This next mixtape was made a few months after Volume 1, when I had a little more of an idea of where I wanted to go with the story. The songs on this mix, then, were not about trying to evoke a specific mood; this was more about trying to figure out who my characters were.
There was a reason for this: in my previous projects, the characters were always based on someone. In the pre-1993 projects, they were usually inspired by certain traits of people I knew personally. For True Faith, I’d based characters on certain actors that I could see playing that role. For The Phoenix Effect, however, I wanted to do my homework. These characters would be true creations and not cameos.
- George Harrison, “Isn’t It a Pity”
I’d always loved this track of George’s, and that summer while listening to All Things Must Pass, I realized this encapsulated some of Alec Poe’s views of humanity: so much potential, yet falling so short, so often. You don’t see it as much in the first two books of the trilogy, but it really comes to the fore in The Balance of Light.
- The Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight”
Their Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album had been a big seller at HMV during the winter of 1996 and this track had gotten a lot of airplay everywhere. [I particularly loved the Georges Méliès homage in the video, having studied A Trip to the Moon in college.] In reference to my story, this kind of hinted at how the Mihari (aka the Mendaihu) would approach being spiritually awakened; excited and curious.
- Depeche Mode, “Home”
Another song connected to Alec Poe; the song, like a lot of Depeche Mode’s love songs, is deeply emotional yet extremely self-conscious. Poe has a hard time dealing with people sometimes, but his initial meeting with Akaina (even in TPE) changed all that.
- Beck, “The New Pollution”
Back when the Mihari and Misuteru (aka the Mendaihu and Shenaihu) were awakened in AI bodies, this track fit pretty well as a simple yet effective ‘alone in a new world’ feel.
- Tori Amos, “Little Earthquakes”
I’d been a passive Tori fan, but one day back in 1994 I’d heard a college station play this track, and I realized just how intensely beautiful the track was. I’d initially thought about using this as character development for Akaina, but soon realized it fit Saone Lehanna’s character so much better. A character who’d been changed against her will and had to deal with the consequences.
- U2, “Gone”
This would be a song for a bunch of the characters who had to deal with those new changes they’d gone through. This song in particular reminded me of those like Alec and Caren who had to come to terms with the fact that they were no longer exactly who they’d been just a short time ago. While some would accept it, others like Saone and Caren were angry.
- Live, “White, Discussion”
And there are those who refused to give in so easily. This song inspired me to think of how to deal with the tension; conflict between the Mihari and Misuteru, conflict between the awakened and the unawakened. Even conflict in how ‘pure’ some people had become in spirit. The spiritual awakening of my story was not going to be a peaceful one.
- Delirium, “Silence [feat. Sarah McLachlan]”
I’d gotten into a lot of new agey music around 1994-6, which partly influenced the worldbuilding of the Mendaihu Universe. There were also a wave of chillout electronica bands at the time (like Delerium, Enigma, and so on) that helped set the mood for various characters’ spiritual mindsets. Tracks like this one (which got a lot of airplay then) got me to think about how recently awakened characters would handle their situation. How would they see the world and those around them? How would they balance what they were sensing psychically versus using their other five senses?
- Sneaker Pimps, “Post-Modern Sleaze”
Becoming X is another album on my platinum album playlist, especially for its gloomy triphop sound. I didn’t use this track for any character in particular, but it did fit both Akaina’s and Saone’s situations.
- Republica, “Ready to Go [US Mix]”
One of the first cds I bought from HMV when I started! I liked the energy in this track; fast forward and unrelenting. This was more a mindset of who I would see living in the McCleever and Waterfront Districts. This is what I meant by the original opening of TPE, with Nehalé witnessing the unbridled, directionless energy that evening.
- Stabbing Westward, “What Do I Have to Do?”
Their second album Wither Blister Burn & Peel got a lot of play during my post-Boston, pre-HMV era, when I was still trying to figure out what to write next. This ended up being a good balance with the previous track; while the former is positive and uplifting, this one is negative and angry. The spirits Nehalé felt that he was afraid of.
- Sarah Brightman, “Cape Horn/A Salty Dog”
I knew this was a cover of a Procol Harum track about sailing, but Sarah Brightman’s classy, poppy version made me think of an anime I’d seen a few years previous (I’d forgotten the name) that had a wonderfully exciting (and a bit cheesy) sequence of a giant spaceship setting out towards the stars. This brought to mind an image of the Meraladians making their way to Earth, and the Earthers making their way back to Trisanda eons later.
- The The, “Good Morning Beautiful”
It was around this time that I realized that spiritual balance was an interesting theme worth investigating in my new universe. Matt Johnson’s devastating warning about being a passive believer raised a hell of a lot of questions for me, questions that would become central to the Bridgetown trilogy.
- Elton John, “Believe”
That same theme is brought up here, though in a much more positive way; the question here isn’t whether one wants to let belief take over; it’s now what it is that they’re letting take over. In this case, it’s love and compassion. That would be the Mihari/Mendaihu tenet from here on in.
- Soul Asylum, “Black Gold”
This one is a holdover from the 1993 Vigil story. The lyrics ‘this flat land used to be a town’ gave me the idea of setting a story in the far future; not just with sciencey gadgets and everything, but with the disintegration and disappearance of the old historical parts of the world. I’d use this later with True Faith (with NewCanta as an enclosed circular city) and especially with the trilogy (with Bridgetown as a megacity and the idea of small towns becoming Wilderland outposts).
- Joy Askew, “Corrine”
A sort of rewrite of “Dear Prudence” in a way, and a track that had popped up on a promo compilation I’d gotten from the record store. I liked the idea of having a character who’d kept themselves shut up for a length of time — not out of mental instability but because they were afraid of what they’d become — and I later realized this is what Caren Johnson would be like.
- Phish, “Free”
I’d known about Phish since my college years when my freshman year roommate played Lawn Boy incessantly, but it wasn’t until Billy Breathes that I finally got into them. This is one of their rare tracks that ended up getting a lot of radio airplay, but it’s a great track nonetheless. I used this to balance out the previous track; while the former was about hiding from oneself, this was about celebrating it. This is what Caren so desperately wanted to be.
Hope you enjoyed this mixtape! As you can tell, I was still trying to figure out not just the story but who was involved in it, and how they’d evolve. The next volume is a bit similar in that regard, but the themes are a little more stable and less meandering. By Volume 4 (my favorite of them), I knew exactly what I wanted.