Marcus Singletary: 'I'm Harder Now Than Ever Before!'

Resulting from complexity, the three conceptual projects that preceded Born to Be Wild were the toughest to complete. Initially, I approached the endeavor from the listener's perspective, or without true knowledge of how tough it would be to attempt to tie loose ends together within elongated song cycles.

Previously, I'd sit in seclusion to compose the songs, and follow up with rough demos and, eventually, fully produced recordings. For Defiance Science and Subversive Blues, I developed the  tunes on stage, then brought them into the studio after tweaking their functional parts in live settings. The South Africa Tapes was even more intricate due to the difficulty in merging those narratives.

Although I generally consider myself a perfectionist (and even though many moments during the concept trilogy relied on improvisation), these exacting tendencies departed for Born to Be WildAn honest attempt was made to incorporate the ear crunching production techniques heard on recordings by bands like the Black Keys and the Record Company - current alternative bands who can rightfully claim to exist, simultaneously, on the cutting edge and musical fringe. These sonics are laced with my singular musical style.

This time, I cite some inspirations openly. The 11-minute epic 'Space Train to Babylon' features a drum solo, and any well versed rock listener can point out where the instrument begins to sonically phase in a similar manner to 'Moby Dick' from Led Zeppelin's live album The Song Remains the Same.


'Freeform Guitar' pays tribute to guitarist Terry Kath, with the title's adjective used as a single word, instead of the two-word phrasing seen on Chicago's debut LP. Both 'Devil's Rage' and 'Top of the Sky' were completely written on the spot. For 'Sky,' I detuned the guitar to the point of illogicality, and played some rubbery bass lines underneath that are highly influenced by Primus' album Pork Soda and, specifically, the cut 'Mr. Krinkle.'

Years ago, a friend challenged me to write some lyrics expositorily, scribing in a notebook without a second thought. I wrote the title and premise for 'Devil's Rage' in response. In fact, the tune was inspired by Deep Purple's 'Fireball,' with the clearest similarity being the song's tambourine-laden coda.

There are many other points of interest, as well. '(I Don't Need Your) Permission' incorporates Zulu spoons into the mix as a percussion instrument, providing the perfect flavor to precede 'Siyavuya Ngoku' - translated from Xhosa to English as 'We're Happy Now.' I personally describe the cut as 'gospelese' which, to me, stems from being a person who has stepped foot inside a 'traditional African-American church' only once.

The limited exposure, however, was enough to comprehend the vast differences between it and its Catholic counterparts, including the predominance of guitars and pop music in Catholicism, versus Sunday-best dramatics, in the black environment. Truly fascinating is that while many of my acid-rock influences, including Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge, and the Rascals, would never be described as having recorded any true gospel songs, surprisingly, each exhibited at least a semblance of its ethos.

In conclusion, Born to Be Wild represents fresh air, because committing to a certain format, over several years, forces pre-ordained structure. But while the conceptual pieces exhibited exploration and the unknown, the spirit of the true definition of improvisation - having the freedom to create without boundaries - is on full display.