Alice In Chains: Sludge Factory Meaning
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Sludge Factory Lyrics
Things go well, your eyes dilate, you shake, and I’m high?
Look in my eyes deep and watch the clouds change with time
20 hours won’t print my picture milk carton size
Carton size, carton...
anonymous Jun 29th, 2005 6:42pm report
I recently renewed my interest in this album, and particularly this song. I spent a while trying to figure out the lyrics, particularly the spoken part, and this is what I came up with:
There has been some discussion about whether this song is about heroin use or the record industry. I believe Layne ties the people associated with each one together.
The first verse is somewhat self-explanatory. Someone comes to Layne’s home under the false pretense of checking on his sobriety, but the person really wants drugs for themselves. (he asks sarcastically, "and I’M high?"). The two use together, knowing that no one will miss them until at least the following day.
The second verse is about a record exec calling to congratulate Layne for something – could be album sales, could be AIC's grammy nomination - I think it is probably getting clean. This is also a false pretense, as the exec really wants new material ("there's no pressure besides brilliance"). He asks Layne when he can expect something –("Let’s say by day 9"). Layne finds it stupid to let him control the date, as he is obviously prone to going missing for periods of time and for using drugs, since the exec mentioned that very issue in their conversation. “By the way” probably indicates that the drug use in the first verse indicates a relapse that the exec doesn’t know about.
Both verses together demonstrate that in Layne’s personal and professional lives, he constantly has people coming to him under false pretenses, to get something they want from him. The chorus demonstrates that he can see through their ploys:
They think they see "an in" – a pretense that they think they can slip by him – but their true selves (and wants) quickly become apparent to him. Once he finds them out, they become afraid of losing him and they give something to appease him – a date for their own sobriety, a later deadline, etc.
The last verse talks about the fact that one of the only people he has a true relationship with wants to die, which would leave him to those mentioned in the other verses. He wants the person to stay around and support him against these others that give him headaches.
The spoken aspect of the song is more difficult. I'm an attorney by trade, and the legalistic language reads like a last will, or possibly someone swearing out a police report against someone who has wronged them.
I bear true and existing witness – he is swearing an oath to what he says. This is possibly also a reference to Commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness," given the likely target of this section.
To this barrel of monkeys – fame and its influence over people
Layne is the self-proclaimed immoral success
1) who has been perfected in his immorality by various drugs
Which are individually deadly and equally so, and
2) whose influence has been spread across people who have fought against drug addiction and succumbed to it.
For physical separation or not knowing one another will not prevent other addicts from understanding the messages, or the lack thereof, in his lyrics.
The second half of the spoken part contrasts his proclaiming his own immorality, with those who falsely proclaim their own self-righteousness and look down on him because of it. Layne seeks to demonstrate that they hurt people in similar ways.
Vultures, liars, thieves – the falsely self-righteous who look down on him for his sins, but disregard their own -
Proclaim their innocence without ambiguity or artistic license (bearing false witness to their own problems).
Nonetheless, they are similar to pushers, in that they keep people’s spirits broken, in order to maintain control over them.
The result is the same as the drug pushers and their products – breaking the spirit to overcome the resistance that the body and mind are willing and able to put forth.
Their weapon is guilt.
At the same time, he may be saying that these people have no compassion for people like him or his suicidal friend, so in a way, he may be a better person than they, despite his addictions.
presence76 Jan 28th, 2004 1:01am report
Another AIC heroin song. In this one, a close friend comes over and accuses Layne Staley (the writer) of being high, and then get's high themselves. "your eyes dilate, you shake and I'm high?" - although that does sound like someone smoking crack (shaking, dilated eyes) as opposed to heroin use, so maybe they were using crack at that time?
"look in my eyes deep and watch the clouds change with time" - look in to me and see that my head is cloudy, - reflecting life in general - bleak, grey, etc...
and then one of my favorites:
"20 hours won't print my picture milk carton size"
meaning if I disappear(and be high for 20 hours) they won't go and call the police(and print my picture on a milk carton) because technically speaking (in most states)you cannot become a missing person until you are missing for 24 hours. A very dark comedic point of view - which I love.
"Call me up congratulations ain't the real why" - congratulations for being sober for X days, but there is an alterior motive for the person calling.
"there's no pressure besides brillance let's say by day 9" - once your nine days clean the only pressure you feel to relapse(meaning go back to using drugs after a period of not using them, sometimes days, months, or years) is your own feeling of brillance, healthiness, clear-thinking - which deep down, you do not feel you deserve.
"endless corporate ignorance let's me control time
by the way, by the way" - the thing I come up with on this one is the fact that because corporations are ignorant of human suffering and he is not that he is empowered.
"once again you see an in, discolored skin gives you away" - clearly the "in" is the other person rationalizing their own drug use and relapsing and lying about it "discolored skin gives you away". The "in" probably is either the fact that they are saying "layne you have a real problem, I'm glad your sober now" - but are only saying that so they can deflect attention away from themselves and their own heroin problem.
And then another beauty
"so afraid you kindly gurgle out a date for me" - at first I thought "date" meant sex act because of the word gurgle, but now I am almost positive that it means sobriety date. The person is so afraid of being found out that they relapsed that they gurgle(speak, slurringly as in being under the influence of heroin) out a made up sobriety date. Hysterically funny and sad at the same time.
"now the body of one soul I adore wants to die
you have always told me you'd not live past 25
I say stay long enough to repay all those who caused strife" - The person is actively addicted again and is suicidal but I am telling them to stick around just to spite all the people that said the wouldnt, or to annoy the people that doubted them, or harrassed them.
