This Friggin' Guy: With Jon Fishman of Phish!

Hi all, I suspect that some of you reading this might not know about "This Friggin' Guy!," an irregularly posted interview column here at HT:P!  Herein, we ask three silly questions and then two serious questions, and we post the answers basically unedited along with a poorly photoshopped image of the subject's face on a ridiculous background.  Ok.

So Jon Fishman let me interview him about Bernie Sanders for this column.

Here's Jon and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's in Monument Square in Portland, Maine on Saturday, March 5th.

Here's Jon and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's in Monument Square in Portland, Maine on Saturday, March 5th.

All I'm going to say about Jon Fishman is that he is an absolutely brilliant guy and I wish I could just post our whole conversation here, because I learned a lot of cool shit. You know who the fuck he is, he's the drummer in Phish, he's an incredible artist and an extremely accomplished and genuine man. Also, I should note that I stopped asking questions at a certain point, so the format is a little loose this time around. And so, without further ado, I give you:

This Friggin' Guy: With Jon Fishman!

Marry/bang/kill: The sandworm from Dune, Wicket the Ewok or Bowser from Super Mario Bros?

I've never played Super Mario Brothers.  I think that I'd marry them all, Id bang them all, then I'd kill them all.  Do all three!

Actually, I think I'd just kill them all. I wouldn't want to just kill them for no reason. That's a tough one, it's a lot tougher than I thought it would be.

How come we didn't see you at Aunt Emily's family potluck this summer?

Oh, family. I probably was out campaigning for Bernie Sanders.

Tell me: how are empires built?

Aren't entire PhD theses written on that? Empires are built initially, I think, from belief in a vision. That somehow, somebody or some group of people are able to articulate a vision that enough people buy into that it starts the ball rolling. And then somehow that's sustained over time - and I imagine that's where there's a lot of both good and bad in human nature that keeps that ball rolling. I mean, to build an empire the initial vision might have been nice, but to actually bring it to fruition, i guess it actually requires a lot of charismatic people to keep it growing and inevitably - and I guess this would address how they fall too - it's a pretty mixed bag of characters that keep that vision going. And like anything that is successful there is no class you can take to deal with the success. It seems that somewhere along the line the focus goes from building a vision to then maintaining it and somehow the fear of losing all that you have built comes into play and people start to flail around being worried about losing something. And that inadvertently becomes the crumbling.

The empire then turns in on itself because everybody is thinking in terms of fear. It's like that saying, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I mean it seems like such a simple thing sort of almost childish or too simplistic but when you really think about it really does boil down to the essence that if we are all just sitting here afraid that we’re going to lose all of this and we’re just so focused on that, then that becomes the vision. The vision of losing is what becomes the vision. And then everyone starts behaving in a way that actually plays into that rather than getting back in touch with the vision that made the thing successful in the first place - like having a wonderful society that is in balance.

I don't think it's unique to America in the historical sense. I think that we've seen this a lot of times in a lot of societies throughout the ages.

The difference is, in a democracy, at least ideally, if it is “we the people,” and by the people then that is a little unique compared to Greek or Roman civilizations along the way. It's not like the general population had a whole lot of control over whether or not one vision or another was going to get fulfilled. And then there’s cases in which, like the French Revolution, people had to take thing over and things really had to crumble and they had to behead their leaders. And so we have a fairly unique situation in that this society is idealistically set up to be our society. It’s supposed to be our call. Which is why the anti-big government movement confuses me. The funny thing to me about that is - I agree with that sentiment if the government is run by corporations that are buying all the votes of all the congressmen and senators and the whole thing’s bought and paid for and our voices are cut out of the process. Well yeah, sure, I agree with that, get rid of big government. But if big government in the context of America is able to be maintained as the ideal it was set up to be, which is a government made up of us, of people that we vote for, and are put into office because “we the people” want these people to be our representatives. And if they represent their constituents accurately, then there should be no problem with big government because we put it there to organize things on our behalf. And if we have the power to remove those who aren’t doing their job well, then that should work and we shouldn't have a problem with big government. We should then like that we have the Department of Education and the EPA and all that stuff.

But all these big corporations over time have weaseled their way into the whole process and now it's not our voice. And those representatives are not the people saying what we put them there to say. I understand then why the manipulative among them can turn to the people and say, “Oh well, your EPA and your Department of Education are really screwing you.” The only reason they're screwing you is because they're not doing what they were set up to do because elected officials are not doing their job. Because they're being paid by corporations and are doing the corporations’ bidding instead of ours.

