Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A conversation with Linton Kwesi Johnson by Eric Beaumont

Black Power, People’s Power
A Conversation with Linton Kwesi Johnson
by Eric Beaumont

By 1971, six years before he made his first recordings, a 19-year-old Jamaican-born poet named Linton Kwesi Johnson was already changing the culture of his new homeland, England. His mother having settled his family in London, Johnson joined the Black Panthers, whose slogan was “Black Power, People’s Power,” and formed a small writers’ group called the Black Literary Society.

Soon afterward, Johnson collaborated as a poet with drumming group Rasta Love and as a writer for – and, later, Arts Editor of – Race Today magazine. He founded the Black Parents Movement and served as Library Resources and Education Officer of the Keskidee Centre, a renowned theater and arts incubator.

LKJ, as Johnson has come to be known via his music, has toured the world as a poet and reggae bandleader. An award-winning poet in the reggae, ska, free jazz, and – of course – written idioms, LKJ has written four books and recorded 10 albums (plus two anthologies and contributions to numerous compilation albums) arresting in their power, intelligence and immediacy. He was the subject of Franco Rosso’s short documentary film Dread Beat an’ Blood, documentarian of the history of Jamaican music for a 10-part BBC radio series, From Mento to Lovers Rock, and was a reporter for a television program called The Bandung File.

LKJ is a relentless advocate for human rights, a tough activist opponent of authoritarian systems. Though his first publisher blanched at the idea of mass-producing his poetry because it appeared to be too violent, LKJ is a gentle man of good humor and modesty who still gets a bigger charge out of reading to 50 people than leading a band in front of 5,000. His work achieves the great unthinkable in poetry and popular music: it inspires direct action. In the words of comrade John LaRose, Linton Kwesi Johnson has shaped ‘[t]he realities of which dreams are made.’

While in New York to celebrate the release of his latest – and some say greatest – album, More Time, LKJ placed a call to Milwaukee and we had a good, long conversation.

EB: What do the recent gasoline tax riots in Jamaica mean to you?

LKJ: Madness, madness. I don’t know what could have come over the government of Jamaica to impose such a draconian increase in the price of gasoline on the people. The fact of the matter is: when petrol goes up in Jamaica, everything else goes up. Food goes up, taxi fare goes up, clothes goes up, everything goes up. And it’s too much of such a tremendous burden to impose on an already impoverished population.

EB: Are you encouraged when Prime Minister P. J. Patterson says that Jamaica will never return to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)?

LKJ: Very encouraged. Let’s hope it’s fact and not fantasy. [LKJ’s skepticism was well founded; two years after Patterson’s decree, the IMF still maintains a stranglehold on the fragile economy of Jamaica, wielding outrageous economic and political power in exchange for massive loans it could more than afford to forgive.]

EB: The violence that you write about, even on a piece like “All Wi Doin Is Defendin,” is mindful, purposeful violence. Are some of your poems and songs attempts to channel anger into an intelligent response, or is the intellect trying to rise up to meet the anger?

LKJ: I think [that, in] those poems from my youth, those early poems, I was simply trying to articulate and to shape the anger and the hurt of my generation into some kind of a poetic discourse. That’s all I was trying to do there.

EB: Did that discourse actually take place?

LKJ: Well, I mean, the riots, the violence happened, but not because of my poems, but because of the bitterness that had been building up over a long period of time, because of what young blacks were experiencing in terms of police brutality and other forms of racial injustice. Those are the reasons why people rioted, not because of my poems. People would say that I prophesied those riots, but you didn’t have to have the gift of prescience to realize that something would have to give sooner or later.

EB: So you reflected what was going on, rather than shaping events.

LKJ: I wouldn’t say I shaped any event at all. We can flatter ourselves as artists that our influence is so great and so powerful, but no; I see myself more as a chronicler of my times rather than as a shaper of what happens.

EB: More Time is an absolutely exhilarating record. You have yet to fall off artistically.

LKJ: I think it’s the best thing I’ve done, and you know it takes me a long time to make a new record, so I have to come good.

EB: Do you think your listeners may be more critical than fans of mainstream pop music?

LKJ: Well, I hope my listeners have their critical faculties about them! [laughs] I’ve only ever had positive feedback from people. I’ve never had any negative responses. Yes, occasionally, people do say, “When are you putting out the next record?” But I’ve never felt pressured by that.

