Sage Francis “A Healthy Distrust” Lyrics + Behind-The-Scenes 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 the “A Healthy Distrust” album can be found HERE.

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

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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.”

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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:

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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.”

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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.