Singled Out: RPWL's Swords and Guns
You can write hours of material, record one song after the other but still there is no reason to do an album. And then there is this one push, this one idea, this one chord that lets you know: this is it! "Swords and Guns" was exactly that key moment! I went to the studio and told our guitar player Kalle that I had this idea: I wanted to write about the crusades of the middle ages as a symbol for the horrible consequences of religious fanaticism in general. While I was talking myself into a rage, as I always do, Kalle was playing a demo he had recorded the day before. We both stood there and saw the crusaders passing by, straight on there way to one of those dark and bloody pages in the history books. Basically the song is driven by a "4 on the floor" groove with this specific bass lick that carries the song from the beginning to the end. The guitars Kalle recorded were quite similar to the ones we recorded during the production period. He also recorded a couple of vocal ideas on his demo. The most amazing one was the "left right left right" in the chorus that emphasizes the marching groove. So you see what I mean when I talk about this one great moment: the ideas of music and lyrical content came together and fitted like a glove.
The song starts with the statement: "We only do what god wants us to do", or as the crusaders said: "God wills it". With the promise of a "direct way to heaven after life" from the church, they went ahead with a massacre that started around the year 1100 - with consequences that are still noticeable. The spoken part is repeated like a mantra in the song to give hope and courage.
In the first verse we let them start their trip: thousands of men (about 40,000) starting off in the name of the church to set Jerusalem free. "Set free" in this context sounds of course rather bizarre because Jerusalem, at that time, was multicultural and free until the crusaders came.
The chorus is some sort of proof for their absolute will to do as they were told by Pope Urban II.: going on, whatever it takes, in the name of the Lord! God wills it! To understand the perfect senselessness, you have to focus on the fact that hardly anybody was able to read the bible at that time! It was written in Hebrew or Greek and so the content was in the hands of the priests and abbeys. They could have told them anything they wanted, there was no chance of fact-checking it anyway.
But let's proceed to the second verse:
the subheading of this part was "East and West". A lot of people think that the western part of the world was the more civilized one. That, of course, is absolute nonsense. First of all, it was a blessing for Europe getting rid of the knights that didn't do much besides fight and kill each other. Not very civilized, isn't it? And secondly, the crusaders must have looked very primitive for the eastern part of the world. The "believe or die" dogma was Christian in its nature and unfamiliar for an area where many religions lived together in peace. Bear in mind that the area from Greece or rather Turkey to Syria was the source of all that we'd call wisdom. I'm not saying that this marked the beginning of a war between Islam and Christianity, but, ladies and gentlemen, the Oscar for the invention of the holy war goes to: Pope Urban II. and his Christian army.
Let's have a look at the third verse:
The following c-part with the marching drums is the playground for the Moog Memorymoog. The basic sound of the late-70s-built synthesizer has the same kind of architecture but is a bit dirtier than the early-70s-Minimoog. At the beginning of the solo I tried to dive into the misguided spiritual world of the crusaders' souls with this very special Moog sound while the guitar and the bass give variations of the theme. But I return again to the rhythm of this fanatic march that was so dramatic and so pathetic at the same time.
In the final part the song returns to the structure of the earlier part, as a reference to the reasons why they started the whole thing in the first place. It is no surprise that the things that happened happened once they had arrived in Jerusalem - and tried to complete what they had set out to do right from the get-go. They simply stuck with their principles: they didn't understand a word - so they just killed everybody. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, you name it. No prisoners, God wills it!
Maybe it was a twist of fate: when the last massacre of the first crusade was completed and the news of it reached the Western world, the man who had put the deadly chain of events into action, Pope Urban II. was finally dead.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself, check out the video and learn more about the album right here!