Angel Trades a Shotgun for a Shovel: An Interview with Terry Scott Taylor, Part 2

IMG_3926-BW-flareGuest Post by Chad Thomas Johnston

Photo taken by Phillip G Brown Fine Art Photography

Continued from yesterday.

Chad Thomas Johnston: Can you talk about the circumstances under which you wrote the new Daniel Amos album, Dig Here Said the Angel? What factors influenced its creation?

Terry Scott Taylor: I suppose the simplest answer to your question is that life itself is the circumstance that most influenced the record. I’m in my sixties now, and when I first sat down to write the tunes for Dig Here it occurred to me that, in a genre like rock ’n’ roll, you’re not going to find a lot of songs that honestly explore the inner life of those of us who have fewer days ahead of us than behind us. That being the case, I decided to write as honestly from my perspective as I could.

In writing about issues such as aging and lost youth, life’s disappointments and regrets, and even death itself, the challenge was to avoid morbidity, which I think we did quite successfully. Many fans and critics seem to agree that Dig Here is addictive, enjoyable, and anything but dark and depressing, which I think it easily could have been.

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Death and the Absurdity of Heaven

image02I remember, as an undergraduate, reading Spinoza for the first time. I came across the sentence, “The free man thinks of nothing less than death.” Spinoza meant, of course, that a free man never thinks about death.

But I managed to read the sentence in the opposite way. I took the phrase “nothing less” in the way you might say, “I want nothing less than the best cheesecake in the state.” I thought Spinoza was saying that the free man demanded the very best to think about. Death, obviously, tops that list.

I took it for granted that everyone thinks about death almost all of the time. On becoming a Catholic in my adulthood, I was excited by the prospect of joining the morbid parade of suffering souls trudging stolidly toward the grave, fingering our rosaries and muttering under our breath about the veil of tears.

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The Photographic Eye of God

WeegeeHe called himself Weegee The Famous. Weegee, for short. His real name was Arthur Fellig. But even that wasn’t quite real. Born in a little town in what is now Ukraine in 1899, Weegee was originally named Ascher Fellig. He was a subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Ascher’s family immigrated to America in 1909, where he became Arthur.  In the 1930s, Arthur took up freelance photography, roaming the streets of his new home. That’s when he performed his third transforming act, into Weegee The Famous. No longer an Austro-Hungarian, he’d become a New Yorker.

There are competing stories about how and why Arthur (née Ascher) became Weegee. The most satisfying story is that Weegee is a phonetic form of Ouija. Weegee was so quick getting to the scene for a good photograph (often a crime scene), people started to say he was like a living Ouija board. He knew what was going to happen before it happened.

More than anything else, Weegee liked to photograph murder scenes. Asked what he did for a living, he would reply, “Murder is my business.” It is said that he photographed as many as five thousand dead bodies, murdered bodies, during his career as a photographer.

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Riding the Waves

Woodlief photoMy sons argue over Avengers characters. The littlest insists he’s Captain America. Another claims Hawkeye. There’s an argument over Ironman. They resolve it by awarding that honor to me, given that I’m a smartass and look a little like Robert Downey, Jr.

I argue that I’m the Hulk. I flex my muscles. They roll their eyes, but their mother would understand. She told me once, not long before our divorce, that I am the angriest man she’s ever known. A therapist once told me I’ve been angry since childhood. Another said I’ve been depressed my entire life, like my mother before me. I told him about the first diagnosis. He shrugged his shoulders. Flight or fight, does it really matter when your enemy is yourself? That’ll be 100 dollars.

I don’t remember if October was when the weight always came closest to leveling me, or if that cycle commenced after my daughter died. I suppose no matter which therapist was correct: I’ll always have something to blame my mother for, because she died in October as well.

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Songs Dead Men Sing

Guest Post Scott Warner headshotby Cathy Warner

In the backseat of our minivan I swig an individual serving of white zinfandel to numb myself from the terror that is I-5: long sweeping curves, cement barricades, and massive trucks pulling two and three trailers that sway and rattle.

When I’m in the passenger seat, my husband can’t help but react to my cringing, so we agree a sleeping pill and $1.49 bottle of wine are reasonable for the five-hour trip from Eugene, Oregon where our daughter attends college, home to Puget Sound.

Ten years ago, living in San Francisco’s Bay area, I tried therapy. “You’re afraid of death,” the counselor said as if I thought being plowed into by tons of steel would result in a chipped tooth. I wanted driving—and life—to be predictable and safe.

Tonight, when I awake after two drugged hours, my husband’s brother serenades us from the grave. Scott died eleven years ago yesterday of liver failure at age forty-five, the slow suicide of an alcoholic. [Read more...]


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