So big government ought to be good because we put it there to do the work we wanted. Somebody like Bernie Sanders is that guy, who is that rarest of rare things - which, I think that there probably were way more of in the earlier days of our country - he’s that rare politician in today’s world who actually does his job. The way it was set up by the constitution to be done. And we voted for him, he laid out a vision which we all loved (and I’m talking as a constituent of Vermont). He came to Burlington and he said “the waterfront shouldn’t be corporate executive housing, the waterfront should be a big park for everybody to enjoy.” Well, the town liked that idea. They voted him into office as an outsider from Brooklyn even though everyone said that would never happen.

For 30 years, in Vermont, I've watched that same argument be made about Sanders over and over. This guy from Brooklyn, who doesn't even bother hiding his accent, he's gonna come in here - and Vermont was pretty well known, just like in Maine, for not voting for outsiders that much. And, look, you should look at the substance of a person, you shouldn’t vote for or not vote for someone because they’re ‘from away’ or from here, you should vote for them because you’re listening to what they’re saying and you either agree or disagree. And you should be colorblind in that way.

So he laid out this vision and people are saying, “oh, he might be from away, but you know what, I really like what he’s saying I'm gonna give him a chance,” and they gave him two years and after those two years they gave him another six years. And he didn't get voted out of office, he moved on to congress and then moved on to the senate. And each time, he laid out his vision and the people said geez, we really like that, and lo and behold, the guy actually went and lived up to what he had to say. He did his job. He lived up to that vision. He said, this is my vision, and this is what I’ll do if you vote for me. And he did it. He did it without taking a dime from any of those corporate interests which have corrupted things. He’s given people his vision, and they've agreed with that, and they've sent him to do that job and he's done that job on their behalf, diligently and unwaveringly the entire time. And in so doing has also very many times had to take positions that were politically not popular. This is a guy who was writing in defense of the LGBT comm in burlington in the 1980's at a time when that was considered political suicide. In a rural, rednecky state of republicans.

He said look we all need to live together, that's part of the democratic process. We may not all agree, but there's got to be room for all of us here. And the heart of who he is as a human being came through, and I think that it spoke to people who, even though they may have had very strong feelings against homosexuals or whatever, I think he's that rare person who, his integrity of character is so intact, that the people who may have had different views from him on social issues had enough respect for him as their legislator that they said, ”Ok, he's right about

that and we’ll make room for everybody here.” That alone is such a testament to his character that he could take these politically unpopular stances along the way and have constituents who disagree with him still support him. Because they trusted him so much as their representative on the things they agreed with. They weigh what their priorities are and it's not such a big deal for them to support gay rights as long as senator Sanders is doing his job on all the other stuff that they do like. I think that just brings people around and it makes their hearts grow and their hearts expand - it's like the Grinch thing it's like their hearts start to thaw and you think, “gee this isn't so bad, it's not like society is gonna fall apart because there’s gay people or because we take care of the homeless a little better, you know.” And I love what senator Sanders has always said about that - it's easy to beat up on the poor, it’s easy to scapegoat them and he's so disgusted by that. And all that stuff is all fear stuff - the whole “be afraid, everyone's gonna be taking advantage of you,” well it's our tax dollars and if we put Bernie Sanders in office he'll do with our tax dollars what we want him to do.

I want nationalized health care. Who wouldn't? It would be great if there wasn't a profit motive in our healthcare system.

What I would say [to the struggling artists and musicians who read your blog] is: listen. I am a rich rock star who could be sitting on his ass at home with his wife and his five kids not giving a shit about this process either. If there's anyone who doesn't have to give a shit, it's someone like me. You other poor artists who are struggling and who are getting defunded and have people like LePage running your government, trying to cut everything that would help you along, I’ve made it through that tunnel and I've come out the other side the better and I could be an island to myself doing nothing. But I have been a constituent of Bernie for 25 years - we will never see a candidate like this in our lifetime again. Sanders has spent a lifetime getting to where he is now and his credibility to what it is now. The opportunity to vote for somebody like this doesn't come again. I think the last time someone this good came along was Lincoln or Garfield. This is Lincoln level good. He's Mandela level good. He's a truly good man. You don't have to take my word for it. I understand. I am in fact as disenfranchised and as disillusioned by the political process as you are. Clinton, Trump, to me I can understand how you would not be motivated to vote for either one. Personally, I get it. I don't know that there's much of a difference to me. I feel like we have been handed that situation time and time and time again, where you feel like you're voting for the lesser of two evils or you vote for someone really good and they don't turn out to be who you thought they would be.  You’re sick of being disappointed.

