A: What started me was the fact of what was in my soul. Listening to Ray Charles, Mahalia Jackson, Earl Grant…I was listening to every kind of music in the world. Growing up in Compton, we had R&B, pop, and country and western and gospel stations, so that’s what I listened to. I listened to all of the stations. I got turned onto Jimmy Smith Patsy Cline, Rev. P.M. Chambers, Jr. I started playing in churches and took that experience and played in night clubs, then would go home and practice jazz. When the band played together, we realized we had the same talents, same experiences from the streets. We put all that together and realized we had a message to put out there to the people—stop all the crime and wars going on back then. That’s why we call ourselves WAR. We took the opposite approach and let people know through our music our model will be shooting out beautiful notes, rhythms, harmony. Our choice of weapons is instruments. We knew this before we signed a record deal.
We didn’t really care about making hit records. We went into the studio and hit record and started playing. We had no idea if anything would come out of it. We were virgins of music back then. That’s why we’ve never won awards—people never knew how to categorize us. It was hard for the industry to select WAR to win awards because they just didn’t know how to categorize us. Now here we are, up for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Q: How do you feel about music today?
A: Whenever I turn on radio or TV, I spend more time switching than anything else because back in the day we didn’t have as many stations! Today, it takes a long time to keep it on one station because there are so many genres. I listen to what other people are listening to; I’ll go to restaurants or what have you and listen to what they are playing and that’s how I learn what’s out there. Or I may turn on VH1 to see what they’re playing. I’ll spot a situation at the moment and listen. Or I may turn on one of the mainstream stations to see what they’re playing. I love all the music today. It’s all entertainment, it’s all a form of art to me.
I do see WAR being on the radio today. I believe we fit the format, it’s just getting it on and getting it plugged and getting it heard. It’s all about getting the ears and the eyes, and getting butts in the seats to see you live. It’s all connected.
A: Because there are stories behind the rawness of the music.
For more information about WAR and their up-coming tour dates, log on to their website at www.war.com. To vote for WAR to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, log on to http://rockhall.com/voting/2015-rock-hall-nominees-fan-vote/
Many thanks go to Kimberly Christman for making this interview possible.