Jason Talks About His Song "Black Lights" In Round Magazine

February 1st, 2013

Jason Talks About His Song I was in the midst of writing for a new record that I was hoping to begin work on in the winter of 2011 and I had taken in interest in Boxing. Not so much in terms of being glued to a TV screen watching ESPN and following specific fighters, but in terms of thinking about the mechanics and metaphysics of being a fighter, the reality vs the perception. This was also made more absorbing by the fact I was reading a book called "On Boxing" by famed fiction writer Joyce Carol Oates, who apparently is an avid boxing fan and has been going to see fights since she was a little girl, going with her dad. In her book she talks a lot about the connection between the artistic process and that of training for a fight. I became really taken by this connection, how each is a performer at the mercy of their audience, and how each works tirelessly, and mostly in solitude, at something which then culminates in a public spectacle (ring vs. stage), where each has to access a very different part of themselves that, otherwise, has no real place in day-to-day life. I thought a lot about what it means to be an artist vs being an athlete or a craftsman, how they are all inter-related. Why is a boxer an athlete and not an artist? What would I, as a songwriter, benefit from approaching songwriting like I was a boxer -- that this is something you have to dedicate yourself to doing every day, that you have to love it and breathe it in, not just when you get to play the big stage, but when you have a 7 hour drive to a gig in West Virginia to play for a handful of people and make eight dollars - you have to love it then, especially then. It's easy to envision being a fighter in that moment under the bright lights, seconds before the knock out punch and the rush of the crowd, but hard to want to be one when you realize that being a fighter is much more about learning how to be hit, about taking punches, more than it is about giving them. That the reality of a fighter is more about learning to persevere through pain. Maybe being a musician is more about taking punches too. At their best, both are crafts focus on the perfection of simple things, find their power in those things, and are both perceived in ways that are very different from what they actually are.

Boxing was finding its way into many of the songs I was writing for this new album. And then I came across an interview with Muhammed Ali in Oates' "On Boxing" where Ali is asked how a fighter knows, after he has been hit hard, that he is hurt. Of course, in characteristic Ali style, he says that he wouldn't know, because he has never been hit hard enough by anyone. He says that he has heard you see "black lights" when you've been hit too hard, and that, when that happens, you can rest assured that you are hurt and hurt bad.

This image of "black lights" stuck with me, I wrote it down, and kept thinning about it, the image of the neural circuits in a fighter's brain flashing dark, deathly lights. There was something seductive in this, the irrational nature of a fighter stepping into a ring knowing full well he is going to get hurt, a kid who probably grew up with nothing, a kid who learns to use that nothing to build a rage hot enough to forge his fists into hammers, sending one opponent after the next to the canvas, intoxicated by glory, with the idea that he could finally be somebody, and, in that pivotal moment, coming up short. Due to one slip of the hand, one misstep, all hopes of being a champion, being loved by the crowd, by the neighborhood, having his mother be proud of him, are dashed away forever.

I wrote a story about this fighter, about how night after night he tapes up his hands, shadow boxes in the mirror with an almost religious zeal, trying to achieve personal salvation through acts of punishment and bloodshed; a young fighter who does the work, who takes his lumps, yet ultimately is defeated. It's a story how sometimes the fury of defeat can be just as sweet, just as transcendent, as the sweet smell of victory. It's a story about the importance of doing the work, about the struggle, and the love of it all, despite whether you end up being the one giving the knock out punch, or the one receiving it. Both play a part, and both have something to teach.

~ Jason Myles Goss

read more >