The Culture Industry: Enlightenment or Mass Deception?

“Pop culture in general is the main thing they use to keep young people from developing any ideas.” – John Sinclair.

John Sinclair - Mohawk front cover

John Sinclair, the renegade poet, scholar and cultural revolutionary releases his new album called “Mohawk,” on Iron Man Records, on Monday 24th March 2014 with distribution by Cargo. The music was written and arranged by Steve Fly who mirrored John’s poems in the music by initially combing the tempo of the original songs recorded by John ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and Thelonious Monk. Steve The Fly is a native of Stourbridge UK, now an Amsterdam resident who plays drums, spins vinyl, writes novels and literary and cultural commentary. He also maintains a flock of websites and works in various other art forms without visible restraint.  His other music projects have included New Flesh, Garaj Mahal, Temple Dragon band, of course he is now full time with John Sinclair.

John has been on TV news recently with an appearance on CNN talking to Atika Shubert about the Marijuana laws in Holland, and the value of these laws in attracting tourism. The piece makes an interesting overview of the issues involved and Cafe 420 is featured including an interview with the owner. Perhaps Birmingham City Council’s tourism department could learn a trick or two.

For those into poetry and performance: Amiri Baraka, the poet, playwright and political organizer died last month at the age of 79. Baraka was a leading force in the black arts movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1963 he published “Blues People: Negro Music in White America,” known as the first major history of black music to be written by an African American. A year later he published a collection of poetry titled “The Dead Lecturer” and won an Obie Award for his play, “Dutchman.” After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 he moved to Harlem and founded the Black Arts Repertory Theater. In the late 1960s, Baraka moved back to his hometown of Newark and began focusing more on political organizing, prompting the FBI to identify him as “the person who will probably emerge as the leader of the pan-African movement in the United States.” Baraka continued writing and performing poetry up until his hospitalization late last year, leaving behind a body of work that greatly influenced a younger generation of hip-hop artists and slam poets. If you don’t know his work, find out more for yourself.

For those assembling posters and flyers for gigs across the region, January also said Farewell to Gary Grimshaw, a Rock Art Legend, the man whose posters and covers defined the Detroit rock scene. John Sinclair wrote a few lines that I think are worth sharing with Midlands based musicians and artists here “Gary Grimshaw was a great creative artist who helped define the spirit and feeling of an entire era with his brilliant posters for the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, his artwork for underground newspapers like the Detroit Sun, the Fifth Estate and the San Francisco Oracle, and his posters and record covers for the MC-5 and other bands.

“He was a music lover first and foremost, best friends in high school with Rob Tyner of the MC5, a beautiful cat and the most tireless and dedicated art worker I’ve ever known. We were partners in crime at the Grande Ballroom and the Detroit Artists Workshop, we founded Trans-Love Energies and the White Panther Party together, we worked side by side for several years while he beautifully interpreted all my ideas for cultural and social change into public artwork that could make people want to do things they’d never done before.

“After the movement ended in the mid-’70s we went our separate ways but reunited in Detroit in the 1980s in partnership with Frank & Peggy Bach to serve the Motor City music community for several years before Gary moved to the San Francisco Bay area. He was one of my greatest friends of all time, most valued co-worker and constant inspiration.”

“The Revolution is totally committed to bringing people out of their shells and into each others arms. The music is the source and effect of our spirit flesh and we demand a free music and a free high energy source that will drive us wild into the streets…..yelling and screaming and tearing down everything that would keep people slaves” – John Sinclair

John Sinclair relives his ups and downs with the MC5 in the next issue of MOJO, on sale from January 28, 2014.

Last Under The Sun have more gigs planned, 15th Feb at Rock Zombie Dudley and 16th Feb at The Flapper and Firkin Birmingham. You can listen to and download all their music for free here: or you can find their cds in the Iron Man Shop. The band are off to Belgium and Holland in March.

Police Bastard are assembling tour dates to promote their new album, Confined, which continues to generate interesting reviews. A few quotes include:

“Thought-provoking monologues and confrontational lyrics bring you on a cold, doom-laden journey of perpetual war, psychological mind control and disillusionment.”

“…an anti-theistic slice of brutality, which leaves the listener in no doubt that Police Bastard mean business. You even get a quote from Richard Dawkins about teaching the bible as fiction. Musically they give us huge chugging riffs on “Brought To Our Knees”, which tackles the blandness of multi-national companies infecting the high street, set against the backdrop of the widening gap between rich and poor. For those that like their anthems loud and stompy, “Sick Sick System” will no doubt win a seal of approval with its knock about Punk mayhem and catchy refrain, ‘sick sick system, same old bullshit’.

