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2020.06.09 - Appetite For Distortion Podcast - Interview with Roberta Freeman

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2020.06.09 - Appetite For Distortion Podcast - Interview with Roberta Freeman Empty 2020.06.09 - Appetite For Distortion Podcast - Interview with Roberta Freeman

Post by Blackstar on Tue Sep 08, 2020 3:28 pm

I have transcribed part of the interview:


Brando: ... I remember listening to that song [One In A Million] when I was younger, and obviously the lyrics caught me a bit by surprise by the time when I was – I forget when I found it, because when Appetite came I was way too young, so whenever I found Lies, I was still pretty young. But I looked at it as not a – at that time, I was just like, this is a Tom Sawyer kind of book. [...]

I brought it up to Ernie C from Body Count, cuz I love how outspoken he is, and of course Ice T. Ice T for president. He is the coolest guy and I just love following him on twitter. So, obviously, I mean, since they started Body Count, that was the thing they were talking about, There Goes The Neighborhood and... It’s amazing, all these bands like Rage Against The Machine, and Public Enemy has been talking about this for so long and it’s still happening. So I asked Ernie C about it because Body Count did some shows with [GN’R] and One In A Million was out by that time, and they were getting flak from Living Color. And Ernie said – I’m paraphrasing, of course, but he’s like, “Axl is not that dude,” meaning that he’s not – “he never treated me different,” you know, “he didn’t treat me like...” He had nothing but wonderful experiences with him. It’s just the lyrics, certain lyrics, you know, “he had to get across a certain point.” He didn’t seem to be offended by it. And even if he was, was or wasn’t, that’s his point of view. “I just wanted to hear it, I’m just curious.”

When I first reached out to you to do this episode, I asked you the same thing, because I wanted to have an organic conversation to see what comes of it and cuz you asked me for specific questions, which sometimes I have and sometimes I don’t. But One In A Million seems to be the most obvious thing to talk about. So did you have... That song was obviously out when you were touring with them. I guess your introduction to that song, what did you think about it... I guess I would wanna know your point of view on the GN’R song One In A Million.
Roberta: Okay, first of all, I have to say that, you know, I think that I’m glad you want to speak about this, because it’s a really uncomfortable subject for, I guess, anybody associated with GN’R, including the band mates and also, you know...

I don’t remember talking to Tracy about it, but I think at that time we both kind of agreed, cuz... I don’t know, I think she was more of a GN’R fan than I was, cuz  I had seen, like, Welcome To The Jungle on MTV and stuff like that, but I wasn’t, like, a fan, you know? And I got called to do the gig and I was like, “Yeah, okay.” You know, I had already done – I was getting off the tour with Cinderella and I was like, “Yeah, let me go on the road with them.” And from what I learned from hanging out with Slash, I didn’t get any racist vibe or anything. I think it’s really important to talk about this, because it’s so controversial. At the time I didn’t – maybe it was my ignorance or I was so young and, you know, I was just like, “Whoo, rock ‘n’ roll!” and because I didn’t know the song, I wasn’t really introduced to the song. I had heard fans or non-fans say, “Aren’t they racist?” and I’m like, “No!” And people would say, “How about that song?” and I’d be like, “What song?” You know? So that’s my bad; like, that’s my mistake and my ignorance of not researching the band before I started working for them. However, at the time I think I probably had the same reaction that you did, where I thought Axl was speaking from the point of view of racist America – how, you know, middle America, racist America, thinks, and he was just thinking out loud. Especially because I never got, personally, a racist vibe from Axl. He was always super... not only, like, super sweet and kind to me, but he was very respectful. You know, he wasn’t like the other guys, where the other guys would cuss in front of us, and be vulgar, and just be rock ‘n’ roll, you know? Axl was really, like, he would never cuss in front of me, he would always address me properly; he was very, very sweet to me. So, that being said, I guess I couldn’t let myself believe that those lyrics meant that he thought I was a nig... - I almost said it (laughs) – that he thought that I was what he said in the lyrics, you know, the n-word.

