Baroque, Bubblegum and Bittersweet.
Sweet Sweet Music talked to Butch Young. About Mercury Man, “crypto-religious” references, a poppy melody with life-and-death-related imagery , The Trashcan Sinatras and keeping “both feet in”.
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“The album’s occasionally crypto-religious lyrics may leave you wondering what Young is on about,” writes MusoScribe’s Bill Kopp. How does religion influence your music?
While religion in no way influences my music (the melodic/instrumental aspects), such matters have indeed infiltrated my song lyrics. I did (quite subconsciously) sprinkle-in some “crypto-religious” references.
While I am mindful/curious about “spiritual” matters (for lack of a better word: Big Questions/Theories about the origin/nature/meaning of Life/Love/Death), I’m not at all “religious.” I don’t subscribe to any religious dogma. I interpret religious books and ideas poetically/symbolically – as opposed to literally.
I have a powerful faith in Love/Mercy/Kindness/Karma but not much else. I studied Comparative Religions and Alan Watts along with Bowie’s “Quicksand” lyrics and (post- Beatles) Lennon and Harrison. These songwriters cryptically remarked upon “God/Krishna/Karma” and “the great salvation of bullshit faith.” Some of their lyrics left me scratching my head (till it opened a crack and some light shone in).
My own such allusions tend to employ more of a wink-and-smile than those of the aforementioned late-greats. I figure “tongue-in-cheek” is a more advisable tone to strike within the context of my sugary, four-minute pop shuffles.
Your songs really require the listener’s attention. Only if you listen carefully will the full beauty will be “shown.” Does that make sense?
I think I understand what you mean. There’s a variety of instrumentation, vocal layers, counterpoint, etc. I suppose it does get somewhat busy and baroque in places — which is why I chose certain other places to drop almost everything out for a few bars — to cleanse the listener’s palette with at least a moment or two of sparseness.
I’m fully aware that (depending upon the listener) this polyphonous approach may be considered a plus or a minus. There’s something to be said for “Easy Listening” (not intended here as a pejorative). Headphones (good ones, anyway) never hurt!
One Foot In is my favorite song, featuring soft melodies and strong lyrics. Can you tell me more about it?
It’s certainly (lyrically) non-linear. Juxtaposing a fun, poppy melody with life-and-death-related imagery. A series of phonetically-suitable and pointedly provocative non sequiturs. It’s vaguely about the perils of indecision, procrastination, tentativeness.
One foot active and the other inactive. One foot in life; the other in the grave. Death is inevitable and we’re all doomed/helpless – so hopefully that realization may serve to heighten our appreciation of the here-and-now and the beauty that surrounds us.
There’s a bit of God/Death-baiting in there as well: “Well come on, let’s have it” and: “Let’s get down to it” and: “That’s right, God damn it!”
You would need quite a band to perform “Mercury Man” live. Possible?
True, I would – though it’s absolutely possible. To perform it with all the parts represented on the album would require one very populated stage. What a delight that would be! I’ve performed some of these songs live – but on each occasion, it was a more scaled-down arrangement of instruments/musicians.
If you could tour the world with two other bands, which two would you choose?
I’m going to assume you mean living and extant bands (?) Otherwise this fantasy could get really far fetched! Let’s see… I’ll go with: Teenage Fanclub + The Trashcan Sinatras.
What will 2017 look like?
It will include lots more writing and recording (getting the next album shaped-up) + collaborating with different musicians (“calling all string quartets and horn sections!”) + more live performances + another music video + broadening the scope of my contacts & relationships + keeping “both feet in.”