Sage Francis “A Healthy Distrust” Lyrics + Song Breakdowns

To help celebrate the 15th anniversary of my “A Healthy Distrust” album, I’ll be posting the lyrics along with background information for each of the 15 songs. All physical merch for AHD can be found HERE.

AHD can be streamed on all the usual sites including Spotify and Bandcamp.
SAGE FRANCIS MERCH

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12) “LIE DETECTOR TEST” Background Info:

Out of all the songs on A Healthy Distrust, “Lie Detector Test” is the only song with stream-of-consciousness style lyrics. I feel this helped with the chilled out nature of the track. I can’t remember much about writing any of this or if there was any particular inspiration behind it. Hell, I can’t even remember the “phantom” verse, which was never actually recorded, but it was included in the liner notes (shout out to Tim Prinz for reminding me of that recently.) The reason I can’t remember writing any of this probably had to do with a low pressure approach. I can remember writing a 30 page term paper in one night, but not a song I can actually provide real citations to. I’d love to do more chilled out songs of this sort, but it always depends on what kind of beats I’m provided and, ONCE AGAIN, Reanimator came through like a champ.

Something I didn’t even know until Reanimator emailed me about a few weeks ago is that the music was inspired by Nate Dogg’s “Friends.” I love me some Nate Dogg vocals, but I can’t say I’m familiar with that song so there’s no way I could have connected those dots. In Reanimation’s words: “I liked how the electric piano floated above the beat and lyrics and thought it would make a good background for a heartfelt personal story…I also wanted the beat to be an ultra-quintessential hip-hop pattern and I still think the bass line could be interchanged with Nate’s voice.” Reanimator went on to explain how this song put the kibosh on his Wurlitzer organ:

“The first half of Lie Detector Test is mostly samples, but when it changes for the last verse, that’s me playing the Wurlitzer EP-200a. Midway through, there was a pop and smoke came out of the back, so I had to loop what I was playing. I still have not taken it in to get looked at and haven’t been able to play it since. But I should soon because people who know how to work on those is rarer by the day.”

Sad! Seriously. Something that’s also sad is when people think I’m referencing Eminem’s “The Way I Am” with this lyric:

“I got a curfew. It’s 12 o’clock.
After that I’ll start trembling if I get fed hip-hop.
Why?! I’m a G to the R-E-M-L-I-N.
If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am?”

That part of the song is referencing two separate Rakim lyrics from two separate songs (one of which Eminem also references): “I’m the R to the A-K-I-M, if I wasn’t then why would I say I am?” – As The Rhyme Goes On
“After twelve I’m worse than a Gremlin, feed me hip-hop and I’ll start trembling.” – Microphone Fiend

So, yes, both Eminem and I referenced Rakim’s “As the Rhyme Goes On” lyric. Eminem’s song was much more popular than any song of mine will ever be, and I understand that more people will be familiar with the Eminem chorus than they will the Rakim lyric, but fuck me sideways with a chainsaw if I ever reference an Eminem lyric in earnest.

Side note for those who aren’t familiar with Gremlins: Never feed a Mogwai after midnight. They turn into Gremlins. I was going to provide a YouTube link as proof, but I guess you should just Google it if you’re into movies that gross out your grandma so much that she leaves you in the theater alone to go check out the Ghostbusters flick in the adjacent theater.

Here’s the section of lyrics that appear in the liner notes but not on the actual song:

“Got a flea circus, I’m trying to take it to the road.
Got a nervous tick, they think I’m faking it though.
Got some cat in a back alley scratching up my records.
Some big wigs with fat bellies asking for seconds.
Got a fly girl with a landing strip begging for hot wax.
A lonely upper lip and it’s begging for a mustache.
A prison system that listens to the parables of Johnny Cash.
A wannabe war hero who only travels in body bags.”

The faux shout-outs I do after after each chorus were all ad-libbed. Not much thought or planning went into those, but they still give me a bit of a giggle. I’d chalk that positive byproduct up to the laid back approach a song like this makes possible. It’s a very small thing that can add quite a bit to the overall song.

I don’t remember if I even used the actual beat during live performances. There was a stretch of time when I performed it over music that a group from Jamaica Plain gave me, but I don’t remember their name unfortunately. The CDR that the instrumental appeared on was in a booklet that got stolen from my van during a tour stop in San Francisco over a decade ago. I wish there was a better audio recording of the live performance, but here’s the only one I can find:

Even though “Lie Detector Test” is one of my sneaky favorite songs in my catalog, I went into this blog entry thinking I wouldn’t have much to say about it. Turns out I’m cutting myself a bit short so I can take care of other work that’s banging on my backdoor. Next week we explore “Bridle”…which will *definitely* be a short blog entry. Probably.

“LIE DETECTOR TEST” Lyrics:

I got a caveman banging on my back door.
I got a hangman hanging on my front lawn.
Got an old maid wasting away in the living room.
Kids in the kitchen and their mouths full of silver spoons.
Got a paper full of yellow journalism.
A restaurant waiter selling me words of wisdom.
The small town crier’s chilling with the village idiots.
Big city slickers are still busy building pyramids.
Got a diploma but no wall to hang it.
Tags on the bathroom stall to make me famous.
A job description that don’t fit the bill.
A fatal femme fatale dressed to kill.

Get me…out of this…lie detector test.
My pupils inhale and exhale.
My breath is a microphone check ch-check,
One, two, what is this?

“Yeah, I wanna give a big special shout to all the real people out there. Keeping it real. Reality is worth maintaining, know what I’m saying? Keep it up.”

In a world where these girl’s got retro tattoos,
And all I’ve got is a gut and velcro black shoes,
And elbows that move in a way that make space,
I’m looking at you (stay awake, stay awake.)
Natural face affected by the chemical leaks.
Grammatical mistakes in every sentence I speak.
It doesn’t matter, I make enough sense to seem deep.
Now look at me (go to sleep, go to sleep.)

“Yeah, I wanna give a shout out to my boy, Reanimator. Keeping it misanthropic and shit. My man Chris for doing his damn thing. Give a shout out to my microphone for keeping me company in this dark ass room, know what I’m saying? And my girl for killing all the ants in the kitchen. Peace, baby.”



I’m a poor man’s version of a rich man.
I got a small van swerving through a big land.
I got a road map that’s looking a lot like a math test,
Blocked phone number and a bunk home address.
I got a way out but I ain’t trying to use it,
‘Cause I got some ins and I’mma bet all my winnings.
If it hurts me more than it hurts you, then I won’t hurt you.
I got more sense than virtue.
I got a curfew. It’s 12 o’clock.
After that I’ll start trembling if I get fed hip-hop.
Why? I’m a G to the R-E-M-L-I-N.
If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am?
I said, “Get me out of this…lie detector test!”
My pupils inhale and exhale,
My breath is a microphone check ch-check,
One, two, what is this?

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11) “GROUND CONTROL” Background Info:

During my visit to Sixtoo’s Toronto apartment in 2004, we spent most of our time working on the production and vocals for “Ground Control.” The percussion on this song…oof. Now *these* are prime smash-you-in-the-face Sixtoo drums. I believe most of the melodic elements were played by the stylophone, which was used sparingly on the album version of “Crumble,” and a couple samples from a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. The other musical element is me whistling.

Although we experimented with several microphones, the only lead vocals I ended up keeping after returning to RI was the line where I say, “I wish I told you that when we were still talking.” There was a calm tone in that line that I couldn’t replicate, and it always sticks out to me when I listen to this song. One of my most vivid memories from my recording sessions with Sixtoo is when I did the “hooooooooooo” section during the outro. The goal was to do multiple takes where I yell “hooooo” without taking a breath for the full 8 bars. Easy enough. Then, upon each playback, we would spin in our swirly chair for that full segment. Not so easy.

The sing-songy parts that appear around the main choruses were from a song that had been floating around my notebook for some time. I’m not sure what motivated me to shoehorn these segment into “Ground Control,” but they worked out and, more than likely, I was never going to finish the sing-songy song considering I don’t have much of a singing voice. Case-in-point, I jumped ship during the second sing-songy segment due to not hitting the right notes, and it devolved into me just cursing and talking shit. We kept it. But this is what that segment was originally supposed to say:

“Bad, bad actor – flip that script now.
Read these cue cards – find your way out.
Casting call girl – give the gift of yourself…
To the dark.”

The main chorus is “Ground control to lost soul, ground control to lost soul. If you copy, come in lost soul. Come in lost soul. We lost contact.” I jacked that whole thing from a poet/rapper named Jonathan Brown. With his permission of course. We did a show together in South Carolina in the early 2000’s and that part of his poem got stuck in my head, so I asked him if he’d be cool with me incorporating it into a song. He kindly obliged, and then my dumbass falsely credited the line to the Josh Brown in the album’s liner notes. We’ve done a few shows together since then, and he continues to make really good music, so check him out when you get a chance.

A lot of shots are being taken in this song, and there’s been much speculation as to whom they’re aimed at. It’s not just one person. This is a conglomerate character who is comprised of “some of my best friends.” There are specific lines where I know the person it was intended for, but all in all it’s a general figure who’s disappointed me somehow. In fact, much like “Slow Down Gandhi” and “Buzzkill,” there was a piecemeal approach to the lyrics where I cherrypicked lines from several different notebooks.

