Rich Ferguson

Rich Ferguson
The SugarBuzz Interview
Rich Ferguson Photography by Cat Gwynn

“Pouring Down Silver…” Geordie Pleathur Has The Honor Of Interviewing The People’s Poet Genius, RICH FERGUSON!!!

“When you see that ghost-haunted highway run through the center of me, hang me from a high crescent moon and let my body swing. Till the skin of new light fits me better than old wounds.” (-Rich Ferguson)

“It could be that rich people just don’t want anyone else to have any fun.” (-Paul K.)

“Modern civilization has no understanding of sacred matters. Everything is backwards.” (-Thomas Yellowtail)

“Capitalism is waging war on humanity and all living species. Humanity must also be at war with capitalism, yet Americans largely seem oblivious to the assaults perpetrated by a system they have been made to accept unquestioningly. The people seem passive to the violence perpetrated upon them. Where must the blows land to awaken the people and erase the collective dissonance? Should anti capitalist… forces encourage and direct the violent savagery of the system in a way that hastens the people to arouse from their slumber and resist? Is there another, less brutal means to achieve a mass uprising than simply waiting until all revolt is made illegal and labeled terrorism? Despite the best efforts to inform a public that is resistant to the realities; the battle of information is being lost. Simply trying to inform those who do not wish to be is futile.” (-Gregory Walker)

“Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. “When you trap people in a system of debt . they can’t afford the time to think.” Tuition fee increases are a “disciplinary technique,” and, by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the “disciplinarian culture.” This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.” (-Noam Chomsky)

“At this point, I think that it is important to make one thing very clear. I have advocated and I still advocate revolutionary changes in the structure and in the principles that govern the United States. I advocate self-determination for my people and for all oppressed inside the United States. I advocate an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradication of sexism, and the elimination of political repression. If that is a crime, then I am totally guilty.” (-Assata Shakur declared a “most wanted terrorist” by the intelligence community of the Obama administration for forty year old crimes – what happened to “can’t look back”?)

“A writer or any artist can’t expect to be embraced by the people. I’ve done records where it seemed like no one listened to them. You write poetry books that maybe 50 people read. And you just keep doing your work because you have to, because it’s your calling. But it’s beautiful to be embraced by the people.” (-Patti Smith)

“When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of it’s hands, it brings up fascism to hold on to their privileges.” (-Buenaventura Durruti)

“If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.  I’m not kidding.  The arts are not a way to make a living.  They are a very human way of making life more bearable.  Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio.  Tell stories.  Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can.  You will get an enormous reward.  You will have created something.”

“Just as the ancients danced to call upon the spirits in nature, we too can dance to find the spirits within ourselves that have been long buried and forgotten.” (-Anna Halprin)

“Monsanto needs to be destroyed. It is that simple. This corporation is a danger to life on earth. If you know anything about the history and the activities of Monsanto, you know that this company is the epitome of evil. That Obama appointed Michael Taylor, former Monsanto VP, as Food Czar of the FDA is dumbfounding. But the public, my party, the media, this nation, sleeps. For shame America. For shame.” (-Tangerine Bolen)

“You can’t just invoke Martin Luther King like that and not follow through on his priorities in some way. King died fighting not just against poverty but against carpet-bombing in Vietnam; the war crimes under Nixon and Kissinger…. You can’t meet every Tuesday with a killer list and continually have drones drop bombs. You can do that once or twice and say: ‘I shouldn’t have done that, I’ve got to stop.’ But when you do it month in, month out, year in, year out I think there is a chance of a snowball in hell that he will ever be tried, but I think he should be tried and I said the same about George Bush. These are war crimes. We suffer in this age from an indifference toward criminality and a callousness to catastrophe when it comes to poor and working people….

I knew he would have rightwing opposition, but he hasn’t tried…When he came in, he brought in Wall Street-friendly people and he hasn’t said a mumbling word about the institutions that have destroyed two generations of young black and brown youth, the new Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex. It’s not about race. It is about commitment to justice. He should be able to say that in the last few years, with the shift from 300,000 inmates to 2.5 million today, there have been unjust polices and I intend to do all I can. Maybe he couldn’t do that much. But at least tell the truth. I would rather have a white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones.” (-Dr. Cornel West)

“Murder is our national sport. We murder tens of thousands with our industrial killing machines in Afghanistan and Iraq. We murder thousands more from the skies over Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen with our pilotless drones. We murder each other with reckless abandon. And, as if we were not drenched in enough human blood, we murder prisoners―most of them poor people of color who have been locked up for more than a decade. The United States believes in regeneration through violence. We have carried out blood baths on foreign soil and on our own land for generations in the vain quest of a better world. And the worse it gets, the deeper our empire sinks under the weight of its own decay and depravity, the more we kill.” (-Chris Hedges)

