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© Chapman Baehler
“I had the hardest time finding a spot for this song. I kept thinking that no matter where it went on the record, you couldn’t listen to anything else after it for a while – it’s got so much energy. Also, there’s no bridge, so there’s no reflective side to it.
“Originally, the song was less than half the tempo than it is now, and it was all acoustic instruments. It started out after I purchased a Republic Resonator guitar, which I wrote two songs with. One I labeled ‘Texas’ and the other I called ‘India.’ I listened back to them and thought it would be great to combine them somehow.
“I recorded a version where I did just that, where the verse was ‘Texas’ and the chorus was ‘India,’ but they didn’t really go together. I even thought that I should call Sonny Landreth to see if he could play it; maybe it should go on his album or something.
“A while later, right around when I was finishing the demo process, my son, ZZ, had come home from school. I was cooking a family dinner – I was making lobster tails [laughs] – when it occurred to me that the song was in the wrong tempo. I also decided that there shouldn’t be a ballad on the album. So I went downstairs and did this super-uptempo version of the song, and suddenly it all made sense.
“Later on, after the dinner, we were watching a movie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer, and as I’m sitting there, my mind wanders downstairs. This scene came up in the film where they’re on the train; the train is on fire, the bridge is on fire and the vampires are attacking. ‘That’s it!’ I said. This was the confirmation I was looking for, because the train was going, ‘chug-a-chugga-chug-a-chugga,’ and the song has the same kind of thing. I took that as a direct sign from the universe that I was on the right track.
“The melodies and solos were done that day. We redid the rhythm guitars, and Vinnie came up with a new way of doing the ‘chugga-train-down-the-track’ thing. Mike Keneally left blood on the keyboards, doing a Fats Domino kind of deal, except really fast.
“There were parts that I was concerned about: Half of the solo is an ensemble. It starts out over the verse pattern, and then the descending line starts. It’s so major key, which made me kind of proud, actually: ‘Yeah, I’m playing in a major key – so what?’ I started to think that the ultimate exotic key is not exotic; it’s here, it’s home grown.”