EB: More Time is your tenth album in 20 years. Some artists – Yellowman comes to mind – release that many in a year.

LKJ: [laughing] Well, I’m dealing with quality, not quantity.

EB; What accounts for your rigorous quality control?

LKJ: I think I’ve set myself certain standards, which I’ve tried to transcend with every new record, and I’ve been able to bring the experiences of the previous recordings to bear on the new ones. I’ve been working with a core of musicians over a long period of time who better understand how music and poetry are combined together. I’m fortunate enough to have as my collaborator Dennis Bovell, who is, in my view, the Quincy Jones of reggae music.

EB: Franco Rosso’s film Dread Beat an’ Blood suggested that your interaction with your musicians was very close when it came to composing and recording. When you perform live, with whom do you tend to interact the best onstage?

LKJ: I don’t really interact with anybody. In my monitors onstage, the only thing I’m hearing is my voice, so I’m interacting with my voice. The instrument that I need to hear – or always like to hear – is the bass, because that’s the root of all my compositions.

EB: In the late 1970s you distinguished yourself as a poet, using music as your medium. Is the distinction between poetry and music still so pronounced in your mind?

LKJ: Not really, because they operate on similar levels, and people have always talked about the relationship between language and music. I mean, some of the poetry that’s I’ve done over the years I’ve written within the parameters of the reggae structure, and other have gone against that and I’ve tried to make the music subservient to the verse, rather than the other way around.

EB: For example, “Two Sides of Silence”?

LKJ: “Two Sides of Silence,” “Reggae fi Bernard,” “If I Waz a Tap Natch Poet,” poems like those. “Hurricane Blues” is another one.

EB: “Hurricane Blues” is your first piece to go deep into the essence of a love affair and place it within a serious poetic context, as opposed to the more lighthearted “Lorraine.”

LKJ: Yeah, I mean “Lorraine” was just a parody of pop love lyrics, really. I suppose More Time is representative of the mature musings of a middle-aged man. As I’m getting older I’m getting a little more introspective and thinking about themes other than public ones…life, love and death, you know.

EB: So you feel more comfortable exposing your heart?

LKJ: Well, I’ve always felt that there’s always been a place for both public verse and private verse. I like both. It’s just that I’ve never written an awful lot of [private verse], and it’s a slightly new departure for me. I suspect there might be more of it in years to come. Only time will tell.

EB: Have you ever done a sound system dance in the UK or Jamaica?

LKJ: No, no, no, no, no, I don’t think my – oh, I tell a lie! I tell a lie: a couple years ago I played at the Dub Club in London. It was me and Dennis and I was just doing my poetry accompanied by the bass. The main event of the night was these two sound systems. I can’t even remember the name of these two sound systems, but two big sound systems, really heavy, heavy stuff, you know.

EB: It wouldn’t be Jah Revelation Sound?

LKJ: No, it wasn’t Jah Revelation. It was at one of these venues that Jah Shaka is normally playing. I don’t remember the name of the sound systems, but we were the ‘live act for the night.’ [laughs] It was fun, but I had to leave the place quickly, man, because the music was so damn loud.

EB: Was it an all-nighter?

LKJ: No, it was finished like three, four o’clock in the morning. Lot of young kids, lot of young white kids are into dub in England, you know? A lot of them. I think Jah Shaka has largely been responsible for that big dub revival that’s been going on over the last few years.

EB: I was just in London. At Brixton Recreation Centre, Horace Andy, Brigadier Jerry, and Freddie McGregor were there.

LKJ: All right!

EB: All the white people except for me were young.

LKJ: Yeah! It’s like a new generation is just discovering this thing, you know? [laughs]

EB: And you’ve got a new generation of young fans.

LKJ: Yes, particularly in Europe. I find kids like 15, 16, 17 coming to my concerts. You know it’s really astounding, and it’s encouraging because it means there’s hope for me yet!

EB: Do you think a published anthology of your poems might stimulate those young minds?

LKJ: Well, there is an anthology,…Tings an Times: Selected Poems, which is used in schools because I’m taught in schools and universities in England, and even some universities here in America too.

EB: What does that feel like, to be taught in school?

LKJ: Oh, it’s a great honor, you know. It’s a great honor. I don’t know if it means I’ve lost my street credibility or what, but nevertheless it’s a great honor.

