Name, where are you from?
Daniel Rachel born in Birmingham, educated comprehensively, now living in North London.
Describe your style in three words.
Why do you think music is such a tuneful force for political change?
Songs help to define you when you are forging your identity. Lyrics act as a call to arms: they educate, activate and inspire. Jerry Dammers wrote in ‘Racist Friend’ if you have a racist friend now is the time for friendship to end? That’s an incredibly powerful question.
Do you think it’s possible for music to be anti-establishment today?
Great music is defiant and challenging. Linton Kwesi Johnson articulated that on the album Forces of Victory. It criticised the state. It attacked the police. It challenged neo-fascism. When the incumbent government propagated those positions in the 1980’s music was forced to an anti-establishment position. Artists like Paul Weller and Billy Bragg offered hope in their music and crucially were given an outlet in the column inches of NME. Today, social media is the modern forum to operate outside of the mainstream where it is largely free from establishment censorship. But as Billy Bragg says, People won’t be going on tour in 30 years re-reading their tweeter feeds.
Do you see any similarities between what was happening musically in 1976 as a political protest with the music scene today?
Kate Tempest in many ways is comparable to Linton Kwesi Johnson. She openly speaks of the country being in a ‘state of emergency.’ She, similarly, uses cutting edge music as a backdrop to her poetry. Sleaford Mods very much have the spirit of punk and use music to address cultural poverty. Each generation finds their own form of revolution inspired by the past. The 70’s and 80’s demonstrated how great music can be both uplifting and have a social conscience.
Daniel Rachel wrote his first song when he was sixteen and was the lead-singer in Rachels Basement. Daniel is the author of Isle of Noises: Conversations with Great British Songwriters – a Guardian and NME Book of the Year and a regular guest contributor on BBC Radio 5.
His latest book Walls Come Tumbling Down: the music and politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge was described by Billy Bragg as ‘…an amazing oral history of a time when pop culture fought against the forces of darkness.'