Setting the Tone

Posted: April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Music. I live and breathe music. When I write I always, and I mean always, have music playing. Growing up, music was almost always playing in our house; Mom liked rock and classical, Dad liked jazz and western (not the boring, watered-down ‘country’ that’s popular today, but real hillbilly roadhouse western). Between the two, most musical bases were covered.

Grade school, junior high, high school, college, every test I studied for, every paper I wrote, I had the radio on. It wasn’t even a conscious thing; it was just a way of life for me. When I was first developing the idea for what would become my first novel, several years ago, music was playing.

In 2008, my career track derailed when the company I was running vanished. Historically, I’ve blamed the global economic meltdown because it was easier than telling the real version: the people who owned the company were notorious tax evaders and lunatic conspiracy theorists. In November of that year, they took everything that wasn’t nailed down and fled to El Salvador to the bunker they had built, to await the end of the world. I am in no way making up or embellishing this. Having painted myself into an occupational corner, finding a new job during a deep recession proved impossible. I spent a lot of time at a buddy’s coffee house, and wrote a novel that is truly terrible, totally self-indulgent, barely readable. But it was a start, and throughout the process, music was always playing. It set the pace, set the tone, and many times, it set the scenes.

While writing that dreck, the germ of an idea formed what would become the story on which I’m now nearing completion. I knew from the start it was going to be dark, grim, and bloody, and I needed the appropriate music to work by. Hardcore punk? Didn’t work. Delta blues? Nope. Screaming Norwegian death metal? Not my thing. Psychobilly almost got me there but at the end of the day, what has driven this project and moved me more than anything is: 1970s pop. The stuff I’d hear in the car when I was a kid, linked to countless happy memories, is also that which has allowed me to access the deep, dark parts of my creativity. My former girlfriend (we married last year) suggested that this music puts me in my safe, happy place, and when I’m in that safe and happy place, I’m comfortable enough to go swimming in those dark waters. And that makes perfect sense to me. There’s a certain sort of magic I find in the catchy melodies, the arresting hooks, the occasionally dippy and often brilliant lyrics that touch something way down deep that I can’t quite name, a kind of innocence that just…moves me. I can’t put it any other way.

So if at some point you’re reading my weird, freaky little book and if I’ve done my job well, and it’s getting under your skin, remember that I wrote it whilst cranking The Raspberries, Bay City Rollers, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Tee Set, The Rubettes, Albert Hammond and hundreds of others at peak volume.

Rock on.

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