Singled Out: Robot Lords of Tokyo
"Two in the Belly" is the track that's probably gotten the biggest reaction from our new album Virtue & Vice. It's very typical of the collaboration process between me and Paul (Jones, vocals). I'll provide him with a demo of the music, pretty much in its final form, with all the parts laid out and arranged. Then he'll write his lyrics and melodies to fit the track. Rarely does he ask for anything to be changed, which is probably a direct result of having worked together for so long (15 years). We have a bit of a sixth sense about composing with each other's style in mind.
Musically, "Two in the Belly" is an example of me trying to write with a very specific groove in mind. As a drummer writing guitar riffs, I'm usually thinking about the underlying rhythm that's going to propel the part, as opposed to starting with specific notes. For this tune, I started by just laying down that slow, steamroller-type shuffle groove on the drums. It had that rolling feel that I love in tunes like Ozzy's "Perry Mason" or "The Path" by Down. All the riffs were built up from that groove. Just a relentless grind, I love that s***! Anyway, for the solo breakdown I decided to throw in a minor musical curveball: the feel changes from that slow triplet shuffle feel to a classic 80's straight eighth-note chug riff a la Dokken or Priest. Hey, sometimes you just have to put your foot up on the monitor and headbang.
Lyrically and melodically, Paul really shines on this tune. Essentially it's written from the perspective of anyone who has a dirty job to do, maybe even reluctantly, but knows they have to do it. Could be someone from the military, or a cop. At one point we even joked that the narrator could be someone like Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead (which rules by the way).
Anyway, I liked the way Paul had the main character sounding extremely conflicted, bouncing between chest-beating lines like "one is walking out of here – finger on the trigger, drop the hammer, freedom rings!", to more sober reflections on the consequences and effects of killing – like "raise your hands if you like freedom….but do you know the cost of war?" and "what are we fighting for anymore…and who's keeping score?"
We're real proud of how this one turned out – it makes you think a little bit even while it's socking you in the gut. And really, what more could any red blooded metalhead ask for?