EB: What are some of your favorite works from the deejay era of Jamaica music?

LKJ: I used to love Big Youth, you know? I used to love Big Youth and, of course, U-Roy, who’s the daddy of all those deejays, of the early deejays. I particularly like Brigadier Jerry’s stuff as well.

EB: What’s your favorite Big Youth song?

LKJ: God, there’s so many. “I Pray Thee,” which is Psalm Number Two or one of those Psalms. [It is, in fact, an augmented Psalm Two.] But I like his rendition of it. I like Brigadier Jerry’s “Pain.” I think that’s a classic.

EB: How about Daddy U-Roy? What’s your favorite track from him?

LKJ: “Wear You to the Ball.”

EB: How do you and Dennis Bovell work?

LKJ: How we work nowadays is that I make up my demos and I take it to him and I say, “This is my new album,” and then we collaborate on the arrangement.

EB: On the bass.

LKJ: On the bass. I play all the basslines myself on the bass.

EB: You are a bass player.

LKJ: I wouldn’t go that far. I mean, I’ve played bass on somebody else’s record; I’ve never played bass on one of mine. I’ve played bass on an album called Peeni Waali, which I’m going to be putting out on LKJ Records by a Swiss musician called Fitzè. [The album was released as The Peeni Waali Phenomenon in 1999]. And I composed a tune for him, an instrumental, and played the bass myself. But I’ve never dared to play it on one of my own records. [laughs]

So I do all of the basslines, and I get somebody to program in the drumbeats, with the kind of drum patterns I want, and then we have to work out the chords from the basslines, and I say to Dennis…well, he’s got drum and bass and piano, and then he listens to that. We work on the arrangement. He does all the brass lines himself, and the other things I collaborated with him. Like the violin lines and so on – I collaborate with him on that.

EB: When you rehearse the band, are the arrangements complete?

LKJ: You mean rehearsal for live performances or for recording?

EB: Both.

LKJ: To begin with, we lay down drum and bass and keyboard tracks and guitar tracks. They just more or less play what’s on the demo. Of course, each individual musician will add his own creativity to the process. Then Dennis and I discuss what the toplines are going to be. Sometimes I come up with the toplines, sometimes Dennis comes up with the toplines, sometimes it’s a collaboration between me, him, and whoever is playing it.

EB: The topline would be the horn line?

LKJ: Um, yeah, like in “If I Waz a Tap Natch Poet” it would be the line that comes on in the intro and in the middle. “Badaba da bap bap bada da da, badaba da bap bap bada dee, badabadap, badabadap, badabap, bap bap bada daaaaa.” That’s my line.

EB: Robert Christgau from the Village Voice referred to your horn lines as the hooks of your songs, trying to put you in a pop context.

LKJ: Well, most of the credit for the horn arrangements should really go to Dennis Bovell.

EB: Do you have a bassline in mind when you write lyrics?

LKJ: When I write my words I have a vague idea of a bassline. I usually more have a beat, and then from the beat… . I always have a vague idea of a bassline; I never have a proper bassline in my head. But I always have an idea of what it’s going to be like. I begin with the word and everything else comes out of the word.

EB: So there might be melody to a word, or rhythm.

LKJ: Rhythm. There’s always rhythm. I mean, poetry is about rhythm, you know, unless you write in blank verse, which I don’t write. And even blank verse has its own rhythm.

EB: Listening to a piece like “New Craas Massahkah,” it’s difficult to imagine this horrific event happening, you hearing the news, and going from there to writing the words. [The New Cross Massacre happened in 1981 in the New Cross neighborhood of South London. A fire of mysterious origin killed 13 young black people at a birthday party. The New Cross Massacre Action Committee was formed to demand police action and correction of media misinformation.]

LKJ: No, no, no, it wasn’t like that. I was involved in that campaign from day one. I was an organizer of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee. I was one of the organizers of the demonstration, the Black People’s Day of Action. I was involved in that from day one. It wasn’t a news item. That came out of my involvement in that struggle.

Most of what I write about I’m involved in. I’m not just spouting rhetoric. As you know, Eric, I have a history of involvement in radical black politics in England.

EB: The primary influence for your involvement was the Black Panthers, correct?

LKJ: Yeah, that’s where I started, became involved, yes.

EB: What is the state of the Panthers in England?

LKJ: The Panthers ceased to exist from the early ‘70s, man.

