Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me… So they say. Words are just words we were taught to ignore.
This is the first blog of 2019 and over the next series of blogs I want to concentrate on elements of music and songwriting that hopefully have some relevance to this page and beyond. I really enjoy writing these blogs but I don’t do it enough. So this year I will try to have more discipline and get to write a blog once a week or at least twice a month. This is challenge number one six three.
This first blog will be about “Words”. Yep – Simply that. I’m writing about words. Their twists and turns and how they can affect / effect us. The same applies for music, writing, listeners and the reader. An observation on how we use words and how they can convey a message or leave a mark.
So what are words. In linguistics, a word is the smallest element that can be uttered in isolation with objective or practical meaning. String them together and you can convey all sorts of ideas. With that in mind I’d like to broach a topic that means a lot to me and convey or invoke emotion or even reaction – as I would do with specific songs that I write to create awareness. Now I know this might be a bit of a mishmash but bare with me… there is a message in here somewhere. So let’s begin with two words that I have been toying with for a while now. “Why” and “Wildlife”. Put them together and the idea is multiplied.
Why Wildlife – A personal story.
I wouldn’t be your typical environmentalist. I wouldn’t be your typical vegetarian for that matter either. I became or chose to become a vegetarian almost 10 years ago now and for reasons that we’re personal to me. It wasn’t planned. It just happened. If I’m honest though I felt it was coming. A profound moment that I had whilst sitting in a car in Donegal town (Ireland) waiting for Jeff (my manager), who was buying burgers for a bungalow barbecue we were planning to have that day by the coast (I brought the refreshments).
Sitting in his car waiting I flipped open a Moby CD we had been listening to on the drive north from Dublin. I’ve always loved record sleeves or CD booklets and all those words that came with the music; words that weren’t song lyrics, but maybe the thoughts of the artist themselves. That was my thinking inanyway. And in the days before the internet and all the artist access we now enjoy, that was the only way of getting into the mind of the writer or your idols. I would spend hours reading through their sleeve notes. Comparing. Conjuring. Learning who did what and where. Who was the runner and who brought the coffee to the recording studio etc. It was information packed into little words. Occasionally you would get lyrics (mostly on vinyl LP’s). You’d read the lyrics and make up the songs before you’d even heard them. I would construct my own song using their lyrics, imaging how it might sound. Safe to say, the songs were never the same. But I was learning. Looking back now that’s probably why I like adding text to booklets and sleeve notes on my own records. Emulation more so than adulation. The penny drops.
Anyway, on reading Moby’s words, line by line, there in a parked car in a car park with no music, I was drawn in. Now Moby would be a vegetarian activist. He’s not afraid to put it out there. But reading along I was calmly influenced by what he had to say; his words and approach on the subject made sense to me. Nothing heavy just information. And no… I can’t remember what the album was but it definitely struck a chord (if you’ll excuse the pun). His music generally does…
I Blame Moby
I should mention I never really liked to eat meat. Chewy, dry and stretchy! Growing up in Ireland strangely enough, meat was always part of your dinner. But it never sat easy with me; and I mean that physically. I always felt too full, stodgy, heavy and even uncomfortable, especially in my stomach. I realise now not having had meat for almost 10 years that it just didn’t work for me and my system. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
To cut a long story short, I went to that Donegal bungalow barbecue with a different mindset. I remember it clearly. By the fire I got talking to a girl by from Switzerland who was a vegetarian, but only ate horse meat once every year when she went home to the Alps. True story and the last straw. I realised everybody had a different relationship to meat. The wheels turned and something clicked. Quite simply, then and there I decided that I would become a vegetarian. Or more realistically give up meat. And as you do, I grabbed two buns, filled them with vegetables and then slapped the two remaining beef burgers from the barbecue grill onto my bread, added a geansaí load of red sauce (Ketchup) and then the onions. Smacked them all together and gorged away. And that was that. The the last time I ate meat.
I’ve never looked back. Yes I was tired for six months, lethargic even, falling asleep at bus stops until I realised that I was missing important nutrients that meat had given me without ever having to think about it. Typical me – feet first. But you get that right and are the better for it. All your nutrients can be found in a plant based diet, fruits and nuts (and natural supliments). I never felt better.