And I remember one particular thing that... I've never said this in an interview before, because, you know, it could keep me from work, from getting work, for saying this. But I think now is the time to speak out against injustice. At the time we were on tour with Metallica, and James [Hetfield], Slash and Axl were talking. I remember passing them in... I don’t remember where it was, but it was some outdoor venue, and they were in an area and I had to pass them to get to my dressing room. And I heard James say about Ice T - because Ice T was supposed to join us on the tour – and he said, “I don’t wanna share my stage with a n-word.” And I was like, “What did he say?!” - you know, like, I couldn’t believe my ears. And Axl was just like, you know, “It’s my show” – I don’t remember what he said, I mean that was such a long time ago and I think my whole brain was clouded with such anger that I just kind of blacked out, you know, I just saw red.
Brando: I understand. Did he say “that...”, or did he say “a...”?
Roberta: “I’m not sharing my stage with a... n-word.”
Brando: Okay, that was... I mean they were both terrible but...
Roberta: And he didn’t give a damn if Ice T was like the most famous person in the world. He did not want to give his stage at the time, because he didn’t wanna share it with a black person. And I’m like, “Dude, you’re already sharing it with a few! Slash is black, I’m black, Tracy’s black...” So that whole thing was so outrageous, and, as it turned out, Ice T did come and join us for some of the tour. So, you know, Axl wasn’t going to be affected by what James said, and I’m sure Slash...

You know what the problem is? I really grew up with this, personally. I grew up in a predominantly white community. I grew up in the Bronx, in Co-op City, and most of my neighbors and my school mates were Italian and Jewish. Now I think what made it easier for me was that my mother is Jewish, so therefore I’m Jewish, right? And so I think that I was accepted into the Jewish community for sure because of that. They made an exception for me, see? They were like, they would say the n-word every single day. I heard it every single day until I was about 18, when I actually told people to fuck off when they said that, you know? (laughs). But I heard it every day, whether it was directed at me or directed at somebody else. When it was directed at somebody else, they’d be like, “Oh! But not you. You’re cool. We don’t think of you that way.” But they stopped to think long enough to know they were insulting me, you know what I mean?

I told you that, because I wanted to let you know how I think Slash felt. I mean, I can’t get into his head, but maybe if you’re used to growing up with that mentality around you, you kind of – you don’t accept it, but you just know that’s how it is and, you know, whether people have selective racism or not. Like, I’m sure James didn’t feel that Slash was a “n”, because Slash... To me, Slash looks more like a white boy more than anything else, because, you know, he’s Mr. Rock ‘n’ roll, and all the way he talks... And I always had that around, you know, people thought that about me. Like, if anything, I was not accepted in the black community because I was so light-skinned, and because of the way I speak, and because of the music I sing. I had a lot of problems – I had racism from both sides. So I kind of – and we were all really young, and so I think maybe James didn’t feel that way about Slash or any of the people that he was surrounded by. Maybe he didn’t know that we were black - who the hell knows, right? But the fact that...  I’ve had conversations with people who didn’t know that I was black, and they pop out with the n-word and I’m like, “Guess what!” You know, “Guess what, I’m black” and they’re like, “Oh! Oh, I didn’t mean you. I didn’t...”

So I think, you know, at the time maybe Axl thought that just because he wasn’t talking about everybody, that he was trying to insult certain people, certain lowlife type of characters, that that word was directed towards them, that Axl doesn’t think he was being racist. But that is the exact... you know, that’s a pure example of what racism is. You know, the selective racism. Like, you think your one friend doesn’t apply to the n-word, but you’re gonna call everybody else an n-word - you know, you love Kobe and you have your one black friend over here, but everybody else is an “n”.

So it’s a really complicated subject, racism, and for somebody who... I’m sure that we’d be having a different conversation if I was - if my mother was black and my father was black, and my grandfather... if I just came, like, from a straight black family, generations of black people, you know? But because I have, like, all this European blood and I’m all mixed, we’re having a different conversation; because I could really... it’s almost like being undercover. I was able to really sniff out the real racists, what I believe were the real racists, the people who are like, “I’m gonna cover it up and I’m not gonna let people know how racist I am.” And then, when they are guarded down, “Guess what, Roberta is black! Hello! Busted. Cuz I know how you really feel about us as people.” You know what I mean?


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