The Refusers: From Wall Street to Rock and Roll Rebellion
From Wall Street to Rock and Roll Rebellion, The Refusers mastermind Michael Belkin and his comrades are ready to start a revolution. Disobey is the name of their latest full-length manifesto, jammed packed with anthems that will make you want to take on the world at large. Featuring a stunning amalgamation of rock, punk and psychedelic inflections, The Refusers unleash the goods in nothing short of an epic way! Highwire Daze Online caught up with The Refusers to find out a whole lot more about their in-your-face rock and roll sonic entreaties. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in The Refusers, and how long the band has been together.
The Refusers are a high-energy rock band: Blazing Guitars, innovative beats and rip-roaring keyboards. We have the classic rock in-your-face attitude – we perform songs of musical defiance. 90% rock and 10% punk. The Refusers speak today’s spirit of rage and simmering revolution against the establishment. We’re never going to be background music for Cadillac commercials! The Refusers have been rocking since 2011.
Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We’re based in Seattle. Although Seattle has been the origin of great rock bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, etc. – the current Seattle rock scene seems sedate. Rap, pop and EDM are more popular here at the moment, that’s the flavor of most of the bands being featured at local festivals. The Refusers are the alternative to that stuff. We’ve played the usual local spots like The Crocodile and Seattle Center as well as opening for The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Flaming Lips, etc. at The BottleRock Festival in Napa.
Is there any overall story or concept behind the CD title Disobey?
Absolutely! I went to UC Berkeley and the #1 Defining Leadership Principle of my alma mater Berkeley Haas is Question the Status Quo. That principle is the essence of our Refusers album Disobey. My background makes me an informed critic of all the BS the government and corporations are foisting on people. I’m a refugee from Wall Street and the insanity I witnessed at the pinnacle of power turned me into a whistle blower, in a similar vein as Edward Snowden. In a nutshell: Corruption is legal in the US. Corruption that brings governments down in emerging markets like Brazil or Malaysia is OK in the US. A few huge industries like Wall Street, Big Pharma, Big Food, Chemicals (Bayer/Monsanto) and Aerospace/Defense buy congressmen and senators with campaign contributions and then corporate lawyers actually write the laws that congressional legislative assistants introduce into Congress. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
The occupant of the White House rubber-stamps that process with his Wall Street administration officials. So we get deadly drugs and herbicides and health-destroying food greenlighted by corporate bigwigs who travel the revolving door between corporations and government agencies like the FDA and CDC. We get a huge stock market speculative bubble that leads to an economy-destroying crash with the President and Wall Street cheerleading. We create terrorist guerrilla groups to fight our enemies that come back and attack us later (9/11). We get nonstop wars around the world and drone attacks killing people that create our future mortal enemies. This monstrous spectacle is orchestrated by social engineers in the government, CIA and mainstream media whose self-anointed reason for existence is to manipulate people into obedience so their pathetic game can continue.
Our album Disobey is a big middle finger to that whole spectacle. The songs all tackle this from different angles. 1) Playing With Fire is a tribute to George Orwell’s book 1984. 2) Why Do They Lie is about the Big Pharma-created opioid massacre. 3) Disobey is a call to rebel. 4) Eruption says a social revolution is coming. 5) My Baby Loves Rock and Roll is a sly put-down of mass-produced rap music. 6) Fake News is a slap at mass media (not Trump’s definition of fake news). 7) Government Slave well, that’s obvious. 8) Free The Captives is an appeal for the homeless. 9) Emancipation is a call to free yourself from mental slavery.
Who did the cover art for Disobey and how much influence did you have on it?
I recruited my friend, the notorious political graphic artist David Dees to design our album cover. I specified the design of raised fists and bodies protesting government abuse of power. David absolutely nailed it. The album art illustrates the direction I predict the US is headed, into protest and confrontation. As recent news reports demonstrate, society is moving in that predicted direction.
What could one expect from a live The Refusers show?
Most of our songs are radio length, our live show is tight and disciplined. We are all PLAYERS. I made my living playing guitar and slide solos in LA studios and live gigs. For festival gigs when we have more room to stretch out, we jam and improvise. I have a slide guitar on legs that is a great addition to our live show for in-your-face rock solos. Our keyboard player Eric Robert is a monster player who makes the hair on my neck stand up when he takes a solo. Our bass player Steve Newton is a wild man on stage who bounces around like a yo-yo.
If The Refusers could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Rage Against the Machine, Prophets of Rage, The Clash, Bob Marley. Music that has attitude, means something and inspires people to buck the system.
Have The Refusers ever played in the Los Angeles or plan to do so in future days?
Not yet, although I used to be a LA studio musician before I attended UC Berkeley. We’ll be there in a flash when LA is ready for our music and message.
What is the best and perhaps not so best part about having a father and son in a band together?
My son Sebastian played drums on one punk rock song on the album: Government Slave. He really rocks! The idea of having your son play on an album called Disobey isn’t exactly status quo parenting. I hope he doesn’t take it too literally! Brendan Hill from Blues Traveler is a friend and neighbor who did a killer job playing drums on the other album tracks.
One of your members Eric Robert has worked with the likes of John Oates and Keb Mo. How did he become involved with The Refusers?
Eric is a Seattle homeboy who played with a lot of great local acts like Vicci Martinez before he hit the big time. That’s where I met him. Eric flew in from Nashville for our album session and will do so for our upcoming gigs, he loves the band’s energy and message. Eric is a graduate of Brigham Young and University of Cambridge. We share a love of history and get into animated discussions about the direction of society.
How does a Wall Street Insider wind up in a rock and roll band?
Good question. I got so sick of the abuse at the center of power that I decided to put it into a concept album. While The Refusers may not seem commercial if you are listening to Justin Bieber, Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, the world needs protest music and I wanted to provide the soundtrack for the turmoil and societal change that I see coming. My Wall Street gig was forecasting, both quantitative and qualitative. What my forecasts showed was a rise in populism and a pendulum swing against the status quo. What we are seeing in the Me Too, Anti-Kavanaugh movements etc. is probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of protest and confrontation. As the phony market stock market bubble and economy go down the tubes, the selfie culture should devolve into dissatisfaction with the political and economic status quo and a new era of protest. Our album is the graffiti soundtrack.
What’s up next for The Refusers?
We’re promoting this album and waiting for the apocalypse.
Any final words of wisdom?
Don’t be a mindless stooge for the forces of manipulation. Disobey!
The Refusers are Michael Belkin (guitar, vocals), Steve Newton (bass, vocals), Joe Doria (Hammond organ, piano)
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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