Contributor’s Note: For Alice Cooper’s UK tour this month October – one of the support acts were MC5, Wayne Kramer’s celebration of 50 years of the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams. I was extremely fortunate to be able to secure an interview slot with the legendary guitarist himself in the afternoon before the Manchester show. This was quite an interesting interview I did with Wayne Kramer of MC5 for Madness To Creation. Fans can find MC5 at the following locations:
Wayne Kramer: All right.
Mark Dean : You’ve been in the UK. You’ve played a few gigs. How’s it been going?
Wayne Kramer: Couldn’t be better.
Mark Dean :Yeah?
Wayne Kramer: Yeah. Having a ball. Band is playing magnificently. Audience response has been terrific. Nothing to complain about.
Mark Dean : Not even the weather.
Wayne Kramer: Not even.
Mark Dean : Obviously you’re familiar with Alice. You’ve probably know Alice quite a few years. What about The Stranglers? Are you familiar with The Stranglers?
Wayne Kramer: You know, to be honest, only peripherally. I’m aware of them. They’ve been around forever. I know that people love them. I’m looking forward to hearing them, and meeting them and finding out what’s all going on in the world of The Stranglers.
Mark Dean : It’s a bit of a mixed bill. I mean, obviously yourselves and Alice, you can see that working, doing shows together, but The Stranglers surprised many. He always likes to mix it up, Alice, doesn’t he, in terms of his tour supports?
Wayne Kramer: Yeah. It makes it more fun.
Mark Dean : What about band lineup, because it has shown some differences over the years in the personnel?
Wayne Kramer: In my band?
Mark Dean : I mean, MC50. Obviously, it’s not MC5.
Wayne Kramer: Well, three fifths of the band are gone. The drummer remains, but he’s having some health challenges. Thank you, sir. So, it was a matter of finding good people. A lot of people can play, but it’s more important to me to have good people, people that you can travel with. You spend a lot of time together and often there’s not enough sleep and food-
Mark Dean : Doesn’t get any easier as the years go on, the touring aspect?
Wayne Kramer: So it’s important that everyone is a grown up, pretty much. I can’t claim maturity, but I know what it is and I like to think I’m moving in that direction. And I got really lucky with these guys. They all have their own relationship with the music of the MC5. So when it came time for them to join together with me to perform this music, they all brought their own pride and their own energy to it. All of them have been playing long enough to know what they’re doing, without being cynical.
Mark Dean : Did you pick them yourself?
Wayne Kramer: Yes.
Mark Dean : Yeah. So it was personal, personally selected.
Wayne Kramer: Yeah.
Mark Dean : Were these people that you knew? Obviously, they’ve been in other big bands and that, but were these people that you knew personally?
Wayne Kramer: Yeah, everyone except Marcus Durant. Marcus has turned out to be our secret weapon. He’s just an incredible vocalist.
Mark Dean : When you started, got a lot of headlines, a lot maybe negative press, or is it all publicity’s good? did you set out to shock or that just come along?
Wayne Kramer: I don’t know about shocking. We certainly set out to provoke people and try to inspire them to action, to doing something to make the world a better place. You know, for me it was never enough just to play good music. I think that there’s more to the purpose of art and music, to carry a message and to inspire people to create their own art and their own music.
Mark Dean : How do you feel that people are still reacting and responding to your music in 2019, quite a few years after you started out, still responding, still reacting to those songs?
Wayne Kramer: Indeed. I’ll tell you, I wasn’t sure it was going to work. When we played our first show together, it was a festival in Scandinavia, and I knew by the second song that it was going to work. People understood what we were doing, and they identified with it, and they appreciated it. I’d say half that crowd never heard of us. They’re too young. But once we started rocking, they understood the rock and they were on board.
Mark Dean : I’m sure you have different generations coming, as well. People that grew up with your music bringing their kids.
Wayne Kramer: Yeah. I love “Fathers and Sons”. That’s my favorite.
Mark Dean : What was your first introduction to music before you even decided to form a band? Can you recall maybe something on the radio or something?
Wayne Kramer: When I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, music was ubiquitous in Detroit. Radio was a big part of everybody’s life. You know, you listened to it at home on your radio, you listened to it in the car, you listened to it in the bathtub, you listened to it while you were making love. So it was always there. And my mother was musical. She played the accordion and we all sang songs around the house. My mother was from the World War II generation, so that’s how they entertained themselves by singing songs together. I’d say my original inspiration was marching band snare drumming. To me, that was just the magical power that a drummer could play this marching beat and everyone could march right in the lockstep. I just thought that was the berries.
Mark Dean : Who would have been the most influential musician that you’ve worked with or that you’ve maybe learned from? Will answering that question take a good amount of thought?
Wayne Kramer: No, I’ve been playing a long time and there’s been many-
Mark Dean : There’s too much choice.
Wayne Kramer:… I’ve had many great teachers. Yes.
Mark Dean :You can’t just single out one? Anyone in particular stand out as a role model?
Wayne Kramer: Well, Red Rodney was a jazz trumpeter who replaced Miles Davis in the Charlie Parker Quintet. When I went to prison in the 1970s, I served most of my sentence with Red, and Red became my teacher and my mentor. He was a huge influence on me.
Mark Dean : Do you still have career and life goals that remain unfulfilled or have you ticked all those boxes?
Wayne Kramer: Oh no. The list never ends.
Mark Dean : Yeah?
Wayne Kramer: Yeah.
Mark Dean :You’re still inspired?
Wayne Kramer: Yeah. My life goals are to be a good person, to be a good father, be a good husband, be a good boss, be a good employee, be a good teacher, be a good student.
Mark Dean : What in your life are you most proud of? Is it something that you’ve created musically or maybe something else?
Wayne Kramer: Well, I made it this far.
Mark Dean : Still playing music. Still playing music, yeah. Sure you’ve done many interviews, but who would you like to interview yourself if the roles were reversed, you asking the questions?
Wayne Kramer: Across time?
Mark Dean :Yeah.
Wayne Kramer: Anybody?
Mark Dean : Yeah. Maybe not even a musician. Personal heroes, inspirations outside music maybe?
Wayne Kramer: I would have liked to have interviewed John Coltrane. Sun Ra, I knew. so I’ve interviewed Sun Ra, but ‘Trane, I would like to have known ‘Trane, yeah.
Mark Dean : What’s next then after this tour? Will MC5 record maybe some new songs?
Wayne Kramer: Well, we’re talking about it, yeah. We’re just trying to figure out the mechanics of it, you know. Who’s going to pay for it? Who’s going to release it? How well will they promote it? I think we’re in agreement that we want to try and make a record together.
Mark Dean : That’s great. Thank you very much.
Wayne Kramer: You’re so welcome.
Mark Dean : Oh, good.
Wayne Kramer: Didn’t hurt a bit.
Mark Dean : Likewise.
- Photo Credit: Jeff Brinn