EB: Did they disperse into different organizations?

LKJ: People went off their different ways and did their own things. There are some people from that era who are still active in politics, but most people went off…I suppose we went the same way as the Panthers went here. People went off to do their own things….

EB: In the United States, quite a few Black Panthers have gravitated to the Nation of Islam. Is there any such powerful organization in England?

LKJ: No, the Nation has been trying to make inroads in England, but they were unable to make any impact way back in the ‘60s. They’ve been trying again recently, but they’ve not made any inroads, because the black population are far too politically sophisticated to go down that dead-end road.

EB: What has been the most exhilarating moment in front of the microphone, in your performing and recording career?

LKJ: God, there’ve been so many, it’s difficult. I suppose one year, in Nyon Festival in Switzerland, playing to about 20,000 people was quite something,…about ’91, ’92, thereabouts. Playing to 10,000 people at La Villette in Paris, headlining to 6-7,000 people in Paris….

EB: Around the time of Forces of Victory, some of the more musically adventurous and politically charged reggae artists were embraced by punk rockers. For example, Public Image Ltd. had you on the bill at the Rainbow in 1978. Later, as the punks discovered hip hop, the Clash had Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five open for them in New York. The headliners were obviously reggae- and rap-inspired. Are you surprised that the audiences of these socially conscious white artists were so ignorant as to abuse the opening artists?

LKJ: Oh, that only happened to me. I don’t know if it happened to other people, and it only happened to me once.

EB: It happened to Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five in New York.

LKJ: Oh, really?

EB: Opening for the Clash, yes.

LKJ: It happened to me once at the Rainbow. I did two nights. The first night it happened to me; the second night was fine. And the first night I could understand, ‘cause the show was running very, very late, and the punters were waiting to see the main act, you know? And these things happen. It hasn’t affected my career in any negative kind of a way, and I’ve worked with other people; I’ve opened for Siouxsie and the Banshees and everything went fine! I also did six nights at the Hammersmith Odeon in the early days with Ian Dury, and that went great. Oh, that guy is such a wonderful guy to work with, man. He’s a gentleman in the business, you know, he’s such a lovely fellow. [A beloved English entertainer, Dury died of cancer the following year.]

EB: Was “Liesense fi Kill” on More Time a deliberate attempt to reproduce the rhythms of modern digital reggae on a real drum kit?

LKJ: No, no.

EB: There’s a certain militant quality to the hi-hat sound…

LKJ: No, it’s just a rude boy style, you know? It’s just a rude boy style. I think our drummer must have been listening to a bit of Aswad, because I think Angus [Gaye, Aswad vocalist and drummer] plays that style sometimes, you know. It’s a rude boy style. The bassline is definitely rude boy style.

EB: Are you involved in the engineering process?

LKJ: Peripherally, yes. Dennis does everything, but I have to OK everything, you know. He EQs (equalizes) the bass drum and he says, “Do you like that? Did you like that?” He goes to the snare and I have to say yes or no to everything.

EB: What is the most emotional response you’ve received from an audience?

LKJ: Ohhhhhh, gosh, you got me there, man. You got me there. I mean, they’re all memorable, you know? I remember the last time we played in Tokyo: my hotel wasn’t far from the venue, and I was walking back to the venue after the gig, and a Japanese girl ran up to me and embraced me and just started weeping profusely with joy. She was in the audience. She just said, “Thank you so much, you’ve brought…, you’re wonderful,” and blah, blah, blah.

One person I used to work with politically…was quite dismissive of my work, and then when I made “Reggae fi Dada” on my Making History album, it brought that particular person to tears.

Then there’s a DJ, who’s really a cool guy, David Rodigan, in England, who really wasn’t into what I was doing at the time because he thought it was not quite deejay and he didn’t know what it was. And when he heard “Reggae fi Dada,” he also cried, because he’d just recently lost his father, you see?

EB: Can we talk about Michael Smith?

LKJ: Yeah, sure.

EB: Can you describe the making of Mi Cyaan Believe It – the album, as a process, as an artistic statement?

LKJ: Oh, well, Mikey Smith came to London. I’d brought him to London, in fact, for the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books, and was able to persuade Island to sign him. He had some backing tapes, but they were mostly other people’s backing tracks which he’d done his poetry to, with the exception of a track, “Trainer,” which had had some original backing music…by Ibo Cooper from Third World. That’s the only one that we used. All the other ones – basslines – Dennis and I did them. Although we gave Mikey Smith all the credit for the music, it was we who did the music.

