ME: I have played in France, but only in the street. In 1982 my apartment burned down in New York and I jumped on a plane and came to France. I landed in Paris with 50 dollars in my pocket, and rode the train all the way down to Firenze in Italy and back up to Amsterdam and never bought a train ticket, I rode for free. I spent a few nights in Dijon, playing in the streets. Then went up to Paris and slept a couple of nights next to the river, next to Notre Dame and played at four o'clock in the morning at the steps of Notre Dame. The police came and told me to stop playing. Once in 1992, when I came to Nickelsdorf with Raphé Malik, we went up to Amsterdam and played in the club Thelonious, and then myself, the drummer and the bassist went on to Paris but we did not play actually. So I've never really played in France except on the street when I was a young boy.
AAJ: So which are the places in Europe that you've played?
ME: Since I've been here I went up to a little village outside of Stockholm, with Paul Lovens, I've been to Slovenia a couple of times. This summer I was down to Venice in Italy. It was not a concert but I played a bit in the street. Other than that I've been here in Austria. In May I did a duet with Andrew Cyrille, Ulrichsberg Kalaidophone. Recently I was in St. Johann in Austria with a quintet, I've done a couple of things around Nickelsdorf, I did a couple of things with Lisle Ellis and Donald Robinson in Vienna and I sat in with Lou Grassi and Roy Campbell in Vienna, and few other things here and there, and hopefully I'll be getting out more.
AAJ: You've have worked a lot with famous musicians, like William Parker, Cecil Taylor, Donald Robinson. What's the reason for your not being as famous?
ME: That's the million dollar question. Well you know, a lot of it is because a lot of years I spent working on my music, practicing, and when I was not practicing I was working, trying to make a living. And I knew a lot of people in the '80s and I still know people who don't spend that much time working on the music but they spend a lot of time on the business and they got famous and worked a lot in Europe, but their playing became mediocre. I just worked on the music, I'm not a businessman, I'm not a person who likes to promote myself, I hate that and now I'm learning more how to do that. This last year I had time to actually promote myself, book some concerts, try to do something, 'cause I know if I don't do it now, time is running out, I'm getting olderI'll be 50 next year. So I was underground, I didn't promote myself, but now I'm starting to do it a bit, now I'm on your radio show. And I'm here, I'm still here.
AAJ: What pisses you off?
ME: What pisses me offwhat makes me angry?
AAJ: What pisses you off in life as a musician, as a person?
ME: What makes me angry is what is taking place in Darfour, what's taking place in Iraq, what just took place in New Orleans, and all these other places where there's so much blood and slaughter being done in the name of who they think God is. It pisses me off the way human beings are treating each other and murdering in the name of God and religion and ethnic cleansing. I just saw something the other day, maybe this winter in Malawi 3 million people will die from starvation. And that kind of shit makes me very fucking angry more than anything. As far as who I am and as a musician that's unimportant...what was taking place in Palestine, that kind of shit pisses me off. This unnecessary human behavior against other humans; when animals kill they do it 'cause they're hungry, they want to eat. Humans do it for the thrill of killing somebody under their religious, corporate shit that they do. And that's what pisses me off, more than anythingthis kind of disrespect in human behavior makes me very fucking angry.
What George Bush is doing now, you know he's on this crusade, God talks to him, well, whoever his God is it's not my God...and that makes me angry. This corporate greed and money, slaverythat makes me angry more than anything. I'm a child of the '60s and '70s Civil Rights movement, anti-Vietnam movement. Those are my roots, I used go to rallies hearing Angela Davis and Cesar Chavez, and I love Martin Luther King but I'm a follower of Malcolm X more, and when it comes time to fight you have to fight but luckily I have a saxophone, I do that through the saxophone...I make my jihad through the saxophone, through the music otherwise I feel I'd be in trouble. How many people died in Rwanda3 million, 4 or 5 million, and the French military was right there with them, killing people, villages. And what the British are doing andit's unbelievable what humanity is doing to itself.
I believe that people need to just stop and start over and apologize and yes, have your nationalistic individuality but still accept everybody else. Also this corporate greed has to stop raping the planet. Global warming, as we saw with these hurricanes; if they don't take care of business pretty soon, I don't know how much longer the earth will survive this torment. Bush must make new nuclear bombs and everybody else is making war. And yeah, that pisses me off more than anything. I don't know what to do about it. You know, there was a saying when I was growing up in the '60s, this very right wing conservative party, they had a motto, Americalove it or leave it. The hippies, we had Americalove it or change it. Well, after trying to change it, I left. But now things have to change otherwise it's coming to a point where there's a big problem. I just play the saxophone and when I'm not playing the saxophone I'm just driving a taxi or washing dishes or doing something so I can eat some food. So I don't know, who the hell am I? "Ich bin niemand, I'm nobody.
I love jazz because it is simply a music of my heart since I was about 12 years old.
I was first exposed to jazz when I heard Sonny Boy Williamson play harmonica. My introduction to jazz went through blues music.