I have to give another big shoutout to Chris Warren for the engineering and mixing that he did here as there was a lot of layering with vocal tracks that needed to occupy their own space in the mix. This is also the first time we experimented with time-stretching while affecting vocal pitches to go lower and lower during the “pick up, pick up, pick uppp” outro. Chris had always been opposed to using plug-ins for delays or vocal effects, and that’s why a lot of the vocal effects are unique to each project of mine he he’s involved with. For example, if I wanted a certain word or line to echo out, he’d ask me how I wanted it to sound. It’s not so easy demonstrating an echo, but I’d do my best. He eventually went on to develop his own plug-ins along with reverb technology which became quite a big deal, and he teaches sound science in San Diego. So shame on me for secretly begrudging him for not just pressing the standard delay button when I’d ask him for a “JUST A REGULAR ECHO.”

The vocal sample at the end of this song is from a live recording where I introduce myself as the “Bill O’Reilly of this hip-hop shit”, which is just to set up the part where I introduce my DJ “No Spin Zone.” At this point I realize this stuff isn’t going to make much sense to newer listeners, so I’d like to clarify some things. I most certainly am not trying to ingratiate myself to a notorious trash person like Bill O’Reilly. He had a popular “news” show on Fox called “No Spin Zone” and, since I used a CD Walkman instead of a DJ during this era, I called my CD player “DJ No Spin Zone.” Because, like…there weren’t any turntables…spinning. Fuck it, we’ll do it live!

11) “GROUND CONTROL” Background Lyrics:

“Sad, sad monster – turn those horns up.
Burn the back roads. Find your way out.
Troubled love life – give the gift of
Yourself…to the dark.”

Ground control to lost soul, ground control to lost soul.
If you copy, come in lost soul. Come in lost soul.
We lost contact. (
Abort mission.)
We lost contact.

Don’t these dead streets back you into bad corners?
Curbs crumble once you park your ass on ’em? (Sit down.)
Parking meter’s overdue. Violation goes unnoticed.
Out of all of those who tried to travel off road, you’ve come the closest.
I grant you this toast (this toast…)
To all of those who showed promise and never made one that broke.
I salute you! I never meant to lose you,
But I know this road don’t go where it used to. (Nah.)
I’ve got a map that looks a lot like your veiny arms.
It ain’t to scale, but it details the name of the songs.
And this one is called “Canceled Flight Blues.”
A manipulative twist I think that Manson might’ve used. (Oooooh.)
But poor musicians come a dime a dozen.
And you’re the egg man, a flash in the pan, and your yolk is running.
Who broke that hard outer covering?
Some chick in your mix you couldn’t level with, headless horseman?
Come the suffering! Go the direction!
You’re following air currents, but it was my drift you’re supposed to be catching.
Fishnets collect dust in stagnant water.
Haven’t heard back from you since the gag order.
Pussy cat got your tongue?
Pick it up up up up up up up up up… (end communication).

Ground control to lost soul,
If you copy, come in lost soul. Come in lost soul.
We lost contact.
We lost contact. (Abort mission.)



“Bad, bad actorrrrrrrrrrr – flip that script nowwwww.
c’monnnnnnn. Ya’ cock.
Bust my shitttttttttt.
Huhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
(YOU!)

You’re a lint ball who moves on the whim of the wind.
Confused flexible movement for freedom. (That ain’t free.)
If the walls you keep bouncing off of are closing in,
There’s only so much time before your rhythm gets broken. (You broke me.)
I could hear it speeding up before we lost signal.
It caused a ripple effect. Rings on the radar would intersect.
Now your fingers are off limits.
I can’t hold your hand longer than your attention span.
The two-way street we’re supposed to meet on?
It’s a one-way dead end. 
You’re some of my best friends.
Press send. Where are the donuts you’ve been lost inside?
Tow trucks you’ve been forced to ride? Hold ups at the border line?
Customs will confiscate costumes. 
(Eat my dust)
And get exhausted, force fed my car fumes.
I can’t afford the duty tax, so expensive.
Come off your head trip and visit where your old friends live.
You’re sensitive like the time. (Critical!)
You swore to god on a lie and didn’t die. (You’re invincible!)
Kiss the pavement, make love while cars spin.
Be careful when the unsafe sex parade comes a marchin’.
They’ve got full body condoms to carry you off in.
I wish I told you that while we were still talking.

Ground control to lost soul.
If you copy, come in lost soul.
Come in lost soul.
We lost contact.

Pick up, pick up, pick upppp.
If ya copy.
Pick up, pick up, pick upppp.
We lost contact.
Pick it up up up up up up up up up, UH UH, errrrrugh!

“I’m the motherfucker Bill O’Reilly of this hip-hop shit!
I want you to give it up for my DJ, No Spin Zone!”

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10) “CRUMBLE” Background info + The Additional Demo Verse:

The demo version of “Crumble” has drums throughout the song and it’s much longer than what appears on the album. Since I’m two weeks late with this blog entry I wanted to offer you a little something extra. Here’s the additional verse and the rest of the song which ended up getting lopped off:

Strange Famous Records · The lost “Crumble” verse from Sage Francis’ demo vault

This is obviously a snippet of the “Crumble” demo. The full demo will eventually be released as part of a “rarities” box set. Who knows when that will get put together, but in case you were wondering…now ya know. Back to the breakdown!

At some point in 2004 I flew to Toronto and stayed with Sixtoo for a few days to work on songs. Most of the time was spent on “Ground Control,” which is the song that “Crumble” transitions into. I’m very pleased with the version of “Crumble” that appears on the album, but now that I listen to the demo version I remember feeling unsure about using the song at all. It felt overwrought. It was another long song about unrequited love of some sort. The drums felt too stiff and/or mechanical for the subject matter and vocal delivery. In the demo version you’ll hear a long outro of the piano loop, but there was also a version where I used that part to say a lot of random personal stuff. I distinctly remember Sixtoo wincing and being like, “Nooooo, you can’t say thatttt.” It’s making me laugh thinking of it now, because he was totally right to scrap it. I was trying to overcompensate for whatever aspect of the song was striking me as “off” but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. It didn’t need more. It needed less.

Once I got home I stripped the drums and other parts of the music from the song, I simplified the “chorus” section by chopping out the sing-songy stuff, and Alias added a percussion section to help build a frantic crescendo ending. All in all, I feel this was the best move despite chopping off an entire verse that I liked and leaving it for dead. But now it’s getting to breathe a little, so that’s nice.

The main thing I remember about these Toronto recording sessions is Sixtoo renting various microphones to try and get the right sound for my voice. I didn’t even know that renting studio equipment was an option, so that was pretty novel in itself. Alas, I ended re-recording all of my vocals with Chris Warren when I returned to Providence, but that’s because I tend to be obsessive with vocal takes. Sixtoo would often switch his equipment and have new toys to play with. On the demo version of “Crumble” you can hear a synth line heavily featured throughout, which Sixtoo played on a stylophone:

That was his favorite toy of the moment. Considering how tiny the stylophone is, it’s not easy to play anything precisely, so it required a lot of takes. On the album version I believe the stylophone only appears just before everything ramps up at the end.

“Crumble” lyric artwork by Inkymole.

One lyric in particular that still pops out to me is when I say “I was a bike messenger without a bike.” Most of the lyrics are metaphorical, but that one is quite literal. During my short stint in NYC in 1996 I took a job as a bike messenger even though I didn’t have a bike. I ran everywhere while asking random people for directions and I ended up making just as many deliveries as the bike boys. For exactly one day anyway. After that I decided to look for another job and I never even went back for the payment that was owed to me. A whole $20. Also, there is a childhood scar on my chin. And, yes, I used to be able to jump over my own leg. But, no, I didn’t acquire that scar by jumping over my own leg. If you’re not interested in that kind of stuff, then maybe this acoustic cover of “Crumble” will tickle your biscuits:

Francis and Sixtoo lounging at Coachella, 2005

“CRUMBLE” Lyrics (including the additional demo verse):

They’ve said it every year but this time it seems like,
The end is near and I’m in line to see the light.
How far does this black tunnel go?
I’ve got a car, but the gas is running low.
And as long as i’ve known the bumps and creeks of this house,
It’s starting to make the types of sounds that only come from people’s mouths.
You can’t tell me it’s still settling,
Built on an Indian burial ground killing everything.
The childhood scar on my chin is back again.
That old jump-over-my-own-leg dance move has to end.
I’ve seen better days in my night terrors.
I was a bike messenger without a bike and I would write letters.
Then ask directions to your whereabouts,
Before the slow walk. The rest of the show-offs were peeling out.
Too many hares, but only one tortoise.
That’s why I left the city too fast pace for this ho-hum tourist.
By the time I developed the pictures,
They were as blurry as my memory of constant life fixtures.
If distance is a girl’s best friend,
Tell them bitches in the rough who think that love comes with diamonds.
Slave labor. You made me work for what I couldn’t have.
Diamonds cut, but coal burns, and nothing lasts forever.
I wonder why I bothered saving any of your letters.
They’re just aged paper. Crumble.
Slave labor. You made me work for what I couldn’t have.
Diamonds cut, but coal burns. Nothing lasts.
I wonder why I saved your urn of ashes…

Everything you’ve ever written me is sitting there whispering.
Reminding me of where it’s hidden.
But I’m not listening. And I’m not going back to what I can’t undo.
I’ll save it for a rainy day. Crumble. 

