The Portuguese word "saudade" has no equivalent in the English language. It describes a profound feeling of nostalgia or melancholy, like when a loved one dies and we're left to meditate on the shadow of their absence. That sort of mood infuses the Chuck Doom–helmed musical collective Saudade, a sundry crew of creative forces including Dr. Know (Bad Brains), John Medeski (Medeski, Martin, & Wood), Gil Sharone (Marilyn Manson, Dillinger Escape Plan), David Torn (David Bowie, k.d. lang, John Legend), Mackie Jayson (Cro-Mags) and more. In the recent past, we've spotlighted their gorgeous collaboration with Deftones' Chino Moreno (a core figure in the group) and Chelsea Wolfe, their grimy dub pairing with Ho99o9, and the mind-bending instrumental "Crisis." Now, the crew are set to melt even more faces with a ferocious new sonic offering, titled "Lions," starring Lamb of God's Randy Blythe on vocals. Listen to it — and watch its cool, collaged music video — above.
To find out more about the origins of the partnership and the inspiration behind this new song, we hit up Doom and Blythe and let them tell the story in their own words. From a casual meeting arranged by a mutual friend, to Blythe's adventures fishing venomous lionfish in the Cayman Islands with a homemade spear, the tale traces quite the journey, as does the dynamic and flowing single itself. Read on for the full saga, including how they managed to recruit dub pioneer Lee "Scratch" Perry for a guest spot that could introduce a whole new set of fans to the trailblazing musician.
CHUCK, CAN YOU GIVE ME SOME BACKGROUND ON HOW YOU MET RANDY?
CHUCK DOOM Totally. It was kind of awesome. A mutual friend — the typical way things work — a friend of a friend mentioned something to me when I saw him, like, maybe we might have had a beer in New York or something, and I said, "Yeah man, that'd be cool." A few months later, there was an email introduction ... So basically we just exchanged greetings, sent some music, and the rest is history as they say.
RANDY BLYTHE That's correct! Except for the beer — I didn't have an alcoholic drink. To answer that a little bit more for our mutual friend Chris, he was like, "I really think you should meet this guy Chuck Doom." That's what he told me. Like, "I think you two would get along." And Chris knows me pretty well, you know? So that's kind of how that happened.
Then Chuck sent me some tunes, and I sat at home and just took an MP3 and put it into, I think, Logic — I'm very bad at recording technology, even though I use it all the time — and just sent him a sketch of some ideas that I'd been working on, and from there you moved on.
HOW DID LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY GET INVOLVED?
BLYTHE Oh yeah, this is great …
DOOM I mean, another kind of miracle that happens in life just by totally loving somebody's music since I came up in Florida. I was very influenced by this guy Bob, a really great reggae singer, and he turned me on to real old-school, history-of-reggae type shit, and I fell in love with Lee "Scratch" Perry — even just as a personality, by listening to him talk or do anything. So, just by digging him, I would sample him just because I loved it and I was like, "Well, why don't I just try to get him?" We reached out to him and sent him some music, and he was down to do it so he went into a studio in Jamaica … Just like a dream come true. Pure faith, man.
BLYTHE For me, it's a super big honor to have Scratch on the track, to be on a track with him because that's something that, coming from my world and being in this heavy-metal band on tour with Slayer, if someone had told me, "You're going to be on a track with Lee Scratch Perry," I would have said, "Get the fuck outta here!"
If you read interviews with me and people ask me, "What metal are you listening to?" I'm like, "I'm not!" I'm listening to a lot of Seventies dub reggae, you know? You'll see that again and again and again in interviews, and of course Scratch is such a huge component of that. And in music in general, like, people outside the sort of reggae world don't understand the range of his influence he pioneered in his Black Ark studio.
I'm a huge fan. Anything that is dubbed out, like, weird, tripped-out stuff, that's all coming from him working with analog equipment in the Sixties and Seventies. He's a genius. I have a biography of him called People Funny Boy my wife got me that's one of my favorite books. If you understand what he did and him being the first guy to do this kind of stuff, really at the forefront of it, and you start looking for that influence in all forms of music, it's there. A lot of people don't even know that. So, for me, having him on the track, getting to be with someone who has really, truly influenced music in general, not just like our genre or reggae or whatever, but music in general — it's a big deal.
AND YOU GET TO INTRODUCE HIM TO A WHOLE NEW CROWD THAT MIGHT NOT OTHERWISE LEARN ABOUT HIM.
DOOM I can't wait, I'm so excited about that. It's just so cool, and there might be more of him to come! I think that might be happening.
RANDY, YOU POSTED A RAVE REVIEW ON SOCIAL MEDIA OF THE RECORDING PROCESS IN WOODSTOCK LAST APRIL. CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AND WHAT MADE IT SO SPECIAL?
