THE KILLING TYPE: vivisected

(The following blog was written August 8th for delivery to Kickstarter backers before anyone else. Here it is in its entirety.)

hola comrades.

the whole band just spent 3 CRAZY FUCKING days in oklahoma city at flaming-lips-land with wayne coyne and his amazing video crew and arty entourage of smart freaky people, making a video that will be…SOMETHING. i don’t even know where to start. there was glitter. there was crying. there were drag queens. there was spooning. there was stoya. there was crowdsurfing. there were fruit sculptures. it’ll likely get a blog of its own, soon.

in a nutshell: historic. my entire suitcase is infected with glitter. a spot on my chin is red and ragged from rubbing a microphone against it. my entire body aches from acting like a rock star. here’s a photo by @SeanKavin (toyed with in Instagram by @merriboo):
i’m insanely, inexplicably, deeply tired. i’ve been pushing for a few too many weeks without a day off. right now i’m on a plane from detroit to edinburgh to take a week to stop thinking about my own stupid shit and see everybody ELSE’S art at the fringe festival. going to see plays and comedy and street theater and general fringe madness does more to energize me that any single other activity i can think of. i need it like food. i need to see amazing people making amazing things, or i run out of life. so that’s the plan. i’ll be there for a week and neil and i will meet up for most of it and stay at a friends house. there will be vegetarian haggis.

but now:

it’s NEW SONG TIME. it’s nice to write to you on a plane. i always get light-headed and weird on a plane. good place to explain songs.

we’ve been playing this one live, and it’s pretty much settled into being a favorite even though we haven’t released it yet.

here’s us playing it acoustic. with knives. (photo via @HunterMulich via @SFappeal)

most of the songs on the record (including the ones released to kickstarter backers/people who signed up for the mailing list on my site: “do it with a rockstar“, “want it back“, and “trout heart replica“) were written around 2008/2009. some in 2010 (i think “the bed song” was written in 2010). but “the killing type” popped out the most recently. it is the youngest child on the album.

i was in amsterdam, last fall, and i’d just had dinner with my sister, who lives in neighboring utrecht (she’s the smart one. she works at the university there, as a scientist). we ate, talked about life, marriage, lies, truth, love, pain, death, family, abortion – you know, the usual – and i trotted off in a generally upbeat mood to the hotel i was staying in about two miles away. i had a flight in the morning to head back to the states.

then two things happened:
1) i couldn’t find a cab
2) my phone battery was almost dead

i memorized the map enough to be able to make my way across a series of canals to my hotel.
and then embarked on my walk home, which i figured would take me about forty-five minutes…but it was a not-too-chilly fall night, i was warmed by the two glasses (three? four?) i’d had at my sister-dinner, and if you’re stuck walking through ANY city without a cab, i recommend central amsterdam. it’s endlessly breathtaking. canals and little theatre-bulb-lit bridges there are as typical as crosswalks and ATMs are in new york city. and so i walked.

songs come like this. they come all the time, really, i don’t know how to explain THAT – i mean, they’re always buzzing around in there.
i can’t hear a rhyme or a stupid pun or read a newspaper or hear a poetic story or see a rainbow-gas-stain in a puddle without getting a song idea.

but the more fully-formed ones, the ones that come with music….they come mostly when my brain is not preoccupied with work, with decision-making, with communicating.

nowadays that doesn’t happen very often. pretty much every waking moment of my life is filled with work, with decision-making, with communicating.
songs don’t fit. they don’t come.

but my phone was dead. there was no twittering, no walking-and-texting, no doing world-clock calculations to think about which of my friendlovers might be awake for a chat.
no checking email and thinking about merchandise designs while walking into a dutch streetlamp and then feeling excruciating shame that i wasn’t enjoying the wonderful late-night slightly drunken amsterdam canal scenery.

because my phone was almost dead.

dead dead dead.

and as i walked, in came the song.

it was just a phrase: i’m not the killing type.

it sounded catchy.
like a song i’d heard before.
that’s always when i know it’s a good song.

