A Conversation With… The Homeless Gospel Choir

Now, I’ve never had a conversation such as this before because I’ve never heard someone speak words with such Passion and Conviction about current issues in the world right now, specifically concerning America. But with what I’ve heard from this man, Derek Zanetti of The Homeless Gospel Choir it was a conversation which was not only genuine but one of truth which I needed to have right now. I spoke to Derek about the industry, his own experiences of recent protests back home and Fanny Packs.  .

 

Derek: Hey, I’m Derek Zanetti and I make music in a band called The Homeless Gospel Choir.

Jack: What exactly is The Homeless Gospel Choir?

Derek: It’s an idea and I’m just a person who makes up a lot of those ideas and it’s hopefully where I make songs that are giving people the hope and the courage that they need to keep on going and also where I can offer the idea of what Punk Rock is about equality and create an atmosphere that is free of sexism, racism and homeophobia. Hopefully, we can take this idea and show people what it is.

 

Jack: On your Facebook page, you describe yourself as a protest singer, would you say that description is how you’d tell someone about that.

Derek: Yeah, theres a lot happening in our world because it’s growing and people are being born and there’s more stories to be told. I think theres a lot of good defined but in the protest of noticing things we don’t like. Writing songs about that and what it means to do better and what it means to be better and it’s super important. You’re not just all your failures and all of your mistakes. We’re much more than that. If we continue to think about our failures and why we’re doing bad, then we’ll feel like that. But if we think we have the potential to do good then we show that potential, that’s what’s up.

 

Jack: And now, you’re currently on tour with Frank Turner, how have the UK shows been?

Derek: They’ve been a smash. Just an absolute smash. Frank Turner’s the coolest dude ever and we’ve talked about doing this for a long time, coming out on a world tour with him and it’s here right now. The folks who come out to see his show are just so kind and so thoughtful and so smart and forward thinking and very open minded to hearing new music. You know? It’s just me and an acoustic guitar up there, something they’ve probably seen a million times before but the reaction has been quite spectactular. It’s been quite amazing in fact to be truthful with you. The amount of people who’s come with kindness and graciousness has been amazing.

Jack: I was going to say on that, fans open to hearing new music. Sometimes when I go see a gig, I don’t listen to a band’s music that I’ve never listened to beforehand, just to get that full effect and be like damn, that was awesome. There have been a few bands where that has happened recently where you can just be blown away.

Derek: And it’s great to. I love Frank’s songs. I love his music and to get to hear that every night is just a treat. It’s full on awesome full stop.

 

Jack: And being from that DIY background, how is playing these shows compared to the smaller shows you put on?

Derek: It’s weird at times because I don’t know much about the corporate music world. I don’t know anything about this world at all. It’s weird to me to have someone sell shirts in the back of a venue with my name on it. I like to be back there because if someone does wanna come back and buy a record, I get to meet them and shake there hand, speak to them and make a friend there. I think that idea is odd but I believe in making friends and speaking with you as a human being to make the world better. The idea of you being a fan of my music, I like that. It makes me feel cool but I’d rather be your friend and that makes me feel better Because then there’s not an expectation that I’m providing you with a service you know? Like you’re not a customer, I don’t care about that. I wanna create a relationship where we can co-labour with each other to make something that’s bigger than something over coming to a clear channel media like a corporate rock venue, drinking Budweiser and Pepsi and stuff. I do that though, I’m here right now, I have an Apple phone and I’m wearing Vans sneakers or whatever.

Jack: And wearing a fanny pack.

Derek: And yes, wearing a fanny pack.

Jack: But let’s be honest, who doesn’t love one in this day and age? It’s so convenient to have. It’s like you need a pen? I got a pen.

Derek: Yeah, I have everything in here, there’s chapstick, chewing gum. I know that this sounds selfish but I carry chewing gum, not for me but for other people. I’ll talk to you forever and love to here every story you’ve got, about your parents, your grandma and you know, what it was like to be a coal miner,  I wanna hear every little detail of your life but if your breath is whack, we gotta fix it.

Jack: I know people like that, I just say I’m sorry please, it’s rank.

Derek: And I hope that’s not a westernised thing or whatever, a thing of privilege and I’m hoping that’s not going to be a strike against my character but I can’t deal with bad breath.

Jack: It’s very off-putting.

Derek: Yeah, and I do wanna chat with you, be your friend but if we’re going to continue this conversation, the fragrance of your breath has to change.

 

Jack: And with the festival season coming up, where would you like to play if not now, in the future?

Derek: I don’t know much about the festival world, to be honest with you, I don’t know anything about record cycles and that. My friends ask me do you want to go out and play a few songs and I usually say yes. I don’t have a manager, a booking agent, a fancy corporate record label. The guys who own my label, do it out of an old garage, like a storage place. It’s not fancy at all but it does have a toilet and a place to wash there hands. But I don’t know what a plan would look like, my friends ask me to go on tour and I say yes and I show up and play my guitar and either people love it or hate it but I would love to play all of the outdoor music festivals. I’d like to get back to Groezrock. I’d love go to them all. If anyone is reading or listening to this, and they know aboout Coachella or Leeds and Reading I’d love to headline those, I’d be happy to do it. Just send me an email,

Jack: But bring Frank for the ride as well, you two would make an awesome team.

Derek: Absolutely.

Jack: Because the way I’ve been seeing it, you two have been inseparable at the moment.

Derek: Yeah we’re good buds.