“….From Mark Orton‘s cover art through to the final song, “Fortress,” Police Bastard have presented an album that uses hardcore’s battering ram approach to push through a series of songs that depict how humanity has destroyed the Earth. Lines such as “We’re sealing our fate” hammer home the idea that mankind has taken the world to the edge of existence…”

“Confined” was recorded at Framework Studios, Birmingham and is out now.

The Nightingales – Born out of Birmingham’s original punk group The Prefects, the Nightingales have stubbornly ploughed their own furrow in the field of alternative rock n roll for three decades. 2006 saw the release of “Out Of True” on Iron Man Records and the return of a reformed Nightingales after some years away. The band have not wasted much time since then and yet another new album is on the way for 2014.

The band hope to announce tour dates for UK/Europe for  April and May and some Festivals to be confirmed for over the summer/autumn 2014. There may be some United States dates in Sept/Oct time too.

Nightingales are planning a 7″ 45rpm to be released at some point & another album to be recorded later in the year for early 2015 release.

Described in John Robb’s definitive post punk biography ‘Death To Trad Rock’ as “the misfits’ misfits”, the band has constantly garnered praise and respect from other artists and received endless glowing press reports, particularly for their live shows. Led by singer/lyricist Robert Lloyd (‘The most underestimated songwriter of his generation’ according to Ben Thompson in the Independent) the latest incarnation of the Nightingales are back again with a new album recorded at Faust studio in September 2013 for release in spring 2014. There will be a vinyl lp and the record label & title will be confirmed soon.

Blog: On the Iron Man website I’ve posted a series of interesting articles like The Bitcoin Revolution By Steven Hager and Free The Weed 35 by John Sinclair.

The Bitcoin Revolution: “Bitcoin is rapidly transforming the financial landscape with a peer-to-peer solution for wealth transfer. It has already shown capacity to absorb tremendous resources and withstand crisis sell-offs. Read this short ebook to understand why you should invest in this revolutionary computer art meets cryptography concept. I came late to Bitcoin and have zero understanding of the technical complexities of cryptography, but I do realize Bitcoin is open source and completely transparent and completely non-predatory in design, a real departure from our banking industry. Any assets moved into Bitcoin virtually disappear from the public record at this point and do not become taxable events until they are brought back into the system. Bitcoin has numerous benefits to offer and represents a real threat to our current corrupt money system. The media has been relentlessly negative on bitcoins for a reason: they threaten the status quo.”

Free The Weed: “….people in the cannabis community are looking on in wonder as the United States takes its first tentative steps toward legalizing marijuana for use by all thinking persons over 18 years of age.

Like they say in New Orleans, a lotta people don’t know that marijuana is not actually legal in the Netherlands, although over-the-counter sales of cannabis has been allowed under what they call a “grey area” in the law which amounts to a sort of super-decriminalization policy that not only eliminates arrest but lets smokers buy and ingest the sacrament in designated coffee shops without police interference.

But growing, distribution, wholesale transfer and delivery are still fully illegal, growers are tracked down and arrested, distributors are intercepted, delivery remains fully clandestine, shop owners are prohibited from stocking more than 500 grams of cannabis products on the premises at any one time, and even the consumer is limited to purchases of no more than 5 grams per trip.”

If you are a rapper or organise shows for rap and hip hop, Prop Anon, from New York, is looking at Touring Europe in July 2014. If you want to book him to play email him at Theres a post with a few videos I like on the website.

P.A.I.N play in Brighton on 15th March and a number of other tour dates are coming up. Keep an eye on their Facebook page.

Framework Recording Studios is now fully operational in Digbeth with Simon Reeves at the controls. The recording studio is based at Blotto on Floodgate Street, Birmingham, B55ST. If you are interested in recording at Framework call 07790 158210 or email

Tour Mangement: In addition to running Iron Man Records, I also work as a Tour Manager and spend a lot of time helping bands find just about everything else tour related. If you need a tour manager or need help sourcing a good vehicle at the right price email or call (+44) 07974 746810.

WARNING: Culture Industry is a term coined by Theodor Adorno (1903–69) and Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), who argued in “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods – through film, radio and magazines – to manipulate the masses into passivity; the easy pleasures available through consumption of popular culture make people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances. Culture industries may cultivate false needs; that is, needs created and satisfied by capitalism. True needs, in contrast, are freedom, creativity, or genuine happiness….Culture not only mirrors society, but also takes an important role in shaping society through the processes of standardization and commodification, creating objects rather than subjects. By standardizing the consumer’s needs, the Culture Industry is manipulating the consumer to desire what it produces. The outcome is that mass production feeds a mass market that minimizes the identity and tastes of the individual consumers who are as interchangeable as the products they consume. Think about it.

For more on all of the above and to buy music by the artists visit