“I am not drawing any conclusions from any of this, but I will say that when government agencies at all levels and a private contracting firm are all this obtuse and secretive (and in some cases even deceptive) about what should be a simple question — who hired these men? — my suspicions are aroused. Somebody’s clearly hiding something.” (-Dave Lindorff)

“Gentle Reader, The Word will leap on you with leopard man iron claws, it will cut off fingers and toes like an opportunity land crab, it will coil round your thighs like a bushmaster and inject a shot glass of rancid ectoplasm.” (-William S. Burroughs)

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” (-Ernest Hemingway)

“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” (-Albert Camus)

“I don’t wannahear about what the rich are doing
I don’t wanna go to where the rich are going
They think they’re so clever, they think they’re so right
But the truth is only know by guttersnipes…”
(-Joe Strummer)


I’ll tell you who’s a real authentic, contemporary, heavy-weight rockstar, in the greatest sense of the word. RICH FERGUSON. RICH FERGUSON. RICH FERGUSON. Say it with me, people, RICH FERGUSON! You probably don’t know the name yet, because he’s not related to a pinky-ringed former record executive, and he’s not currently paying a publicist, and you won’t see him on cable tv, or wardrobe malfunctioning onstage at sporting events, or discussing diet products he’s using to get the perfectly buff bikini body in “Us Magazine”, but all his work has the righteous wino-jazz visionary ring of truth, like Joe Strummer, or John Trudell. Like Tupac Shakur and Hunter S. Thompson. RICH FERGUSON is not just laying down the timeless beat gospel with an immediate medicinal effect in these treacherous, wretched times, but he’s conveying all his hard truth with all the beauty and inspiration of a great painter. He is to the word what Mick Ronson was to the guitar. What Banksy is to street art. What Lemmy is to heavy metal! Bukowski gets boozed with Mingus and Monk and Joyce and e.e. Cummings. Literary giants, rockers, revolutionaries, and cunning linguists of many feathers are agreeing that RICH FERGUSON may be the most important American writer in decades. Everyone who’s written about L.A. nights, from Danzig to Exene to Napolitano and Kiedis has been compared to Jim Morrison, but few of those eighties punks consistently delivered words with this much weight and substance, photo-realism and nutritional value.  RICH FERGUSON’S significant, provocative, and dazzlingly evocative works combine the rebel spirit of our most conscious, miltant hip-hop culture from Last Poets to Immortal Technique and Boots Riley and Killer Mike, with the pulsing, imaginative, cascading language of Burroughs and Ginsberg; and gritty streetwise narratives of Jim Carroll. He’s got that nurturing Patti Smith shamanic healer thing goin’ on. His spoken word material that you can see and enjoy on Youtube is a broadly diverse array of musical experimentation, stand-up comedy, right-on Native American earth vibes and radical machine gun genius poetry. He is off the charts. I used to write a lot of punk rock and protest songs. I’m pretty good, a lot of people are pretty good, Ferguson is out of this world. Phenomenal. Like Jim Morrison and Patti Smith, he is a poet who works also in music and film, and the dude just lives and breathes magic. I was very close to releasing a collection of lyrics, poems and anecdotes last year, until I discovered RICH FERGUSON and honestly, I had to reassess my own life’s work. Just witness a couple of RICH FERGUSON’S prolific psalms. He’s my kind o’ soul man. Dig.

“How we live as freedom fighters,easy riders,bookworms and barflies.The broken and abandoned.Life takers, halo makers,earth shakers, gravity breakers. See howwe live everyday,born and reborn into castesof cruelty and consciousness.Wild-eyed dreamers,sucker-punched underachievers.”

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Where did you grow up, what was your family like, and what were you like in school?

RICH FERGUSON: Until I was 12, I lived in North Carolina. Was brought up with people all around me telling stories: ghost stories, folk tales, gossip, you name it. I loved the power of words, how you could put certain words together to create stories―be they amusing, touching, scary. Throughout elementary school, I was always writing some poem or creative story. Was also a voracious reader. My mom helped to encourage my love of reading. She made sure that my brother and I had plenty of books at home; was constantly reinforcing the power, beauty and magic of words.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE:  When did you first discover music, what bands and songwriters first inspired you?

RICH FERGUSON: At the age of five, I became intrigued by the drums. I’d beat the family’s Naugahyde sofa to pieces whenever “Wipeout” came on the radio. Through the years, I’d constantly beat on schoolbooks, tabletops, and car dashboards whenever Rush, Deep Purple, or Golden Earring blared over the radio. I didn’t start playing drums, though, until my first year of college. Guess you could say I was a late bloomer in that department.

