In 2019, Tara Busch was fighting her own battles within. Struggling with sobriety, the singer and songwriter, also known as I Speak Machine, was paralyzed by addiction but wanted to sit with it, light it on fire, and watch it incinerate before her eyes. The picture in her head is documented in the manic tension of “The Metal of My Hell,” off her upcoming album, War, out April 22.
“The lyrics express how I felt imprisoned by addiction and trying to do-or-die fight for myself,” Busch tells American Songwriter. “The exhaustion of it all, trying over and over to stop, but also the dissonance of all the while wanting a bottle of wine.”
Barking, Burn the witch/ Burn the bitch, these are the only lines on the entire album, says Busch, that truly capture her fantasy of setting her demons afire and “burning them at the stake.”
“It’s a moment of rage, trying to get the fuck out of the dungeon of addiction but still, after many years, not quite having the right key,” says Busch. “In time, I realized it’s also about owning and accepting that bitch [addiction] head-on, and sitting with it without fear. I had never really done that [since] it was always just this huge monster.”
She adds, “It got to where I figuratively wanted to switch the ugly fluorescent lights on, spit gasoline into the face of addiction, light it on fire and really sit with it, watch and feel it burn, instead of denying it or see it as this insurmountable beast. This song helped figure all that out.”
Channeling more uninhibited vocalists like Jim Morrison, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle’s Mike Patton, and the higher pitched bellows X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene helped Busch find the essence of the track. “That helped me tap into more rawness vocally, with the falsetto-y hiccup screams and shouting, and singing in a lower key that felt the most powerful, and most importantly, dropping inhibitions and judgments,” shares Busch. “It’s an aggressive tune about being choked by addiction from the inside out and facing it. I also really love Dean’s [Dean Honer] drums on this… reminds me of ‘Low’-era David Bowie when they used the H910 Harmonizer—so much stomp.”
A follow up to I Speak Machine’s album Zombies 1985 in 2017, and Busch’s first non-score album since Pilfershire Lane (as Tara Busch) in 2012, War was produced and recorded by Busch and Dean Honer, who also mixed the album at The Bowling Green Studios, Sheffield, England. The album and features tracks co-written with Kendra Frost, who also shares backing vocals, and Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano. War is a continuation of the audio-visual experimentation Busch started with I Speak Machine in 2013. Inspired after scoring a short horror film, The Silence, the music, visuals, and addiction to vintage synthesizers and other instruments were forever intertwined through Zombies 1985.
Along with filmmaker Maf Lewis, for “The Metal of My Hell” video and visualizer, Busch strapped a snorricam to her body and ran the full “pointy crown and harness” regalia up and down the hiking paths in Griffith Park, and through the concrete flats along the LA River, while it was 98 degrees out.
“Sounds rough, but it was incredibly fun and exhilarating,” says Busch of the video. “I felt inspired and excited and connected to something new, and very grateful to even be there. I feel like it’s the first time since I was in a band as a young woman that I really felt like I was giving an uninhibited performance. I can’t wait to see what happens live with it.”
“The Metal of My Hell” indicates War is Busch’s most revealing piece of music yet, a chronicle of life since she burned addiction away, and the embers left behind. Impacted by the former administration and her own demons, War was four years in the making, allowing Busch to reach deeper ends, and push herself someplace new, musically and lyrically.
“[There were] many levels of war going on during the record,” says Busch. “This album dove into some really, really dark shit in my life, that I felt could be minimized and put in perspective a bit if I sang about it. It’s kind of like shining a light on the monster, and realizing that it’s just a teddy bear.”
Busch, adds, “I wanted to do something that was just through my eyes and not anyone else’s. The big thing was just trying to not give a fuck, and get rid of inhibitions. And I wanted to shout my head off a little bit too.”
I Speak Machine is set to tour War with Gary Numan, beginning Feb. 23 through April 4. Tour dates can be found HERE.
Photo: Maf Lewis