EB: What was your role in the making of the record?

LKJ: I was the co-producer along with Dennis. We worked out the basslines and what kind of drumbeats we were going to have and that sort of thing.

EB: Did you approach Michael as a fan or as a collaborator?

LKJ: No, he approached me. Him and Oku Onuora. I was in Jamaica one time and they heard that I was there. They’d heard of me, of course, before I’d heard of them. I was in Jamaica in 1974 and I’d recited my poetry on radio there and they’d heard about me from them. And Mervyn Morris, the Jamaican poet, had introduced my work to them. So when they heard I was in Jamaica doing a couple of shows with Peter Tosh, when Peter Tosh used to do his Youth Consciousness shows at Hellshire Beach and the Rodney Williams Centre in Kingston…

EB: What were those shows about? I’ve never heard of those.

LKJ: Peter Tosh used to do these couple of shows once a year where he’s raising the consciousness of the youth by talking about the shitstem and whatnot and whatever.

EB: Did he have speakers and literature?

LKJ: No, no, no, these are pop music – reggae music – concerts, you know. Conscious music and conscious musicians who are talking about conscious things.

EB: Not a drastic departure from Peter Tosh’s usual live presentation.

LKJ: Yeah, yeah, it’s Peter. He just called it Youth Consciousness or whatever. But anyway, to cut a long story short, they heard that I was there, and they tracked me down and wanted to know what I could do for them. Eventually I brought both of them to London and got Mikey Smith a deal, organized poetry tours for Oku Onuora…, got him linked up in France and Holland and various places and Germany, you know.

I was so happy to find out there were other people working along similar lines to me and that I wasn’t alone, and I was trying to do whatever I could to help them and encourage them.

EB: Can you still listen to Michael Smith’s music yourself, or is it difficult to listen to?

LKJ: No, not at all! No, it’s a great album. I still like it, you know? In fact, I’ve been toying with the idea of remaking it myself, ‘cause apart from my efforts nobody else seems to be doing anything to keep his name alive.

EB: Do you mean a reissue?

LKJ: Not a reissue, to rerecord it, with me reciting the poems.

EB: Do you know who killed Michael Smith?

LKJ: He was killed by a couple of guys…allegedly a couple of brothers called the Gray brothers, who were some JLP [Jamaica Labour Party] henchmen. They were never brought to justic because the case collapsed, because people were too frightened to go to court to give evidence against them.

EB: Why did they kill him?

LKJ: It was some stupid argument that ensued between. Mikey Smith was walking in Stony Hill, and he’d been to a political meeting the night before where the JLP Minister of Education, Mavis Gilmore, was speaking, and he had been haranguing her at the back of the audience. These two henchmen saw him the following day and talked with him about it. And then an argument ensued and stones were thrown and one of them hit Mikey and killed him, simple as that.

EB: Was this a political assassination? What happened?

LKJ: It wasn’t a conspiracy [where] people said, ‘Get Mikey Smith,’ or anything like that. They just happened to meet on the street and an argument started and somebody threw a stone that hit Mikey and killed him. Simple as that.

EB: LKJ a Cappella Live turned the poems from previous albums back into new creations and also looked forward.

LKJ: Well, they were rendered as they were before they became musical tracks. Most of my poems are recited for quite a length of time before they’re ever recorded, so people are familiar with them as poems first before they hear them as recordings. Some people prefer to hear it with the music, and a lot of people prefer to hear it without. So I thought I’d satisfy those people – the poetasters – who want to hear just the verse without the encumberance of the music. I still do a lot of live poetry recitals. In fact, I just did a poetry tour of England which lasted three months last year.

So, from poetry readings in England, Holland, and Belgium, I compiled DAT recordings and did LKJ a Cappella Live for the purpose of people who wanted to hear the verse without the music. And also as an aid to people who are studying me in the universities and colleges and so on.

EB: “Story” was my favorite song on Tings an’ Times. When I heard the verse clearly, on LKJ a Cappella Live, it became doubly powerful to me. I went back to the Tings an’ Times version, which made it even more powerful. Do you experience this type of rediscovery?

LKJ: The poetry always has a greater impact by itself than it does with the music. I’ve always found that to be so.

EB: And your audiences as well?

