(Photo by Andrew Werner)
The following is a conversation with Long Island-based Movement Music Records founder Jason Samel, producer of the four-CD Occupy This Album and its forthcoming follow-up, Buy This Fracking Album, featuring Bonnie Raitt, Michael Franti, DJ Logic and the last-ever recording of folk legend Pete Seeger. Supporters of the anti-fracking and “artivist” movements helped finance the $100,000 production and marketing budget of Buy This Fracking Album at pledgemusic.com/projects/buythisfrackingalbum.
There, the two-CD set also can be ordered, among other valuable opportunities to support grassroots environmental organizations aimed at ending fracking. The controversial natural gas drilling process often is considered dangerous because of its contamination of drinking water in Dimock, PA, and elsewhere, as seen in the documentary Gasland.
What made you want to make the Occupy and Fracking albums?
Prior to Occupy, I wrote Tahrir Revolution about Egypt … people standing up for themselves against tyranny. I’ve always been a singer-songwriter. I put it on YouTube, and to date, it’s gotten 70,000 views. That motivated me to build a website dedicated to taking in people’s submissions—whether music, poetry, prayer, artwork—all having to do with revolutions going on all over the world. It was pretty successful, and it’s called musicforrevolution.com.
Then Occupy Wall Street popped on my back door. I was there the second day … walking through the park, and it was interesting that there was so much of a convergence of music and culture going on there … It gave me the idea to converge all these different types of music into an album. At that point, I knew nothing about the music industry. But through an odd event, meeting Jane’s Addiction in an airport, to getting to know Warren Haynes’ record company manager to the many folk artists I knew, they all began referring me to others who support the Occupy Movement, and it grew into 99 Tracks For The 99 Percent.
Once I was done with the Occupy album, it was my goal immediately to put something together for the anti-fracking movement. Tom Chapin, David Amram and Mike & Ruthie were the first to commit to it. Rusted Root was the first bigger name. Anti-Flag was on the last album too. Awareness grew and more artists wanted to join the fight. Eventually, we ended up with a killer album with incredible music, mostly unreleased stuff.
What impact did the Occupy collection have and where did the money from it go?
That came out at a time when the Occupy Movement was dead to the public eye. By then, all the encampments were shut down by mayors. It helped give it more longevity in the public eye. The money earned has gone to several different benefit concerts we’ve done, like benefits for victims of Hurricane Sandy. But after the distribution company takes their piece, there wasn’t all that much money left after the big labels involved, like Sony and whatnot. That’s why I’m not going through a major distribution company with this next one.
What impact do you hope the Fracking album has and where will that money go?
I hope the impact is to build awareness about banning fracking across the world. The money will go to number of different nonprofit activist and grassroots organizations. The sponsor is Food & Water Watch. Originally, we were going to give them a bunch of funding to go against the Marcellus Shale project … but they decided to give theirs to smaller organizations across the country.
Why should people buy Buy This Fracking Album and join the anti-fracking movement?
People need to turn off the radio … the popular music that doesn’t speak to the greater good. People need to listen to movement music … to messages that really move people, and once they move people, move society. People should buy the album and support all the great activist work that thousands of people are doing across the world. People should join these movements because I don’t want my kids’ water supply to be killed. I don’t want your kids’ water supply killed.
I went to Dimock, PA, where the water supply was killed. A woman’s daughter was throwing up every night after fracking because of ridiculous amounts of methane that poured into their sinks. People say that only happens in rural areas, small towns. I don’t care if one person gets affected. But it’s in so many places and thousands upon thousands of people have been affected.
They continue to let it go on and let these loose guidelines pass. Obama allows these things to go on by giving up the water supply to major corporations and allowing them to decimate the environment. I think people need to stand up to that.
We’re nothing without water. This place is dead without it. Corporations all over the country now own the use of our water.
There’s a drought in California, yet the state is allowing fracking! How stupid is that?! How blind can the laymen in this country be? It’s insane! Wake up!
And it’s happening all over the world. Governments and corporations are taking over the water! We’re not going to survive without it. How can people allow this to happen?
Corporations have taken over electoral politics. How can people sit in their houses and watch this stuff on TV, watch it happen and not vote anymore? Their vote means nothing anymore. We have to stop it. I have to contribute. I can’t sit and be silent anymore.
What can people do to learn more about the hazards of fracking and ways in which they can take action against them?
Go to foodandwaterwatch.org. Look up organizations within your state or the country that participate in grassroots movements to ban fracking everywhere. Turn off your TV and research organizations that have a grasp on the reality of what’s going on. Call the organizations and say, “What can I do to help?”
Screen the movie Gasland in your hometown and invite the director, Josh Fox, to speak there (gaslandthemovie.com). Get involved. Don’t sit still and be silent. Every damn thing on TV is not reality. Learn the reality by educating yourself.
Buy This Fracking Album is available June 23. The record release party will be held at the Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, NY on June 23, with performances from special guest Amy Helm, Marco Benevento and Dave Dreiwitz, DJ Logic, Michael Glabicki and more. For additional information, go to movementmusicrecords.com and facebook.com/buythisfrackingalbum.
Bob Makin is former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly and a longtime New Jersey-based writer.