Dark Meat's "Freedom Ritual" | Song of the Week | Indy Week
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Dark Meat's "Freedom Ritual" 

Meatman Jim McHugh on parties and girlfriends

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"Freedom Ritual"—the first song on Universal Indians, the debut from Athens, Ga.'s Dark Meat—doesn't have much to do with the rest of the album. An unaccompanied female voice floats in for the first minute, singing softly in a moment of tranquility that's never repeated. Sure, there are plenty of female vocals on the record, but—once the guitars come crunching in, quickly followed by the devilish horn lines and free jazz breakdown—Dark Meat's acid-adventure deluge of sound is anything but tranquil.

INDEPENDENT: Can you tell me where your proper name, Dark Meat Vomit Lasers Family Band/Galaxy, comes from?

JIM MCHUGH: When we started the band, we were all working in the same kitchen, and we were kind of like a family. It naturally had a culinary twist. There's a whole lot of philosophical babble behind it too that I'm not sure if you want to hear.

Go for it.

It's our contention that humans are just meat made dark by their ability to register guilt... We're no different from the critters on our plate except for our big, weird brains.

For the different parts of the name: We all of the sudden woke up and had a horn section, so we named them the Vomit Lasers. There's so many people to keep up with, the nomenclature helps.

Where does this folky female vocal intro come from on "Freedom Ritual"? It's so different from anything else on the record.

The a cappella intro was written and conceived of in the studio by Page Campbell, who sings it. She's my girlfriend, and we were listening to a lot of Anne Briggs, who's responsible for preserving a lot of English and Scottish folk songs.

That song, the body of that song, I actually wrote in my sleep. I woke up and picked up her [Campbell's] guitar and started playing. It just kind of came out this weird, fevered story of battles and ghosts and lost loves. It just seemed very Irish. We decided it would be a really good way to introduce the album—and then on comes the mayhem. It sort of galvanizes things 'cause we just run right into the heavy part.

Is that typical of the Dark Meat songwriting process: You come up with the main part—in a dream, or whatever—and then it gets added to?

Yeah, for the most part I come up with the main part, but people are always adding these amazing things that I could never come up with. Our whole sound is kind of built upon the individual parts.

What can people who haven't been to see a Dark Meat show before expect?

Well, I would say volume. You know, it's funny because it's like a lot of our songs are pretty seriously lyrically downtrodden. I'm the lyricist, and the things I'm kind of naturally concerned with are kind of like the apocalypse. But then you add a bunch of horns and people, and it's kind of like a fucked-up carnival onstage. That's kind of one of the things that makes it interesting, is kind of this collision of sentiments, kind of like we're having a party for the end of the world.

Dark Meat plays Local 506 with Filthybird, whom McHugh describes as a "psychedelic Carole King," and Savage Knights Saturday, Aug. 18, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $7.

  • Dark Meat's acid-adventure deluge of sound is anything but tranquil.

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