LKJ: It depends on the audiences, but, [about] some of the poems…people say, “Oh, you don’t need no music with that, you know, we can hear them musically already.”

EB: Do you think that you might return to playing the ska like you did on “Di Black Petty Booshwah”?

LKJ: Well, I’ve always had a little bit of ska…. There was a bit in “Want fi Goh Rave,” “Fite Dem Back,” and on this album I’ve done a bit of a ska rendition of “Seasons of the Heart.” It’s part of the musical heritage of reggae, and if it lends itself to a particular poem, to make a rendition of a particular poem more effective, yeah, I’ll use it, of course.

EB: Speaking of the great musical heritage of reggae, do you have any outstanding memories of Roland Alphonso and Augustus Pablo, who just passed away?

LKJ: Um, Pablo, yes. I bought Pablo’s first album when it first came out and I thought it was the most wonderful thing possible.

EB: This Is Augustus Pablo?

LKJ: Yeah, with the melodica, and of course he put his own stamp on that instrument. Even now I still listen to that album and it sounds so fresh and so invigorating.

I was a big fan of the Skatalites, of course, and had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Roland Alphonso on the road in Europe when playing with the reformed Skatalites. In fact, I just done a gig the other day with the Skatalites. Cedric Brooks has replaced [Alphonso].

EB: Cedric ‘Im Brooks?

LKJ: Yeah, he’s replaced him now. We’ve done a couple of gigs together in France and I’m sure our paths are going to meet again.

EB: What pieces do you recite over which rhythms?

LKJ: I don’t recite over any of their rhythms. I mean we’ve shared together like we’ve both performed in festivals together.

EB: So there’s no danger of becoming Sir Lord Linton?

LKJ: Um, I don’t think so. Hardly! [laughs]

EB: You wrote, in “Dread Beat an’ Blood,” of black British people, “We are here to stay in England,” and you have in fact stayed as an English citizen and resident. What are some of the compelling factors that contribute to your staying?

LKJ: Well, I’ve spent most of my life there. I went to school there. I grew up there. I put down roots there like everybody else of my generation. It’s home!

EB: Did you have a sense, 20 years ago, that England was home?

LKJ: Of course!

EB: As you explain in Changing Brittania [a printed anthology, published in 1999, of short biographies and interviews with black British artists, scholars, and athlete George Crooks, based on a series of conversations and interviews by the George Padmore Institute], your first impression of London was that it was kind of a grey and gloomy place.

LKJ: Yeah, like New York is today.

EB: So, presumably, things have happened since then that have changed your view of England. What have been some of the positives?

LKJ: I don’t really know how to articulate this. I’ve never really thought about it properly, really. But I like England. I like the temper of life, the tempo. They have strong democratic traditions, there’s a strong libertarian tradition there. There’s a greater level of tolerance I find there than I’d find anywhere else. Yeah, England has some good things. And it’s only when you travel and go to other places [that] you begin to appreciate some of the more better things about England.

EB: Is it a good place to run LKJ Records?

LKJ: Yeah, it’s as good as anywhere else. As a sprat amongst the big fishes, it’s an uphill struggle, but it’s as good a place as anywhere else.

EB: What is the most rewarding aspect of running a record label?

LKJ: The satisfaction of having total control. I think that’s about it, ‘cause we’re not making a lot of money. We’re hardly making any money, but it’s knowing that you’re putting out things which are important and which mean something to people who will hear them at the end of the day, and that we’re putting out good music that can stand the test of time.

EB: Are you still a merciless realist?

LKJ: Yes, yes, probably more so now than I’ve been…. I’m certainly less naïve than I used to be.

EB: How do you think you were naïve?

LKJ: I think it’s the naivety that comes with youth. I’m middle-aged now, so I’ve lost that.

EB: Any particular beliefs that you had then that you’ve let go?

LKJ: Not really, just [that] in dealing with people I’ve learned to find out more about people first before accepting that they’re nice people, you know. I used to think everybody’s a nice person, you know.

EB: So you know Part Two of this question.

LKJ: What’s Part Two of this question?

EB: Part One being ‘Are you still a merciless realist?’

LKJ: Who is not defeatist?

EB: Yes.

LKJ: No, I’m not defeatist. Without hope we might as well all go and commit kamikaze or something. No, there has to be hope; otherwise there’s no purpose to life.

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