i wrote in my head…thinking:

what wouldn’t i kill?
what wouldn’t i kill for?
what would i say? versus actually mean?

the song wrote itself.
i tried to keep all the lyrics in my head.

i missed the hotel by several canals.
i eventually found it.

dutch people looked at me funny as i hummed and sang.

i got to the hotel (which i couldn’t tell you the name of to save my life), went up to the room, and thought:

here we are. moment of truth.

take out the ukulele, find the chords, write the song down, plug in the phone, record a draft, write a bridge while the song is hot, before the form freezes….
or go to bed? i was tired.

i stayed up. i plugged the fucking phone in and let it charge a bit. i wrote a bridge. the bridge was good. i wrote a third verse. i plucked out the three or four chords i’d heard in my head on the ukulele.
i opened my voice memo app and recorded the whole mess of a draft. i patted myself loudly on the back and i went to bed while my phone quietly sucked up the dutch electricity, ready to attack me in the morning.



one note about the lyrics:

“i once stepped on a dying bird”….true story. actually happened.

i was back in my hometown of lexington sometime in my twenties.

i was doing that thing where you visit old places, and i was visiting my old best friend’s house.
i was pretty sure her mom didn’t live there anymore (the house has long since been razed to the ground, as actually chronicled in the song “bank of boston beauty queen”….LEVELS).
but i was wandering around the old side yard when i saw the bird.

it was definitely dying.
you know dying when you see it.
this bird was on the way out.
i think it was a sparrow, or maybe a finch, but it was small enough to fit in my hand.
teeny. brown. dying. heaving breaths, just barely making it.

i looked around and tried to piece together the mystery of what happened to this poor creature. cat? window? who knew. death, at any rate.

and i had this awful feeling that i should really kill it.
have mercy on it.
put it out of its misery.
and once i thought the thought, i couldn’t unthink it.

i stood there, paralyzed.

i didn’t want to. i really didn’t.
it felt, in a way, wrong. unkind.
and also, in a way, kind. right.

i was sporting my typical footwear of the era: giant german combat boots.

i knew this bird would be toast the second i did it.

if i did it.

i didn’t want to do it.

but i really did. i did because i didn’t want to watch the pain, and i couldn’t walk away thinking about the suffering.
i just couldn’t do it.

i couldn’t do it.

then i did it.

and it was the SOUND, the SOUND and the SOUND mixed with the feeling in my foot.
even through that thick government-issue german sole, i felt those bones break.
teeny little bones, as if they were made of glass. it took nothing. nothing.

and then, after, it was if i had a memory in my right foot. sometimes you can’t forget a tune and it burrows in your brain, or you see a horrible image and the visual replays in your mind…
i walked and walked and walked for days, but my foot couldn’t shake the memory, it kept feeling that soft body, those little bones, that life that was the size of a balled-up sock.
it was a form of mild post-traumatic stress disorder, phantom avian variety.

i’m not the killing type.
i’m not i’m not.


and now, hope you’re ready for a really good tangent.

here’s single artwork (crafted by @indeciSEAN and i using my source-art, below):
and the original art (click HERE to see it bigger)…
…which has a damn good story.

it’s photograph of a multi-media collage i did when i was about 21 or 22, which also appears in “The Grand Theft Art Companion” (the kickstarter art book many of you are getting).

“the killing type” was a latecomer to the album, and we didn’t have a good band demo for it when i was sending the pile o’ demos to the various artists who were cranking away at paintings and whatnot for the art book. it a had a ukulele demo. come to think of it, i’m not sure i even put it on the list of songs the artists could pick from. i think maybe i didn’t.

either way, as the album and the book were coming together, i realized that we didn’t have a single piece of art for “the killing type.”

i hadn’t made any my own art yet (i set aside time in may? or was it june?) to make my own album art and would up spending the vast majority of time on “the bed song” art (of which i’m insaaaanely proud).
and i started mulling about the killing type and what it meant and what some good art would be.
and it struck me that i actually HAD a piece of art i’d already made that would be PERFECT. and i dug and dug (and dug and dug) around my chaotic boston apartment until i finally unearthed this beast.

