Thu, Jul 29, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Shock 'kicks up the shit'

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Times: Is this the first time you've played in Taiwan?

Michelle Shocked: It's definitely my first time playing in Taiwan.

TT: I had heard that you were going to play last year's Say Yes to Taiwan concert.

MS: No, it's possible my name was used in conjunction with that promotion, but it was never presented to me. They do that sometimes, go ahead and use your name without checking with you.

TT: Are you familiar with the Taiwan independence movement?

MS: I have a real basic primer from a friend of mine who's done extensive research. So I talked with him at length after I knew I was going to come over. It would be kind of like sitting down for an hour with a history professor trying to glean as much information as you can, but it's not a deep knowledge.

TT: Have you ever taken part in a politically-charged concert where you weren't totally familiar with the politics involved?

MS: Yeah, I was in a similar situation in East Berlin. It was essentially a Soviet-bloc enterprise. Billy Bragg had introduced me to the festival. The funny thing about Billy Bragg's politics is that he's a very, very pragmatic socialist. And I am a very, very idealistic anarchist. ? But lots of ideologues get in there and distort the experience. I've been a dupe for the RCP, the Revolutionary Communist Party. I supported this guy who burned an American flag, you know, for his right to do so. But in fact it was just business as usual for the RCP.

TT: Based on what you know, what does your common sense tell you about the political situation in Taiwan?

MS: My common sense tells me that the Taiwanese would be very foolish to be pawns in a neo-conservative ? military ? How to put this? The neo-conservatives in [America] are determined to start fires anywhere they can, because that's where their profits are. They find it very easy to, as we say in Texas, `kick up the shit.' And I think they prey on people's yearnings and dreams and romances. ? I know that there is a long history of independence and nationalist sentiment in Taiwan -- some of it imported, some of it native -- but I just would not, you know? As they say, beware of Greeks bearing gifts. If the Americans are your friends, that's probably a really good sign that you've got the wrong friends.

TT: How do you think that your music will play to a Taiwanese audience? What do you hope they get from it?

MS: I hope they get the same thing an American audience gets, which is that very complicated truths are conveyed through very simple melodies. ? I'd love to believe that just as I'd hear a simple Chinese melody and understand the soulfulness that's inside it, that [Taiwanese audiences will understand me].

TT: In what ways do you think you have changed as an artist or as a person since you first came to the forefront of the music scene in the late 1980s?

MS: A couple of things ? I considered myself an activist who just happened to have musical talent. Somewhere along the way I accepted the fact that I am not a very talented activist, but I have been blessed with some music gifts. I no longer worry about whether I'm going to sell out or be co-opted. The second thing that's changed is that I've gotten closer to my true nature, which I think is essentially a spiritual one. A lot of my political yearnings and ideals were driven by a spiritual, let's say, metaphysical understanding. And it was hard when I was denying that spiritual element in my nature. But now that I've acknowledged it and embraced it, I feel like it's allowed me to nurture both sides. For example, I have this very unique position in American culture where I'm a fairly radical, outspoken, left-wing ? you know ? type. Yet at the same time I'm a born-again Christian fundamentalist. And the stereotypes are that those two are irreconcilable.

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