The Mars Volta: Studying Cedric Bixler-Zavala's Lyric Writing Style

In this lesson, we will examine how Cedric Bixler Zavala, from the band The Mars Volta, writes some of his lyrics.

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Cedric has a fairly particular writing style, and most of his songs use the same "shrouded in metaphors" writing style.

What He Does

Cedric has this thing for Language. He Loves It.

He will write his music in different languages (most often English and Spanish), and every song is always hidden behind some sort of metaphor.

But what do those metaphors mean?

Let's look at at the song "Son Et Lumiere" from their first Album, "De-loused In The Comatorium" (link goes to full album interpretation).

Song Example: Son Et Lumiere

Son Et Lumiere is about a fictional character (based on a real one) named Cerpin Taxt.

Cerpin Taxt is a drug addict, who eventually tries to commit suicide by overdosing on Morphine and Rat Poison. He then falls into a Coma.

Clipside of the Pinkeyed flight
I'm not the percent you think survives
I need sanctuary in the pages of this book

Gestating with all the other rats
Nurse said that my skin will need a graft
I am of pockmarked shapes, the vermin you need to loathe

Interpreting These Lyrics

When he says "Clipside of the Pinkeyed flight" the "Pinkeye" is a medical term that refers to the pink drop that comes out the top of a needle when you push the air out of it. The "Clipside" is referring to the "Flipside" of Cerpin's Addiction, or the "Bad Side".


The Reason he made up the word "Clipside" instead of just using the original "Flipside" is that he was also using the Metaphor of "Clipping.

Clipping is Sound Terminology, when the electronic signal sent by a guitar or microphone is too powerful, and it overloads and distorts.

The Metaphor is showing how Cerpin's Body Overloaded from all the drugs.

I'm not going to go through the entire song here, if you want to see the original, full interpretation, Click Here.

You kind of get the idea about how Cedric puts his lyrics together in this aspect?

Now these Lyrics were first in a book. What Cedric did was write a story, and then take excerpts of it and put it into song.

In this part of the story, was Cerpin Overloaded on Drugs.

So Cedric took that, and just found different and unique metaphors to create that part of the story in Lyrics.

And you can do it too!

How You Can Write Lyrics In This Way

  1. Come Up With A Concept Or Story. You can refer to my article on How To Write A Concept Album if you need help.
  2. Go through the story, and plot out the most important parts of it (Usually split up into 7-14 Parts).
  3. For each Part, come up with interesting and incredible metaphors (This is perhaps the most difficult...maybe second to actually coming up with an amazing story).
  4. Take those important parts, and turn them into songs.
  5. Take Your Metaphors and place them in your songs. If you are lucky, they will flow nicely.
  6. Congratulations, you are now Cedric Bixler-Zavala!

Now I realize that these are all very complicated, and could take you some time to come up with a story. But I am sure that if you use the resources on this site (Such as the "How To Write A Concept Album" article mentioned above), you could come up with something quite amazing!

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