Some bands/drummers that specifically inspired me: Neil Peart (Rush), Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons, Frank Zappa, etc.), Tony Williams, John Bonham (Zep). They all had crazy amazing chops. I’d spend hours locked in my room, trying to learn a certain beat or drum fill.

Once I got into a band, though, my interests changed. No longer was I so driven by pyrotechnic beats, but strong lyrics and melodies. Sometimes these songs would have simple beats, and chord structures. And sometimes they’d be a bit ragged around the edges. But something about these songs truly moved me.

Songwriters and bands that influenced me during this time: Bob Dylan, REM, Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Big Star, the Violent Femmes, Nirvana, the Pixies, Townes Van Zandt. The list goes on and on…

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: When did you first discover you wanted to be a performer?

RICH FERGUSON: Back when I was in second grade, I was itching to be in whatever school play was happening. Was always wanting to get in front of the class to read whatever creative story or poem I’d recently scribed.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Earliest bands, Bloom, Fuzzy Doodah, others?

RICH FERGUSON: Back in the 80s I was in a band called Blue Movie; a scrappy folk-punk trio out of S.F. Sort of like REM meets the Violent Femmes at an orgy hosted by Bob Dylan. I played drums standing up. That was a huge kick. We all sang lead from time to time. Toured the States and Canada and released a couple records.

In the 90s, I moved to L.A. and helped to create a band called Bloom. I was the lead singer, and also continued playing stand-up drums. After a while, though, I switched solely to singing. While Blue Movie had a very scrappy, folky sound, Bloom had a very big, guitar-heavy sound. We also had a lap steel player, Jett Soto. He really helped to make that big guitar sound truly sing.

Jett and I created a side project called Fuzzy Doodah: my spoken word, and his lap steel guitar. It was quite pure, quite magical. Jett was one of the most bighearted people I’ve ever known. It came out in his music and actions. We played the SXSW a couple times. That was a blast. Eventually, Jett drank himself to death. That was a crushing blow to me, and the rest of the Bloom guys. The band pretty much fell apart after that. I kinda fell apart after that too. Didn’t do much music or spoken word performing. It took me a good few years to start coming back out into the spotlight. To this day, I still think of Jett.

My new band We Voice Sing (co-created with musician Bo Blount) will soon be releasing our debut CD Of Wishbones and Gunfire. I made sure to have producer/musician Andrew Bush play some lap steel guitar on a couple tracks so I could have that “Jett” feel back in my life again.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Writers that changed your life?

RICH FERGUSON: After I’d packed my drums, stereo, and clothes into my little Toyota and hightailed it from Jersey to California, I ended up at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. One of the first books I picked up was Gregory Corso’s Gasoline. Right then I knew I wanted to be a poet.

Other poets that have deeply influenced me along the way:

Patti Smith, Jim Carroll, Bob Holman, Richard Brautigan, Neruda, Rumi, Wanda, Coleman, Bukowski, Ginsberg, Kerouac, the Beats, Anne Waldman, Jean Toomer, Leonard Cohen.

And certain fiction writers: Denis Johnson, Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Zora Neale Hurston, Marc Richard, William T. Vollman, George Saunders.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: How did you connect to new wave and punk rock? Do I understand you were a Missing Persons fan?

RICH FERGUSON: I enjoyed some New Wave, especially Blondie, The Cars and Gary

Numan. But really, it was Punk that spoke to me in a much bigger way. The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Black Flag: loved their raw energy and emotion, also their interest in rebellion and social protest. In fact, the S.F. band I was in, Blue Movie, our second record was produced by Klaus Flouride from the DKs. That was a huge honor for us. We were such Dead Kennedys fans at the time.

As for Missing Persons, yes I was a fan, but mainly because of my connection to Terry Bozzio. He’s one of the most dynamic, most creative drummers alive. Thanks to drummer Rich Mangicaro, I had the great pleasure of meeting Terry a few years ago. He even appeared in one of my spoken word videos entitled “From Within to Without”. Here’s a link to it:

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE:  Do you feel part of the hip-hop tradition, any favorite rappers?

RICH FERGUSON: I don’t feel that I’m a part of the hip-hop tradition. And I don’t consider myself a rapper. Don’t even try to be. Not that I don’t enjoy rap. In fact, there are some rappers that I truly love. NAS is one that comes to mind. Love his writing, his attitude. I just think it would be silly for me to try to rap. About as silly as me trying to become a long-distance trucker. Just because I can drive doesn’t mean I can handle a huge truck. And just because I possess a rhythmic delivery from time to time doesn’t mean I’m cut out to rap.


