When he sings "I will try
everything / To kill the sleeping cop in me" on the title track
to the band's 6-song anthemic EP, Chorus of One, Barnett says he's
really saying that he's trying to keep his eye on the real struggles
around him and not get complacent. "It's about examining yourself and
about how comfortable a lot of us live our lives. Sometimes it's really
hard to stretch your mind and relate to those who are suffering."
Barnett's sense of justice goes beyond humankind. During the phone
interview, a dog barked gleefully in the background -- an all-black pure
chow named Pearl. "But we call her Blindie," Barnett said.
"Someone chained her to a fence and forced her to produce puppies.
She's blind and three years old. We rescued her; we love her."
"We" is a local organization called SOS that actively seeks
out and rescues animals trapped in abusive situations. So far this year,
Barnett said, the organization has rescued 45 dogs. Many of them stay
briefly at his house, where Barnett's two dogs -- Batu and Blue -- act as
social workers helping the recently liberated hounds understand that it's
okay to be loved. "They're the go-betweens," Barnett said.
"They tell these strays, which have no etiquette skills, that it's
okay to accept food. We invite the neighborhood kids over to play with
them. They call my place 'the dog house.'"
The only reason that Barnett is still "in the doghouse" when
he and his band should be on the road is because of the terrorist acts
that took place in New York last week. The band was scheduled to play a
show in Kenilworth, New Jersey, Sept. 12. With the Commonwealth of Virginia
still under a state of emergency, the band canceled the show. They planned
to play in Philadelphia the following night, though the CMJ Jade Tree
showcase scheduled for New York's Irving Plaza Sept. 14 also was canceled.
"It was unbelievable," Barnett said of the terrorist strikes.
"I was mostly worried about my friends in New York, all of whom are
okay. I went right past the national concerns and straight to personal
What will be the fall-out of Sept. 11 on radical protests such as the
World Trade Organization demonstrations? Barnett said it was an apples and
"I don't see it impacting the protests at the Sept. 30 World Bank/IMF
meetings in Washington," he said. "I think radical movements
that are trying to gain economic justice and clarity for people around the
world have nothing in common with terrorist actions. Ours is more about
educating instead of agitating. We want to put a face on the World Trade
Organization. The main problem with those organizations is they aren't
democratic. They're essentially cabals -- a royal family without a blood
link, where the blood is money."
And what about everyone else? What about me? A self-professed member of
the corporate machine, I asked Barnett if his music meant that I should
quit my job and take up the fight for economic injustice.
"I don't think the lyrics are saying that we all have to quit our
jobs," he said. "There's a level of compliance in our society.
There are choices we have to make; there are battles to choose and battles
to lose. I think it's more important to choose to do that thing that you
love that'll make a difference. Be fearless. Know that there are people
behind you, whether they are the dead of generations past or your
Published in The Omaha Weekly Sept. 19, 2001. Copyright © 2001 Tim
McMahan. All rights reserved.