Perception in Black | Chinese Medicine | Top to Bottom | Transcript
Tai Wong-Clayton: Hi! I'm Tai from Chinese Medicine. I'm here with The Other Team to talk about my song Perception in Black from Top to Bottom.
[Song playing] Lyrics: For the ones who chose the sea / I'm holding on / Chasing euphoria / Makes their lives the church / The concrete crumble
TWC: So, Perception in Black is a song that I wrote during the pandemic. It was a song that I had had sitting around musically for a long time and never knew what to do with, and as the pandemic happened, and there was a lot more discussion around anti-Asian racism, anti-Black racism, and transphobia stuff, I started to feel really down and depressed as a Chinese African trans person. Felt like there was a lot going on and I really wanted to give up in a lot of ways, and as I was writing this trying to figure it out, I didn't know what to do. The opening line, kinda came ‘for the ones who chose to see him holding on.’ When I write, I never really think about what I necessarily wanna say, I just kind of let it happen and hope it sounds good. But with this song, that line happened, and specifically, I was doing some research into my family and my family's history on the African side, which made me go down a rabbit hole of looking into Africans and Black people in North America and enslaved people, and that going back on, there were Black people that chose to drown in the ocean versus enslavement, which is a difficult thing, it's a hard choice. Cause both are terrible, but it goes to show you how bad one of them actually is.
But thinking about that and thinking about how I’m here and my family's here, and I am lucky to be alive in the time I am now, it really made me wanna just keep pushing and honor the people that have come before me, whether they be Asian, Black, trans, queer, to just honor that. There was a lot of people that came before me and I'm lucky, so I should just keep going and continue to do what I'm doing. Which then gave me the overall theme of this song, which made me wanna write kind of more of a more of a concise idea that I never have, 'cause I usually just free ball it. Yeah, so that's really shown in this verse right off the top with that opening line, and that really sets the tone for the whole song.
And then I think the next line talks about euphoria, ‘chasing euphoria makes their lives / the church / the concrete crumble,’ whatever I said in that. That was, again, I think the most powerful way to combat these things of oppression, systemic things. I think one of the most powerful things is joy, just pure joy and happiness, forcing people to look at your joy, forcing people to see your happiness and living in it and inviting other people to live in it, it just...I think it's so powerful that disarming and deconstructing all these things and making the change that we wanna see. So that’s the line. Songs a little on the heavier side lyrically, but I really wanted to juxtapose it with some kind of 80s style, Joy Division, dancey-ness. So the idea is that it gets you grooving and then you're like, Oh no, that was dark, but yeah that’s the beginning of the song.
[Song playing] Lyrics: Holy omen (Holy omen) / Holy omen (Holy omen) / Protect with death / Attack attack / The holy law breeds / Perception in black / Dogmatic fallacy / Our lives in jeopardy / Brutalitarian / Mass graves for dying children / Holy omen (holy omen) / Holy omen (holy omen) / Castrating human lives / Forgive me holy genocide
TWC: Verse Two of the song follows the same theme as Verse one. A lot of my music is really influenced by my upbringing in the church, growing up really Christian, and my experience as being a trans person and a person of color at that, so you really see that in this verse as well, talking about this idea of a dogmatic fallacy, which to me is like the human aspect of religion, not necessarily having faith in anything, I think that's great, but using it and weaponizing it against people under the guise of it's this strong belief system that has to be done is so archaic and painful and detrimental to a lot of people. I think as a person of color, as a trans person, it did a number on me, and I think it does a number on a lot of people, so that's kind of what influenced that line.
And then, yeah, that's really showcased in the line ‘our lives in jeopardy’ because I think that's what it does to people, unfortunately, it affects people's lives and endangers a lot of lives. Christianity has famously hurt a lot of people, and I think that frankly sucks.
So that's what I'm talking about in that verse. Basically, just this whole thing about, something's holy doesn't mean it's good. Also, holy is subjective, also faith is subjective, relationships with people and god is all subjective, so the fact that you would use anything, anything you believe to belittle someone else to me is insane.
Yeah, that's kind of verse two goes into like again, the song was written during the pandemic where I was in a really low space in Canada here they were discovering a lot of...Or uncovering a lot of graves from residential schools. I know as a half Black person down my family line, when they've uncovered graves of an enslaved Black people and Black children, this sort of idea that if you use religion, it's okay to kill... It's okay to kill children. It's just fine. That's crazy to me.
Again, I think this is another one of those moments where lyrical content has been heavy, but like songs kind of dancey, y’know? So that's kind of... That's verse two. That was kind of the goal.
