by Steve Ruff
When I was talking to Michael about the new L.S. Underground record, we also started talking about songs and their meanings. Songs are really interesting in the sense that they can take on a life of their own. I have always been attracted to music based generally on the lyrical content first, and then the music second. That’s not to say if Brittany Spears put out a thought-provoking album I would buy it, I do have to like the music, but the lyrics have always come first for me. That is what drew me into Michael’s art in the first place, the fact that he puts out amazing music that ranges from goth, to new wave, to surfer punk and everything in between, was just icing on the cake. I asked Michael about the meaning, or inspiration, behind five of his songs. It was hard to choose just five, seriously I mean how do you pick out five when he has over four hundred? Anyway, it was a great conversation where Michael flipped the table, and asked me a question or two. It fit great with the story, so it’s all here below for your reading enjoyment.
First up was the song “The Bitterness” off of Life Of David. “That’s basically about being a human being and dealing with life as it comes at you, and understanding that we can learn from the hard times that can make us better. If we didn’t have the hard times, and we only had good times, we couldn’t become a better person. That’s why ‘I love the bitterness’. You gotta love the hard times because they’re gonna grow you as a person, a more loving person and a more whole person.”
The next song we talked about was “Serious” off of Rocket and a Bomb. “That’s all about just not taking life too serious. You know, everyone’s talking about how they lost this girl, or that guy, or they lost their house or their job… why do you take it so serious? You know there is hope at the end of this dark time, there is hope. That’s what I am saying in a nutshell, because there is hope, we don’t need to commit suicide, we don’t need to jump from the Empire State, we don’t need to hang from an oak tree. We don’t need to do that because there is a reason for us to be here, so let’s stay as long as we possibly can.”
Third in line was “Beg and Kick” off of Radioactive Hits. “The lyric that sums it up is ‘you’re sloppy sick when you beg and you kick’. It’s not about begging, it’s not about kicking, it’s about living. There’s no hope in begging and kicking. What about the flow, the flow of humanity, the flow of love and the flow of life. You know, there’s faith, hope and love… there’s no faith, hope and love in begging and kicking, that’s the opposite of Christ, so I’m blaming myself there. I beg, I kick and I’m sloppy sick when I beg and kick.”
Next to last was “Down”, one of my favorites off Comatose Soul. “That’s about Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. He’s praying to the Father, ‘if You can, please take this away from me’. Christ knows what’s going to happen to him, and that’s when He sweats blood, which is one of the most intense things in history. That’s Him talking to the Father, ‘won’t You save me from the down, won’t You throw away this cup that’s hanging around, Your ways, not mine will be found, won’t You save me from the down.”
Last of all was the song “Radio Satan” from Cash In Chaos. Radio Satan was always my favorite track from that album, but after years of trying to figure out the meaning, I decided to ask the man himself. Michael explains, “Basically I was so upset at this Christian radio programmer, and I will never name his name, but he was so against me that I wrote that song about him. Here he was, he was a Christian with a Christian radio show and occasionally he would throw in some alternative rock… his wife really liked my stuff, but he hated my stuff. So, I turned him in to Judas in the song and that’s where ‘the kiss’ leads to murder, and in kissing Christ, Christ becomes the martyr, and, I called this guy Radio Satan. Straight up, straight forward, that is what that song is about. I had some angst, I was a little upset and it made for a decent song that really had a home-run chorus. It’s weird to say ‘Satan’ and put it in a nice chorus you know, it wasn’t giving points to Satan though. It was tearing this guy down, and I was being human, I was being a little judgmental… I never said his name though, and I also knew that people would take it in their own way and it would mean something different to them too, in a cool way, and maybe in an even better way.” This is where Michael flips the role on me and says to me, ” I want you to print this too, what did that song mean to you? This is a perfect example of where a song can transcend from the birth and spawn all sorts of things, what did that song mean to you personally?” My response was that I really had no idea… but Michael said, “C’mon, you must have some thoughts on what it meant?” I honestly didn’t, but then I referred back to the song “Down”, because I could explain that one and what it meant to me. When I purchased Comatose Soul, I had just come out of rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, and being sober I had the daily fighting with myself to stay on the track of being ‘clean’. The lyrics to me spoke of fighting my intuition to drink and use again…”nothing helps the raging trigger when it calls, nothing stops the clever digger when he falls, nothing’s there to convince the will at all.” Those lyrics spoke to me of my will, and how when the pull of substance becomes overwhelming, nothing can convince my will to do anything else. Anyone who has struggled, fallen and struggles some more with drugs and alcohol can relate. The song continues to the chorus, “Won’t you throw away this cup that’s hanging around, Your ways, not mine will be found, won’t You save me from the down.” The cup in that song was a representation of a bottle, or a drug, and it was, for me, a cry to God for my will to find His way and to save me from going ‘down’ again. That song was profound when I first heard it because of the struggle and the fight that I faced on an hourly, and sometimes minute to minute, basis.
That’s where Michael picks back up and says, “That’s what I’m talking about, you see people that read this are going to have their own experiences with the songs if they’ve heard them. Their experiences are just as important, if not more important, than what the original writer thought. That’s why sometimes it’s not good to do an interview and explain the meaning of songs unless people understand that their interpretation many times trumps the writers intent because of what it means to them. That’s the beauty of a song, because of course Christ would also want to help a person trying to get free from an addiction.”