UPDATE: This show has been moved to Seven Flags, 2100 N.W. 100th St., Clive.
Michael Franti returns to Des Moines Thursday for a Nitefall on the River show. I interviewed Franti before his Nitefall show last year, so if you're looking for a more traditional interview with him, check that one out. But one semi-random question I asked Franti about working with beat writer William S. Burroughs lead to such an interesting story that we'll just focus on that.
Meeting the beat
In Franti's freshman year of college in San Francisco, he had an English professor who introduced him to Burroughs' work and offered to set him up with the man himself. The actual meeting happened in Kansas City. Franti's band, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, was on tour opening for U2.
"Burroughs arranged to meet us in his hotel. Myself, Rono (Tse) and Bono went to meet Burroughs and he shows up with a bowling ball bag. We went into the hotel room and he drops the ball on the bed. I was thinking 'What the hell are you doing, you're like 78 and you're going bowling?'
"He goes 'Are you interested in seeing my gun collection?' and pulls a pistol out of his bag. It was like a cartoon, the barrel seemed to be longer than the bag. He was handing us these weapons and we were brandishing them around this hotel room.
"Then he grabs the gun out of Rono's hand opens the chamber, pulls out one bullet and snaps it shut. We were like 'Holy F$%k!', but he probably had it all planned out for effect."
Recording with Burroughs
Franti's next interaction with Burroughs was when they collaborated on the album "Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales," featuring Burroughs' reading his own work, set to the music of The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
"We went to Lawrence (Kansas, where Burroughs lived) and spent a day with him recording, just eight hours of him sitting in a chair and reading various books with his cat in his lap. At the beginning of the record you can hear him say "Oh yes, my previous," that's him petting his cat before reading.
"After that we had the unenviable task of taking these eight hours of incredible tapes and turning it into 45 minutes of selections. I scored it essentially like a film. It was a really great, positive experience for me. At the same time he did an album with Kurt Cobain ("The 'Priest' They Called Him"). He was really inspired by rock and roll and even hip hop. He talked about how at the time a lot of hip hop acts were sampling and how he used to cut out paragraphs in books, cut them up and use them to create his own original works. He likened himself to a sampler. I thought it was pretty cool."
A piece of Burroughs stays with him
"I have a painting of his on my wall, I'm looking at it right now. He shot through the canvas, then painted around it. I just got it last year. He had promised me one, then I never got it. I kind of forgot about it, then 18 years later someone showed up at a show and said 'Here's the painting William promised you.'"
Michael Franti & Spearhead
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: 2100 N.W. 100th St., Clive
Cost: $35 in advance, $40 day of show