BLYTHE Well, I've been meaning to go up to Woodstock for a while because I'm friends with the Bad Brains guys. I've done some work with them, and Doc [Dr. Know, guitarist] and Darryl [Jenifer, bassist] both live up there. Darryl's been like, "You need to come up to Woodstock and check it out." I've been meaning to, but I'm kind of a busy guy. Chuck managed to say, "We've got a session going on," and when I'm going to do vocals with a band, like, if I do a guest spot on other band's record, I really tend to do best if I'm with the people who make the music, as well.
I know everything is so, like, email now and computerized, but you kind of lose that vibe. One thing with this project is that everybody is so cool. They're just wonderful people, so it's important for me to have that human connection with the actual players. So I wanted to meet up with Chuck and get in the studio, do what I have to do, then have feedback. I want everybody to be happy.
The studio we went to is just killer. It's a farm, so there's goats and pigs running around, and Woodstock, it's not on the other side of the earth, but it's remote enough to where you can really sit down and get your head into what's going on. It's not in the middle of some city where you can run out and go see a movie right now, and we also went during the colder season, so it's not peak tourist time.
So it's a quiet town and the studio is beautiful. There's a great residential component to it where we had this killer house, and we'll sit around, eat and cook and then just walk over to the studio and get in there. So yeah, it was a super nice time over at Applehead [Studios]. I was very pleased with it.
CHUCK, ANYTHING YOU'D LIKE TO ADD?
DOOM It was a really fun, creative experience. I just want everybody to feel who's part of the collective like they're really part of the collective. I want the experience in the studio to be fun, and I want it to be spontaneous, to be as creative as possible. Like Randy said, going to that environment and Mike, whose spot it is, and Chris, an engineer who produces with me, those two dudes are so helpful in creating this feeling that's like a family, a second home. Go there, wake up and make coffee, and do the thing. Then you walk to the studio and because it's so centrally located — John Medeski lives 20 minutes away, Doc lives five minutes away, David Torn is five minutes away … it makes it awesome.
Doc was there the whole time with us while we were tracking, and Randy absolutely just crushed the track. It was just a fun experience, and you know, like Randy said, being able to over to that spot kind of makes it a different thing. It gives you a sense of community in a way that this thing is supposed to really be about to me. It's a mission. I've got a long way to get there from the West Coast, but I love it, and it was awesome. Randy and I took the train up from the city …
BLYTHE The train ride is great. It goes up the Hudson, so you're on this beautiful ride and, you know, the whole way you're leaving that sort of urban hecticness all behind. You can feel it kind of slipping away. I flew into New York and then we took the train and it's just like, "Ahhh, it's time to chill and get in the groove."
DOOM And the way you disappear from the city, and I know a lot of times we take footage and we all have cameras, but when the city starts to disappear and then the George Washington Bridge is behind you, then it just unfolds as you go up and you really feel like you're somewhere else, but it's an hour and 30 minutes. You really do feel like you're in another place and now time to create.
BLYTHE That's what that's about.
RANDY, YOU'VE COLLABORATED WITH MANY OTHER ARTISTS OUTSIDE LAMB OF GOD OVER THE YEARS, AND JUST RECENTLY, YOU'VE GOT THIS TRACK AND ALSO YOUR RECENT TOUR WITH PIGFACE. WHAT'S THE MAIN DRAW FOR YOU WITH COLLABORATIONS LIKE THIS?
It's funny, like, when my friend Chris said, "You should meet Chuck Doom," originally he just wanted us to meet because he thought we'd be good friends. It wasn't like, [using a mock aggressive voice] "You need to meet this guy and sing on his freaking record!"
For me, doing collaborations and stuff, and working outside my genre — which, I've definitely done guest spots on metal records — doing things like this and singing for the Bad Brains, singing for Pigface, even within my genre like my tour with Eyehategod, it keeps me excited to be creative, musically.
I listen to all sorts of different types of music. I think people that listen to just one genre are really cheating themselves, because there's something to be learned from every genre of music, from every style of music, and there's something to learn from every player. Doing something like this, I get to listen to a different sort of intricacy in playing than there is in my band, which is super exciting for me. I really get to sit back and listen to the music and hear how people are executing things. That's what's interesting to me now as a musician. It's not just, "Oh, that's a killer song." I really want to strip it apart and figure out what is that? What is this part? How did they do that?
You know, we have some of Jaco Pastorius' steel pan drums on this song. That's just crazy to me. I'm like, "What's that noise?" and Chuck's like, "Those are Jaco's steel pan drums," so I'm like, "What the fuck?!" It's awesome, and it's different. I love doing Lamb of God. I love my band, but I'm a musician. I like playing music, and I think that's really the thing about doing different groups for me. I can learn something from any situation and I certainly learned in this situation because the vibe is just different. I think if you play the same sort of thing over and over and over again, you're only going to be informed by yourself. That makes for boring musical output in my opinion.