I’ve got an insecurity box to save your mail. 
Tracing the name on the return address as if it was made of braille. 
Pretended it was your finger, but careful not to be breaking a nail. 
The one that sealed the coffin shut. When it opened up then caused a paper trail. 
Since then I buried your dead sea scrolls, 
And emptied my head of these old trivial memories that I seem to hold. 
Now you’re a footnote with cement shoes, 
In case you’re wondering what that sinking feeling has been ever since I left you.

Distancing myself has made my skin crawl.
Now I’m beside myself and I can see the pitfalls of pink walls.
The shoebox trapdoor snapped shut.
New thoughts on past losses all add up.
You can count on me to be out of town when it matters most.
Cast your votes & catch the next train off my lifeboat.
Used to write notes to remind me why I loved you.
All that’s left is this wall of flesh for you to run through.
Reminisce upon my bloody mess, ugly when undressed,
My bloodshot eyes half-shut look like sunsets.
My whole Earth fell. I’ll soul search hell.
Wedding rings haunt me like old church bells.
I can’t remember what I said to end it all.
It wasn’t etched it stone, though it should’ve been…on the bedroom wall,
Throughout the halls, on the doors and corridors.
All I hear is paper crumbling…beneath the floorboards.

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9) “Agony in her Body” Background Info:

The title of this song, as well as the chorus, are derived from Rakim’s lyrics in “Mahogany”:

I was obsessed with this song ever since its release in 1990, and Rakim’s line “She wanted my agony agony agony in her body” has always been a bit of a mystery to me. “Mahogany” is mainly a story of sexual conquest, and it’s possible Rakim was implying that the European woman in the story wanted his dark wood in her body. Huh…I just thought of that and I guess it makes sense. Also “my agony” sounds like “mahogany” if you say it repeatedly and twist your ears just right. All I knew for sure is that the line sounded cool as hell.

As I grew older and more experienced in the ways of lurrrrrve, my personal interpretation of that lyric morphed into something less sexy. I learned that life, love, and relationships can often be agonizing. People can tend to treat that agony with sex. Not only that, but sex can be the agony or the exchange of agony. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. “She wanted my agony in her body.”

Controller 7 did the beat for “Agony in her Body,” and it’s one of my favorites. It’s crafted so incredibly well in all aspects. From the sound of the baseline to the switch-ups and crescendos. His drums are always…ahhh…*chef kiss.* The only other song I’ve done with Controller 7 is “Specialist” from Personal Journals, which “Agony in her Body” is sort of a sequel to. It’s not like I crank out songs about sex, so it’s odd that the two songs where I talk about things like that in an explicit manner just happened to be produced by the same person. There must have been something at play in my subconscious to tie the two songs together when I went into writing this one, but maybe Controller 7 just makes sexual deviant-friendly beats. They’re sexy if nothing else. As much as I love the beat, when I perform this song live (which is rare) I usually do so over the chip-tune version of “Where is my Mind” by the Pixies. Where is my mind? Baby, you don’t know where my mind has been? It’s a fun fit and helps switch things up on stage.

The engineering and mixing Chris Warren did on my vocals with this song is another master class in his special brand of sound science. There’s a lot going on vocally, but he made it so all the overlapping vocals have their own place in the mix. It’s one of my favorite examples of what I like to do when recording vocal layers. Especially when listening to it with good headphones. Maybe only I get excited about things like that, but there you have it.

“AGONY IN HER BODY” Lyrics:

Day one I played with her blood.
Day two left her face bruised and we called it making love.
Day three her blood played with me.
Dirty talk caught me off guard,
Had the nerve to ask if I thought she was crazy.

Baby, you don’t know where my mind has been.
Fell off the bike more than twice, but it’s time to ride again.
This time I’ll learn from my past falls.
Old wounds might re-open soon. (Burn ’em in alcohol.)
I heard that last call. It was a close one
Road runners know which direction to go when snow comes.
And we’re coasting with extra traction on radial tires,
Having sex in the back wrapped in radio wires.
Self-abusive, stuck in a bad place,
Head full of bruises and scratched face.
I bled profusely. Stirred in my juices so you could taste me.
Put my neck in a noose and swung to safety.
Found a landmine planted in the sole of my foot.
I can’t find sanctum in the holes I’ve been put.
I keep digging, covered in earth.
I undress, they run tests, I leave the dirt to the experts.
White coats and shiny objects.
I jumped their lifeboat science project.
“We got a floater! Guinea pig overboard!
Stone sober hillbilly kid with open sores.”
And ripped vocal chords, tearing ‘em out.
A mute manifesto that you’ll probably never hear about.
Weirded out about my whereabouts, swears pierce my mouth.
A bearded medicine man who wears a pouch,
Keeps digging. And I’m swimming uphill,
Fighting the tide of mudslides and blood spill.
Until I’ve got a shirt off my back,
And a girl on attack, on top, with a curled lip.
The world map is our bed sheet.
We share geography now. I explore virgin territory.
Squeaky seats acting as a mating call.
Nothing on me but her and didn’t feel naked at all.
Ever feel the need to keep it so real you feed,
Yourself into her hunger and don’t care if she bleeds?
Asking all these questions ain’t highly recommended.
They’ll eventually get answered if you put time into friendship.
That is if what you’re dong is helping.
And it’s not like you’ll know until you uhhhhhh…reach the ending.

She wanted my agony agony agony,
She wanted my agony agony agony,
She wanted my agony agony agony,
She wanted my agony agony agony,
In her body.

Day one I played with her blood.
Day two left her face bruised and we called it making love.
Day three her blood played with me.
Dirty talk caught me off guard,
Had the nerve to ask if I thought she was crazy.

(She was crazy.) I need more holes to breathe from.
Went under the knife. I contemplated freedom.
Put it all out on the operating table.
Clutching onto rubber ducks, I played double dutch with some jumper cables.
And I broke like the water. It started rushing.
All of a sudden there she was, GONE.
I’m the fall guy. She’s a sight for sore eyes.
I’m in labor all night until a new day is born.
Her globe rotates like eyes roll dice,
Earth pulls a 180 when I look into her snake eyes.
“I’m not afraid of dying,
Pieces of me die all the time.”
I keep digging (keep digging.) Leave the dirt to the experts,
Who push the boundaries of pleasure ’til the sex hurts.
I hold today with a death grip,
And play hard to get with tomorrow so as not to look so fucking desperate.
Face sweaty. Hands unsteady.
Blood pressure off the charts, my heart hangs heavy.
Untreated wounds through repeated moons,
Are seeds soon to develop in your needy womb. Your feeble, ill cocoon.
I don’t grieve for many people.
I don’t mourn the pieces killed in you.
My injection must have been lethal.
Pick up the shovel, love.
You got some digging to do.

Agony agony agony. Agony agony agony. Agony agony agony. Agony agony agony.

Day one I played with her blood.
Day two left her face bruised and we called it making love.
Day three her blood played with me.
Dirty talk caught me off guard,
She had the nerve to ask if I thought she was crazy.

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8) “Sun Vs Moon” Background Info:

After I wrote the entry for “Escape Artist,” a fan commented that they were always under the impression that it was about me escaping rap battles. I went back and listened to it, and I definitely think that was a big inspiration behind the verses. It’s not easy putting myself in the headspace I may have been in when writing most songs, which is why I’m not interested in telling people the meaning behind my songs. That said, I completely remember the motivation and situation surrounding “Sun Vs Moon.” I wrote this song while I was in the process of completely removing myself from rap battles and competitive poetry circles. Hip-hop battles and poetry slams, like all competition-based crafts, ultimately suffered from flash winning over substance. This isn’t to say that gems don’t exist in competitive arts, but a bulk of the participants inevitably latch onto the things that WIN. In that process, a lot of carbon-copies are produced as crowd-winning formulas get figured out. On its face, this song is by far a deep metaphor. But, like, it’s total figgin’ bullshit that the Sun took first place by pulling fancy tricks when the Moon was clearly pulling off more intricate moves and respect for the craft, AMIRITE?!

There’s also an underlying “God Vs Devil” religous theme at play here.

“The Bible…that’s god’s book. as far as I know the Devil hasn’t brought out a book yet, haven’t heard his side of the argument. God’s just writing shit about him, and the devil’s being the bigger man and saying I’m not even going to comment, talking shit about me like that.” – Jim Jefferies

Reanimator’s distortion-heavy production allowed me to play into the “satanic music” trope by adding a voice recording that can only be made sense of when you play the record backwards. It sounds sinister, but if you took the time to play it backwards you’d find that it’s a pro-Jesus message. Jokes on you, Tipper Gore. Can’t ban meeeee because of subliminalzzz! And, yes, this was another knocker of a beat courtesy of Reanimator. He recently emailed me and was kind enough to provide some fun facts from the production side of things that I was previously unaware of:

“Sun vs. Moon was originally a Dub song without any distortion. I feel like you said you wanted it heavier so I added the Rhodes through distortion on top of the original organs. The scratch I was doing skipped – which is why the sound changes right when you say it skipped [in the lyrics.] I can’t find it on YouTube or anything now, but the extended version of Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Raw’ had a skip with a perfectly timed bass hit during those ‘hit me’ scratches at the end. The only proof I could find is this”:

I wasn’t aware of that the record Reanimator was scratching on the song actually skipped when I mention a record skipping, but it “sorta sounded cool.” That’s what Bob Ross would call a happy accident.

