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‘Strummerville’ Director Goes Indy At SXSW With PingWi-Fi

March 24th, 2010 · Tags:Arts · Cities

Don Letts, a Clash survivor, music sample pioneer and film director is also a diplomat.

I pushed hard to get Letts to feel my pain and side with me — an independent journalist turned away from an indy music festival by the media credentials staff. Turning away the little guys while giving free passes to the affluent corporate journalists sort of flies in the face of the whole spirit of an independent/artistic festival. Yet it happens time and time again.

Letts would have none of it, remaining neutral …

No worries, mon … I just fly under the radar and get all the blog content I want … there is plenty to go around.

So anyway, Letts wouldn’t bite off on my cause. He just laughed and said he never had to work to get into an independent festival. Instead he just pours himself passionately into his art. (I think that means someone else takes care of all the paperwork. ) If only it were so easy for a blogger who foots the bills, totes the tripods, tests the mikes, shoots the photos, writes, edits and hawks the t-shirts.

Ha! I got your indy festival!

All this is to say my SXSW experience was greatly enhanced by hunting down and scoring a Letts interview for the mantle.  He was in Austin, Texas at the SXSW festival for the premiere of his new film “Strummerville.” In a way, it was a natural progression to add Letts — also the director of all The Clash music videos — to my site which also features a rare Joe Strummer one-on-one interview. What’s that? You haven’t heard of Joe Strummer and The Clash?

Joe Strummer Interview

Well, thanks to Letts’ film “Strummerville” and the philanthropic group by the same name, a new generation is learning about Joe Strummer and the independent spirit that flowed through his veins and lives on in his music legacy. In addition, upstart artists are finding support to help them launch their careers.


Joe Strummer once told me that early in his career, he stole … but only because he didn’t have money for food — the epitome of a starving artist.

Right on cue, Letts said, because of Strummerville, these artists don’t have to steal or starve any more.

Letts began his career as a DJ, playing reggae in London clubs in the ’70s where he met Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of The Clash. At that time, they were not folk heroes. They were young artists … still learning to play their instruments … under the influence of reggae. (That’s about the same time Letts began growing his dreadlocks.  When we spoke, he wore them under a hat … but assured me they were well beyond six feet long.)

Later in his career Letts toured the world with The Clash and made all of their music videos — some of the proudest moments in MTV history. (Perhaps most notable was the hit “Rock The Casbah” video which Letts shot in and around Austin, the home of the SXSW festival.)

When The Clash broke up, Letts continued on with Mick Jones to form Big Audio Dynamite, or B.A.D., and enjoyed moderate success. Perhaps B.A.D.’s most significant contribution was sampling, mixing and dubbing music as no one had before.

Note: LOL … I wish Letts had shot the video for me. Never has my “indy spirit” been more apparent than in my poor camera cropping as I simultaneously interviewed and shot Letts and me … apologies for that … but I think Letts made up for it with his words.

Know what I sayin?

Letts On SXSW, Music, Experience:

Letts On “Strummerville” and Texas:

Letts On The Strummerville Foundation:

Letts On Getting Involved: