Over the last decade, Fucked Up has released eight 12-inch records that relate to themes based on the Chinese Zodiac. The latest one is called Year of the Snake, is 24-minutes long, and perhaps the best one next to 2008's 19-minute long Year of the Pig.
The record—which you can stream below—is a meditative piece that has panpipes and synths and tinkling bells in the midst of a wild psychedelic punk rock guitar adventure. The poem that accompanies the music talks about a candle delivering a body to heaven and "a prayer to help find the light in my heart and the peace in my mind." I've been thinking about death a lot in the last year so I called up the group's Mike Haliechuk to see if this piece was about the thing I've been thinking a lot about in the last year. He was on a pilgrimage to Nepal when we had the conversation.
Noisey: Is Year of the Snake what I think it's about?
Mike Haliechuk: It's about how to die, or how to think about dying.
How should we think about dying?
Well it's kind of about how the process is within life. How you are constantly thinking about it and living it. Like how you are being reborn, reshaped, and how you can go thru something and come out the other end as something else.
Was this something you've been thinking about on your pilgrimage to Nepal?
I went to Nepal because I read an interview with Grant Morrison like ten years ago about how he climbed the 365 steps of Swayambhunath in one breath and was rewarded with a vision of the true nature of the universe. I went to the steps and realized there are more than 365 steps, and that doing it in one breath is not possible.
How many did you do?
They are so steep that it's hard to do like ten or 15. It's like a ten-minute walk, so unless you can hold your breath for like six minutes I don't see how anyone could do it, even the monkeys.
How close did you get to realizing the true nature of the universe?
Not close at all.
How is Nepal after the earthquakes a couple of years ago?
It's chaotic and dusty but also very peaceful. People are happy and calm but are surrounded by rubble because nothing has really been fixed since the earthquake.
How does that feel to be around?
The guy who drove me to the airport in his taxi lost his mother and his wife in the earthquake when he lived in Pohkra. He had to move to Kathmandu to start driving cabs to earn a living. He kept telling me what his expenses were, how much his rent and his car were. He said 'Life is very bad in Nepal,' but he was happy. It's weird to be surrounded by that much intense religious stuff, with dohkas and stupas on every corner. I went to Pashupatinath, which is one of the most holy places for Hindus. People lie in wait on the ghats and they cremate bodies. You see Hindu wanderers lying around taking offerings and cows and monkeys walking up and down the steps.
Did you see a cremation?
Yeah. It's kind of peaceful. One guy was lying on the ghat to the river and was surrounded by his family and doing process but then like hundreds of people are just there watching too, on all the steps, singing. There is a hospice next to the river so people die there and then are taken down to the river. It's not really like a "death" vibe because I guess it means something different
What does it mean?
I would say it's more of a process or a change or like a journey. I know in Buddhism when you die you move through the bardos looking for a mother to be born from. So your soul wanders so you can imagine it's probably a trip to live understanding that. Your life is part of a bigger process going towards something.
What are the only two things you can count on in life?
Is that a trick question?
Death and change.
Change if you're lucky.
Nah, you're gonna get change, just not guaranteed good change.
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Andy Capper is the executive producer and director of NOISEY on VICELAND. Follow him on Twitter.