RICH FERGUSON: Absolutely. I respect his attitude, his songs, and vocal delivery. In fact, my old band Blue Movie used to cover one of his songs,

“Satellite of Love”. Once when Blue Movie was on tour we played CBGBs with Moe Tucker (drummer from the Velvet Underground). That was such a huge honor. I was such a VU fan. Still love listening to their music.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: When did you first start doing spoken word performances, tell me about L.A.’s literary underground….

RICH FERGUSON:I started doing spoken word back in the 80s when I was living in SF. Basically grew up in public, right on stage. I was fortunate to have some very seasoned poets take me under their wings and show me the ropes.

Once I moved to L.A. in the 90s, I started hanging with poets like S.A. Griffin, Scott Wannberg (R.I.P.), Iris Berry, Pleasant Gehman, and Yvonne de La Vega. I was also very fortunate to become a part of the Onyx spoken word scene created by Milo Martin and Ben Porter Lewis.

These days, I don’t make the scene quite as often as I’d like. I’m busy at home writing, or rehearsing with We Voice Sing. Though there are a couple readings that I attend from time to time: The Poets’ Perch (created by Tiger Moon), and the People’s Mic (created by Brooke Benson and Chance Foreman). Both series nicely mix established writers with newer voices. There’s also a strong sense of community at both events. That’s especially important in a such a huge city like L.A. where it’s often difficult to connect with other artists.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Discuss 8th & Agony, Punk Hostage Press, Iris Berry, A. Razor, Yvonne de La Vega, etc.

RICH FERGUSON: Iris and I have known each other for years through various L.A. lit and music circles. I’ve always been extremely impressed by her talent, ethic, and persevering nature. So when she and A. Razor asked me to be a part of Punk Hostage Press, I was overjoyed. Since I hadn’t yet released a book I had the luxury of choosing works that I felt would create a well-rounded collection. I’m quite proud of 8th & Agony. It contains some of my prose poems mixed with other pieces that are tough, lyrical, and humorous.


RICH FERGUSON: At its core, We Voice Sing consists of musician Bo Blount and myself. We’ve been together for about two years. We owe our meeting to Seattle poet Glen Still. Glen was rounding up different poets and having Bo create beats to accompany their work. I was one of the poets asked to be a part of the collective. Coincidentally, the poem I offered up was entitled “We Voice Sing”. I was so impressed with Bo’s music for the track that I contacted him to see if we could continue working together. Luckily, Bo lived in the L.A. area, so it made things quite easy for us to continue our collaboration.

Here’s a link to our first track “We Voice Sing”

Our forthcoming CD Of Wishbones and Gunfire is a hybrid of spoken word and music. On some tracks I’m just speaking. There are others where I’m speaking and singing, and still others where I’m purely singing. I just love to blur that line between song and spoken word.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: What do you do to make money?

RICH FERGUSON: For the last twelve years, I’ve been an elementary school teacher for LAUSD. I mainly teach fifth grade, but I’ve also taught fourth.

It’s definitely one of the most physically and mentally demanding jobs I’ve ever performed, but it’s also been one of the most rewarding. I love to see the light bulbs go off in those kids’ heads when they suddenly grasp a concept. Every day, they teach me a lot about trying to be more patient, more joyful, and to live life in the moment.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: What was the most fun you ever had?

RICH FERGUSON: It would have to be when I was on tour with my old band, Blue Movie. It was all about camaraderie, seeing the sites, playing music, meeting new people. Meeting new people, that was one of my favorite parts of touring. I never ceased to be amazed by the kindness and generosity of strangers that would come to shows and later want to feed us, give us a play to stay. I hope that I have the opportunity to tour with We Voice Sing. I would love to once again tap into that camaraderie and generosity.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Is the Poetiscape podcast something you host, or were you a guest on it?

RICH FERGUSON: Poetiscape is a podcast that I created in collaboration with Tyson Cornell at Rare Bird Lit. I pretty much owe it all to Tyson. It was his idea for me to start a podcast where I could promote my poetry collection, and talk to poets and other artists. I’ve been quite lucky to have some wonderful guests on the show to date: Bob Holman, Jont, Rob Roberge, Terry Wolverton, Aris Janigian, Erika Rae, Sid Hillman, Milo Martin, Jace Daniel, James Morrison, Crystal Lane Swift, and more.

It’s definitely been a learning experience for me. Each week, I get better at refining my questions, and becoming more and more comfortable with being on air. It’s on the Goodreads Rare Bird Lit channel, and airs live every Sunday at 2 p.m.PST.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Didn’t one of your collaborators work with Lucinda Williams?

