Uncivil Union

While he’s breaking the laws of country and hip-hop, Sandman hooks up with actual lawbreakers.

“I’m surrounded by anarchy, but I don’t know if I’m an anarchist,” laughs folk rapper Chris Sand, a.k.a. Sandman. He’s sitting cross-legged and sipping coffee in his Olympia home, a progressive housing collective he shares with five others.

The anarchy surrounding him isn’t just from his Emma Goldman-inspired housemates. It’s also a part of the 32-year-old’s music career: He’s recently hooked up a peculiar production deal for his latest album and tour with another Olympia-based anarchist co-op, CrimethInc. What’s peculiar about the deal isn’t that the group is helping promote a live music tour. It’s that Sand doesn’t play hardcore, or even sing overtly political songs. But he does still have a political streak.

“It makes sense if you can see George Bush as a cowboy that’s lost his mind,” he says. “Bush is the cowboy who got too sad, too isolated.”

Sandman’s latest album, The Long Walk Home, is full of the smart, down-home poetry Sand has put to acoustic guitar and drum machine in his four previous discs, released on Loner Records. (Walk Home is a streamlined version of an earlier release by the label.) Sure, Sand sings songs of social subversion—truck drivers on speed, farmers hiding crops of weed, jobless highway wanderers. But he gets off on weaving metaphors and spinning rhymes, rather than rhetoric, about that kind of stuff. Though a regular performer at politically inspired shows, he says he traded dogma for storytelling in his songs in the early ’90s.

“I have a political vein, especially at live shows,” admits Sand. “But I’m kinda caught up in my own thing. Sex songs. Songs about cars. Workingman country songs.”

Sand’s earnest voice may be the reason CrimethInc. partnered with him. The organization is best known as a media outlet for hardcore records and immaculately printed, street-ready propaganda. But recently, the CrimethInc. website has hinted at broad changes. Officially disaffiliated from non-politically minded scofflaws, the co-op is attempting to spread its message in a more traditional way. With sales of Sandman’s album and promotion of his tour now in full swing on the site, it seems almost like—ahem—good marketing.

The site’s creator, who declined to give his name, agreed it was the music’s working-class heartbreak that fit with CrimethInc.’s modus operandi. And, simply, that he really liked Sand’s music.

He also didn’t discount the old saying about politics and bedfellows.

“I guess Bush was right,” Sand says to that, smirking slightly. “He unites people.”

Sandman plays with Ivan Okay on Saturday, May 29, at Mississippi Studios, 3939 NE Mississippi Ave., 753-4473. $5. 8 pm. All ages.

Originally published in Willamette Week