Symphony of a Radical comes from my torment. I have no other way to explain it. Living in Texas, a place I did not like, and unemployed with no health insurance, I was, quite frankly, one razor blade cut from checking out. Symphony, while my third release, was the first I had recorded since my lost album from 2008. I turned to music to try to find some place of refuge or expression or something that would keep me going. It is birthed out of sparseness. I only owned a $20 midi-controller, had just learned what one even was and how to use it, as well as my guitar and bass with no amps. I had to get creative and, well, hopefully that came across.
This album was recorded in 2016. Yes, that year. I’m writing this on the eve of the death of RBG and many of the sentiments still stand as I am paralyzed by what I’m seeing. Family members championing the GOP is like a punch to the gut… the party that hates education and the arts which means they hate my immediate family. How could parents and extended family do these sorts of things? Now we are on the verge of a generation long take over of the SCOTUS and, as it is, I found this to be the appropriate album to write about.
Lastly, I would like to talk a little about the title of the album. I was living in Texas where human decency was understood to be a radical position. It is tongue in cheek in a “fuck your callousness” kind of way. I got tired of arguing for universal healthcare, LGBTQ rights, BLM, and so much more. I was considered a ‘radical” when I was nothing of the sort.
“Entry” starts off the album. I suppose I was trying to find a way to walk the listener into my hellscape. It may not sound it in some places, but I was angry, frustrated, and hurt. If one were to use one word for me during this time, it is brittle. I am not sure that’s gone away as of today. This track is a solemn piece that warns the reader of the journey to come.
“May I Speak Frankly, Fuck Off Good Sir?”is directed at a dean at Texas A&M University. In fact, she’s still the Dean of Arts and Science. She fired all the instructors on the campus in early August, which, if you know when school years begin, that means there was nowhere to get work. She cut us all off at the knee while she collected her big fat overpriced penny pusher paycheck. Fuck off indeed. By the way, I used Sir at the time because, well, it sounded better and I honestly didn’t know what bridges I could burn at the time. Well, consider them nuked.
“Plague of Golden Locusts” is about all the boomers and rich people that have been taking and refuse to give. They want to leave the U.S. a field of waste and dead bodies. There is nothing they wish to leave for the rest of us. This is my ode to their greed.
“My Head is Full of Facts and Ignorance is Dangerous” is about, well, 2016 and even before that. I was exhausted after the Obama years of racism driving our politics with McConnell at the helm. They blocked everything good and let barely a sliver in and then, as 2016 moved forward, I saw the country moving to reward them for such childish, ugly behavior. This track is my head spinning, my soul melting, the pings of the cracks splitting in my skull, and the dull ache of helplessness. Yes, there is a dab of hope in there, but, as of today, I think I’m done with hope.
You know when someone is so mesmerized by something, but you cannot get them to see how terrible it is or how much it will hurt or kill them? I guess an extreme case of that would be addiction to drugs. Well “Attracted to the Shiny Until It Kills You” is sort of like that. Perhaps a prophetic track given 200,000 people are dead under the negligence of this idiot of a president, I found so many attracted to the flame and I stood there on the sideline screaming to no affect.
“Silver Angels Sloughing Skin” hums into focus like the bald hypocrisy of so many so called “Christians” that fell for a racist, misogynist, bigot that now resides in the White House. Not one to be religious, at least not anymore, if I were, I would think he were the anti-Christ. A villain so dastardly that he somehow lies into the direction of an evangelical and they swoon like people in a deep stupor, hoping he will command them to kill the liberals. Their silver veneer sloughs off, presenting them as they are, all puss and flayed skin and leathery.
“There are Monster Among Us and They Are Going to Kill Us” is another, I think, prescient track. I was watching a Trump rally, well, only a part because I couldn’t stand the utter filth coming out of his face, and I wrote this song soon after. The monsters aren’t foreigners, immigrants, LGBTQ people, POC, or people that practiced a variety of religions or none at all. No, the monsters looked like me: white, male, and ready to tear down democracy to keep power. I hope (there’s that word again) that one day a knight in shining armor will come to slay the dragon of our folly and I hope she raises the banner of truth and the cockroaches are trampled under her righteous fury.
Well “2016” is a hellscape piece. Need I say more?
“Wake Sleep” is that place between worlds where communities can meet, love one another, and get out of the storm for a time. This could be with family, friends, allies, or any other sort of place where the nightmare outside becomes a beautiful dream inside. You see, at the time, my story didn’t have such a tragic ending and, perhaps, it still won’t, but this is my dream sequence of heavenly hope.
“The Refuge”, for me, at least now, is about figuring out what it means to be an ally. At the time of the writing of this album, I was so ignorant, even for someone who taught Queer Theology and LGBTQ rights in my religion classes. As a privileged white male, I hadn’t seen the foundations yet. The foundations of slavery, blood, violence, and greed that created this country and continues to plague it. I was on that journey and I hope that I would have learned it, Trump or not, but here I am, listening to this track, remembering its composition, and, for me, it sounds naïve.
“Exit” is that moment in the sonic journey that points to a possible resolution of what I was seeing. Likely written before November 3rd of 2016, there was still hope among so many. But that was stollen and, perhaps, there is a bit of that possibility sitting in the deep drone of this track. Suffocation, pleading, I was horrified at what I was watching my country-people doing never mind my own family. I was astonished that they couldn’t hear, so “Exit” is a bit of a hope that this will end, one day. That people like Trump will fall into ashes, leaving us for a better life and a better way.
The art, of course, becomes yours once you hear it. I hope it both brings you to thoughtfulness as well as, perhaps, some ease. The bumpy ride is not over and my voice, my sonic voice, still moves forward.