The education had begun and having a non meat diet changed everything. I felt things differently. I saw things differently; how we live and our relationship to food and animals. I realised then why I ate meat. Simply because it was what we were and what we are given. It’s what we know. Meat is an easy substitute and a very quick fix. Too easy maybe? No one is to blame; certainly not our parents. It’s what they knew. That said parents have a responsibility. But whatever it was and whatever was in the meat was going into me. Fear, bad food, bad living conditions and lets not forget antibiotics and steroids. My system is sensitive. I was getting it all and here’s the crux. Almost ten years on I don’t feel any of that now. And I am rarely sick. Other things began to change as awareness became a bigger thing.
Too Much Plastic
All of that leads me to this. As a songwriter I feel there is a responsibility to write about the bigger issues. Satellite, All Your Features, Jesus I Can Try, You Get What You Paid For, even Freak are songs with backstories. The song Elastic, from my most recent album ‘They Might See Doplphins’, was written with my partner Sabine Mann and puts environmental awareness to the fore. Now I know you might think “Ah jaysus the guy’s gone hippy”, but it’s not true. I’ve always been a hippy and a realist to boot. Not eating meat has led me down the road of awareness. Come on. You have to see it! Our reality and relationship with food has become skewed. Look at just how dependant we have become on other living beings and just how our insatiable designs on animal flesh has become catastrophic. Most notably now and how this industry is destroying our planet. Cow farts. Yes cow farts! You know the story right? It’s a smelly buisness for sure but it’s real. Have you seen the “Cowspiracy” movie. Watch it. It’s an eye opener.
Ironically enough I just watched Russell Crowe in the movie ‘Noah’ recently. An old age message rings loud and clear. Maybe now more so. My approach is not “meat is murder” as proposed by Morrissey. At least it wasn’t but it’s not far off. I believe in gentle coercion and passive information. Hence the song “Elastic” and the story of a little Irish girl who loves this planet. From her innocent heart she realises that with plastic we are choking this beautiful planet… and not just with man-made elements. Man grown animals also play a serious role. So that’s why – “Why Wildlife”.
Why Wildlife is my new NLP piece that I’m tatoo-ing on the back of my eyelids. Something to help me remember. To keep the focus. It also helps me to re-think the things I do. Yeah it’s hippy dippy but it’s true. Our planet is in trouble. We ignore the signs at our peril. Humanity’s impact on animals is impacting mother nature herself. If the earth suffers we suffer. All living things matter. All living things are connected. So that’s Why Wildlife.
With new words and by adding music I will focus my energy on what is important to me. Because I have our best wishes at heart. Hopefully you do too. With that in mind here’s something I overheard recently. It made me laugh. “Cow milk is for baby cows. It is laced with protein to help them grow fast. Developing the brain, especially that of a human is not its function. It was never its function. It also slows down the immune system. The breast milk from a woman is full of sugars designed to enhance the rapid growth of a child’s brain. Maybe we should feed that to baby cows see how they like it”.
I’ve found it very easy to live a vegetarian lifestyle. Yes you get funny looks and it’s always a giggle with friends but it’s more and more the norm now. Yes you do have to think more about how you eat and what you eat. But surely that’s a good thing. It’s good because you know what you’re taking into your system. You learn and you educate yourself. If you have information you will make informed choices. Then there’s the vegan approach. Sabine and I drift in and out of it. When we are at home we cook vegan. But I love cheese. Eggs too. Yes I realise it’s only a substitute and very easy in times when you are most hungry. But that’s just an excuse if I’m honest. Both these food substances are also weighing heavy on the environment. If I am going to embrace the “why wildlife” lifestyle wholeheartedly… I think it’s time to bite the buffet and embrace my inner vegan. The conversation has been had and we’re gonna try it – so vegans watch out. We’re militant and we’re getting active ha ha. I’ll keep you posted on how that’s going.
Why Wildlife – A Plastic Moment
I wanna cut down my own use of plastic. So I thought up some things to put down for myself to think about when using plastic. How I might help reduce my own plastic use. You see it on paper and it looks do-able.
This piece contains no pictures – save the header image. It’s but an exercise in putting words together and just how that can determine and affect how we think and feel; to engage the reader and the writer. As songwriters – we should have something to say. ‘They Might See Dolphins’ does that in many ways. Words can be powerful things and weapons more effective than any stick or stone. When used wisely… they can soothe. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed the ramble. In the next blog I will talk about ‘Sound’. Good luck!