Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Murray Acton on "Smart Food," eating animals, and the kills of Tilikum (AKA Shamu)

Haven't heard a punk album as fresh, fun, or potent as the Dayglo Abortions' Hate Speech in a looooong time. In terms of what I love about punk - wit, honesty, incisive perception, and fun, engaging songs - it's right up there with the works of the Rebel Spell, the Subhumans' New Dark Age Parade and that first album Jello Biafra put out with the Melvins... but it's a fair bit funnier than any of those albums (even Jello tends to the earnest at times, and the Subhumans, great as they were, really only have one song that's actually funny). I love this record, love the cover, and it's ultimately risen to the very top of the heap for me in the Dayglos' catalogue, beating out even their "classics," Feed Us a Fetus and Here Today, Guano Tomorrow, neither of which have the depth of commentary on modern society you find on Hate Speech.

Delightful though I find it, however, not every song on the album is created equal. My four favourite songs on it are "White People" (which is one of the wittiest, most timely topical punk songs ever, making fun of the entitled woe-is-me-ism of "the dominant race," which is all the funnier because I have my share of "white person" moments too; there could be a great rock video from this made entirely of Fox News clips. I love this song even more now that Murray has pointed out that he's ironically riffing on "Whole Lotta Love" and "Free Bird" in the solo, as the whitest guitar solo possible - I hadn't clued in that that's what he was doing); "Sacks of Meat" - the albums de rigueur Black Sabbath homage, which nicely, despairingly sums up the feeling you get, trying to see yourself how the wealthy and powerful must surely see us (Sabbath were never this potent, lyrically; also note the South Park reference in how Murray sings "authority"); "Raised on Chest Milk," which is probably the funniest song ever written about the excesses of cancel culture; and "Smart Food." You've all read Swift's "A Modest Proposal" in high school, right? I would highly recommend any high school teachers who have to make their kids read that brilliant, but not very teenager-friendly essay as part of their curriculum supplement it - even introduce it - with the Dayglo song in question, since it is fundamentally the same thing: an ironic invitation to the eating of children, though Swift is using the idea to address the treatment of the poor in Ireland, while Murray is offering the eating of pan-fried human brains as an alternative to the suffering we cause animals.  

This, for me, was the high point of my looooong interview with Murray last year. It's a bit of a demanding read, so let's cut to the high point, here, my favourite moment in the whole conversation. I asked him about his observations on the suffering of animals. I am in italics, below; Murray is not. 

Dayglo Abortions by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Allan: Are you a vegetarian?

Murray: I’m not, but I don’t eat very much meat, and also, y’see, I live on Vancouver Island, too, which has got some very beautiful things about it. Number one is, there are no corporate farms or slaughterhouses or anything, anywhere on the island, I don’t think. So it’s not difficult to buy food from people who actually raised the animal, gave it a name, treated it with care, and when the time came, they harvested it. It’s a little harsh, but if there were a reason for me to go totally vegan, I would do it because of animals. Not because I thought it was better for me… It would be really difficult.

But I don’t eat much meat, and fuck, I definitely don’t each much pork. That’s one of the worst atrocities. I’m not a big lover of pigs, to be honest, but they’re fuckin’ smarter than the majority of domestic animals, and they’re treated the worst, as bad as the minks in fur farms. It’s such a horror story, I can’t believe anybody could eat them for dinner and not feel like shit. You know the way the Native Indians say, “Thank you for giving me your life force, brother, I will carry you with me forever?” [With pork,] it’s more a feeling of, “I’m so sorry for what you had to go through to get here on this plate. And – my God - how much of your life force is left in this? Ehhh.” But you can’t help but look at it like that.

I mean, when I was a kid, I went down to the Oak Bay Marina, and Tilikum [a killer whale, subject of the documentary Blackfish], I’ve touched his nose multiple times, and he spat water on me one day. And Tilikum’s the one where they changed the name to Shamu, who killed a few people. When the animals fuckin’ win – I was cheering for him so much: I’m like, “fuckin’ get another one, dude! You’re showing them what the fuck’s up!” It started with that little fat German kid on the pool deck [not sure who Murray is talking about but he may know more than I about the kills of Tilikum]. The guy down in San Diego – it’s gorgeous: he’s got the dolphins in the big pool, and the killer whales are supposed to stay in their holding pool. They’re all supposed to know this. So they’re in the holding pool, and he’s holding up a sardine for a dolphin, and the dolphin comes up, and Tilikum – I can’t call him Shamu, it’s a stupid Walt Disney name – comes up sideways and with his lips, just takes the sardine perfectly out of his hand, then goes into the water again and comes around for another lap. And the whale is not supposed to be in the pool right now, so buddy gets the big cattle prod on the end of the pole; and when Tilikum comes up for the sardine, he goes – bzzt! – he fuckin’ shocks him with the thing. And Tilikum goes back into the water, and goes into the holding pool, and he just starts doing lengths – you see this wave in the fuckin’ pool. And then he comes tearing out of the pool, comes ripping around – you just see him suckin’ the water behind him, eh, and he comes up and buddy’s standing there at the end of the board with a fuckin’ sardine in his hand. And Tilikum just comes over the board sideways, bang, and takes his entire body in his mouth, and sploosh, he’s gone. And everybody right in the cheap seats is, like, “Ahh!” And then Tilikum comes up and throws the guy straight up into the air. He goes right to the ceiling, spinning, then, splash! hits the water. And Tilikum jumps up and comes down straight on top of him, bam! And takes him again and comes up a second time, and goes flip! Throws him right up into the cheap seats. There’s this fuckin’ person up there, and he is just absolutely pulverized. Just paste inside the suit. And Tilikum goes, “There, asshole.” Fuck yeah! One for the good guys!

And Tilikum’s a hero, too. Because of that Blackfish documentary, even the Russians got rid of the majority of their killer whales. Almost every one of them has been set free. Some of them can’t be set free, legitimately, but there’s no more demonstrations with them, it’s over.

See my interviews with Dayglo Abortions' bassist Matt Fiorito here and drummer Blind Marc here; see and donate to Murray's cancer Gofundme here; and see the Dayglos on their coming tour! 

No comments: