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My Interview with Julian Casablancas and Dr. Henry Giroux

Blog/FavouritesMarch 2nd 2020
Olivia Fava
[Cover photo: Dr. Henry Giroux and Julian Casablancas visit the McMaster library's Archives and Research Collection. Photo used with permission of McMaster University.]

I think, in many ways, musicians are public intellectuals. They’re constantly intervening in the world in ways that suggest, whether through their lyrics or through their performances, different ways to think about the world…

- Dr. Henry Giroux

The Strokes are undoubtedly one of the most iconic indie rock bands of the 21st century. The band’s double-platinum debut studio album, Is This It (2001), needs no introduction. It was one of the defining records of the 2000’s and was described by Rolling Stone and NME as one of the best albums of the 00’s and one of the 100 best albums of all time, respectively. Most tellingly, it is still talked about as such nearly 20 years later. With all those years and accolades (plus one hiatus) behind them, The Strokes are still going strong; The New Abnormal, their upcoming sixth studio album, is slated for release on April 10th.

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[ Julian Casablancas performing. "The Strokes - Lollapalooza 2010" by kate.gardiner is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0]

Julian Casablancas has attained great fame and recognition as the lead singer of The Strokes. What is perhaps less well-known is his connection to a professor in the English and Cultural Studies Department here at McMaster, Dr. Henry Giroux.

Dr. Henry A. Giroux is not a rock star, but he is undeniably a superstar in his own field. A highly respected and renowned pedagogical theorist and cultural critic, he is the recipient of three honorary doctorates and has been published in numerous journals and news publications. He also holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in Public Interest, as well as appointments at Ryerson and Waterloo. The Toronto Star also named him to their list of “12 Canadians Changing the Way We Think” in 2012.

The stories of these two highly influential people first converged in 2016, when Casablancas came to Hamilton to interview Dr. Giroux for Rolling Stone. Then, in the summer of 2019, Dr. Giroux published his book The Terror of the Unforeseen, which analyzes and criticizes the resurgence of fascist politics in America and across the globe during Donald Trump’s presidency. The foreword was written by none other than Julian Casablancas himself. Last fall, the two came to Hamilton once again for a public conversation at the Westdale Theatre centered around the book’s major arguments, including the importance of education, freedom of the press, and mass movements in the systemic fight against oppression.

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[Julian Casablancas performing. "Julian Casablancas" by Mexicaans fotomagazijn is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0]

Just before the event, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to host both Dr. Giroux and Julian Casablancas at CFMU. As I prepared for the interview, I found myself intensely curious about how these two individuals leading very different lives found common ground with each other. What similarities might a musician and a public intellectual find between them? Dr. Giroux's response - quoted above - is a masterful statement on the role of music and musicians in public life, and I have thought about music in a new way since hearing it.

Indeed, this interview in its entirety remains one of the most impactful and memorable experiences of my time here. Listeners of MorningFile may recognize it from on-air but, given that The New Abnormal will be releasing soon, I consider now the perfect time to share it with you once again, complete with some quotes and highlights. I sincerely hope you enjoy it!

…I think, without getting into the hundred things that you could dig into, philosophically, I think…yeah, we’re kind of more an independent voice and we support all kinds of independent media and you should only support independent candidates…that’s kind of the short-term solution…right now, we’re just voices in the corporate wilderness that are not corporate.

- Julian Casablancas

I actually do think young people have a very special place, because young people have been written out of the discourse of democracy for so long now that their future is really on the line. I mean, what kind of world are their kids going to live in? What kind of institutions are they going to inherit?

- Dr. Henry Giroux

Olivia Fava is a 2019 McMaster linguistics graduate, the current Community Outreach Coordinator at CFMU, and the host of MorningFile. Contact her through email at cfmucom@msu.mcmaster.ca.