A great, great song from a great and missed song writer. -
anonymous May 25th, 5:36am report
I think this has a mix of meanings. "Once again you'd be an in, discoloured skin gives you away," - this may refer to his father who started hanging out with Layne under the presence of father son tine but just to do drugs. Corporate ignorance refers to the label - Layne can control time with his manager, Susan. The last bit is definitely about Demri.
anonymous Jun 24th, 2017 6:45am report
If you remember sequence, Mad Season album came out just before this. Jerry didn't like it. This is about Jerry coming over, as y'all say, getting high while ripping Layne, congratulating but not really. Then Layne's journey to utter despondency. An awesome, maybe most interesting, song.
All this my take, but listen to it and picture Jerry. That's how I heard it day one.
anonymous Dec 13th, 2016 12:01pm report
Layne and Kurt....piece it together and then remember the autopsy revealed Lane died same day of year as Kurt. They got high together often enough and shared some similar feelings concerning industry/fame...
anonymous Jul 17th, 2016 7:25pm report
Just to add a point:
"Endless corporate ignorance lets me control time..."
Is likely a reference to Layne "putting one over" on his record company, just as an example, using an old demo recording or unused tracks as "proof" he'd been hard at work in the studio instead of getting high. "By the way..." What are you gonna do about it? "By the way..."
I imagine him laughing his ass off at some record company suit who failed to recognize part of a "b-side" from a previous album or their original demo that he passed off as new material. But that laughter would be tinged with bitterness as the people who are responsible for bringing his art to the world don't care enough about it or him to become familiar enough with it or the recording process to keep him from fooling them.
anonymous May 17th, 2016 5:13pm report
anonymous Jul 1st, 2015 7:41pm report
Wow. Wo. WOw. This is a super cool discussion of these words...finally I read the spoken part, came here and realized people are smart an thinking like I am....still feel the spoken part is something from a speech or movie line, poetry, etc...
HeroinHero Mar 31st, 2014 3:08pm report
I think the part that says "Once again, you see an in, discolored skin gives you away, so afraid you'll kindly gurgle, out a date for me." Is meaning that the person he is watching has possibly bean clean for away but then, sees an in(escape) and their discolored skin is giving their addiction away. Layne seems to be scared that when they overdose, they'll kindly give him a date of his own death...
anonymous Feb 28th, 2012 2:37am report
The last verse is about Demri, his girlfriend/fiance. "The body of one soul I adore wants to die."
anonymous Jan 31st, 2011 1:47am report
WoW yea know i have to respond to this site wow O.K. your number one song meaning has the song so wrong if you'd like i'll set it straight ok here it goes wow can't believe people are so sheltered anyways he says " you insult me in my home your forgiven this time" (means well when you use herion and build a tolerance when you don't have it you start to get what they call dope sick its withdrawl when you use opiods it slows your system down like heart rate and breathing well when your body does not have the drug it goes into overdrive you can't sleep but you feel like you weigh a thousand pounds, your eyes dilate, you get the chills and all shakey an sweaty but cold its weird)but yeah layne staley is talkin about a friend who is sick comes over to get well and is rushing layne to get him well like hurry hurry hurry i don't feel good give me a shot and that is disrespectfull insted of being patient.yeah these poeple "they must be smokin crack" wrong your eyes dilate when your dope sick from herion wow i still can't believe some people are clueless. Anyways then he go's on to mock them because they are sick and he is not and post this because this is the truth an not some off the wall un-educated guess.thanx.
anonymous Jul 16th, 2010 7:10pm report
Layne did heroin AND crack
anonymous Jul 29th, 2008 7:59am report
I think "an in" obviously means needle marks on the vein, as well as "discolored skin" from heroin use, both of which would "give you away" if you had been hiding the fact that you've relapsed into using again.
anonymous May 9th, 2008 5:02pm report
The Sludge Factory is the record company to which his band was signed. They pressure you to knock out hits and the contracts you sign generally have deadlines for so many albums you need to crank out, which eliminates a bands ability to organically develop their music by adding the component of corporate greed and legalities into the mix. This is why, for true music lovers, Napster = Good, Lars Ulrich = Bad. F-r-r-r-r-runkis!
anonymous Feb 25th, 2008 2:27pm report
I agree with both interpretations to some extent, but I was leaning towards the record exec point of view...
Layne sees the exec as someone using him. He comes to his house and is nervous about the deal they may be proposing to him and Layne notices because he's pale and shaky, possibly stumbling over his words.
I think the "in" is the fact that the record company sees an opportunity to cash in on his talent and the date could be some sort of release date, studio date, etc.
"Vultures, liars, thieves, each proclaim their innocence" seems to represent his disdain for the record label all the while they try to act like this was always part of the deal and they did nothing wrong.
Clearly the song is interwoven with his drug use, but I think there is also an obvious reference to his record label. Other musicians have expressed their anger with record labels through their music... most recently I can recall the song "The Hit" by Smile Empty Soul.
purplesarah Oct 4th, 2007 10:00pm report
I think both of the interpretations above are great, I just want to add something to Presence76's interpretation.
I think the lyric
"endless corporate ignorance let's me control time"
is referring to part of the reason Layne is able to do drugs. 'Control time' could be referring to the ability to make time feel like it is slowing down by using drugs, as is a common experience with drugs. The endless coporate ignorance could be referring to the world we live in at the moment- a world dominated by money, consumerism etc and it is this very situation that drugs are easily available. So if it wasn't for corporate ignorance (consumerism etc) then he wouldn't have access to drugs that enable him to "control time" or the money to pay for them.
I suppose it's much like someone on benefits using the money to sit around all day and get high. In Layne's case, it's the money he gets from selling records he uses to get high.
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