Pere Ubu Frontman David Thomas Bewilders A Fan by Obdurately Believing Markets are Proper for Art


I get a weird pleasure of watching supporters of the obscure arts, whose fans lean overwhelmingly liberal-prog-commie, get increasingly bewildered as their heroes obdurately refuse to ratify their politics for them, forcing them to confront the unbelievable: decent worthwhile humans I admire might disagree with me about core elements of my politics!

I wrote amusingly of this when Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone spent round after round of questions trying to get Bob Dylan to admit he loved Obama.

Now it is classic avant-rocker David Thomas of the band Pere Ubu, in an interview in great punky-rocky interview zine Big Takeover, refusing to say he loves state subsidized art. The italics are the interviewer Allan MacInnis, the non-italics Thomas' answers:

I remember reading provocative quotes from you – and I'm sorry, I can't pin down where – where you made statements about the vitality of art produced in free market societies, as opposed to art that is state funded. You came across as a bit of a libertarian. I try not to take anything you say at face value – I think of you as a provocateur – but I wonder if you actually still feel that way? (Because if so, there's, umm, some irony to the band being mostly based in Europe these days, since state support of the arts is prevalent over there… and in Canada, I might add).

Yes, I still feel that way. I'll take the dirty socialized art money but I prefer crummy little clubs where there's a promoter who is risking his own money to put the show on. I feel no urge to thank an audience. I thank the promoter – as should the audience.

Follow up re "dirty socialized money" – is this less a matter of political principle for you, and more a matter of personal pride as an artist?

I think the government has no business in the arts at all.

Follow up: do you not think it valid, in countries that cannot compete on equal footing with the American entertainment industry, like Canada, to support their artists through government funding? I doubt there's a Canadian musician, filmmaker, writer, or novelist who hasn't received some government support along the way, be it scholarships, grants, fellowships, things like the Canada Council.

No, see above.

Follow-up: In a purely market driven entertainment landscape, which is mostly what we see in the States, doesn't that lead to the proliferation of Miley Cyruses and Britney Spears and other such phenomenon? Isn't it bad for art?

No, it's good for them.

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