A menace to the people of this region, many have attempted to capture or kill the crocodile, but one North Texas band has found in this crocodile a hero instead of a villain.
Uncle Toasty, a new project from multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Chase Friedman, began as a desire to start something new, but took shape organically moving from a hard-style project to a doom-metal, punk outfit before ultimately becoming a hard psychedelic indie rock band.
“I didn't want to be too political,” Friedman says standing on the northwest corner of Elm and Oak, outside J&J’s Pizza on the Denton Square. “I just don't get politically charged. This new song that dropped that is about a crocodile. I don’t want to write songs that are dividing. I want people to have a good time when they come to the shows.”
In the new video for “The Butcher of Burundi,” directed by Ian McKenyon of Coffeepot Films, a husband and wife production team is literally blown away by the sonic blast coming through their recording studio.
Dark, fast and loud, the tale of Gustave it told through dueling vocals, Friedman’s voice going from high to low, switching between the voices of the narrator and “The Butcher” himself.
“Gustave is from a a river called the Ruzizi,” Friedman says. “He was a man-killer, and there's been speculation as to how many people he might have killed. They don't know how many people he killed, but some say over 300.”
Friedman had long been captivated by the story of this supposedly vicious crocodile, always finding some disparity between the stories that are told about certain animals and reality.
“I'm very much into animals that are kind of just doing what they do,” Friedman says. “I think that's really cool. I'm really into those kind of stories — animals that were given a name, that have a character, that have lived long lives for the most part unless they are hunted down.”
Take Moby Dick for instance. The whole novel is about this captain’s quest to hunt down a whale that has wronged him, but ultimately, he’s hunting a whale. Any kind of anthropomorphic attributes this white whale may have are merely the paranoid projections of its hunter.
The same goes for Gustave, the crocodile and supposed “Butcher of Burundi.”
“In 2019, it came out that he was poached,” Friedman goes on. “I felt pretty bad about that, because I remember hearing about him years before any of that happening, and it was really, really sad to hear that this really awesome man eater, an animal, got killed. But the source is from Burundi, and I don't know if it's true. Nobody does.
"I don’t want to write songs that are dividing. I want people to have a good time when they come to the shows.” – Jeffrey Chase Friedman
“I fail to believe that he was killed. That's kind of the point of the song. Did he get killed though? You know, maybe he's out there still.”
A life and death shrouded in mystery made Gustave’s story a natural choice for a song, but Friedman took things one step further, having the likeness of Gustave tattooed on his left forearm.
“I just really respect the hell out of that animal,” he says looking down at his tattoo. “Sixty-something years, he's been alive. I’d be pissed if I spent all my years trying to fight for my life to keep people out of my home. He's had to fight for his life. They kind of get what they deserve going into his territory.”
When it came time to make the video, Friedman let McKenyon handle the creative decisions, but one thing was for certain.
“I just told Ian, there does not have to be a crocodile in this thing,” Friedman explains. “It'd be funny if there were there was, but I don't want to be the character. I'm not the character. I'm thinking about the character. I respect the character. I respect the animal. I'm very upset that he might not be around anymore in an ever-developing world.”
There is no word yet on when the next Uncle Toasty single will drop or when Uncle Toasty will be bringing this and other strange tales to the stage. But whatever next steps Uncle Toasty take will be made carefully.
“I kind of enjoy the idea of thinking of the show and how it would go,” Friedman says. “Not that it will be theatrical or anything like that. I just like to think about how it would sound. 'Cause I think hearing it from different perspectives and getting different live recordings interests me a lot. The sciences of it? I leave that to certain particular members.”