Saturday, December 5, 2009

On The Air with John Sinclair

From: Steve "fly in" Pratt (flyagaric23 @

Sent: Tue 12/01/09 8:13 PM

To: John Sinclair (johnsinclair001 @

As I hope my readers, wherever and whatever you are, may know by now that I live In Amsterdam and work closely alongside the walking one-man syllabus of art, music and culture: John Sinclair, and I’ve recently witnessed the construction of an epic series of radio shows in conjunction with the Cannabis Cup made on-the-fly, for the fine by John, and I feel it deserves at least some words in support and some of gratitude from myself, but also adding a little follow-up link here and there to help expand the connections to the content of the epic shows.

This article will also celebrate the 300th John Sinclair Radio Show, broadcasting on Radio Free Amsterdam, and pay respects to this vital injection of culture and music to the city of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Europe in general. Hopefully anyone reading this who has not yet tuned into the show, stop right here and please go visit

Any writing about writers is a tricky business to get mixed up in—like with good journalism, you have to keep your wits and not jump to any conclusions—so I hereby ask that any mistakes I made may be forgiven and my own interpretations of events viewed as fly-on-the-wall observations, all puns intended.

It became clear to me today that live radio contains its own form of improvisational creativity and poetry, that in the capable hands of a happy host like John Sinclair dazzles and turns the mind—just like the way live poetry and spoken word can turn the mind, ear and eye. Of course being there, up close to the microphone, hardly saying a tweet, but close, right there, you get the full existential pow’ of radiology, words and music wedded for the listeners hearts and minds, bound in the criss-crossing between track titles, artist names, topics of conversation, annual observances.

History dragged kicking and screaming into the present, reassembled by informational poetry, freestyle footnotes concerning the finest detail of each cut, the session, the label, the date, the players, for EVERY fucking tune! Bwoy, this alone boggles the mind of any who pays due attention to the details, and just sounds right to the ear and heed, perfectly engineered and crafted to the casual listener, the audience who get to hear the words and music, binding the cultural artifacts, past, present and future together into a beautiful symphony, full of reflex arcs, reflections spaces, puns and what you cannot predict. Interruptions, technical hick ups—synchronicity—and moments of claritas.

Over the course of the last week John has hand-crafted 10 one-hour-long radio shows covering a broad spectrum of his usual cutting-edge cultural explorations, but each having its own distinct character, musically, geographically and content wise. And let’s not forget that this last week 22-28th has been the 22nd’Cannabis Cup madness that descends on the small city of Amsterdam around Harvest Time each November. John managed to record, edit and broadcast 10 shows while still fulfilling his role as ‘High Priest’ at this year’s Cup, having the honour of introducing the great departed legendary counter-cultural icon and warrior—Tom For├žade—and conducting the sacred ceremonial proceedings, as well as performing with the Night-Porter from Rotterdam—Mark Ritsema—live at the 420 Cafe (a personal highlight of the cup week).

The shows and the posts speak for themselves and, as I said, weave together to make a unique hour-long presentation crafted for radio. I feel that in writing about these 10 shows I should aspire to keep an equal balance between describing some of the music played and some of the interviews and conversations between special guests, both from past radio interviews and the present Cannabis Cup week. John presents a mixed array of media from various epochs and cultures that resonate with each other, and to have cannabis as the main resonating theme, John takes the art of freestyle radio-show production to another level, where one can distinguish the difference between artifacts spread out in a specially assembled system.

Yes, John talks about weed and smokes a healthy bunch of the stuff throughout every thoughtful part of his creative process, but his focus is of course centered, from where I’m sitting, on changes in marijuana laws, decriminalization, legalization, medical marijuana and the right to pursue happiness and get high—if yo’ ain’t hurtin’ nobody, what’s the problem.

John likes to smoke quality herb, no doubt, and has maximum respect and honourable support for growers and cannabis cultured-critters everywhere, but you’ll notice no bullshit observance of the goings-on, and you may hear a well-intentioned critical commentary on the viral-marketing and consumer ideology creeping into the cannabis culture. Nobody is passing judgment on how people run their business, that’s their business, but the duty of the poet has always been to detect bullshit and relay messages from the past and future to the present.

I can hear this in the series of shows and am happy that a varied array of sources are brought into orbit, and that I’m one of the fortunate individuals to be in such an orbit just blows my mind, and although not present at more than half the shows myself, I can testify that John was at all the locations dotted around Amsterdam, propelled under his own steam and new feet 2.0, and made all these wonderful shows without script, without a million-dollar production studio and without making fuss when confronted with the usual challenges and obstacles involved with being a radio DJ, Headpress editor, Cannabis Cup High Priest, and performance poet.

Seeing John this week, so busy—relatively—with social engagements and creative pursuits and now with his series of shows that tie together the separate entities, shows a multimedia performance, living and feeding back living experiences in a balanced proportion, at high velocity, bringing about some of the best radio-poetry I have ever heard from John, and the collective artistic sum of all of their parts: the musicians, the guests, the proprietors of (Live Radio Friendly) establishments, the sound engineers, volunteers and of course beloved friends and family. Everyone gets a friendly mention and I was personally overjoyed to receive more props for Fly Agaric Studios and get a generous mention and inclusion in his shows.

There’s an optimistic vibe floating around with the herbsmoke this year at the Cup, very generally the Americans and Canadians seem very optimistic about the future of medical marijuana use and legalization, plus many other possible marijuana supporters and the global cannabis movement as a whole is organizing better and forging stronger relations. My personal opinion is that the small ad-hoc organizations will be more successful in the long run, than the larger top-to-bottom structured businesses that will eventually produce and distribute the pot. But I wanted to say that John builds an information-rich collage of Cannabis Activism, wisdom and edutainment in his shows.

Together the shows make a unique historical document celebrating the relative freedom and tolerant attitude demonstrated in Amsterdam, a cultural-historical treasure of music and culture captured and condensed by Mr. Sinclair. Managing to keep his position as the highest ‘High Priest’ this year, John’s radio shows presented at Radio Free Amsterdam share his extended and daily performance as a wild radio Indian.

--Steve Fly.

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