the medium: a heavy wooden board about two feet tall with a real-life shooting-range paper target pasted and nailed to it with copper nails.
other materials used: pubic hair, glue, menstrual blood, bloody gauze, cut-outs from an old volume of “grey’s anatomy”, cut-outs from old art/architecture books.

i remember making it one summer (or christmas?) when i was home from college and staying at my parents house.

my mom had, much to my total bafflement, gotten into guns.

for you to understand this, let me tell you a little bit about my mom.

my mom shopped at LL bean…via mail order.
my mom was a computer programmer.
my mom was into bird-watching, church choir, and cheerfully hosting neighborhood tennis potluck parties.
my mom’s interests of the past few years before that had included learning italian, volunteering for the red cross, and playing at pick-up soccer games at the lexington community center.

and then – out of the blue – she wanted to shoot at things.

she was really excited by her weekly trips up to the new hampshire shooting range and kept trying to convince me to go with her.

i was terrified.

i was also curious to see the birthplace of the targets she had been bringing home and PROUDLY HANGING ON HER OFFICE DOOR.

i should also point out one other disturbing fact: among my mom’s general interests, there was one that had never really struck me as odd…true crime.
my mom LOVED true crime. fiction crime, forget it. but a true crime story about some normal person who goes postal one day and kills all her children….my mom was ALL OVER THAT.

“what is it you love about true crime so much?” i asked her one day.

“i love CRIMES OF PASSION!!” she said, putting some broccoli on the steamer and wiping her hands on her kitchen apron. “i love trying to untangle the mystery of WHY a TOTALLY normal person – someone NOBODY would SUSPECT – just up and kills their whole family without warning!”

my mind floated to the ominously shredded target on her office door upstairs and i quietly dipped my pre-dinner wheat cracker into a tub of hummus, wondering if i was going to live.


i stole one of her targets and made the art late one night using whatever was around.


then i started to worry that my mom would read this blog and send a “WHY ARE YOU TELLING PEOPLE THIS?” email, so i preemptively sent it over. she responds:

My dear Amanda,

My sincere apologies to you if I ever scared you or made you think that this was anything but just a passing interest. I took you as a teenager and all the other kids as young adults to come with me to the target range so I could teach you all about the safe and responsible handling of firearms…..

The reason that I got into guns goes back a very long way, into my childhood. My brother and my father used to go to an outdoor target range when I was a little girl, maybe 7 or 8, and they shot at targets and had a good time. I seemed to always be “dragged along” with them but I was never allowed to hold a rifle because I was too little. I did notice though that neither my brother nor my father were very good at hitting the bull’s-eye of the target.

Several years later, when I was college age, my brother took me back to the range. I was finally old enough to hold a rifle, which I did and the first time I ever fired a shot, it actually hit the target. My brother was duly impressed. This was quite unusual for my brother to be impressed by his little sister who hit the target the first time she ever held a rifle :):)

Many years passed and one day a friend of mine invited me up to a New Hampshire indoor target range to practice shooting at paper targets. I had never held a hand gun before and was quite apprehensive but after intensive instruction on the safety and the use of firearms, I finally lifted the gun (which I had rented at the shop) and aimed at the target. I was quite surprised at what a steady hand I had and how well I did. Actually I came very close to hitting the bull’s-eye. Probably thanks to my low blood pressure.

Shortly after that I decided that the only responsible thing to do before ever holding a gun again was to enroll in a gun safety course which I did. I went to a course that lasted two full days and during that time I learned everything about gun safety. Actually 50% of the course was about gun safety and 50% was about how to handle a gun and aim at a target. I put my first bullet in the gun and did everything the instructor said and shot the bullet and it hit the center of the target! Even the instructor was surprised. No one else in the class had come close to hitting the center of the target. So… the ONLY reason that I really liked to hit targets was because I was a good shot. That’s it. No more. No less.

