Art as Social Change with Julian Rhine

Julian Rhine, musician, rapper, producer and DJ talks about his single, "Better Than the Gun" and the political message to stop gun violence and support of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

"As a country, we're an embarrassment [regarding gun violence]."

"Here's the kicker, this isn't happening in other countries. I'm not saying we should take all our guns and throw them in a fire. I don't want you kid to take your gun and blow his head off. I'm not going to convince someone that 'guns are bad,' what I would like to do is convince everyone that this isn't the norm. This is not happening in other countries. This is an American issue."

On why we are fascinated with violence in entertainment, and the difference between fantasy violence and real violence:

"You can't show a nipple on TV, but you can show 1000 people getting limbs blown off...

"As long as you're not hurting anybody, you should be able to do what you want. I think that's the point of this country, I think that's the point of life."

"Anything you want to do in the virtual world, I'm all for it, in fact, I'm not just for it, I even suggest it.  I think it might be a good way to vent, so you don't end up killing anyone in real life."

How Art can be used for social change:

"Art is always leads the culture. If you the politicians on board, the powers that be, the people with money; Art is at the head of every movement ever. The Rennaissance...the the counter-culture of the 60's...Guys like JFK were important for that movement, but wasn't Bob Dylan at the front of that?"

"Music and Art has been integral in first, empowering the people on your side of the fence, war cry, whatever you want to call it. But most importantly, like you said, people don't want to hear an infomercial. I don't think art is a manipulator, it's honest expression."

"What a great piece of art can do is convince people that you do need to give yourself to something greater than yourself sometimes."

Creativity and his creative process.

 "I like to think I have a very organic approach most of the time...It does ultimately happen the same way."

" parents encouraged it...I've always written."

"Creativity is super key, but also organization and drive...when it comes to doing this professionally, I'm just not lazy. I do it."

"You gotta keep making content. Like you said, you can't force it, but I do think as much as we'd like to think of [creativity] as in the ethers, it comes down to you sitting down and doing it....It's practice."

"...and I'm nowhere near virtuosic ability. I think a lot of people get scared. Yeah 10,000 is great, but don't forget how much better you'll be in just 50 hours. You just gotta do it. You gotta feel it, but then you gotta sweat...2% inspiration, 98% perspiration."

On writer's block:

"There's no such thing as writer's block. I think writer's block is an excuse."

"There has never been a time that I sit down and the whole song comes out in one piece. The best authors go back to it, over and over."

"If it's not coming, move on and work on something else. You're not blocked from everything. Go somewhere else, anywhere else."

On emotion in creation:

"The great songwriters wrote how they felt in that moment. All moods can create a beautiful song.  No matter what mood you're in, don't fight it. Just express it."

"I think the best writing I've ever done has been drawn from real experiences...I don't know if Eminem ever had a real fan named Stan, but he was definitely drawing from real experiences."

"I had to put my thoughts into music because I couldn't express them in my head. I was overwhelmed with feeling. Don't shy away from feeling emotional and passionate. Let those [feelings] be your guide. Everyone has felt that way. It's your job as a writer to recapture  that feeling on paper."

On creation for the creator:

"I felt better about the world after I wrote 'Better Than the Gun'"

"It's for me. That's why I  make the songs. It's a cathartic experience...writing is a vent."

On using substance for creativity:

"The Beatles wrote Magical Mystery Tour after doing mushrooms because mushrooms are fantastic, they weren't on mushrooms when they wrote it."

"Have all the  experiences you want to have, carpe diem, YOLO, live your life...but you're not going to play as well if you're drunk. You're not going to know what a guitar is if you're on mushrooms..."

"I've been high in the studio a lot, but I wouldn't attribute anything to it. Writing about being high and being high while writing are different. I think everyone should experiment and figure it out for themselves. But when you wake up the next morning and you have 'squiggly line, squiggly line, circle' as your song, it's probably not going to work for you."

"Also, don't die. People die from substance abuse...Keith Moon was sweet, but he's dead. Janis Joplin...well she's dead. Kurt Cobain, he's dead. They all died from substance abuse."

"I think  if you like getting drunk or getting high, you shouldn't not do that to write a song. But it's not going to be as good if you're drunk."

"When I'm high, it's a conduit to bravery. I'm able to give less fucks. I'm able to rap more freely...but the next day when I read it back I think 'I can't believe I wrote this, this is a little bit too real.' Well that's gold. The shit I'm too scared to say, that's inevitably the line that I'm going to get fan mail on saying 'this line spoke to me.'"

"If anything, losing your inhibitions will help you in a certain way."

Final advice:

"Be's much easier that way...Your existence is your promotion."

"Be bold. Put it out there. Art is meant to be heard. Art is meant to be seen. Art is meant to be public. It is a gift that you are giving, it's a gift they are giving you by receiving. It's a giving-receiving circle."

"Also don't record shitty. Don't go to your basement and record on Garage Band and think you're done...You owe it to your audience to make sure it's mastered."

"There's more competition, but there's also so much more opportunity. This computer I'm on right now is equivalent to the equipment the Beatles used. The nobody can create a radio-ready song in two weeks."

Ruwan Meepagala

Ruwan brings people back to their instincts. He writes, teaches, and coaches on expressing creative energy. He hosts a video series about relationships and has a podcast on Perpetual Orgasm and Infinite Play. You can find more of his work at He lives in Austin, TX with his girlfriend and sometimes reads books while hanging upside down.