If it’s true that moments of beauty can be found in the midst of ugliness, then we have to accept that the reverse is also true.
There’s a place in the California mountains that’s the closest I’ll ever get to having a personal spiritual retreat. Literally out in the middle of nowhere, with limited internet and in a cell-dead zone, there’s nothing to do but revel in natural splendor. Smell the pine and creosote. Walk along the ridgeline and see down into the Fresno valley, surrounded by trees, tall grass, and meadows as the warm sun embraces you. It’s easy to empty yourself of all your cares and just…be.
It was on such an outing that I was empty enough to ask a curious, unanticipated question. That being: “What if everything you ever believed is a lie, and you have only lived to advance another’s agenda?”
Weird question. Even weirder response.
I’m glad nobody was around. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t see straight. All I could do was feel a burning, haunted, acidic rage. I wanted to break something. I wanted to burn the skies down. I wanted to shout rebellion and defiance to the universe.
When I got back, still seething with anger, I didn’t so much write as open the emotional floodgates and get out of the way. In less than 15 minutes, the lyrics to the song Defiled were complete. And for the record, this isn’t how my songwriting process usually works. Which is good – it would be way too fatiguing if I had to go through this every time.
Defiled is not a pretty song. It’s a revenge tale dripping with sadomasochism and torture imagery. As a songwriter, I don’t go out of my way to shock or offend; I don’t have anything to prove one way or the other lyrically. Sometimes, though, there just aren’t words jagged, or hateful, or malicious enough to communicate what you’re really feeling, so you punt to the imagery our culture understands. If turtles and rainbows communicated all the angst I felt in writing the tune, then the song would be about turtles and rainbows. And it would still be ugly.
The up side about writing lyrics like this is that it pretty well dictates where the music should land. Aggressive and unrelenting. Current heavy music usually dictates a slower, grinding tempo, but this felt more like it belonged to the thrash metal days of barely in control riffing. I think the basic musical sketch took less than 2 hours to form. The use of synthesizers and loops on this tune was in the plan from the beginning. I wanted some tones that sounded epic (and even intentionally dated) without sounding hokey. Distortion-saturated guitars can only give you so much sonically, and I’m quite happy with the contribution of the keys on this one. It was also liberating to bust out the metal chops and push to keep up with the tune. Don’t ask how long it took to record the guitars. This one was literally painful to play sometimes.
And, of course, it went without saying that Oily would sing it. We tried some supporting stuff with both Julie and hitch (hoping it would have that male/female duality a la KMFDM), but the female vocals never quite sounded right. Oily kept pushing to have the single singer, and I kept pushing back with trying the girl thing ONE MORE TIME. I’m glad he was persistent in his opinion; the tune is way more cohesive and brutal with just the male vocal energy paving the way.
Funny thing, even after all that. When we were mastering the song, Rick (our engineer) turned to me with a half-smile and commented, “You guys had fun recording this one, didn’t you?”
Yes, yes we did.