Friday, June 13, 2014

The Music Behind the Stories

The wonderful Kate Laity posted something yesterday-- a list on Youtube of songs that had inspired stories from her. I thought that was a terrific idea and immediately decided to steal it.

I don't actually listen to music while writing. I find it distracting, because I tend to want to concentrate on the music, listen to it. It's an activity in and of itself to me. But music still plays an enormous role in my creative life, and there's always a soundtrack playing in my head that fits the story perfectly.

Here are some songs that played roles in various novels and stories of mine.

"Red Right Hand", by Nick Cave. I supposed this one is pretty obvious, if you've read my novel THE BASTARD HAND.

"You don't have no money? He'll get you some
You don't have no car? He'll get you one
You don't have no self-respect, you feel like an insect,
Well, don't you worry buddy, here he comes
He's a god, he's a man, he's a ghost, he's a guru
You're one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by his Red Right Hand."

In fact, the working title of TBH was RED RIGHT HAND. So there you go.

A lot of other music in my head went into that one, as well, a lot of old gospel, some RL Burnside, some Junior Kimbrough.

My short story collection, DIG TEN GRAVES, has a more diverse mental soundtrack, of course, but a lot of the head-music that went into it was more... discordant and disturbing. A lot of Velvet Underground. A lot of Thin White Rope (I've said before that, more than any other band, Thin White Rope captures what the inside of my head sounds like. Two in particular were the Velvet's "Sister Ray" and TWR's "Astronomy".

CITY OF HERETICS? Tom Waits. Especially his release "Alice". That album really captured the seedy, sad desperation I was trying for with my second novel.

And Hawthorne... well, again, Thin White Rope had a big influence. The creepy, discordant lyricism of songs like "Lithium" and "Sack Full of Silver" felt like Hawthorne's world to me. But the primary song that suited Hawthorne, to me, came from the unlikely source of The Pixies. The song "Silver" could be Hawthorne's theme, really, if a film was ever made about him.


  1. I always steal ideas without compunction but it's nice when they get credit. Fun!

  2. I've probably mentioned 'em before, Heath...but I have to believe you either do or would dig 16 Horsepower.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Well, I'm pissed at both of you, Heath and K.A. I was planning to do a whole takeout for my blog on noir music, talking about the impact of musical modes, the use of "blue" notes to increase the listener's anxiety level and dynamics to manipulate his or her mood, ethnic effects (for example, the theme from "The Third Man" with the exotic dulcimer, the theme from "The Grifters" with its dissonant Klezmer influence), Badalamente's use of retro rock and jazz motifs, etc., etc. Then the two of you run with the same idea. Now I have to think of something else to bloviate about!