To some degree it's like Stockholm syndrome. I understand why young people, when they hear someone scold them for not voting, "if you don't vote then you don't have the right to complain," that voice sounds to me like the voice of someone who has Stockholm syndrome, someone who is defending your abuser. You go ahead and vote and you think it will make a difference, either way, whether you get Clinton or Trump, either way it's a fast track to World War III, four years from now we're going to get the same pile of shit. I get that.

I totally agree. If it were not for Bernie Sanders running, I would not be sitting here saying "you need to pay attention.” This is an exception. You've been lied to, you've been beaten down, you don’t want to vote. I get it. Neither do I . I don't want to vote for Clinton, I don't want to vote for Trump. I get that. You can't be so beaten down that you close your mind and your eyes to the whole thing and go to sleep. You have to recognize when something of quality goes by. If we let this guy go by and we don't get off our asses and at least take a look at him... don't take it from me. we live in the information age. You do not have to listen to my dumbass rockstar opinion. I'm just a drummer in a rock band. I'm just a guy, a citizen like you who lived in Vermont for 25 years while he was mayor and congressman and senator and i'm telling you that this is a person who, when they say they'll represent something they'll go to the mat for it. I'm not saying he's gonna wave his wand and all of our problems will be solved. But his tone and presence will raise the bar for everyone that comes after him and the vision and the layout for America will be something we can all feel much better about. I think if he gets voted in, two years from now we'll see for the first time in 50 years the midterm elections go to the same party as the president. That he will be able to keep all of us engaged enough that we'll be so proud of what he's doing and the position he puts us on a global level, the respect we get as a country with him as a leader, that we're going to see some Sanders endorsed candidates in the midterms, some younger people running for these offices and get these scumbags out of there. And I've seen this happen. I've seen this happen in the Vermont house. But here's my point. What do I say to you? I say to you that we live, in the information age. You don't have to take it from me. Go on youtube. Search Bernie Sanders and Alan Greenspan. Search Bernie Sanders on Iraq. Search Bernie Sanders on gay rights. Search Bernie on any topic and you can find footage of him talking about it over 30 years - same thing. Consistency over time is the formula for success. Consistency over time flushes out the criminals. Bernie has been standing for this stuff the whole time, he's meant it, he's been fighting for it. He has stood up for gay rights, veterans, he was against the Iraq war.

Racial equality. Religious acceptance. Diversity. Look up anything. Just look at the guy, don't listen to me, don't listen to the mainstream media, go look at him talking, himself. When you see what you see, I'm telling you that I've watched him fight for these things for 30 years and I'm testifying to the fact that he is as honest as the day is long.

Isn’t that worth a look? Just look. Don't listen to me. Just look. Just look at what he says.

I have nothing to gain. Why the hell would I come down here and get off my rich ass and stand in the freezing cold, and say please pay attention here. Because it's the political equivalent of getting to draft Wayne Gretsky or Michael Jordan out of college. It's better than that. This is an extraordinary human being. Especially at this point in our particular political position, that this person is even available for us to vote for is a miracle. It's a once in a lifetime thing. It's a game changer. He's not lying when he talks about revolution in the best sense of the word. Peaceful revolution. We’ve been disillusioned and beaten for so long. He's a one issue candidate - the issue is us. That is true. But his big issue is getting rid of Citizens United so that endless amounts of invisible money aren't available to candidates and we get money out of politics, and go back to the types of regulations we used to have like the Fairness in Communications Act. If it weren't for Facebook and Twitter and social media nobody would know that guy exists. If you think that we're going see another Sanders in our lifetime without even more horrific struggle... if the people who are shitting their pants right now, who are afraid for their wealth and greed, afraid that this guy is gonna be president and make them pay taxes they're supposed to pay and hold people accountable and clean up our political system and get the money out, they are going to do everything they can - if they narrowly miss getting Sanders in there, the Koch brothers and their ilk will spend the rest of their lives doing everything they can to get the same kind of control over social media to prevent this from ever happening again. It's terrifying. They're already trying to do it.

If we pass up on this guy, sooner or later that social media is going to get the same tilting of the playing field that's going to block out critical voices along the way and those critical voices are our voices - it's the people that want to control everything that will have more success and that's something to be concerned about. I have five children. I don't want them growing up in that world. I take it back, I do have a vested interest. I do have five children that's why I can’t sit on my rock star ass at home because I have kids who will grow up in a world either left behind by Sanders or left behind by others. Our society is being hollowed out.