I HAVEN'T SEEN THE LYRIC SHEET YET, BUT CAN YOU TELL ME IF THERE'S A STORY BEHIND THE WORDS THERE?
Absolutely. I wrote all the lyrics, and if you read the lyrics on face value — I'll send them to you — it's a bit abstract at times. I use a lot of really heavy poetic imagery, but then it reads almost like a psychosexual, Natural Born Killers kind of vibe. I sing from a male voice about being with my love, and I want her to "draw her knife," and I say, "death from above," then the chorus is "We kill with a kiss."
So, it kind of comes off as this whole Natural Born Killers, kind of psychotic thing. But what the song is about is an invasive species of fish called Lionfish. They're from Asia and they have been introduced into our ecosystem here in the Caribbean and on the East Coast. They first showed up in '85, I think, down in Florida. These are one of the most aggressively dangerous, invasive species in all of the marine world. They're venomous — they'll fuck you up — and they kill everything. They don't have any natural predators here on the East Coast.
They think that Lionfish are here as a result of some bored aquarium hobbyist who let them loose in our waters because they've done genetic research, and the first ones they found matched stuff that came from the Philippines where most of the aquarium hobbyists came from. So, they think some aquarium people had these lionfish in their tanks, [and] instead of killing them, they just let them loose.
It's a really big problem down in our ecosystem on the East Coast, particularly down in Florida and the Caribbean. I was in the Caribbean on a photo gig, and I was doing a lot of snorkeling and spear-fishing on the coral reef for these lionfish when I wasn't working because one adult lionfish can reduce the juvenile fish population of a coral reef by 79 percent — all the fish. They're killing everything.
So my wife came down to Cayman and I said, "Honey, we're going lionfish hunting." I had a homemade spear and took her out with me in the water hunting these lionfish. It's pretty scary because if one stings you — they move slow, but they move aggressively so if you miss, one might rush you — but if one stings you … you should look it up. It locks you up. It's not like a bee sting, it's like if you got stung on your throat, your throat would swell up and you'd die in the water.
This song is about me and my wife going in the water and trying to eradicate some of this lionfish population. That's the only way to keep them under control now, because they don't have any fear. It was a neat image to me. It's an environmental song, but it's also kind of this crazy, Natural Born Killers story.
THAT STORY DID NOT GO WAY I EXPECTED IT TO GO, AND I LOOKED UP THESE LIONFISH BITES! THERE'S NECROTIC FLESH AND SHIT. THIS IS NASTY.
Oh yeah, I've gotten down near them before when I'm underwater, and I don't scuba dive — I'm not qualified to do that — but I'm going down, like, 15 feet, holding my breath with this homemade spear and I'll see one, and I'm in his house. I'm like, "I hope I hit this motherfucker and kill him because if he comes at me, it's going to hurt really bad." I've managed to bag a few of them, and they're delicious. They make delicious tacos, but you have to prepare them correctly or you'll get a mouth full of poison and you'll die.
DOOM [Laughing] That's the way they deal with a lot of invasive species around the world at this point! You just have to eat them.
BLYTHE That is so true. There's a huge campaign for lionfish as food because people are scared to eat them, naturally, because when one stings you, it fucks you up. If you cut the spines off and clean it away, man, they have a really light white, fluffy meat, and it's absolutely delicious.
It's funny, I was actually talking to a guy I know, Toby [Morse] from H2O, and he's a big vegan, and I was telling him about the song and said, "The lyrics to this song might be a little problematic for you," but it raised a really interesting question where it's like, "Don't kill anything!" There's a lot of problems with factory farming and all this other stuff, but this is human caused, right? So lionfish did not swim from Asia to Jamaica and take over. There are human-caused problems and, as humans, we have to do our best to rectify these unmitigated environmental disasters we're wreaking on the planet. And you're seeing more and more and more of it, so this song is dealing with that.
DOOM It's coming up in Florida, too, which, that's, like, the home for invasive species, throughout Florida. Crazy-ass stuff, some of it even caused by Hurricane Andrew back in the day, which is actually the cover I used for "Crisis," but there were all these things flown into the everglades. Like huge Anacondas, like what Randy is saying about hobbyists, there were people collecting species and now it's a huge problem. Florida's, like, the epicenter of it now.
BLYTHE Oh yeah, there are, like, emus in the Everglades and, shit, anacondas, stuff that doesn't belong there.
DOOM It's totally true. It's definitely manmade.
