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excerpt from Chapter 5: from the choirgirl hotel


I think "Cruel" is my favorite. It's one of the ones that's really that Underworld thing. "Cruel" is very much a dark angel -- very primitive, pig-Latin, ghetto feminism.

I spend a lot of time in the water writing music. Any time I can get to a shower, I'm in the shower, because that's where I sing. If you have a good shower -- a glass-enclosed shower and maybe some good tile, and just the sound that's reverberating back -- it's really fantastic. You're in this water womb, and you're singing this music, and nobody can make a comment on it.

It takes me away from my instrument and becomes this pure thing connected to the water world and the water creatures and the water rhythms and the sea foam fairies. And all of a sudden you feel, "Oh, wow," you almost feel like you can breathe in that world. You don't need oxygen any more. Once it takes you down and underneath in the water, you start to feel in a completely different way.

I would play my body in the shower and then start singing around it. I was writing songs completely around playing my flesh, knowing a drummer would later take it to the tenth power. "Cruel" was really birthed out of that. I played the percussion of "Cruel" in the shower on my excess fat. It sounded really good -- it made me feel good when I'd have that next bag of potato chips. I'd say, "Look, ‘Cruel' sounds great in the shower. You eat those chips, girl!"

When we were in the studio and Matt, the drummer, and Andy, the programmer, were just groovin' with "Cruel," I realized that the piano was just not working. It was just too many chiefs. I said, "You know, I need to be a good Indian." Anyway, with "Cruel," I took my hands off the piano and that's how we cut it.

It hits me right around my female organs, "Cruel." It hits me all in that area when I play it. There's almost this side to myself that I've rejected a long time because I've judged her so harshly. I've judged the fact that I can be a real piece of work. There are certain lines that people cross with me that as far as I'm concerned -- especially if they hurt somebody that I love -- there's no going back. I can be really tough -- I want to change that word.

Do you know Boadicea? Around the third century AD, when the Romans were coming into England and they'd been there awhile, the native people were warring with them. Then they brutally tortured them and murdered them.

If I remember correctly, Boadicea found out who was responsible and went into the sacred Druid grove where the Romans slept because they felt that nobody would ever attack them there because it went against everything they believed in. Well, Boadicea believed that once the line was crossed there's nothing like a mother's vengeance. So she went into the sacred druid grove and castrated the whole army.

I identify with her because I think once somebody crosses a line and does something, there's no limitations anymore. You can become an animal, meaning you can become ferocious. The whole forgiveness thing, some people don't really deserve forgiveness. They're not asking for it. So, anyway, "Cruel" is one of those songs where I claim that side of myself which can be very cruel. Some people would believe that there is no reason to be that way, and yet I think that everybody does have it in them even if you do suppress it. Jesus didn't spend 40 days and 40 nights because he had a small dark side, you know what I'm saying?

When I had a miscarriage, there were people who said, "Yes, but you only lost an unborn child. Our son was murdered!" Sometimes people tell me, when they hear I had a miscarriage, "Oh, that's nothing. Someone losing a two year old child, that's terrible." Then I think, "Okay, but I can think of seventy other things you could have said." You don't have to belittle other people just because you can't put yourself in someone else's shoes. Everyone experiences things differently. And pain shouldn't be a competition, like, "You were raped seven times, but I was raped seventy times!" Maybe someone was only harassed by a man in the park, but that affected that person in a certain way. That should still be enough.

For some people, things aren't bad enough as it is. And some hang on to the fact that The Most Terrible Thing happened to them: they entered at #1 in the charts of pain. And then others are secretly jealous because they're only at #6.

There exists such a thing as boasting about misery. One sentence in "Cruel" deals with that: "Dance with the Sufis, celebrate your top ten in the charts of pain." It's about when you hear people listing their griefs, it can be become a bit like a Billboard chart. "Hey, only your uncle abused you? I had seventeen sailors and then my uncle!" That's what that was about. I get a lot of letters from girls who don't talk about what happened to them because they feel they have no right to speak up. So, they become Victims Anonymous.

You hear stories about angels that come and save certain people. When you start talking to people who have that kind of loss, somebody piping up going, "Well, the angels were there for us during this time," well that's beautiful. But people have to understand that they're not there for everybody all the time. They get lost on the way. That's why, in "Cruel," when I say, "I don't know why," I really don't know why I can be cruel. I don't know why the angels aren't there for everybody, but they're not.

What about the mother whose kid gets taken away and never comes back? What were the angels smoking when that happened? What do you say? That their kid wasn't worthy? That it's all for the best? Or God has a plan? When the wolf is at your door, there is no insurance, no distracting him, her. No angel can or has the power to break universal law, not with this wolf or my door.

So, these questions, of course, I was putting towards every deity I could find. I was quite vicious, and I think "Cruel" and "iieee," especially, came out of that. It was almost liberating for me, that it's all in order that I have anger towards the way of things. And just to say, "Thine will be done," just doesn't work anymore. It's hollow.

There weren't a lot of answers for why some mothers lose their children and other women are beating up theirs in the mall in front of you. It doesn't make a lot of sense sometimes. Especially when people call it "God's will." If that wasn't the philosophy, if it were looked on as, "Oh, well, it's a free will planet and there are no guarantees," that's one thing. But if it's God's will that I lose mine, then why is it God's will that these others are being beaten? If that's God's will, I really need to have a margarita with him.

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