So…do we now – after all the latest baby boomers are starting to embrace some change – live in a culture that will “allow” for a more open and honest dialogue to flow more freely?
That’s a loaded question. A run-on sentence loaded question.
The answer is not simple, nor have we completely moved away from narrow minded judgment of free thought or expression.
Especially when it comes to artists who are associated with the “Christian music/arts scene.”
Now let me be clear: music is not Christian! It’s an art form.
You cannot label any form of art any name of a religion or faith. Yes it can be inspired by beliefs, but that doesn’t mean the art determines the exact beliefs of the artist.
Now with that out of the way, let me reintroduce an artist to you: Bradley Hathaway.
He’s a poet. A spoken word performer who has progressed into writing folk songs.
His earlier musical works include The Thing That Poets Write About, The Thing That Singers Sing About (2007).A Mouth Full of Dust (2009), A Thousand Angry Panthers (2009) and How Long (2013).
These albums were all fairly well reviewed and received works by the poetry community, inside and outside of certain scenes; faith based or not.
This new album however – Flesh Eater – released on Good Friday is a different story.
I love it, and also equally wrestle with it. It’s not for everyone.
It has nine tracks. The theme is dark, grimy, lustful, sexual, passionate, and sinful. Honest to the core.
It’s about a man who is seeking Jesus, but is enticed by a woman; by a world of temptations and quick fixes.
The subject matter and language of this work will undeniably be too much for some of Hathaway’s older church based or conservative fans.
But if you have an open mind, and are mature enough to see what he’s actually trying to say – beyond the uses of “fucked” and “goddamn” – then you will see the art and the soul behind it.
Therein lies the gold.
This album may be part social experiment, part shock art; considering who may make up a decent portion of his audience. To me that’s a welcome thing, as the more narrow minds that are challenged, the more we can hopefully grow.
Religious tolerance also means that you let people struggle. Whether in real life, in art, or as both coincide, it’s perfectly okay for humans to struggle with life. All parts of life.
Let Bradley Hathaway struggle.
He may be writing from personal experience, or he may not be. Either way, this is beautiful art both musically and poetically. And because he’s a true poet, this is one extremely awesome modern poem! Love it or hate it, give it a listen. Then, before you cast hellfire judgment and condemnation, see if you yourself can relate to anything found in Flesh Eater. I bet you will! Just remember, that’s perfectly okay. You’re human too!
Now, Bradley Hathaway was gracious enough to answer some questions that I had for him regarding his new album, and where the inspiration springs from. Keep reading to dive into the master poet’s mind a little bit more!
Jeremy Erickson: Ok, let’s get right to it! Flesh Eater is explicit, sexual, raw and even shocking in it’s lyrical content. Other than raising some eyebrows and perhaps “turning some people off” from your art, what is your intention and goal in writing this type of album?
Bradley Hathaway: It’s the same as any other album I’ve made in that I just made what needed to be made at the time.
JE: Does the inspiration for the content and lyrics on Flesh Eater come from a place of personal anguish in seeking your faith and struggling, or is it more hypothetical and broad?
BH: Anyone who is honest with themselves struggles in their faith so in that regard it’s very personal but if your question is slyly asking if I’ve had a lot of sex with a lot of different women then I ain’t gonna answer that.
JE: Do you feel a “need or responsibility” to open up raw discussions regarding sins or darker struggles that we all have (especially in the more conservative circles), or is your thought process about this more like “Whatever happens, happens.”?
BH: I don’t assign any great responsibility to the role of the artist. I think the best art is made when the artist simply does what he wants to do with no regard for his audience. The only burden I place on myself is to operate without violating my own conscience, not compromising what I think I should or should not be doing. With this album, I hope it brings up lively discussions among people but audience reception is beyond my control.
JE: As I neared the end of the new album, I came away with a sense of hope, even though the imagery and content feels somewhat dark and grim, and being in a place a man might not want to stay. However your faith in Jesus does take a strong stance if you really listen. What would you like fans and listeners to gain from experiencing this new piece of art?
BH: I want them to have an experience. FLESH EATER is not a traditional album so first and foremost I want them to recognize that what they are hearing and feeling is set apart from many other albums. It’s an album, yes, but it’s something that you have to reckon with one way or another…it’s a wrestling match. If they are willing to wrestle then I think they have much to gain. There are many things I want them to gain from the album, maybe most of all to be known.
JE: Have you experienced, or when you might experience some flack from certain people hearing this album, what do you think your response will be? I mean, it is 2017 and we all really ought to know that words, although powerful, do not always determine the intentions of the heart.
BH: Yeah I’m getting flack from people who see it as a mirror and don’t like the reflection it’s casting. Many just don’t know how to begin to process something like this…even some of my artsy friends are like what the heck is this? So to be honest there is a lot of silence out there on this one and I’m getting more private emails this go around than public praise. Some people say that I’m not a christian, that I’m a pervert, blah blah but not much I can do about that. To make matters worse for many people I’m not really breaking down the record and discussing my intentions or meanings because I want them to wrestle with it, I want them to grow in their intellect as they are confronted with this art. But there are a few out there who get it and tell me how much they appreciate it.
Now, I truly appreciated how candid and honest Mr. Hathaway was with me! To be brave enough to pen words with this much weight and effect, then to release it to the public is quite a feat! He is not using the language he is in these poetic songs just to piss people off or strike a nerve; no, he is delving into the deepest parts of humanity to make a point.
Yes, interpret that point how you see fit through your own lens, but sooner or later you will see that this art will speak to you as well. You may not physically or exponentially relate, but this album, these words, do speak to all of us.
The challenge is sifting through the striking lyrics and finding the hope in them.
Whatever you do or do not believe, this is a piece of art that deserves to be heard by way more people than just those who can initially stomach it.
I would advise, if you are new to Hathaway’s work, to dig into his earlier albums and poems and follow his journey with him. If you’re a narrow-minded ultra right-winged conservative heretical “Christian” then don’t bother, because you’ll just end up casting more useless and baseless judgment!
However, if you are open minded, up for a challenge, or some music that doesn’t just pass through both ears in a blip…then give this a listen! (As a parent, I would recommend that the listener be at least 18 or at least be mature enough to digest it).
Words. They will always affect us. Bradley Hathaway’s Flesh Eater undeniably does change us.
That my friends is what art is supposed to do. Move us and challenge us, even when it is uncomfortable! Embrace it. Albums like this do not come around too often. Most artists are too scared to go over that edge.
Check out all the FLESH EATER lyric videos and more content HERE!