Derek Zanetti is the self-described “Mr. Rogers of Punk Rock”—a moniker that’s especially fitting considering his status as an ever-smiling ambassador for positive vibes, staunch socio-political activism and his primary position as the frontman of the raucous and thoughtful DIY punk outfit the Homeless Gospel Choir. Zanetti is an impassioned pundit of the protest song—a fitting emissary for modern punk rock in a world that’s in desperate need for it.
In this ongoing artist-on-artist interview series, Zanetti focuses on the modern political climate and cultural issues that he and his punk-rock contemporaries think we should be paying attention to and actively striving to change. In this edition, Zanetti chatted up Linh Le, bassist and backup vocals of Bad Cop / Bad Cop, to discuss the importance of music and how it shapes the world, the upcoming election and our current administration.
Not only is Bad Cop / Bad Cop the best band name ever, but they also happen to write powerful, rippin’ punk songs with lyrics that pull you in and give you something to relate to. Two summers ago, BC/BC and I shared a backstage room together during the Punk In Drublic Festival, and we quickly became great friends. I’m continuously blown away at how hard this band works, how engaged they are with their community and how they’ve been champions for radical social justice initiatives.
Today we hear from Linh Le, my dear friend, and bass player for BC/BC. Linh, why is being involved with music important to you? And how has it changed your mind in regards to how you view the world?
LINH LE: I have so many strong memories attached to music, it would be hard to picture my life without it. I can remember being a kid and obsessively watching the cartoon show Animaniacs and learning all of the countries of the world and all the U.S. states and capitals from the silly songs on that show. Music has always been a way for me to retain information. Bands like Anti-Flag and Bad Religion did a better job of teaching me the truth through song than anything else. The melodies and hooks pull you in, and before you know it, you’ve learned something new and valuable that you can actually use. Killer Mike from Run The Jewels is another one who has brought so much light on issues that I otherwise may never have known about. Even though we may not fully agree, Killer Mike has given me fuel for thought through his music. And that’s a powerful thing.
As a voter, which issues concern you most during this 2020 election cycle?
As a woman and a first-generation Vietnamese immigrant voter, I have concerns in regard to the presidential election. Women have historically been underrepresented, undervalued and undermined for far too long. We, as women, deserve the right to choose what’s best for our own bodies. We deserve the right to fair pay, and we deserve to be seen and heard. When I vote, I look for a candidate who desires to serve the people equally. [Someone] who works hard to repair the long and painful history of injustice in this country.
For me, Bernie Sanders has had a consistent and progressive platform where he has used his voice to elevate women, fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and has been an advocate for the poor and marginalized. He’s a politician that I like and would totally vote for. But honestly, I’ll vote for anyone who has a chance at beating [Donald] Trump and getting him out of office.
How do you incorporate activism in your music? Which organizations are you working with and why?
Stacey [Dee], who sings for Bad Cop / Bad Cop, co-founded an organization called The Sidewalk Project that takes art and humanities to the underserved, homeless population of California, predominantly in the Skid Row area. This has been a major focus for our band and something we really believe in. It’s important to us for underserved people to be able to receive humanity services, community, and belonging.
We also donate to RAICES [Refugee And Immigrant Center For Education And Legal Services], [which] helps undocumented immigrants receive legal help and counsel. We have a shirt that we sell at our table, and 50% of the profits go to serve this nonprofit. Playing punk-rock music is cool. But making an impact in the lives of the people who desperately need it means the world.
What words of advice [or] warning would you give to younger kids who are thinking about joining the military under a Trump presidency?
First off, I want to say [that] anyone who is willing to risk their own well-being to fight for a just cause and for the well-being of others, I owe a lot of respect to. Veterans deserve to be treated much better than they have been. And if you are looking to serve your country, there are many nonviolent ways to participate. Join the Peace Corps. Join the Coast Guard. You can work for Greenpeace and clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t have children of my own. If I did, there is no way I’d let them risk their life under the Trump administration—no way.