SO, FROM WHAT YOU GUYS ARE TELLING ME, THIS SONG IS GOING TO INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY AND THEN ALSO THE ISSUE OF THESE INSANE INVASIVE SPECIES, ALL WHILE ALSO JUST BEING A FUCKING BOP. DID YOU SET OUT TO MAKE IT INFORMATIVE, OR DID IT JUST FALL INTO THAT CATEGORY?
BLYTHE Well, no, I didn't … Well, I've never written a song for my wife, right? Because any Lamb of God song I've ever written about a woman is not good. [Everyone laughs] So, I'm never ever going to write a Lamb of God song for my wife because that means our relationship is over. This song has this cool, kind of sexy vibe to it, and she deserves her own song. I just can't do it with Lamb of God. I was just waiting for something that would present itself, and this did. I didn't want to write something, like, "Oh, I love her so much," because me and my wife have a kind of us-versus-the-world mentality at times, and that's kind of what this song sounds like. It's got a good groove to it, a good sexy time groove before it kicks into the heavy stuff.
So I didn't set out to write an informative song. I just knew that I wanted to write about the lionfish topic, then when my wife came and joined me spearfishing, I killed two birds with one song. I wrote a song for her, and it happened to be about the lionfish thing.
SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD DATE NIGHT.
DOOM [Laughs] Happy to do it! Happy to provide!
SO, WITH EVERY COLLAB WITH SAUDADE SO FAR, YOU'VE GIVEN A LOT OF CREATIVE CONTROL OVER TO WHOEVER YOU'RE WORKING WITH. WITH THE CHELSEA WOLFE AND CHINO MORENO SONG, THERE WAS THIS ETHEREAL, KIND OF FOLKISH VIBE. HO9909 HAD THAT DARK GRIME FEEL TO IT. NOW WITH RANDY, OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE SOME MORE AGGRESSIVE PARTS THAT NOD TO HIS WORK WITH LAMB OF GOD. HOW DO YOU FIND THE BALANCE BETWEEN SERVING THE ATMOSPHERE OF THE PROJECT ITSELF WHILE LETTING EACH GUEST SHINE IN THEIR OWN UNIQUE WAY?
DOOM So this is really easy for me. My goal is to make somebody comfortable to do what they do. That's my mission: To have somebody come in and just be inspired and create from they hear. If you're playing with people and you have to tell them what to do, you know, I'll just play the part.
I'll bring a tune in, and there will a tune and a structure, but my idea is to set people up to do what they do. Most of the time, unless it's someone doing vocals, I want people to not even have heard the song before and to hear it in the studio for the first time. That's what's so much fun. It's having people be inspired by what they hear and play what they hear. Nobody does a lot of takes. We just have a good time.
With vocals, I just want to make something that they want to participate in and are inspired by, and if you do that, I think the result is going to be real dope. That's just how I was taught: Set people up to do what they do and be comfortable at the same time.
BLYTHE I have to comment on that real quick. Not to hijack your question, but it was easy because Chuck provided a lot of material to choose from so it wasn't like he said, "Here's this song, sing on this." He's like, "Listen to all this, and if something connects with you, good." That's kind of important! It wasn't like he sent me one track. We've talked about other singers on different tracks, and I'm like, "I think so and so would sound good on this." I'm not even thinking about it for me, I'm thinking about it for the collective, what would sound good.
The other thing I'll say that makes it, and I just gotta be straight up here, that makes it work is that Chuck does not play with half-assed fucking musicians. They're all 100 percent, straight-up certified badasses. That makes it a bit easier rather than someone who's, like, some studio hack who maybe has an idea and maybe can do some stuff. He can be kind of confident in presenting material to someone knowing it's going to come out halfway decent because you're dealing with a motherfucking G.
I GUESS IT WOULD HELP TO KNOW YOU'RE IN THE STUDIO WITH ONLY LEGENDS.
DOOM And improvising musicians — dudes that are improvising are what helps there be that spontaneity. Maybe even from the same dudes if you're like, "Here, work on this over and over." I don't want people to do that. I want people to be like, "OK, cool, here I have an idea …"
And it's all friends, I've had that connection to these people for a long time. Even though I haven't worked with John [Medeski] since we had our first bands coming up in Florida together as kids coming up in Florida. In the early Eighties, we had a trio with Jaco Pastorius' brother-in-law on the drums, so for me and John all these years later to come back and be making music? It's just another thing that makes this thing so special to me.
I pretty much started doing stuff with this project in 2007, then I had a big long period where I didn't mess with it again until 2016, end of 2015, and then I really wanted to focus on it. I just really wanted the people that I had this connection with that I knew could add to the music in a way that I've heard in my head. I think we might be onto something here.