December 25, 2017
I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor
#12: ‘Doin’ the Dishes’
Hey kids! Sorry I spaced on the November issue, my bad. Reality happens. Reality is weird. Anyway, I thought that seeing as it has now been a year since I’ve been writing this here dealio that I’d throw in a little bonus. It occurred to me recently that while this entire time I’ve been supplying you all with audio to listen to as you read my b.s. I haven’t ever provided lyrics for some reason. Well, I’m pleased to say I’m rectifying that right now. For the first time ever (and I mean ever; we’ve never even included them in any album packaging, etc.) I am printing my lyrics to all the songs featured thus far on this blog. Perhaps this helps fill in the picture a bit? Just for fun I have created a new page on our website containing all the lyrics to each song. Now while you’re excitedly reading about and/or listening to these awesome tunes you can follow along!
So, if you’re new to ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ feel free to check out every action-packed second of all our past issues and if you’ve been following this column faithfully from the beginning (which if you have THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!) then maybe go back and re-read them all, this time with the added enjoyment of printed lyrics, whoopee! Sorry, no bouncing ball though. Anyhoo, I figure it’s the least I can do as thanks for reading my monthly rag. That said, let’s get to this month’s victim: the mighty rocker that closes side one of 2014’s Day 5, ‘Doin’ the Dishes’.
You don’t know just what you’ve got
My memory is flashing to a sunny afternoon when I was about 16 or so. While riding the route 41 bus out to Evergreen I had a most peculiar little epiphany. Either I was listening to my Walkman or just something in my head (see issue #10), but suddenly I noticed what could best be described as spontaneous visual accompaniments, rhythmically attached to the music I was hearing. Although varying in intensity and frequency of occurrence, these experiences were generally pretty subtle. Upon intuiting that there might be something happening here akin to the thing at the bus stop back in kindergarten (also see issue #10), I tried to actively participate whenever suspecting this would-be ‘extra-sensory’ conundrum might show up again to confuse and amuse me.
Apparently it’s a thing called synesthesia whereby one’s senses get crossed. A common example of this is ‘seeing sound’ as vibrations manifest visually. It’s hard to describe; very abstract and kind of peripheral. I’ve never perceived any discernable forms, it’s like random colors and squiggles wiggling and bouncing about whatever physical environment I happen to be in at the moment. It happens sometimes when I shut my eyes, too. Anyway, it’s weird and kinda cool. Synesthesia isn’t really the point of all this, it’s just an entertaining curious quirk. It struck my attention around the time I first started writing songs and likely influenced my perspective and approach.
Now I’ve brought up several occasions whereupon I was inspired and whooped up a song in my head on the spot, not being anywhere near a musical instrument. What I haven’t really touched on however is the real-time environmental aspect of inspiration. I become aware of the sea of sounds surrounding me. I’ll isolate specific, individual ones and incrementally layer them unconsciously, occasionally resulting in a creative spark that might turn into a song. It’s like hearing songs within all those sounds. If you listen hard enough, there’s always a song.
Don’t fall down, don’t get up
Sometimes when I’m busy doing something completely unrelated to music and I’ve got like a zillion thoughts invading me all at once, my brain tends to leapfrog. My OCD will kick in and I’ll fixate on this, that and the other. Frankly, it comes close to pushing me over the edge so it’s a welcome relief when the useless noise gets knocked away by constructive/expressive noise. One day years back at my old place I was literally doing the dishes when I mentally staggered into the main riffs that would eventually drive the song. A lot of times it’s as if melodies and chord progressions will just fly by. It’s like music exists everywhere in the ether in one big never ending symphony. Every once in a while I just so happen to rip a chunk of it out and fix it into something I call a song.
Songs are snapshots of moments in time. In this moment I’m not sure if it was the rhythm of the running water clinking in a pattern against the stainless steel sink, the cat scratching the couch again (like she knew she wasn’t supposed to!), the wood pecker outside off in the distance pecking away pointlessly or some combination thereof, but the gnarliest, Soundgardenesque riff materialized in my mind and just would not leave me alone. The whole thing is so random and I often get caught up in an odd stream of consciousness musical mumbling habit while doing things like walking down the street, waiting in line for stuff, going to the bathroom and in this case, doing the dishes (not all in that order or at the same time). Remember, if you care to listen (or look) hard enough songs are everywhere, all the time.
I’m gonna break my rusty cage and run
- Soundgarden (‘Rusty Cage,’ 1991)
So, standing there at the kitchen sink, gloves on, greasy dishes soaking, I was once again ridiculously overwhelmed by those zillion stupid little thoughts. My mind was getting carried away. Thankfully, music showed up to block out the bullshit. When my brain starts leapfrogging thought to thought on overdrive it’s like a virus; multiplying, intensifying, mutating. It becomes difficult to follow one train all the way down the track, so to speak. That’s why it’s wonderful when the system intermittently crashes altogether. I get a moment of mental respite, clarity and oxygen which never lasts long enough. Sometimes I re-boot via a pleasantly nagging song diversion.
There wasn’t anything especially noteworthy as far as any kind of grand scheme on this one, I just thought it really rocked (also, I could see purple and greenish squiggles jumping all over the place out of the corner of my eye as I recall. Whatever that means?)! It’s fairly musically straightforward as far as my songs can tend to go and remains virtually identical to that afternoon standing over the sink with steel wool scraping my skin. I jammed it out a bunch around that time with various friends in my basement, but mostly just kinda filed it away with so many other orphan songs and fragments.
From the outset I’d always called the song ‘Doin’ the Dishes’, partly as a working title that fit for obvious reasons, but it was more than that. I sensed an abstract expressionist vibe happening (ha-ha!) To me if it were a painting it might conceptually aspire to convey an urge to purge one’s psyche; doing the ‘mental dishes’ as it were. Again, I digress. My explanation for the process of writing this song is turning out to be more of an effort than the actual composition of the song itself.
Suffice it to say it went for a long time without definite lyrics which I ultimately wound up improvising one night during band rehearsal shortly after Luke joined the group. Sometimes the right the thing to say just jumps out with zero conscious awareness of it’s meaning in the moment. I often find that I pretty quickly take note of the passages or phrases I begin to favor or gravitate toward in relation to the music. It’s important to me that music and lyrics fit together like lock and key (which isn’t to say the two cannot be mutually disparate in form or tone if that kind of contrast is what the ideal expression of a song calls for). I prize when I can tell what a piece of music is trying to say even without words or singing.
Hell is your friend, welcome home
I don’t know if there’s any specific deep meaning behind ‘Doin’ the Dishes’, but I can tell you I was in a personal hell at the time and I needed to scream. In combining all the screaming, drowning cries of bloody murder with a dark, catchy melody the vocals serve to more than effectively enhance the pissed off feel I was reaching for. It’s one of my favorite Day 5 songs and one of my favorite HW songs, period. Dig the juxtaposition in the way ‘All In This Together’ segues into ‘Doin’ the Dishes’ at the conclusion of side one. The entire band were in the room at the same time recording the song live, in real-time, no overdubs except for vocals. Seriously, any time you can get a tune to tear up on a record the way it does when you rock it live, well that’s really something. That’s rock n’ roll and I think we pulled it off here.
Happy Holidays! Shazbot, Nanu Nanu
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