The sing-songy chorus I do at the end of “Sun Vs. Moon” references Sole’s “Da Baddest Poet.” I’m pointing that out in hopes that people realize the “rabbit” and “white man is the devil” references aren’t Eminem related.

I’ll be back next week with a breakdown on “Agony in Her Body.” Until then, please stay as safe and healthy as possible, strange fam. Quarantine-li(f)e seems to be eating away at more than just the economy.

ADDENDUM:
I’ve just realized that the people who heard this song around the time of its release are noticing that there’s a different sound bite tacked onto the end it. When I first submitted this song to Epitaph they asked if I’d swap out the ending as they weren’t sure about the sample clearance, so I ended up using a recording of me talking to Lord Grunge of Grand Buffet about a lollipop factory. Apparently, and perhaps mistakenly, Epitaph submitted the first version of the song to some digital/streaming services (such as the Bandcamp link provided above.)

“SUN Vs MOON” Lyrics:

(The…the Devil. The, the, the Devil.
The…the Devil. The, the, the Devil.
The…the Devil. The, the, the Devil.
The…the Devil. The, the, the Devil.)

The Devil only exists because of your belief in him.
Same goes for that other guy.
I believe the Sun is simply reflecting its shine from the Moon.
Stealing its spotlight. They’ll have a cock fight at noon,
To settle their differences. 
At midnight…rematch!
To stir up their similarities on turntables, 
The chicken scratch will prove to be unreadable.
The determining factor in who gets to pitch-control the tides.
No one decides the victor unless they give a fair listen to both the sides.
We’re lowlives. We go blind jerking off to the eclipse.
The Sun was pulling cheap shots, doing commercial body tricks.
Behind the back, under the leg, I think he even did a headspin,
On the cross fader. It sounded wack (but looked exxxcellent!)
All of a sudden it gets dim. The crater face steps in.
He puts Mexican drum breaks on the Technics and he’s like, “Let’s begin.”
He conducted an orchestra so dope the Sun started sweatin’ him.
I guess he expected to win on pure artistic merit.
Composing complex plays with nothing but sound bites.
He burned out the lights, 
and made emcees too self-conscious to put their mouths to mics.
For a thousand nights this continued without a single slip up,
Except once when the record skipped, b-b-but…it kinda sounded cool.
And it fit within the rhythm he was juggling.
Polyrhythms out of country western albums spinning.
It is plain that he had come to win.
But as always, due to corrupt judging,
They drew a tie.
Now it’s do-or-die.

The Sun was like “No! No! No!” 
But the Moon was like “Go! Go! Go!”
The Sun was like “No! No! No!” 
But the Moon was like “Go! Go! Go!”
The Sun was like “No! No! No!” 
But the Moon was like “Go! Go! Go!”
And when the Sun was chosen I came to the conclusion,
Dad doesn’t know what he’s doing.

God’s not a woman. He’s a big white guy in the sky,
And the deserts are reflections of his eyes.
He doesn’t cry for us.
But when he does, it’s ‘cause he’s drunk. 
(Say whattt!?)
God’s not a woman. He’s a big white guy in the sky,
And the deserts are reflections of his eyes.
He doesn’t cry for us.
But when he does, it’s ‘cause he’s drunk.
And he’s always fucked up. (Bottoms up.)

“

Uhhhhh. God’s not a woman!!! He’s a biiiiitchhhhhhh.”

(The…the Devil. The, the, the Devil.
The…the Devil. The, the, the Devil.
The…the Devil. The, the, the Devil.
The…the Devil. The, the, the Devil.)

This is one hand clapping alone.
This is the smallest violin.
Run rabbit. When they find you they’ll kill your baddest poem.
The Devil is the fucking white man…rhyming.
This is one hand clapping alone.
This is the smallest violin.
Run rabbit. When they find you they’ll kill your baddest poem.
The white man, the white man, “the the the Devil.”

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7) “DANCE MONKEY” Background Info:

Having a tough week over here but an entry to this blog is due as it’s Thursday, so here we go.

The beat for Dance Monkey was made by Daddy Kev. These days he’s my go-to guy for album mastering, but he sent me a collection of beats in the early 2000’s and this is one I really loved. It’s entirely possible that Kev is a reason I was signed to Epitaph Records in the first place. He’s highly influential and a badass like that, and when Epitaph was sniffing around for underground hip-hop talent in the LA area I know that Kev hipped me to their bloodhounds (and I absolutely say that with all due respect.)

There was a Fat Albert sample in the original chorus that we had to remove. There was also a Pantera sample that we had to remove, which ended up getting replaced by a recording Jared Paul screaming “Fuckin’ Francisssssssssss” in place of “fucking hostiiiiile.” I had been holding onto that Pantera sample for ages since my “rap name” was Hostyle. When another guy named Hostyle started putting out records I had to make a name switch. Regardless, we weren’t in any position to clear a Pantera vocal sample so…it all worked out in the end.

My intro vocals to Dance Monkey are based on a bootlegged live recording from a Buck 65 show in the late 90s. The whole “Who wan’ tess? Well, since no one’s stepping to me” intro. It’s a rare recording that I managed to get my hands on, and it’s probably been heard by less than 100 people. I’m not sure. All I know is that no one has ever pointed it out like, “HA! I recognize that!”

A pop group named “Tones an I” recently came out with a song called Dance Monkey, which my mom recently hipped me to so I checked it out. I’m not in love with that style of music, but it’s definitely better than most of the stuff I’ve heard on the radio recently. What I’m really into is the video for their song as I feel like I could have easily played the lead role in it. They already have 877 MILLION views, so pardon me for not hotlinking it. Instead, let me embed a bootleg video we made for my own song where we jacked the visuals for a Fat Boy Slim video featuring Christopher Walken:

“DANCE MONKEY” Lyrics:

INTRO:

“Riiiight. I’ve got two left hooves. Who wan’ tess?! WELL?! Since nobody’s steppin’ to meeeeeee…”

(Huh!) Take me to your cult leader.
(Uh Huh, huh!) Take me to your local drug dealer.
(Yeowww!) Take me to the man in the mirror,
When you stand and deliver with your hand on the trigger.
An emotional terrorist. I-double-M-U-N-E.
Never make my enemy public.
I’m a private dancer, dancing for moneyyy.
(Get yourself together, let’s rock!)

CHORUS:

D-d-d-d-dance monkey. Dance, you goddamn monkey.
(Do that thing that’s funny!)
Do I make you wanna laugh? I make you wanna move.
I make you wanna “doot doot doot doot doo doo.”
D-d-d-d-dance Monkey. Dance, you goddamn Monkey.
(Do that thing that’s funny!)
Do I make you wanna laugh? I make you wanna move.
I make you wanna “rock this motherfucker.”

VERSE ONE:

Case 1 carries a paint gun,
She’s unafraid of to wave it when she’s getting her face done.
Her favorite radio station’s a permanent paid vacation,
Burning her face in the sun.
She loves repetitive songs that keep playing.
You know, the repetitive songs that keep playing?
She learned all the words and she *works it, baby*
Dangerously catchy and she feels it in her cervix lately.
Because the rhythm is a cancer. She’s on a secret diet.
A private viewing, disease-free TV pilot.
She saw the future in a group study.
They threw money in her pants. D-d-d-d-d-d-DANCE!

(CHORUS)

VERSE TWO:

Don’t live for the moment, live for the constant.
Die for what’s right or get killed by your conscience.
There’s a difference between conscience, conscious, and conscientious,
Contrary to popular belief, you’re none of these.
There’s plenty to feed empty mouths of the nest bound.
They’re kept down and apes won’t be banging on their chest proud.
When pacemakers are fragile. They hate the taste of capsules.
They feed their face with Paxil. Females hate their dad still.
Holy sons got mommy issues on deck at the podium,
Holding tongues with the rituals more complex than Napoleon.
I told him it isn’t his job to live in a fog.
I don’t have a god complex, you’ve got a simple god.
(Huh!) Take me to your cult leader.
(Come on, man.) Take me to your local drug dealer.
(Come on, man.) Take me to the man in the mirror,
When you stand and deliver with your hand on the trigger,
And a can of Miller in the other.
You can’t kill me motherfucker!
I got your number, you’d best disconnect before I call it.
The bumper sticker on your forehead’s the wrong fit.
When the bomb hits…
(Whose music will you look to for shelter?)
When the bomb hits…
(Whose music will you look to for shelter?)
When the bomb hits…
(Whose music will you look to for shelter?)
Not that mine will help ya!
D-d-d-d-DANCE!

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6) “VOICE MAIL BOMB THREAT” Background Info:

This is the easiest of the entries to write since I already explained mostly everything years ago on a FaceBook post due to how often people ask me about this interlude. I’ll go a bit more in depth with the background info here though.

Q: Was the message on “Voice Mail Bomb Threat” real?

A: Yes. It was left by a promoter who bounced from a show of mine in 2004 thinking he’d get away without paying me. When I realized he was a deadbeat promoter, I posted his phone number on my messageboard which prompted a bunch of my fans to call him. He apparently thought all of those phone calls were coming from me. He was also clearly very drunk, as you can hear in the voicemail. I don’t know if I ever got stiffed by a promoter before this instance. What made it particularly enraging is that it happened at the tail end of a long and physically grueling tour. When I stepped off stage and found this note written on a napkin, where the promoter tried to explain away his reason for not paying me because I didn’t have a “band”, I damn near snapped:

Here’s my best shot at transcribing those scribbles into readable text:

“SAGE,
We’re both smart about this. No live band – no this – no that. It’s null + void legally. Sorry but it’s chapter 26917 in LA, MI (Lansing, Michigan.) Nice show. We appreciate it.
OUT.”