[Song playing] Lyrics: Can you hold my aching heart / Send your prayers up to your god / I only wanted to be free / A sinners choice for apathy / Can you hold my aching heart / My bleeding hands to mimic god / A modern Babylon / This place a flood and I'll be gone soon
TWC: So the chorus of this song is one of my favorite things I think that I've written and that's on the album. For many reasons, one, I was lucky enough to have this album produced by Wade MacNeil, of Alexisonfire, one of my heroes, one of my favorite bands, and he decided he wanted to sing on the verse, so you can hear his voice a lot in this track and I think that's super fucking rad. So that's really cool.
Also, this chorus, I think really captures what my band is about in a lot of ways. I describe our music a lot as like screaming into a void, a big cathartic exhale, and I think this chorus is really that. The verses are a lot quieter, a lot lower, and this one really just ramps it up and it's me basically screaming into a void, and especially with the line like, ‘I only wanted to be free, but you took the choice away from me,’ circles back again to that idea of religion, of society, all these things just...Not letting people just exist and be. And there doesn't need to be all these rules and stuff on it.
Yeah, there's not really much to say about this chorus. I think the one thing with my song writing too, is most of the time it's pretty self-explanatory, there's no hidden meanings, I don't know, I don't think about things deeply or try to be too clever, and I think with this chorus it is very that. What you hear is what you get and fucking Wade MacNeil was one it with me that was fucking rad. That’s the chorus of the song.
[Song playing] Lyrics: Do you hear them whisper / Can you hear them when they cry / You starved the golden goats / When you chose the ones to die / When you chose the ones to die / Holy omen (holy omen) / Holy omen (holy omen) / Anointed medicine / Drowning lives inside the ocean
TWC: The final verse of this song, I wanted to, again, just keep following that theme, that was the mood I was in when I was writing it, it was very cathartic, and I wanted this final verse to capture everything that's already been said, a conclusion statement if you will. Specifically the line in this verse I think really stood out to me when I was writing was right at the end, and it's ‘anointed medicine / drowning lives inside the ocean.’ And again, circling back to my upbringing in religion and being POC, being trans. I have a very specific relationship with the church, but growing up, this idea of being anointed and sort of the church being healing and all of these things was really ingrained in me, and I really believed it, and I don't think it's necessarily a lie for everyone. But I think that's a really specific way that a lot of people I've seen used this idea of an anointed messenger or an anointed calling or something anointed by god, that's been some divine intervention, to just keep people in a box and keep people down and hurt people again.
And circles back to that beginning line of, ‘for the ones who chose the sea,’ this one ends with ‘drowning lives inside the ocean,’ which kind of that idea of some people chose the ocean, but it really wasn't their choice when you think about what they were faced with, right? And I think it's a lot of ways people can absolve themselves of guilt and stuff like that, where it's like, Well, it wasn't technically my choice but you are the one causing the action that led to a reaction.
So yeah, that's kind of what this verse was about, and there's a line in there about, ‘you starved the golden goats / when you chose the ones to die.’ I have no idea what that line means. I needed something to fill that spot and I thought it sounded really cool, and I was like, goats are cool. That's a demonic thing. Like ooo scary. So yeah, no idea what that line means, but I thought it sounded cool.
[Song playing] Lyrics: Can you hold my aching heart / Send your prayers up to your god / I only wanted to be free / You took the choice away from me
TWC: So again, the last chorus of the song mimics the first. Couple of changes lyrically, specifically with, ‘I only wanted to be free, you took the choice away from me’ in the first verse was ‘I only wanted to be free / a sinners choice for apathy.’ It was, as I said, I wanted this to feel like what my band is about and follow this theme of screaming to a void, and for me, that was one of the things that I really struggled with personally, feeling like I had my freedom taken away from me to explore who I was from a younger age or be myself. It wasn't until in the past couple of years, being in my late 20s, that I really started to be able to do that, but I also realized how important it was for me to also let go of that, kind of scream it out and then let go of it as much as that might have happened, I can't change it.
But the beautiful thing about living where I live and the privileges I have is that I get to do that now. I get to explore being me. I still have life left. Hopefully, a lot of life left. And as much as the past shapes who we are, and obviously there can be trauma and things you work through, you have the power now to be you and live where you are to varying degrees. I luckily, have the privilege that I can be very open and expressive with who I am and my gender expression, but... Yeah, you have some power now, especially as an adult, so go for it.
Be who you are, fuck what everyone else has to say, fuck what people told you, fuck what they said when you grow up. You're you and that's amazing, so just go be you.
[Song playing] Lyrics: Can you hold my aching heart / My bleeding hands to mimic god / A modern Babylon / They fight for life / But soon we'll all be gone
TWC: I'm Tai from Chinese Medicine and that was our song Perception in Black from Top to Bottom. If you wanna check out more of our music, you can listen to our EP Die Aspora on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, check us out. Thanks for listening.