IN A MUSIC WORLD where self-absorbed introspection and shallow party songs move units, Portland's Ape Shape choose substance and messages over status quo. Theirs are protest songs turned into party songs, big beats and rowdy punk pop songs co-opted from the spineless and used to forward a proactive, progressive, smart set of ideas. I talked with Ape Shape's Ralf Youtz about what his band wants to say and, unlike the usual crop, he actually knew—and he told me in clear, well-thought-out answers.

MERCURY: What does the Ape Shape of January 2007 have to say to Portland?

RALF YOUTZ: I'd urge people to consider people other than themselves. It's easy to love and support family and friends. It's more challenging to love and support people you don't know. So just try extending that love you feel further. First to every one on the block, then the street, the neighborhood, the town, the county, on and on. Once we've got that, it's easier to make decisions that benefit people other than ourselves. [Also,] dance! Shows are much better if everyone moves. The only 'bad' dancing is standing still. Seriously, it's fun.

Songs like "Publicization" have solid arguments against American status quo. For people who haven't heard you—or more so that song—tell us what you're saying.

Since the market only serves the needs of consumers when they are free to choose between products, private control of utilities doesn't make sense to me. We don't get to choose between providers for electricity or natural gas. Just like I think it'd be evil to make money selling water to someone dying of thirst, I don't think utilities or healthcare should be profit-driven industries. Does that make sense? Actually I just sung that song to myself and the second verse seemed to say all that pretty concisely with some okay rhymes.

Do you think the US will ever adopt socialized healthcare? And, if the government decided to foot the bill for gas and electric utilities, what would that mean for us? Would we get pummeled by new taxes?

Eventually there won't be any option besides socialized healthcare. Those are complicated questions, but just generally I'd rather pay for necessities with taxes and have some oversight (through my elected representatives) over their administration than support corporate interests.

It would drastically increase our taxes, but we should save more than that much money without private care. Plus those taxes would be progressive!  Ah, I love the dream world.