After all was said and done, I ended up getting paid, I was gifted a wonderful voicemail to use as an album interlude, and his career as a promoter was finished. Despite him claiming that I only had “15 minutes of 3 year fame,” I’ve played Michigan many times since this happened and, as you’ve probably guessed, I never got to see him or his “100 boys.” In semi-related news, I’m sad to announce that no one leaves interesting voicemails anymore. Because rappers tend to use stuff like that on our albums.

“VOICE MAIL BOMB THREAT” transcription:

[Female Automated Voice]
“From phone number 5-1-7 4-4-9 Number Number Number received at 2 AM”

Deadbeat Promoter’s voicemail message:

“Yeah, I was just checking in on how your 15 minutes of fame was going. You know when you released that fucking ‘Personal Journals’ and it was hot? Yeah, it’s not anymore. You’re fucking bullshit. Fucking emcee with a fucking CD player. Yeah, come to my town…Yeah, give me all your hackneyed quips about how your going to skull-fuck me. Real fucking scary, dude. Come to fucking Detroit. The next time you’re routed? Straight up, I’m going to meet you with 100 boys ready to fucking kill you, you fuck. Seriously you threaten me and my family, I fucking kill you. Straight up. You fucking piece of shit, dude. Rhyme fuckin’ [indiscernible high pitched Sage impression]…Oh the most generic fucking…dude, literally the conundrums? The fuckin’…it’s nothing now. It used to be hot. Enjoy your fucking 15 minutes of three year fame you piece of shit, I’ll fucking kill you. Seriously, you call me again I’ll fucking kill you. Route Detroit, route Flint, route Kalamazoo, route Lansing. You find your way shit. Seriously. Dude, you’re fucking nothing. I’ll fucking ROOF your shit apart, bitch. OUT!”

_______________________________________________________________________

5) “PRODUCT PLACEMENT” Background Info:

This is probably the most abstract song on A Healthy Distrust. Also, it’s probably my most “wintery” song, in the way that GZA’s “Liquid Swords” is a quintessential winter album. There’s no connection there at all in style or approach, it’s just…some songs have seasons attached to them and Product Placement is obviously a winter baby. The only other thing I can add to this entry, which is admittedly short, is that this is one of the rare songs I did with Alias that wasn’t an all out banger as that wasn’t the intent of the beat, lyrics, or delivery. In fact, now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure he just tossed this instrumental my way as a bonus to the “Escape Artist” and “Sea Lion” instrumentals. It was a gift. He was an incredibly kind and generous man. Speaking of that, a Bandcamp page has just been put together for him where all the proceeds from the music sales go directly to his wife and children: https://bandcamp.aliasofficial.com/

“PRODUCT PLACEMENT” Lyrics:

CHORUS:
Hook, line, sinker.
(chop chop…crackle.)
Hook, line, sinker.
“This is paid for advertising.”
Hook, line, sinker,
“Free food for all.”

VERSE ONE:

Well it’s a tangible death and I can almost handle it.
When it cancels my breath, put your hand over my candle then rest.
There’s no pain in this fist’s release.
Put my elbows on the window frame, glass pressed against my cheeks.
Everything I see is mine.
I never look back, I couldn’t ask the same of those I leave behind.
They’re air bubbles rushing towards the water surface.
A clumsy stage hand making a grand exit, caught in the curtains.
A person should have pulled this rope long ago.
Before the water hole froze over I saw the snow.
The best cue for rescue’s a couple yanks.
Pressed my luck, held my breath enough, but then my stomach sank.
Should have never been walking the plank with cement shoes,
Without an oxygen tank or wetsuit.
Destitute conditions leave fishermen victims of circumstance,
But you don’t need a hook for the worms to dance.

CHORUS:

Hook, line, sinker,
“Crumbs.”
Hook, line, sinker,
“Snap snap, crackle, errrruh”

OUTRO VERSE:

Off to the bathroom to sniff another line (sniff another line.)
There’s a big party going on and you’re not invited (you’re not invited.)
Now I’m just howlin’ at the moon, sipping its shine (sipping its shine.)
There’s a huge rock hurling through space, won’t you help me light it?

I’m playing jump rope with my veins tonight.
Budget dumb low, but I paid the price.
The DJ saved my life.
Nothing could cut into my fun, but the razor might.

“Right, right?”
This song is brought to you courtesy of medicine prescriptions,
“Right, right.”
Dead-Again Christians, 1968, and B-Boys on acid.
And of course my utter and absolute obligation to never do anything bad. Ever.
_______________________________________________________________________

4) “ESCAPE ARTIST” Behind-The-Scenes Breakdown (babyyyy):

I’m a week late with this entry, but that’s due in part to the COVID-19 madness and the changes we’ve all had to make to our schedules. Speaking of which, all of my upcoming US shows have been cancelled. The hit to the pocket while undoing everything I’ve been preparing since December is a bit problematic, so if you’re in a position to purchase some Uncle Sage merch we’ve got the goods here. Anyway, by this point a lot of people who aren’t used to social distancing are probably feeling some cabin fever, so it’s apropos that “Escape Artist” is the next song I’m breaking down for the 15th anniversary of “A Healthy Distrust.” #AHD15

There’s no possible way for me to address all the things I’d like to get into without turning this entry into a novella. I’m going to hit on the main points and then maybe expound on it all during a podcast (I have one in development…shhh…just like everyone else cooped up in their cabin.) Right off the bat, let me dispel the lingering rumor that all the “magic” talk is in reference to Magic: The Gathering. I never played that game and I know nothing about it. However, I’ve long been a fan of illusionists, card tricks, magic tricks, etc… I was totally obsessed with all things magic when I was a kid so those kind of references pop up in various songs of mine, most notably this one. They’re more metaphorical than anything else, and in Escape Artist I’m mostly talking about my musical journey and tour life.

The other aspect of this song which is a throwback to my childhood is the “fast rapping” double-time I do during the chorus. In the early 90s I was blown away by the delivery speed of rappers like Tung Twista and Chip Fu. There was a 2 to 3 year period where I would only rap fast as it was an easy way to impress an unsuspecting crowd, especially back then. It’s a parlor trick of sorts, and it tickles me that the gimmick continues to thrive in 2020. Ya’ know…even Ellen is very amused by pale kids who can rap fast! I remember in 1999 someone asked me if I thought I could still pull off some fast raps, so I sat in my car outside of our Brooklyn apartment as I hacked away at what eventually became the Escape Artist chorus. It wasn’t written as a chorus or with any grand purpose, but I held onto the writing until I found a beat that it might work with. Then in came another knocker of music production by Brendon “Alias” Whitney, which makes this the second song on this album he produced that’s a certified fan-favorite and one of my most performed songs ever. We even made a t-shirt design around it, which is not common at all for me.

The guitar intro made me want to sing like I was in a hair metal band. I don’t know why. My attempt at singing that you hear during the intro, along with the laugh, is a legit studio outtake that we decided to keep. The vocal samples that appear at the end of the song are from my performance at the first Rock the Bells Festival in 2004, in which a riot nearly broke out as the crowd impatiently waited to see Wu Tang perform as a full unit for the first time in ten years. The very last voice you hear is a recording of Slug from Atmosphere introducing me at another show, but I can’t recall when or where that was. I didn’t even remember that was part of this song until right now, nor did I remember that I had singing vocals during the outro. Shout out to the engineer, Chris Warren, as he patiently waited for me to hit the right notes.

The anchor line of this song is “There ain’t no magic in the breakdown, babyyyy,” which I’ve always viewed in two different ways. It can be a literal reference to breaking down a stage after performing. When all the music and magic is gone. When the man behind the curtain is revealed. It can also be a reference to an emotional breakdown after trying to put on your best face for too long. When all the music and magic is gone. When the man behind the curtain is revealed.

The first official music video I ever did was for this song, which was really exciting for me. Back then video technology was incredibly expensive, so this kind of stuff did NOT come cheap. I’m not even sure what we were intending on doing with it as YouTube was brand new and MTV obviously wasn’t going to be playing it. It was eventually uploaded to SFR’s YouTube channel and the version with extra sound effects was uploaded to Epitaph’s YouTube channel.

“ESCAPE ARTIST” Lyrics:

VERSE ONE:

When I first got into magic it was an underground phenomenon.
Now everybody’s like, “Pick a card, any card.”
If I shot my full load with the first hand I played,
I’d be a monkey in a box hanging with the David Blaines.
I’d be swimming with the sharks, mouths full of razor blades.
But I’m not. I got out of that game. Escape artist.
I talk ’til I’m red in my face with strain polyps.
I rock ’til I’m out of my range then raise octaves.
I play through the pain and remain conscious.
Refrain from commenting on the lame compliments,
And the petty criticisms from those who ain’t accomplished,
Even 1/5 of some of the shit I’ve made progress with.
I’m leaving naysayers stumped like rain forests,
After years of pulling rabbit ears out of my pants pockets.
I’m not revealing any tricks of the trade.
It’s just…there ain’t no magic in the break down, babyyyyyy.

