Search &Destroy: What are you listening to now?
Patti Smith: HEROES [David Bowie]. I listen to RADIO ETHIOPIA a lot. I like the Clash, Jimi Hendrix, Tapper Zukie. I tell you, most of the time I listen to THE IDIOT…I like SONIC REDUCER. I like the Ramones, Television. But most of all I still like Jimi Hendrix. I haven’t really changed much that way. Everytime I play guitar I feel like I’m doing a Jimi Hendrix song.
S&D: You still haven’t gotten airplay with Radio Ethiopia…
PS: It’s been really tough on us because if you don’t get airplay, rack jobbers don’t rack your record, people don’t distribute your record, the company doesn’t get behind you.
The thing is…DJs all unanimously agree that we’re good, they just don’t want to be responsible for backing up certain philosophies that we have…they don’t want to risk This, they don’t want to risk That. They don’t want to risk Clairol or whoever is taking out a million dollars worth of advertising.
Unlike the other groups we do something about it, we fight, and we fight verbally. The more you fight verbally, the more pissed off they get. I think of Radio Ethiopia as a sacrificial lamb. It got us banned, they put us in a really dark place. We had trouble getting jobs after that, we were known as troublemakers. But it’s not like in Europe where if you’re a troublemaker you make front page news. In America if you’re a troublemaker they stuff you in a swamp. The thing is, we stuck to what we believed in and nobody really believed we would. And we’re bigger than ever.
S&D: How do you feel–you put a lot of time and energy into making Radio Ethiopia and then it doesn’t get played–
PS: How do we feel? I cried. I fought. I fought with the radio stations and they told me they have ten million dollars worth of advertising and I either watch my language and change the titles on the songs and forget about “Rock and Roll Nigger” or forget airplay.
I don’t play that kind of stuff. We came into rock n roll in ’74 cause we really felt like that. Rock n roll was at a danger level. The radio was sleeping, the people were sleeping, there were no clubs, there was nothing. Our goal was to break through this kind of thing, not only for ourselves but for the kids to come, for generations to come.