MC5's Wayne Kramer

Incendiary proto-punk icon guitarist/vocalist Wayne Kramer co-founded Detroit's politically charged MC5 in 1965, setting up a countercultural counterpoint to the hippie movement. Wringing every ounce of shrieking socio-political consternation out of its instruments as the band kicked out the jams, the MC5 filtered primal hormonally charged soul and exploratory free jazz into unadulterated rhythm and bruise.

The MC5's uncompromising stance on freedom would find the group freed from many a contract and needing to be freed from jail and drug addictions. While the group splintered in 1972, Kramer, bassist Michael Davis and drummer Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson are now touring as DKT/MC5, a "celebration" of the MC5's music and stance in a political climate similar to that of the group's beginnings. Listening to songs over the phone from Ohio, Kramer took a moment to share with CL some of the stories art has carried for him for nearly four decades, and what went into the MC5's version of a blues journeyman.

Creative Loafing: The Doors, "Light My Fire" (1967)

Wayne Kramer: The Doors. That song came out summer 1967, and I remember hearing it as Detroit was burning. We were all part of a generation in agreement, where I don't believe there is one today. When we were 19 to 21, we were in agreement that the course the government was on was wrong, and we were all frustrated because they weren't listening to us. They didn't hear until all the cities burned and tens of thousands of young Americans were killed in a war that wasn't necessary. Not unlike today.

The Isley Brothers, "Shout" (1959)

The Isleys. All bands in the early days were required to play that song. That, "Shake a Tail Feather," "Gloria" and "Louie, Louie," mostly because they were all dirty. At least we believed their lyrics to carry some hidden sexual, illicit message. It was all about the sex. [laughs] On one level, I was a male go-go dancer. All I did was bump and grind. It was all unrestrained enthusiasm, reckless, total commitment to recreational drug use, the rejection of social conventions. We were trying to develop a methodology for playing music and for living based on believing we had unbridled energy and improvisational freedom and imaginative explorations.

Howlin' Wolf, "Red Rooster" (1962)

It's Howlin' Wolf. Rob Tyner exposed me to this music early on. To John Lee Hooker. And it struck me it was music totally in the moment, with no set structure. It had a text that seemed almost visionary in its use of language. And the music had a living ebb and flow. I think there's a purity that connects to the free jazz movement later, the things that originally inspired the MC5 to push their sound further. Going onstage again, it's really about the art of performance, playing music for people without auto-tuning and click tracks, standing for principles in music that are important: passion, risk taking, commitment, and the joy of doing it.

Stone Temple Pilots, "MC5" (1999)

STP? Scott [Weiland] came up one day to say [STP] made a song they thought sounded like the MC5, so they named it that. I thought that was nice, though I didn't hear the connection. I heard the music of the first half of the '90s. But I didn't hear anything I'd call revolutionary music. Nor have I heard anything revolutionary in the West Coast punk bands. Really, all I've heard creatively in the last 10 years has been hip-hop. But that shouldn't stop anyone. I think the spirit of the MC5 is a sense of possibilities and self-determination, and if you want to make a difference, throw yourself into whatever, just do it wholeheartedly. In the end, you might leave the place a little nicer than you found it.

The White Stripes, "Looking at You" (a live version of the MC5 classic recorded in 2001)

Obviously I know the song, but whose version? Oh, the White Stripes. For the last 30 years, millions of dollars have been generated by slicing, dicing and remarketing ideas Fred Smith and I originated on the guitar, or Rob Tyner envisioned for a rock band. But as us rappers say, 'It's all good.' Detroit's a very tough city. Artists can come out like Jack White, Kid Rock, all types of descendents, although the real heir apparent is Eminem. To me, he is the MC5 today in his commitment to telling how he feels about things, to his brilliant lyricism and genius production techniques. His records are spectacular, and he has a commitment to his fans and his fans to him that scares the living daylights out of parents. — Tony Ware

DKT/MC5 plays the Echo Lounge Sun., June 20. 8 p.m. $20. The Echo Lounge, 551 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-681-3600. www.echostatic.com/echolounge