CHORUS ONE:

In an effort to make them all see what I found in my life I decided I’d give them a look,
But none of them gave it a look and I guess that I’m sitting in the middle of an unread book.
The letters are falling apart but the sentences stand on their own and the wording is permanent.
I’ve never been missed, I’ve just been mis-worded and misinterpreted.
It’s funny how serving a sentence of solitary confinement,
Can result in the death sentences filling my writing assignment.
I’m just wonder where my time went. It pulled a disappearing act.
And every single assistant i ever had got sawed in half.

VERSE TWO:

They never paid attention but I can’t afford to laugh,
Because I’m still looking for my break and an autograph for my cast.
But I’m short on staff so all I ask is for volunteers in the crowd,
To show a little bit of audience participation now.
When I say “HIP…” you say, “Shut the fuck up, we ain’t saying shit!”
And I’ll respect it.
Check it. I’ve got a flare for the dramatic exit.
A fashionable entrance, late to my own arrangement.
Ohhhh, the self destructive things that I do for entertainment.
My folks gave me this art, your broken heart is my pallet.
While I was out honing my craft you were disowning your talent.
That’s why you still live at home and I bought this house off my parents.
I’m getting ahead of myself. I see the hair on my back.
I’m “On the Road” reading Kerouac. Now it’s poems Vs battle raps.
So i think to myself, “What’s worth remembering?
Verses defending the size of my manhood or confessional canned goods?”

CHORUS TWO:

In an effort to make them all see what I found in my life I decided I’d give them a look,
But none of them gave it a look and I guess that I’m sitting in the middle of an unread book.
The letters are falling apart but the sentences stand on their own and the wording is permanent.
I’ve never been missed, I’ve just been mis-worded and misinterpreted.
It’s funny how serving a sentence of solitary confinement,
Can result in the death sentences filling my writing assignment.
None of this is getting told in confidence I reckon.
I spin confidential records just to hold the listener’s attention.

VERSE THREE:

I’m a veteran of spatial relationships.
I clipped your wings to fit you in…head shrinking magician.
Shape-shifting reptilian turned body contortionist.
Orphanages started offering torches to abortion clinics.
I lost acquaintances in a morgue of lady friends.
I gender-bent the heaven sent angelic devil-boy. The God’s androgynous.
I’m looking marvelous, but looks *can* kill,
And they’re unsure about my sexual orientation still. 
They put me in this special kind of case that only breaks if, 
You hit it with a bouquet of flowers and baby breath arrangement. 
Now the vault is vacant and they’re all looking for fault or blame. 
I called my agent the moment that I caught the train. 
I let him know i’m going nowhere, and he’s invited. 
If he leaves tonight then he just might help me find it. 
But this is my burden to bare, not his, 
And I’m a psychic without a sidekick holding the future hostage. 
I’m a loose cannon standing on the rooftop with, 
A new respect and understanding of bartenders and locksmiths. 
They call me a “dare devil” but I’m not precise enough. 
I’m professional…on an amateur level. I love my life too much. 

Escape artist…
I’m in two places at once.
Escape artist…
And I ain’t slept in months.
Escape Artist…
I’m just trying to get away,
But there ain’t no magic in the breakdown, babyyyyy.

Escape. Escape.

“Pussies…you’re scared to shoot me in the heart. You know it’s too big! Ugh. I don’t give a fuck. I’ve got a bulletproof heart. Hit me, baby. I’ll never fall in love with you…EVER. If you’ve got glass, throw that too…beeyotch. hahaha.” – Live audio from Rock the Bells, 2004.
“Make some noise for Sage Francis, y’all” – Slug

_______________________________________________________________________

3) “GUNZ YO!” Background Info:

“Gunz Yo!” is about…well, I guess it’s pretty much about what it presents itself as. It’s a satirical piece about our crazed gun culture while playfully addressing our fascination with firearms; not just within hip-hop but society in general. I suppose there’s a lot more serious commentary happening between the lines of silliness now that I listen to it again, but, with so much gun-talk in popular rap songs, I thought it might be fun to offer my own angle on the subject. Perhaps it was a retake on my missed opportunity to go full-on gun crazy on the song I did with Louie Rankin (RIP) during the late 90s called “Gun Gods”. On that track I basically skirted the whole concept and, in lieu of pretending I’m a god of guns or acting like I actually lived that kind of life, I took the battle rap angle. I specifically remember having an AOL Instant Message conversation with B. Dolan (SageKILLZ and djapathy1212 were the original Epic Beard Men in the AIM days) about how I was going to do a song about guns and I was fishing his brain for what he thought might be the best way to approach the subject. He ended up sending me instructions on how to build a gun. About 15 years later we would end up at a gun range for his bachelor party and do a song called “Shotgun Golf,” and we also spent his bachelor party at a gun range, but that’s a total side note. I would periodically revisit the graph he sent me which broke down the components of a gun, but it just never *clicked*. I gave up on the “gun song” concept for a few years, but language referring to guns would appear in my writing so I’d put those lines to the side until eventually I was sitting on enough of them for a full piece to get created.

As far as tales from the recording studio go, “Gunz Yo!” doesn’t come with as much of a backstory as other songs do on A Healthy Distrust do. The beat was given to me by Danger Mouse (before all the GrAmMy aWaRdS ObViOsLyYyY) probably around 2004 when we did a UK tour together with Prince Po of Organized Konfusion and Jemini, who he was producing and DJing for around that time. The main thing I remember about the beat is that we needed to remove a James Brown vocal sample in the “chorus” section. There’s not much happening with the chorus as it basically acts as a short break between the verses, but the sample issue is why you hear me whisper “insert uncleared sample here” at the 1:19 mark.

Amongst all the music references I squeezed into this track (King Missile, Sex Pistols, Geto Boys, Public Enemy, and more,) De La Soul gets the most head nods by far. The one that still makes me laugh, and a reference I’m not sure many people caught, was to a skit on De La Soul’s “De La Soul Is Dead” album. “I’m Hemorrhoid! I’m the leader!”

The one line that sits most heavy with me is, “It might remind you of a mic by the way I hold it.” The first time people hold a handgun they often feel a surge of power. I’ve felt such a thing holding a gun. But, as corny as it may sound, nothing felt quite as powerful as the first time I held a microphone. I remember being a kid and posing in front of the mirror with my first microphone. Holding it in all the wrong ways, the way rappers tend to do. Cupping it in ways that give sound engineers night terrors. That’s how Run DMC did it, and that’s how I was going to do it. DEAL WITH IT, SOUND SCIENCE!

Although this song was part of my live set for quite some time, I haven’t found any footage of it on YouTube. That’s more than alright with me as I don’t really consider it much of a barn burner at shows. My most memorable performance of this song was when I did a spoken word version of it at the first Rock the Bells festival in 2004. I believe a portion of this performance is featured on the Rock the Bells Documentary (which mainly focused on the reunion of Wu Tang Clan and it was two months before Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s passing,) and it seemed to get the crowd of 10,000 people riled up. I don’t think they understood the tongue-in-cheek nature of the gun talk. Whatever high favor I won over with the majority of that crowd quickly came toppling down once I got into rapping about being a space man while I instructed the sound person to echo out my vocals so much that the words became indiscernible. A riot damn near broke out when I followed up the song by throwing broccoli into the crowd, which was responded to with bottles (and everything else that wasn’t nailed down) being thrown back at me. And I dropped my pants. And I threatened the crowd that I’d do 3 more songs than I was scheduled to if they didn’t behave themselves. My heart was too big. Some of the audio from this event is actually present on the end of my “Escape Artist” song, which just so happens to be the song that follows “Gunz Yo!” on AHD. So rather than getting ahead of myself, I’ll end this entry with the lyrics and hope that everyone has a beautiful weekend. There’s some big non-music news I’ll be announcing soon.

 

“GUNZ YO!” Lyrics:

INTRO:
“I’m on fire, I’m on fire.”
“Me too, me too.”

VERSE ONE:

Gunz, yo! I keep one in my pillowcase.
It keeps me safe when I sleep, still I keep awake.
What if my dream girl pays a midnight visit?
I see the world through the scope, but I gain no insight with it.
When I get introspective I put the safety on,
Make these songs with the biscuit sitting in my shaky palms.
I’m a man now. A REAL man.
Not the one who went to two colleges groveling over meal plans.
I’m staring at the ceiling fan all wide-eyed.
Amazed by the ways the blades break the silence.
I used to be afraid to fire it!
The sound was startling, 
but now i’m starting to hate the quiet moments.
It might remind you of a mic by the way I hold it.
To the grilllll.
A homophobic rapper, unaware of the graphic nature of phallic symbols.
Tragically ironic, sucking off each other’s gats and pistols.
I’ve got more back issues than Guns & Ammo,
‘Cause my uzi weighs a ton and I never let go of the handle.
Hanging onto mommy’s pant leg, double fisted.
Knee deep in shells, kicking ballistics.
This dick is a detachable penis.
An extension of my manhood, positioned like a fetus.
An intravenous hook up feeds bullets to my magazine.
Never mind the bullocks, my pistol is a sex machine!

