While I was writing Bloody Waters I paid special attention to the way that I presented the songs that band plays, and in particular their live performances of these songs. The very first one I wrote was “Davy Jones’ Locker” from Chapter 9 and it remains still my favourite. I wrote a handful more following the same principles–focus on the music and the performance and perhaps give a sense of the narrative of the song. If you’ve read the book you may have noticed’ll probably have noticed that the only times I provide song lyrics are when they are put up for ridicule. You never hear any of Bloody Waters’ lyrics, because Clarice is a better songwriter than me.
In any case, I wrote a number of songs, but they were perhaps the most difficult element of the book to capture. Every time someone remarked to me that they enjoyed the songs, I breathed a sigh of relief that I had cut the majority of them out of the story. But here on the website I have no shame… nor do I have an editor to please. So here, a hidden track for your amusement and perhaps derision.
A stub of this song remains in Chapter 9, where Arlo Tuckson watches Bloody Waters perform it on TV. I cut this one in a very early draft; I had to go back to 2005 to find it.
“King of the Cannibal Cyborg Mutants” from the album Bloody Waters, as performed on Tonight Live with David Letterman
On the thirty centimeter screen Clarice stood at the front of the stage, dead center, guitar strapped on, holding her hands out wide. Johnny stood behind her and to her right, Enrique on her left. Beresford raised her drumsticks and struck a short, infectious rhythm off the snare. She paused for a bar, then repeated it. The third time, she added a cymbal clash to the end. The fourth time she added some thunder from the bass drum. The fifth time Enrique took it up, the tone of his bass fat and squelchy. Then Clarice came in.
The main riff was hard and simple and catchy. When Johnny picked it up Clarice shifted up an octave and played it off the beat. Johnny stepped up to the mic. and started to sing; his voice gruff and low and grating. He sang about a land inhabited by three peoples: cannibal cyborgs, mutant cannibals, cyborg mutants.
“Sci fi bullshit, Jesus Christ,” Tuckson muttered.
Johnny’s guitar dropped into a palm-muted, two-chord-and-a-pedal-note riff. Clarice played a couple of wriggly, bouncy whammy-bar licks as Beresford pounded the bass drum and Enrique slapped out a bass riff that alternately slipped off or stomped all over the drumbeat and the rhythm guitar.
A warlord arose amongst mutant cyborgs; conquering a dozen of his own people’s citystates before bringing the tribes of cannibal mutants under his control. He began to spend time with the tribes, learning their culture, their martial traditions, their art forms. Their taste for human flesh.
Clarice spun up her volume and kicked off the solo; fingers lurching and spidering and leaping up and down the neck of her guitar, using hybrid picking to strike the notes and draw the shimmering chords out of the instrument. The solo started out mechanical and jerky. Clarice stomped on a pedal to switch off the distortion, and in the new clean tone the solo became sinewy and flexible, occasionally punctuated by a sudden, chomping chord sequence. Clarice added some wah wah, then slammed the distortion back on and the solo became everything at once: robotic, muscular, funky, relentless… and hungry.
The solo over, Johnny came back in, playing the starting riff in tandem with Clarice. Standing closer to the mic., he sang on about how the warlord conquered the nomadic cyborg cannibals, how he united the territories and was crowned King of the Cannibal Cyborg Mutants. How he proceeded to devour his subjects–cannibal, mutant and cyborg alike–until he stood alone, fat and sated, the sole inhabitant of the land.
Beresford’s drums slowed, the bass and rhythm guitars faded, Clarice faded with a short, mellow solo.
Stupid fucking song, Tuckson thought. No emotional content, just this… story. But he had to concede that it sounded good.