by Tim Braun
Here in the cozy little burg of Haymarket, Virginia, there is a small pocket of people (not unlike the small pocket of blue people in Kentucky) that practice the ancient art of ‘scatwrecking’. This art form was first discovered and practiced by two tribes of cannibals in Papua New Guinea, as well as by a tiny group of Mennonite ministers in Lima, Ohio. I’m proud to say that I am probably the best example of this art form still living on the Eastern Seaboard – and I’m here to tell you my story.
First a definition. “Scat” refers not to cat scat – but to the vocal stylings that are a method of replacing unintelligible syllables for actual words in songs. “Wrecking” means demolishing, destroying, making people’s ear’s bleed, etc.
I practice this art and have been told this by friends, family and foes for nigh on 40 years now. See, I don’t actually know any of the words to songs. I know all the tunes and the melody, but I have no idea what most of the words are. Because frankly, they are SO unimportant to the meaning of the song. I’ve developed a sense of musical styling that completely avoids the words or what they mean, and focuses on the tune, beat, melody and emotional punch that the song gives me.
An example you ask? Ask my kids – they could give you an example from every 16 hour car ride with me in history. But for a modern song, I’ll pick a curren hit that I find catchy and tell you how I sing it – with the ‘true’ word translation below. Note that I’m only doing the catchy part, because if I did the random words that Mr. Adam Levine threw in it would be unintelligible to you non-scatwreckers:
Scatwrecking: “And in the daylight gumba hatta go”
Actual: “And when the daylight comes I’ll have to go”
Scatwrecking: “But tonite gudna had you soloes”
Actual: “But tonight I’m gonna hold you so close”
Scatwrecking: ”And in the daylight, marsha mitchell loan”
Actual: “Cause in the daylight we’ll be on our own”
Scatwrecking: “But tonite I need to hoe tea so dough”
Actual: “But tonight I need to hold you so close”
That’s an actual transliteration from my singing. As I said, the art is to keep the front of the line basically the same and rhyme the last syllable of the line you’re singing with the actual line – and then it seems to just flow naturally. It’s a gift that I’ve been blessed with all my life. If you sing out loud the scatwrecking version of the song that I did – it will not only permanently ruin the song for you – but also free your brain to do other things besides focus on the words.
I think I developed this as a kid when my parents always complained of the devil music I listened to. I would always tell them (wrongly at the time) that I don’t even listen to the devil words, I just listen to the beat and the music. I told this lie so many times growing up that it gradually became a fact in my head. And to this day, I can tell you every song on a Black Sabbath album and hum the whole stupid thing to you (because honestly NOTHING sounds better than hummed Black Sabbath) but I cannot give you the words of any of them. In fact, one of my favorite songs today is by the German heavy metal band Rammstein – called ‘Du Hast’. Yes – it’s all in German. And I’m able to sing ALL of the words to it correctly. In German. There may be some mono-filament wire loose in my brain.
So to all you nay-sayers (and you know who you are) that say I can’t sing – take that. I’m actually just keeping alive a tradition in music that goes back generations. Scatwrecking will never die as long as I can make a mono-syllabic sound.