CHORUS:

Gunz, yo!
Sex ma—Sex machine!
*insert uncleared samples here*

VERSE TWO:

Bust it, I’ve got another gun, I keep it in my briefcase.
It keeps me safe at my workplace.
Cubicle gangster who’s in need of his personal space.
Angster of love who’s unable to look girls in their face.
Because I know that only stupid people increase the birth rates.
I’m just about dumb enough to hold up a sperm bank.
Make my demands and then facilitate fur trades,
Empty the bird cage and release the mermaids.
Huh. I’ve got a water gun. I keep it in my mouth.
It keeps me safe from the things I like to speak about.
But words are leaking out and all these smiles that I crack,
Are like a dam on the verge of collapse.
There ain’t no turning back. In fact, I can’t hold down my fluids.
Can’t retract statements without water displacement.
Flooded the basement then sought refuge,
Removed my waterproof vest and then I kicked off my wet shoes.
Made it to dry land, pistol in hand.
Fistfulls of ammo, riding on a camel through the desert sand.
Lucid dreams are a lot like computer screens,
Where people have pretentious conversations, but I shoot the breeze.
Blow a hole straight through their long-winded theories.
Hold my own and make songs for them to sing with me.
Ugh. It’s the same type of heat that Millie used,
To break the ice with Santa Clause when she made him sing the Christmas blues. 
Capitalists strung her up for killing him.
Every manufactured holiday they sacrifice another victim.
Before wartime depression sets in,
I get to steppin’…and shoeshine my weapon.
“I’m Hemorrhoid! I’m the leader!”
You’re dead like De La. I hold my crotch like a 9mm.
Gunz, yo!

BONUS ROUND:
Shout out to Pistol Dave…the man who introduced me to my first pistol. I held it in my hand thinking, “Damn, man, it’s heavy.”

_______________________________________________________________________

2) “SEA LION” Lyrics and Background Info:

“Sea Lion” has long been a fan favorite, it’s my highest streamed song on Spotity, and there’s hardly been a show of mine where it hasn’t been performed. The popularity of it confounds me a bit, because it’s literally one verse bookended by a chorus, but the beat by Alias and music/singing by Will Oldham no doubt play a massive role in the X-factor of its enjoyability. As compact as it is, it’s the song of mine that’s been licensed the most, covered the most, and it comes with a long backstory which I’ll do my best to explain below.

Will Oldham came to be one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time, but when the name “Bonnie Prince Billy” was floated by me as a potential collaborator I had no idea who he was. I remember being in London in 2004 when Tom Brown (working for Warp Records at the time) mentioned that Will Oldham would be interested in sending me some music to see what I could do with it. Eventually I was emailed the guitar parts and chorus. I’m often asked what the chorus means, and I can proudly say what I don’t get to say about any other songs of mine: “I don’t know. I didn’t write it.” I say this humorously, but it’s true. When I listened to the chorus I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the lyrics. Once I sent the stems to Alias, he added the drums and came back to me with the instrumental as it sounds now. The beat KNOCKS, but it was in a bounce rhythm style that I don’t often work with. Instead of flipping through my notebook to find lyrics that might fit the mood, which is what I often do when putting together songs, I started from scratch and wrote to the beat.

Having a loose understanding of the chorus, I suppose I was given a free pass to write about pretty much anything. I was among song, so why should I care? I listened to the beat on repeat to get the rhyming part of my brain into “bounce rhythm” mode. The first two bars to start it off were, “Ma. Ma, look what I did, ma. Look what I did to my hands, I broke ’em.” I went into each of the following lines bit by bit while looping the beat until I was done the verse which probably took a couple hours (a shorter amount of time than it took to do this dang writeup.) I mainly focused on inner rhyme schemes while adhering to what I suppose is a “hustle hard” theme. I don’t care much to comment on the content of the lyrics, as I typically prefer for people to interpret as they wish, but I’ve seen a theory floated on the internet claiming it’s about how my mom made me sell drugs. Soooo…it’s probably important that I make a clear distinction that it’s *definitely* not about my mom making me sell drugs. A hard no on that theory, but I appreciate the creativity it took to cook that one up. Aye. Haha. If anything, it’s a strong shoutout to my mom but again, interpret as you wish. Oh, wait, it also has nothing to do with “Sealioning,” which has also been speculated, but that’s a term I didn’t learn of until recently.

I’ve never had a guest rapper on any of my studio albums, but this is the one instance where it almost happened. I reached out to Saul Williams, an old friend from the spoken word poetry scene, and he graciously provided a brilliant second verse. Unfortunately it didn’t get done in time to appear on the album because back in 2005 you needed to have everything totally wrapped up at least 4 months ahead of an album release. We were able to get it on the Sea Lion 12″ single, but that had limited reach and I believe the only place where it’s currently streaming is on YouTube.

I never met Will Oldham in person. Our interactions were minimal and strictly through email, so there’s not much I can say about that. I’m obviously very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to work with such a high caliber of musician, and in retrospect the few discussions we had are comical. What I mostly remember is our last discussion where I told him that an independent horror film called “Cry Wolf” wanted to license our song and I needed his permission for it to go through. I can’t find our old email exchange for the exact quote, but his response was something like, “No. Bon Jovi is in it? This sounds awful.” And I said, “That’s why this is going to be great!” Alas, it seems he did eventually give his permission as Sea Lion appears in the movie, and that’s the first of many places this song got licensed. Sea Lion seems to have gotten its greatest outreach from when it was licensed on an episode of Bones called “Judas on a Pole.” I’ve never watched this show, but every so often people tell me they discovered my music from that episode. Love me some licensing. Please, lawd, may I have some maw?

What makes this song so fun to perform live is how the crowd automatically knows all the lines to punch in. No matter where in the world I perform it, the crowd invariably say lines like “distribute the dust” and “I don’t need your go ahead to go ahead” in unison. No need for instructions. There’s a catchiness to it that makes it easy to memorize I guess, which has resulted in lots of covers from various genres. My favorite cover is probably this folksy version done with a ukulele.

I’d love to provide more information about how the beat was constructed, but we lost our dear friend Alias to a heart attack a couple years ago. That’s going to remain a sore spot in our hearts forever. He put the puzzle pieces together and crafted a much bigger picture by adding his own elements into the mix. The songs he produced on A Healthy Distrust remain staples of my live show, so there’s a tinge of bittersweetness when it comes to looking back on it all while celebrating the 15th anniversary without his involvement. Strange Famous Records will soon be carrying his entire catalog along with new items, but if you’ve got the means and you’d like to help support his family there’s a GoFundMe that continues to help his wife and children during a very difficult time: https://www.gofundme.com/f/brendonwhitney

Lastly, as I really need to wrap this segment up, I should mention that the woman’s voice that says “a healthy distrust” during the intro of the song was my girlfriend at the time. It totally slipped my mind that that was part of the song as I haven’t listened to the album version in ages and it’s not part of the show instrumental. She’s the only partner I lived with right until I was with the woman I married. I wasn’t sure I would be able to live with anyone after what happened with that relationship, but that’s a whole chapter of another book I probably won’t get around to writing. However, in the spirit of what we’re doing here with the breakdowns of each song, I figured I should explain whose voice that is. Well, without naming names. 2005 was full of non-stop touring for me, more than any other year, and that can really do wonders for your home life!

I’ll be back with part 3 next week. Time for the sea lion to lay down long.

“SEA LION” LYRICS (feat. Will Oldham, Saul Williams):

CHORUS (Will Oldham):

The force of my love was strong.
The sea lion laying down long.
A song in the air
Why should singer care
When singer can be among song
The force of my love was strong
The sea lion laying down long
A song in the air
Why should singer care
When singer can be among song

VERSE ONE (Sage Francis):

Ma! Ma, look what I did, Ma! Look what I did to my hands, I broke ‘em.
You gave me the stone, gave me the chisel, didn’t say how to hold ‘em.
Didn’t say give away every piece of the puzzle ’til I was left with nothing,
But I took it upon myself to crush it up and distribute the dust.
Get in the bus. Hop in the van. Jump in the water. Crawl to the land.
Build another castle out of the sand, break it down and then I get into the saddle again.
Going city to city, I’m already lost. Tell the boss who is new in town.
I’m-a ride this horse ’til it bucks me off and I’m forced to shoot it down.
I’m-a take him out for some gasoline. I’m-a trade this cow for some magic beans.
Make Mom proud of the deals that I’ve made ‘cause I’m just a modern day Johnny Appleseed.
But I’m glad that I never passed the genes and I never put down the axe.
Piano Man got a checkered dance floor to grace and the painful look on his face.
‘Cause the crowd is packed and the louder they clap the less he is able to make the connection,
Between what he sees when he hears certain notes and the hurt that is shown in his facial expression.
I don’t need your “go ahead” to go ahead.
Nah, I know no one said it was gonna be easy.
But, sweet Jesus, who wants to sleep with me?
Way too many moves to learn. Not enough people to put ‘em on.
Look it, Mom. No hands. I built this suit of armor with wooden arms.