 

Jack: And I understand you’re quite active politically. Have you been to any protests recently?

Derek: I sure have. There’s been a bunch of them in Pittsburgh. There’s been a whole lot that we’re gone to. The women’s marches, I went to one with my partner and I stood in solidarity as the women demonstrated there and we also went to another on the one about the kids down in Florida and we were protesting the powers that be down there, saying that they should feel safe when they go to school and they don’t feel safe with these gun regulations. There have been people who’ve gone up to certain politicians that represent their state and they’ve gone up to them, Marco Rubio and they’ve asked them, erm.. we’re going to be voting soon buddy and we wanna make sure you’re not taking any contributions from the NRA, can you make us a promise that you won’t, and that chicken couldn’t even tell kids that their friends were just murdered, who were murdered in school, he couldn’t even make a commitment as a politician to not take that dirty gun money. He said I gotta do what’s best for the people I represent and those kids lost their friends and they were called cowards by conservative radio and conservative talk shows. It was awesome to march with them and tell them that we’re on their side, even though we’re in Pittsburgh and they’re Florida and that was a ways away but it was a nationwide display, a protest and I was honoured to stand there in solidarity with them.

Jack: Oh absolutely, if I was there, I’d have been marching with you. When I hear about all of these mass shootings, I just think why does this keep happening and how is it still happening?

Derek: Unfortunately the vision and the image we display democracy to be is very inaccurate. Politicians are bought and sold by these huge corporations who are only interested in profiteering. The NRA is a privatised group of a small amount of people who have a ton of money. And they’re trying to perpetuate this economy of guns and it’s very lucrative. It’s very profitable and these politicians know that by keeping these legislations the way that they are, they’ll be able to sell more guns and more bullets and make more money therefore the politicians get more money. Its’ backwards and corrupt in every way.

 

Jack: Do you ever think that America will be in a place where this will not happen as regularly with the mass shootings?

Derek: Time after time after time after time innocent people are being murdered. What happened in Vegas, it was up in a hotel room where someone shot some fifty people you know? And then it happens in people’s schools where people are trying to learn and receive an education and children are being murdered for wanting to learn. If that’s not a wake-up call for a government to think maybe we’re doing something wrong, I don’t know what is. I don’t know what it would take. At this point in time, the hands of the conservatives and the hands of the NRA are blood red, they’re covered in blood. The guilt and the shame that should come with it is overwhelming but it’s not. Because there’s still a contingent of people that have a lot of power pushing that agenda.

 

Jack: I think the main thing to think about in politics is that there’s always an agenda and it’s contantly changing.

Derek: And there’s these distractions that are happening all the time to keep people hooked on something that’s not a real issue. I mean, why are we still talking about abortion rights in 2018? Why? Why is that still a voting issue? If conservatives wanted to overturn that, they could’ve done it many times. Through Ronald Reagan, through George Bush Senior, through a double term of George W. Bush. It’s not an uissue. They had all the power in the world to overturn it and they didn’t do it you know? And now all Trump is talking about is that women who choose to have control over their reproductive rights should be punished. It’s crazy shi** and people are clapping for him.

Jack: It seems baffling why he’s so interested in people wanting one and having to stop them doing so and say it’s a burden on the budget when it’s really not. I saw a news report that it would cost less than 1% of the budget for the US army.

Derek: It’s like I said before, this very small contingent of people who want life to be like when the times were good. They want to go back to the golden age of American in the 50’s where America was strong and living the American dream then everyone would be happy. Sure if you’re a straight, white land owning male, life was great. It was awesome. But if you were a person of colour, queer or a woman it wasn’t a fair shake at all. And they expected these young people of colour to go and fight in a war in Vietnam then come back to their own country as a second class citizens, being abused with racial slurs and put downs. Imagine that. Imagine going to fight for your country then come back and being called the N word. Imagine that.

Jack: I wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone.

Derek: It’s absolutely a shame. Sorry I got a little carried away there. Forgive me.

 

Jack: Oh no it’s okay, you remind me of a friend where whatever he talks about, it’s amazing to hear the passion in someone’s voice.

Derek: It makes me cry almost. It makes me beserk to say we’re going back tot his time where everything was golden. But it wasn’t, it was golden for a very few amount of people.  I wanna go into a future where it’s great for everybody. Where everybody’s given a fair chance.

 

Jack:  If you didn’t end up going into music what do you think you’d be doing at the moment.

Derek: I have no idea and I can’t even speculate on that. I have no clue.

 

Jack: And lastly what’s next for The Homeless Gospel Choir after this?

I have some shows over here then some shows in the states with frank and then I can do some co-headline shows in the US then towards the end of the year im back over here. I’m not allowed to say with who yet but I’ll be doing some support shows and some headline shows.

Jack: Amazing. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and I can’t wait to see you play tonight.

Derek: Thank you. I cant wait to play tonight.

 

Check out The Homeless Gospel Choir’s video for the track ‘1983’ below.

 

The Homeless Gospel Choir still have shows supporting Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls. The dates are:

April 2018

25th – Liverpool O2 Academy

27th – Bristol O2 Academy

28th – Exeter The Great Hall

30th – Camridge The Corn Exchange

May 2018

1st – Southampton The Guildhall

2nd – Westcliff-On-Sea Southend Cliffs Pavilion

4th – Leicester O2 Academy

5th – Oxford O2 Academy

8th – Hull City Hall

9th – Norwich UEA

 

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