Lyrically, you’ve always worked with a lot of moral grey area, and ‘Contractor’ is the song that sticks out to me in that respect.

I have these weird things, these tics I like to go off on, little tangents I become very interested in. For a while, during the writing of this record, I became interested in mercenaries, historically, back to the 1700s even. I started researching them, not thinking that it would turn into a song, but it was just something I was interested in. Particularly when I got to the ‘60s and ‘70s in Africa, there were a lot of mercenary actions there. And I realize that now looking at the situation in the Middle East where we have mercenaries still, but they aren’t the traditional romantic image of these small groups of dudes who are hired and go out and do a dirty job for money. It’s corporate now, with companies like Blackwater and so forth. It interested me a lot, the fact that killing someone else for money, much like everything else, has stepped from being a private gig to a corporate gig.

Being a contract killer is a corporate gig now, and that struck me as kind of ironic. Mercenaries have always had this persona of being these outsiders, but you can go online now and they [Blackwater] list their training courses and so forth, and you can become a corporate killer, and the employer is the United States government. There are dudes over there doing jobs that the government, up until now, didn’t want to be held accountable. But if they’re using privatized military corporations they can be like, ‘Oh, this is a civilian contractor. They don’t have to follow the rules of engagement.’ Some of that made it into the news, some of those cowboy antics over in the Middle East. It fascinates me. And that song is written from the view of a contractor over there in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. It was a lot of fun to write.

There’s a couple of levels there, especially that many of the contractors are veterans who are getting paid twice as much as the guys who are working directly from the government.

Yeah, and it’s also a statement on how our government takes care of our veterans, which is fairly fucked up. I’m not in any way or shape a pacifist and I don’t believe we should exist without a military, I believe that a military is necessary in today’s world. I think it’s fucked that these guys are trained to go over there and when they’re done—all these ads you see on tv, ‘Army: Be All You Can Be’—I’ve talked to a lot of veterans and it’s a bitch getting their VA benefits and stuff. It’s a bitch making a living.

With the economy the way it is, you aren’t automatically guaranteed a job. Naturally, for some of these guys who have been over there and seen action, the logical thing to do to make money is to go back there and get paid from a private corporation. I think that says something about the way our government takes care of its veterans which is pretty sad in and of itself.

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