Screwtape - Sounds like Primus, Thought Industry, Queen, Flaming Lips

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An open letter to Mrs. Verity

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  1. Three Red Bicycles
  2. Stickinhole
  3. (Herman Keypad's) Disadvantage or The Rape of Baby Jessica
  4. Number 28
  5. pb
  6. Law of the Land
  7. Spiderfarm
  8. (Herman Keypad's)Dissadvantage (Reprise) or Margarettes Love After Death
  9. Underneath (Anthemunanthem)


Jeff Till
Screwtape
52 Grant St.
Kalamazoo, MI
Screwtape@tasmlab.com

Martha Verity
Richland, MI

August 9, 1992

Dear Mrs. Verity,

I am so sorry that I made Craig be part of that atrocity you witnessed last night at the State Theater. We had every intention of blocking out or changing any objectionable content we were going to deliver. I'm sure you are angry and embarrassed by Craig, but rest assured, it mostly my fault. I doubt you even stayed to see Black Spring, Twitch or Thought Industry, who are all wholesome bands.

To evidence our efforts to clean up the show, you will remember that during our song "Cockmachine" we said "I DO I DO I DO I DO". Typically we would have shouted "I FUCK I FUCK I FUCK I FUCK". This clearly demonstrates our intentions to keep it clean.

What tripped us up was the "Eat me" speech that I typically spew before we go into the song. I believe that night I said: "I can be happy that I'm not the blind detective who had to say "Oh bunny, would you please wash your vagina? You know how the smell of his cum makes me sick"

And Colin said: "Unfortunately the word "vagina" seems to escape poetic persuasion. Vagina. A bit to clinical for our gay pot pouri of repartee."

Then I said "But Prudence, a touch of soap and a splash of water renews your selective chastity and saves me the discomfort of playing the blind detective. So scrub, Prudence, scrub. Let the suds become bubbles of honesty. Let the pale honey drain from your thorny crotch so when you come to murder the lame baker he hears only breath and smells you all baby powder blue. His throat, Prudence, his throat! A touch of soap and splash of water will wash my blood from your tiny hands."

At other shows I would have started with this one: "Tonight a rape will happen under my bed, but I will whistle softly so as not to hear her strained breath nor her fingernails scrape along my bedsprings. I could call thunder, herald a storm to make me deaf, or at least water to ruin my mattress. Prudence? Can I sip saline from between you shoulder blades? The soft one glistens with a sugary glaze but something tastes unclean. Come out from under the bed, Prudence. Prudence? My lips are dry, and the fish need to be fed."

Although I don't say any words that can't be used on public television (e.g., SHIT, CUNT, PIG-FUCKER), I was probably a bit too graphic for your taste. As we said, "VAGINA" is a very clinical word, but our usage of it may have been inappropriate.

Oddly enough, with the exception of those listed above and "Disadvantage trilogy", most of our other songs have almost no cussing or vulgarity whatsoever. One of our new songs, entitled "Baby talk"*, makes some lewd suggestions, but that about it. Actually, most of our songs are dorky science fiction numbers. My favorite, Number 28, is based on the Japanimation movie "Akira". You can't really get any more harmless than writing songs about cartoons.

They almost could have made a cartoon about "Spiderfarm". We built our own dorky mythology for that one. "Amphibian", our largest most Screwtapiest song ever, was about Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I can't emphasize more how harmless and geeky we were.

"Law of the Land" was based on a cartoon as well. I always imaged it being from the Bugs Bunny episode where Daffy is shrunken ant-size and is hugging a pearl screaming "Mine! Mine!". "Law of the Land" was the first song Screwtape wrote. Your son, Craig, and I have always been able to understand each other musically. Colin, I assure you, had no idea what he was getting into when he signed up.

I think song-writing collaboration with Colin has been the only successful songwriting collaboration I've been able to do. Colin is really good at details and specifics and I am pretty good with the big picture. Colin is also a practiced, studied, talented musician. A perfect fit for the direction I wanted to go in. Technique-oriented artistic music. Overman was a lesson on how to get from point A to point B without messing up. Screwtape is trying to put as many obstacles and challenges in the way, and then make it without messing up.

Upon disbanding Overman, Colin and us tried each other out. It worked. I was a little concerned at first that Colin wanted to sing. Now, at the time of this letter, I seriously question whether I should sing or not. That's why, Mrs. Verity, you will notice me singing less and less. I just don't sound that great. Most of my Screwtape parts going forward will be just talking and shouting. I may quit vocals altogether at a later point.

If you get a chance, you can listen to our first and only CD, Anthemunanthem. We recorded in one long day and mixed it in another long day. We tried to get funding by putting an ad in the paper asking strangers for a loan. No one cared to give us one. We later borrowed $900 from your husband, Gordon, and were on our way.

Recording CDs is way fun. On some tracks we layered Colin's guitar four times over. I think it came out pretty good, although I regret not recording "Eat Me" or "Inhale", which were both almost ready. We are now sticklers for practice, usually clocking in around 12 hours a week. We weren't just going to let anything go.

We practiced everything. Beginnings, endings, transitions, variations. We practiced the words we were going to say between songs. We are planning on even practicing strings changing when they break. We are also considering doing an entire set without playing any songs. Now that will take practice.

Screwtape did not, nor will we ever play with a notable band. No principles here, it just won't happen.

We do, however, get to play lots and lots of shows. Even though we played terribly heady music, we are never quite as misunderstood at places like Overman sometimes was. That's probably just my perception, but I think people get the gag.

If we ever break up, I will probably do something stupid like move out of town and get a real job. Until then, I'm going to race to the moon.

Again, sorry for the embarrassing show last night. I'm just glad you never heard Jared Bryant's big pussy speech he gave at our last Soda show.

Apologies and regrets,

Jeff Till

* I am making references to events that would have been after the date of this letter. I understand that it would be impossible to do this if this was indeed a real letter.



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