My Walkout Song - Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart

Fightland Blog

By Eugene Robinson

The walkout song is a time-honored tradition in MMA. It's also a delicate balancing act. The perfect song has to pump a fighter up while settling his/her nerves, appeal to the crowd without appearing to pander. "My Walkout Song" is where we ask MMA fans who also happen to be famous musicians what makes for great pre-fight music and what song they would choose to accompany their walk to the cage.


Jamie Stewart

Well, if Muddy Waters is right (and we suspect he is), then judging a fish by the pond is about as advisable as assuming that because Xiu Xiu's music is sensitive, introspective, and rife with self-loathing there'd be no point at all in asking the man who makes it, Jamie Stewart, jackshit about MMA. Until you do and discover that appearances will fuck you every time and the man behind the morose is not only a fan but a past participant/martial artist. Just goes to show you: You never know.

Even after eight records and even more compilations, as well as collaborations with Michael Gira, Devendra Banhart, Carla Bozulich, and others, splits, singles, live albums, and an endless touring schedule that covers the globe and then again, Stewart also produces and has done stuff on film. So, “Artist” with a capital “A” and as serious as a goddamned heart attack about it.

No wonder then that the same sort of intensity that he pours into quasi-pop songs both plangent and paranoid comes from a worldview (death, depression, despair) that makes the fists make sense, what with all the internal turmoil roiling the waters.

Song (for himself): "This Is The Law Of The Plague" 

Artist: Diamanda Galas

Song (for anyone else): "See You Don't Bump His Head"

Artist: Scott Walker

Fightland: Why "See You Don't Bump His Head"?:
Jamie Stewart: I think this would melt my brain if I saw someone come out to that. I think any song that sounds like physical punishment is cool and anything that sounds like a crazed lunge I like. Coming out to Slayer makes too much sense. I think it needs to be more frightening and more confusing. It bums me out when guys come out to Creedence or some good-time rock bullshit. Also, the title of the Scott Walker song, for a fight song, I think is funny. 

Is the song about the opponent, the fight, or more about the fighter?
In having chosen the Diamanda song for myself? It's about making them wait 12 minutes for my song to play and taking my "fuck you" time getting my own head space into full-on evil and unclean! And focus. It is also about letting them know that they had better be scared as fuck of what is about to happen to them. I think a song is about all three of those things, lighting all three of those on fire. 

You don't seem at all like the kind of fella that'd be pulling up a stool to check out some MMA.
Funny you mention this. It's actually the only sport that I do watch. The first time I saw it was on a Christmas Eve 2005 with my brother. We watched it with the sound off, drinking until about 4am while we talked about growing up. Recently I saw the Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller fight from right before New Year’s in a bar totally by accident. I went there to sing karaoke but on like a 12-foot high huge screen they were playing it. 

If you did not see this one, the guys and mat were literally covered in blood, like a freak out hentai/zombie movie: those amounts of blood. Between rounds they would clean them up and then in about five seconds their massive cuts would open again. It was totally amazing and bizarre seeing such real life gore in a room with 40 people I did not and would not ever know. Everyone was groaning, but no one stopped watching. 

Many people have a fairly complex relationship to violence if they have any relationship to it at all ... I remember you telling me when you lived in North Carolina about drunken frat guys screaming "faggot" at you on the street. While I'd have no problem with people screaming stupid shit at me all day long as long as I am not in the middle of a show, I also don't feel physically threatened often. Have you ever had the occasion to feel like just laughing it off and walking away is not a viable option?
I'm kind of a hothead actually and I think it's only by luck and the grace of God that I have not gotten my ass kicked every day since I was born. The number of times that I have told strangers who have annoyed me to get fucked and then immediately realized that I am being a lunatic has got to be in the thousands. 

Do you train?
Well, from the time I was 8 until I was 18 I took mostly isshin-ryu, which is a very traditional Okinawan version of karate. Then toward the end of my practicing, Muay Thai. Also a tiny bit of aikido, tai chi and chosen ryu. I was never as focused on fighting as I was at kata. Now I think fighting would be incredibly fun though. I miss it a lot. But my wrists are falling apart from playing music and I worry about stressing them more. But, in the way that it does, martial arts drew me out from being a complete wreck of a little boy to having some small amount of self-assurance. My main instructor was like a father to me. He died when I was 18. 

Check out these other installments of our "My Walkout Song" series:

Eugene Robinson

Harley Flanagan

Scott Kelly

Steve Albini