trying to make things better for you - politicians are trying to make things better for themselves!”
Living Colour perform at the Astor Theatre on Friday, May 19. Tickets via http://www.astortheatreperth.com/events/living-colour