“Apart from a few independent bastions, there is no musical or informational freedom on the US airwaves anymore. The traditional public commons have been sold to the highest corporate bidders. Music is suffering and society is suffering too. Radio Retaliation is about an exodus of conscious people who are willing to acknowledge something is wrong with the ‘official version’ in news and culture. Therefore, we need to create our own channels," explains Hilton.
The tone of the album underscores the freedom of expression that only independent outlets can provide in a society dominated by corporate sponsors and agendas. Garza and Hilton have long positioned themselves as fiercely independent voices within the music industry, successfully building their label over the past decade through continued belief that great music will find its audience – with or without US commercial radio assistance.
“Unfortunately our daily experiences via mediated radio, print and televised programming are primarily the results of hype, propaganda, and calls to consume. From fake wars, fake celebrities, a fake political system - Rob and I checked out of it long ago,” Hilton says. “It’s more important to do something we truly believe in and let people experience it uncensored and real.”
Washington DC has long been home to a music subculture legendary for strong, independent artists, a staunch do-it-yourself work ethic, and conscientious social activism. This was especially exemplified by genre-defining pioneers like indie punk rockers Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Fugazi. Likewise, although some may lazily pin Thievery Corporation as the soundtrack to their cocktail infused late night soiree, the duo have always drawn deep from the well of independent and confrontational music subculture their home town is known for, to produce an ever expanding globally conscious catalogue of music that is difficult to classify.
Starting in 1996 with two international underground hit vinyl singles “Shaolin Satellite” and “2001 Spliff Odyssey,” released on ESL Music, Garza and Hilton soon released Sounds from The Thievery Hi-Fi; an album that defined a genre and crystallized their distinct “outernational sound” aesthetic. Over the next decade the duo would remix the likes of David Byrne, The Doors, and Sarah McLachlan, and record three more critically acclaimed albums of original material, each one transcending the last in scope, style, and message: The Mirror Conspiracy (2000), The Richest Man in Babylon (2002), and The Cosmic Game (2005).
“This record is also our most internationally oriented,” adds Garza, describing how Radio Retaliation touches upon the eclectic sounds of Jamaica, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. “The roots of our inspiration have always come from what is happening globally, and at the moment there is so much that demands the attention of all of us.”
With Radio Retaliation Thievery Corporation raise the bar with a new cast of musical collaborators including Nigeria’s afro-beat heir Femi Kuti, Brazilian star vocalist and guitarist Seu Jorge, Indian sitar virtuoso Anushka Shankar, Slovakian chanteuse and violinist Jana Andevska, and Washington DC’s own go-go originator Chuck Brown. Also returning are long time microphone co-conspirators Sleepy Wonder, Lou Lou, Notch, Zee, and Verny Varela.
A defining element of Thievery Corporation’s sound has always been its decidedly organic quality and this is clearly evident in the rich productions of Radio Retaliation and recent live tour dates. Despite their minimal beginnings, Garza and Hilton have adopted a growing cast of collaborators over the years, vital musicians and vocalists who contribute to a dynamic 15 member live band. Playing sold out venues and festivals worldwide, Thievery Corporation dazzle thousands of music fans every year with their kaleidoscopic live show.
With the help of long time partners, the UN World Food Programme, Thievery Corporation also aim to provoke conscientious thought among their audience. Garza explains, “We definitely want to contribute to the opening of ears, eyes, and minds. With our live shows it’s a poignant example of music and culture mixing together in an explosive vibrant way. To see a Persian singer singing in Farsi, as America debates on a war with Iran, next to other band members from all corners of the earth singing in Spanish, Portuguese, French and so on, it makes people wonder . . . and if you can get people to question the things around them, just a little, then that’s not such a bad thing.”