[Hook: Will Oldham]
Force of my love was strong
The sea lion laying down long
A song in the air
Why should singer care
When singer can be among song
Force of my love was strong
The sea lion laying down long
A song in the air
Why should singer care
When singer can be among song

VERSE TWO (Saul Williams):

Oh God I think I’m dead. I can’t see outside my head.
Brains and bloods and cryptic gang men, czars and warlords breaking bread.
Thoughts are thought, what’s said is said. I thought that, but you said it?
I didn’t mean to think out loud. My tongue slipped, but who let it?
Let it be. Let me be. Let me go. Nah, let me out.
My manhood nods and whispers when my father screams and shouts.
Dear dad, I’m sad you’re dead. A new man standing in the pulpit.
He bows before a wooden cross and forces praise the culprit.
I’m a tenor in the choir but I sing a different song,
Of how the where’s and why’s of now all prove I don’t belong.
But I’m staying. I’ve planted seeds and plan to watch them grow.
I’ve watered all my wishes dreams fulfilled more seeds to sow.
And I promise to learn to love the way I’ve learned to fear.
To unknot all the inhibitions tangled in my hair.
To let my ego mound in piles around the barber chair.
And make a graceful exit from my vexed and troubled years.
I’ve decided I’ve been invited to my own resort,
Where knights can leave their armor neatly piled by the door.
And every woman, child, and man will gather by the shore,
And study how sea lions swim in cursive.

BONUS ROUND:

________________________________________________________________________

1) “THE BUZZ KILL” Lyrics and Background Info:

“THE BUZZ KILL” Background Info:

Not only is this album 15 years old, but a lot of the material was being worked on years before it was released, so I need to dig deep into the memory banks to pull out anything interesting and/or accurate. I don’t recall going into “The Buzz Kill” thinking it would be the opening track, but once REANIMATOR sent me the beat with the “This is the heartbeat of the Sage” vocal intro it was a no brainer. The vocal sample is taken from excerpts of the 1956 educational film “On Guard! The Story of SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment,)” a project that sought to create a defense system based on computer/human responses. What hasn’t been mentioned on sites like Genius, and something I find far more fascinating, is that the voiceover is done by the late, great Leslie Nielsen.

With this being my first album on Epitaph Records, which promised to be a bigger promo campaign with greater outreach than I had experienced with any of my earlier work, we were very careful to not use overt samples. Save for this one song and a couple others? Heh. At my hip-hop core I am a sample-based artist and so is Reanimator. I don’t remember much about the studio sessions of this song, but I do remember when the engineer, Chris Warren, opened up the project file on his computer. It was layer upon layer of drum tracks and chopped up samples. Reanimator had stacked an insane amount of drum breaks on top of one another and poor Chris was left to make sense of how to mix them in a way where it would sound cohesive. The style of the beat was highly influenced by The Bomb Squad‘s early work with artists like Public Enemy and Ice Cube, which hadn’t been a popular sound in hip-hop for quite some time. The political and social climate while we found ourselves in an illegal war called for it though. Drum-heavy, aggressive, and dramatic soundscapes with a magical touch of controlled chaos.

In order to best match my voice with that style of beat, we ran my vocals through a vintage RAT distortion pedal. We used that pedal on most of the album actually. Despite how testy and unpredictable it can be with its settings, Chris was adamant about having me record through it live rather than using a distortion plug-in with after effects. The sound it created when used live would differ based on my varying volume and vocal tones, which wouldn’t be the result if we used an after effect. Come to think of it, this choice to use the RAT on my vocal performances probably shaped my overall sound for this particular era (2004-2007.) For anyone wondering why the RAT isn’t more commonly used, the pedal is a major pain in the ass. It currently sits on my studio desk as it stares at me mockingly. As if I’ve been too afraid to use it ever since Chris moved to San Diego to teach sound science and develop engineering plug-ins. It’s right.

As for actual recording (and the AHD album in general,) this is the first time I’ve listened to these songs in ages. My solo shows often feature several tracks from this project, but that’s the extent of my relationship with them these days. As far as I can remember, the only time I performed this song live was during 2005’s A Healthy Distrust Tour, but it was debuted during my Scribble Jam performance in 2004:

ADDITIONAL FUN FACTS:

* The lyrics on the second verse of The Buzz Kill were originally used on the second verse for a song called “Trite” (produced by Alias, 2001.) I felt like the song was unnecessarily long with that verse included, so I removed it and held onto it for a few years before finding an appropriate home for it.

* My vocals in the beginning of the second chorus mimic Kid Rock’s intro vocals on his “Bawitdaba” song. No one has pointed it out to me in 15 years, so I’m going to assume it wasn’t as obvious to other people as I was assuming it would be. Hey, some gags work, some fall flat, and some go totally unnoticed. All of them may have gone unnoticed now that I think about it. During the break between the second and third verse I slip in: “Come on, come…feel it, feel it!” which is a reference to Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations” chorus. Felt like a good time to add some levity. The third verse references Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up.” Hey, what’s most important is people have pointed out the GOOD songs that I’ve given head nods to.

* Reanimator did a tongue-in-cheek 80s style rock remix of The Buzz Kill. This version of the song is probably how a lot of people were first exposed to me and/or The Buzz Kill since it was included on Epitaph’s highly popular “Unsound” compilation album:

“THE BUZZ KILL” Lyrics:

“You are listening to the heartbeat of the Sage. Sage possesses the newest and most revolutionary advance in split-second presentation as well as split-second calculation. To protect the future of America, the defense techniques of tomorrow had to be discovered now. But Sage needed more than this. New concepts. New tools. New weapons. By analyzing the past, Sage can project into the future…”

VERSE ONE:

I used to think that rappers had it figured out;
Brass Monkey, St. Ides, Olde English, and Guinness Stout.
“Once a man, twice a boy” with a choice of vice. A voice of spite.
Not enough poisons to pick to enjoy this life.
Then I thought suicide was a suburban myth.
I couldn’t see my own hands being the ones I’m murdered with.
That is until I traveled this world a bit.
I understand now. If I lose my nerve I’ll get the girl to do it!
She heard the music but preferred the person (she’s worth it.)
The only one I let behind the curtain (to work with.)
Pushing buttons and playing with levers.
We’ll stay together as long as I’m honest in my songs.
“Radiooooo” suckers never play this.
They’re scared shitless of dismissing Clear Channel playlists.
Poorly developed, yet, highly advanced.
The black music intertwined with a white man’s line dance.

“Supersonic, super destructive, seemingly unresistable. On the job around the clock, with 24-hour-a-day reliability. Constantly monitoring. Pulse-taking. Controlling. Into a continuous flow of interpretations which could be understood at a glance.”

VERSE TWO:

It’s not lonely on top, I’m kept busy with shivers and cold shakes.
Sitting on snow banks waiting to be delivered some soulmates.
So I wait. Lift and test my faith on several levels.
Build my body ’til they send me an empty face with the head of devils
My breath resembles the smell of flowers yanked from life and placed in a vase,
That sits and wilts and rots and dies in the name of grave mistakes that we all make…
Believe we’re getting by treating ourselves wrong,
Throw me a reindeer John letter party and I’ll be there with bells on.
Hell spawned some iffy calls in City Hall.
They still got the gall to blame the vitriol on Biggie Smalls?
From strip malls to strip clubs they slip drugs
into the drinks that kids love. Tell us to “drink up and get buzzed!”
This is the buzz kill, jump into the saddle,
Emerge from the dust kicked up in the uphill battle
With my guns drawn and sword out, pointed towards the courthouse.
I sort out words from my war-torn mouth.
I disassociate the actions with their meanings.
On some “ends justify the means” mentality. Plus I’m bleeding.
Give me a Band-Aid, a band that can’t play,
A fanbase with hearing aids and a voice like a hand grenade.
I’ll pull the wool over their vision, pull the pin and push it in ’em.
Using women as a pin cushion, A supervillain.
With some warpaint and jokes done in poor taste,
We’ll see who laughs last…all the way to foreign banks.

“Ready to take over in a matter of seconds to protect the future of America. Sage also has protection too.
(Come on, come on, feel it, feel it.) The protection which comes with the possession of weapons of retaliation. But is this protection enough?”

VERSE THREE:

I was b-boying in my former body, singing all the songs at parties.
Now I’m like, “Don’t let nobody through the door in the hotel lobby!”
I’d wear Armani if they endorsed me so people who are poor can rob me,
Then forcefully sex me up.
Color me confused when they paint issues black and white.
Resuscitate their gray matter right back to life.
It’s my destiny. She wants me, she beckons.
She left me for dead but Death didn’t want no sloppy seconds.
(Huh!) I’m certified fresh.
I freedom-kiss the French for their political dissent,
Like “moi.” I do it with tongue this time,
And take that bovine blood out your wine,
And take that statue back to the lab it was created at.
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free?
(Take ’em back!)
Your homeless, tempest-tossed to me?
(Take ’em back!)
The U-S-A has cracked.

“And as long as we’re on guard…as long as we’re ready to look ahead, to move ahead, the future of America is secure.”

________________________________________________________________

I’ll do my best to do write ups of this sort for every song on AHD, but in the meantime please support however you can. Before I have to start a podcast. Please. Ah man, I’m gonna have to do a podcast, aren’t I? Whatever the case: SAGE FRANCIS MERCH

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Max says

Thank you

Misty Garrison says

Fascinating!!! I absolutely love that you're doing this!! ❤

Rebecca Sandager says

So stoked to hear the back story of my favorites. Love you Uncle Sage

Josh says

AHD was an amazing album and a refreshing new direction for your sound at the time. I love that you are doing a look back after all these years. I am Interested in the inspiration for the lyrics and themes of the songs as well as the the process of making the songs. Thank you for always being so real.
I caught you live a few years back. It was an amazing show.