RICH FERGUSON: Absolutely! It’s my good buddy Butch Norton. Not only does he currently play drums with Lucinda, but he was also co-founder of the group Eels.

Butch played drums on my first spoken word/music CD, Where I Come From. He’s also appeared in a few of my spoken word/music videos, and we perform together live from time to time. Butch also drums on the forthcoming We Voice Sing CD. I just love his playing. It’s tough, tight. He’s also a rare breed of player that leaves his ego at the door when he steps into a rehearsal room. He’s all about what best serves the music. Plus, he’s a super funny guy. I’d hang out with him for that quality alone.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE:  Battlefield-Amerikkka is losing any trace of liberty or equal rights, as they eviscerate the Bill Of Rights, privatize prisons, militarize police, conduct military operations in “the homeland”, fondle our families in the airports, spy on our personal communications. There’s no accountability for white collar banking fraudsters, torturers, war criminals, propagandists, or unscrupulous elements of our government and military who lied us into all these bogus wars and drug wars. What hope is there for humans who still believe they should have the right to know what they are eating, peacefully assemble, organize labor and civil rights movements, protest injustices, etc., when the Monsanto lobbyists control the regulatory agencies, cops and military are so willing to point assault weapons at reporters, conduct door-to-door Afghanistan night raids, use chemical grade weapons on student protesters, taser people resulting in over 500 deaths, I guess I’m asking what ideas you have, if any, for reclaiming anything close to peace, freedom, and human rights in this nation when the majority seem so brainwashed by the extremist rightwing consolidated media….

RICH FERGUSON: I don’t know if I have a truly profound or impacting response for this one. All I know is that, as cliche as it may sound, peace starts at home. It starts with the individual. Once we can become comfortable in our own skin, once we can start to truly embody ideas of love and peace, then we can share those gifts with others. I try to accomplish those goals through my writing, my music, my teaching, and actions. Yoga also helps to keep me strong, centered, and on the right path. Does it all feel like a losing battle at times? Absolutely. But what else is there to do? Succumb to the greed, hate, and ignorance that abound? Absolutely not! And so we continue to fight the good fight…

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: What current artists and writers do you relate to or admire or see as kindred spirits?

RICH FERGUSON: In terms of music, I love the Flaming Lips. Love their sense of adventure and play. I’d love to open for them. Heck, I’d even love to play tambourine for them, or even roadie. I also enjoy Sigur Ros and Radiohead. Their music is so epic and original. I also admire a duo out of Baltimore, Wye Oak. Jenn Wasner has such a hauntingly beautiful voice. I also enjoyed Soul Coughing. Was so bummed when they broke up. Though I still enjoy listening to Mike Doughty. He’s someone I’d like to one day perform with. In terms of writers, I enjoy reading a current poet, Kevin Young. I also love Saul Williams. He’s great on the page and stage. He has such a strong command of words, rhythm and social responsibility.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Where can people acquire your poetry collection?

RICH FERGUSON: Amazon is probably the easiest place for people to find 8th & Agony.

Here’s a link for it:

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Current events, plans for the future?

RICH FERGUSON: Right now it’s all about releasing the We Voice Sing CD. Once that’s out, Bo and I need to hit the ground running with promotion, and hopefully do some touring. Besides the States, I’d love to make it over to Europe at some point. That’s a dream for me―to perform in Europe.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE:  Some books you think people should read?

RICH FERGUSON: Denis Johnson: Jesus’ Son
Marc Richard: Charity
George Saunders: CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia
Patti Smith: Just Kids
The Beats
Wanda Coleman
James Dickey: A poem called “Falling”
Sam Shepard: Motel Chronicles
Russell Edson: The Tunnel
Tomas Transtromer: Selected Poems
Saul Williams: Said the Shotgun to the Head
Rob Roberge: The Cost of Living
Aris Janigian: This Angelic Land
Jace Daniel: Under Angels
Anything out on Punk Hostage Press.

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: Essential records?

RICH FERGUSON: REM (Murmur and Reckoning), Patti Smith (Horses), Rush (Farewell to Kings and 2112), Hüsker Dü (Zen Arcade), The Replacements (Tim), Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde), Soul Coughing (Ruby Vroom), The Breeders (Last Splash), Chris Whitley (Din of Ecstasy), Elliott Smith (Either/Or).

SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE: THANK YOU for taking the time to let us interview you. I urge everyone within the sound of my voice to purchase Rich Ferguson’s new book, “8th & Agony” on Punk Hostage Press!