I had a very steady hand, I followed exactly what the instructor said, I learned how to hold my feet in a triangular stance, I learned how to hold my body still and I learned how to open both eyes and to breathe in then breathe out slowly while leaning forward as I pulled the trigger. I had never excelled at any other sport before in my life. So I was just quietly very proud of the number of holes I put in the target around and in the bull’s-eye… a personal best…. :)

I will tell you that I was not very impressed with the other people at the target range. They seemed to have an agenda that I didn’t share.

It didn’t take too long before I got bored with always shooting at paper targets. I could and never will bring myself to harm an animal or a bird or a duck just for sport. To me that is cruel and unusual punishment to these animals who are truly innocent.

And in my heart of hearts I am a true pacifist. I cannot imagine ever killing another human being. It is one of the greatest of the Ten Commandments and I really feel we all must follow this Commandment. If you save someone’s life or bring life into this world, you are continuing our humanity. If you take someone’s life, you are cutting off the continuity of our humanity.

I am sorry that you felt threatened when you were a little girl and I am glad you came with me to New Hampshire because, if you remember, the first thing I taught you was gun safety and responsibility and to only use a gun in a target range and never for anything else. And…you were an excellent shot too!

Regarding my interest in true crime… I think it’s genetic on my father’s side. My dad was the head of Human Resources at a rapidly growing company and so would come home with fascinating stories about truly weird things people did (who were subsequently fired). My dad and I were always interested in true crime… that is, what is it that turned a normal person into a crazed person who would get so angry at someone that they would kill them? I have read many books about this and realized that there are many many factors leading up to this… the mores and morals of the time, the pressures on this person both financial and emotional, the thinking that there was no other way out, the lack of social support, a loving family and a safety net and what I think is that if any one of these elements were changed in this person’s life, then that person would have been different and a life would not have been taken.

As a family, we used to talk about those tragic incidents and talk about how we all must support one other in life and hopefully never be in a position where any of our friends or family ever feels alone and abandoned.

Love, Mutti



i wouldn’t kill to win a war
i don’t get what they do it for
it’s all so terribly vague
i see the pictures from a thousand years of battle
and i think it’s such a bore
i walk new orleans with a knife
like mackie hidden out of sight
but i’d be useless if they jumped
i’m really not the killing type

i’m not the killing type
i’m not the killing type
i’m not i’m not
i’m not the killing type i’m not

i’ve got a picture of your mum
before the war when she was young
she’s got an etching to her right
i think it’s funny that she’s looking to the left and it’s her son

i wouldn’t kill to get you back
and i’ve officially been asked
i couldn’t kill to save a life
i’d rather die a peaceful piece of shit-bait shame-filled coward
i’m not the killing type
i’m not the killing type
i’m not i’m not
i’m not the killing type i’m not

but i would kill to make you feel
i don’t mean kill someone for real
i couldn’t do that, it is wrong
but i can say it in a song a song a song

and i’m saying it
i’m saying it
even if you never hear this song somebody else would know
i’m saying it
i’m saying it
even if you never hear this song somebody else will know
know know know

i just can’t explain how good it feels
i just can’t explain how good it feels
i just can’t explain how good it feels
i just can’t describe

i once stepped on a dying bird
it was a mercy killing
i couldn’t sleep for a week
i kept feeling its breaking bones

i heard
that if you see a star at night
and the conditions are just right
and you are standing on a cliff
then you can close your eyes
and make a wish
and take a step
and change somebody’s life

i’m not the killing type
i’m not the killing type
i’m not i’m not
i’m not the killing type i’m not

but i would kill to make you feel
i’d kill to move your face an inch
i see you staring into space
i wanna stick my fist into your mouth and twist your arctic heart

i would kill to make you feel
i don’t mean kill someone for real
i couldn’t do that, it is wrong
but i can say it in a song a song a song
and i’m saying it
i’m saying it
even if you never hear this song somebody else would know
i’m saying it
i’m saying it
even if you never hear this song somebody else would know
know know know
i just can’t explain how good it feels
i just can’t explain how good it feels
i just can’t explain how good it feels
i just can’t describe ibe ibe ibe

i’m not the killing type.


go HERE to download it.


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