Jim White - Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See

Jim White - Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See

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Location: a Motel 6 in South Carolina. It’s midnight. I see the silhouette of a suspicious character slumped down in the front seat of a tricked up Caddy a few parking spaces down. I should make for the safety of my room but instead I stay put, for just a few feet away, hovering around the warm red glow of the Coke machine, is a huge ghostly green Luna Moth. All is silent but for the dreamy hum of the vending machines and the gentle fluttering of those luminescent wings. Down in the Caddy I see the faint halo of a cigarette being sucked on just above the darkened steering wheel. A moment of pure bliss overtakes me. It’s all about the seeing, this lonely, lovely esoteric moment.

Location: Navy Boulevard here in West Pensacola. It’s a few weeks later, and my truck’s broken down near a construction site. While I’m hunched over the engine trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with it (accelerator linkage), I overhear the can-do foreman bark out at one of his helpers the phrase that will eventually become the title of this album. “Drill a hole in that substrate and tell me what you see!” he bellows. I find myself quietly laughing—no, maybe sighing in relief. Without knowing it he’s named some ghost inside my head, but which one? The phrase flutters around in my mind for days, like that ghostly Luna Moth in the midnight sky of South Carolina.

Flutter flutter flutter. Why do those words stay with me? Finally I get it—it’s an allegory of the physics of my life; the construction site is my mind, and the substrate I’ve been drilling holes in is the tangled maze of impressions that Jesus, poverty, and the loneliness of being raised an outsider in the South have conspired to lay beneath my feet. Hearing the phrase brings a sigh of relief because at long last I possess a handy name for the machinery of my existence. When you can call some such thing by name, often times it gives you a mysterious and happy kick in the ass, something akin to “power”.

Thinking back, from as far as I can remember, from earliest childhood I’ve been drilling, looking for something the surface world didn’t provide, something to make life worth living. Sad, but true. I’d unearth some relic or mysterious object and call out; “Come see what I found!” but for the most part not only did people not want to see, but they fled at the very sound of my voice. In recent years I’ve come to realize that what I was digging up were artifacts comprised mostly of personal bullshit. No wonder people were uninterested.

Eventually, like most failed John The Baptists, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably spend my life drilling alone, digging up things of value to me and me alone. But fate’s the trickster, isn’t it though? Not long after I truly embraced the notion of a solitary life, I noticed something that had not happened before—little crowds began gathering around my construction site. They were watching me drill. But why? Had something changed in my drilling and seeing? I guess it had.

Soon enough interesting characters began showing up, even offering to help me in my endeavors. Can you imagine? Someone like Joe Henry appearing and saying “You need a hand with that drilling?” Can you imagine, after 20 years of solitary labor, for Aimee Mann, or Chocolate Genius or The Bare Naked Ladies, or The Sadies to stop you in a hallway or an airport or a gas station and say, “Hey, you want some help with that drilling, give us a call.” Can you imagine?

What a fucking relief. You work for twenty years, you hope it’s to some good end.
On this CD here you’ll find disguised in the form of “songs” some reports that I made about all that drilling I did. At times the sheer number of folks helping me drill was all but overwhelming. You’ll find their names listed on the credits page and I’m deeply grateful they took time out fo their lives to help me. Don’t be fooled by the fact that these reports are disguised in the form of “songs”, as they are reports about the state of hidden realms and should be regarded as such. I pray to God that they have some meaning to you. Otherwise why the hell did I do all that drilling anyway?
Damn, there’s that moth again.