Third Eye Blind Set Sights Ep
Third Eye Blind singer/songwriter Stephan Jenkins said he chooses to view the label-mandated removal of the lyrics to his controversial song 'Slow Motion' as a blessing in disguise.
'To me, it worked out really well,' Jenkins said, speaking from a curbside Miami restaurant last week. 'It's all for the best, because now we get to put more music out there.'
Elektra Records chairwoman Sylvia Rhone had asked the band to cut lyrics to 'Slow Motion' ( RealAudio excerpt ) for its second album, Blue, due Tuesday. The song now will appear on the disc as a mostly instrumental version. But Jenkins said the band will release the original version of the song, plus six other new tracks, on an EP early next year.
The EP, tentatively titled Black, will be released on the band's as-yet-unnamed label. It will consist of songs that didn't make it onto the San Francisco rock band's upcoming album and possibly some new tunes, Jenkins said.
Far from having their voices squelched, Jenkins said the decision to alter 'Slow Motion' has given bandmembers the rare chance to give fans even more music. By putting out the EP only a few months after Blue, they will circumvent the standard two- to three-year wait between rock releases.
'Slow Motion,' an anti-violence song Jenkins said he wrote nearly four years ago for the band's 1997 eponymous, multiplatinum debut, features the lyrics: 'Miss Jones taught me English, but I think I just shot her son/ 'Cause he owed me money, with a bullet in the chest/ With a bullet in the chest he cannot run/ Now he's bleeding in a vacant lot.'
'I was surprised at the amount of static that it caused,' Jenkins said
Thursday. '[Rhone's] feeling was that in the context of today's repetitive
Columbine headlines, the message of the song could be misconstrued. As
you know, I'm not a particularly preachy lyricist, and I'm not didactic
in my delivery ... their feeling was that the whole focus of this album
could be skewed toward this one song' ( RealAudio
excerpt of interview ).
Jenkins said the label took issue with the song after a first listen
earlier this year. Throughout the past four months, he said, the band has
been fighting to have it appear on the album as originally written.
On Nov. 15, Nina Crowley, the director of Mass Mic, a Massachusetts anti-censorship group, called the removal of the lyrics part of the 'whitewashing' of American culture in the wake of the deadly April school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
'This is self-censorship, and people are running scared it's hysteria,' Crowley said.
Rhone was not available for comment on the removal of the song's lyrics and its inclusion on the planned EP, according to an Elektra representative, who requested anonymity. The source said the chairwoman's comments last week to online magazine RollingStone.com that the song didn't work in the context of the album and the current social climate still stood as the label's official word on the controversy.
Some of the group's fans said they supported Jenkins' right to speak his mind, although not everyone might agree with what the singer was saying.
'I think any band, any individual has the right to say and write whatever they feel, so I'm not saying Stephan is wrong for writing the song,' 17-year-old New York fan Nicole Prokop wrote in an e-mail. Prokop, who hadn't heard the song but saw some of the lyrics, said that while some people might get the wrong idea from the provocative lyrics, the band's fans would understand Jenkins' point.
'Third Eye Blind is not the kind of band that would promote violence,' Prokop, the webmaster of the unofficial Third Eye Blind page Fraudulent Zodiac, said. 'They're just trying to get a message across, and it's been done before, so I don't see what the big deal is.'
Jenkins pointed to the song's final verse as proof that he meant the lyrics as a criticism of selling violence in movies and television. 'Hollywood glamorized my wrath/ I'm a young urban psychopath,' the lyrics read, continuing, 'I incite murder for your entertainment/ 'Cause I needed the money, what's your excuse?/ The joke's on you.'
Third Eye Blind spawned a number of power-pop radio staples. The lyrics to the band's breakthrough hit, 'Semi-Charmed Life' ( RealAudio excerpt ), dealt frankly with oral sex and drug addiction, while Jenkins said 'Jumper' ( RealAudio excerpt ) was the story of a gay friend's suicide.
While the first, hard-driving pop single from Blue, 'Anything' ( RealAudio excerpt ), doesn't deal with the kind of taboo subjects that squelched 'Slow Motion,' Jenkins said other songs on the album tackle similarly difficult topics.
He described '10 Days Late' as a song that's 'ambiguous about abortion' and 'Walking With the Wounded' as a chronicle of a friend's sexual assault.
'If we didn't have children opening fire on each other in mass numbers, we wouldn't be having this conversation,' Jenkins said. 'Third Eye Blind have always spoken about what's right in front of us and what's unspeakable. Sexual assault is right there, and it's unspeakable. I think music is a place where you can address gun violence, and you don't need to do it in a way that underestimates the intelligence of your listeners, and you can do it in a way that you are not defanged' ( RealAudio excerpt of interview ).