I don’t really know what possessed me, but it seems my next possible writing project wants to have an early 90s soundtrack. So here, have some non-grunge semi-obscurities that have been popping up on my mp3 player the last few days…
I’ve been thinking lately about how I want to approach Book Four in the Mendaihu Universe (oh yes, there will be more of them!) and yes, I’ve even been gathering music for the writing soundtrack. And like all the other projects, I’m searching for a specific mood that fits the story I have in my head.
Recently I’ve been listening to Kasabian’s “Club Foot”, a) because it’s got one hell of a kickass bass riff, and b) the video is an homage to student revolt against government suppression, specifically the Prague Spring in 1969 and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It’s also an homage to pirate radio and Radio Free Europe.
I’ve always been fascinated by that kind of rebellion. Sure, it grew out of my listening to punk and ‘that weird college radio stuff’ back in the 80s, but the fact that the whole point of that music was a form of rebellion against the norm attracted my interest. [Yeah, I’ll cop to not always outwardly showing it. But that’s for a different post.]
In the Bridgetown Trilogy, the Vigil group is there partly to play both roles: revolt against those in power, and its voice. But what of the new book? All I can say is that it’s a new game. It’s seventy years later and things have changed considerably on both sides. The rebellion shown in the Trilogy wouldn’t work this time out. Those books were all about accepting and maintaining a balance between two opposite forces.
This particular book, I think, is going to be more about Setting Things Right.
The “Club Foot” song and video got me thinking this morning, and I posted it as a tweet:
What would be today’s analogue of pirate radio as student revolt? How would people listen to it? Phone app? Internet streaming? Radio like in the past? How would its signals be secure/untraceable like a VPN?
Which brought up the next question: How would this kind of revolt happen in an age of social media (and multiple forms of media in general) that are chock full of white noise already? Is a digital/aural underground network even possible?
(Mind you, whenever I hear a question ending in “…is that even possible”, my brain immediately responds with “Of course there is. We just have to figure out what it is.” I’m an optimistic goofball that way.)
Things to think about while prepping for future writing projects.
I’ve been doing some major cleaning back here in Spare Oom thanks to buying new furniture, and let me tell you, it’s been a wild ride on the Wayback Machine lately.
One of the things I’ve been doing the last week or so is going through my old 3.5″ floppy disks; I had three file boxes full of them that have been collecting dust and slowly degrading, so I figured it was high time that I saved what I could to an external drive, deleted what I didn’t want, and recycle the whole lot once I’m done. The earliest of these date back to 1994 when my ex-gf and I were writing True Faith. Every document dated up to around 1999 was a WRI file, given that I used MS Write exclusively until I finally got a copy of MS Word.
So as you can imagine, I’ve got all these songs in my head from that era that fit nicely with The Future Is Internet. Some of the songs are from horrible-but-great SF films like Johnny Mnemonic and Strange Days and Virtuosityand Hackers, while others were part of my ongoing writing soundtracks for TF and thereafter into The Phoneix Effect.
Enjoy some mid-90s Tunage Of The Future!
At the moment, I’m focusing almost completely on the revision of Diwa and Kaffi (yes, that’s the Apartment Complex book title now), which means that my writing session playlist has shifted accordingly. Right now it’s focusing mostly on lighter fare, to fit the mood of the novel. In particular, I find myself listening to a lot of synthpop and light alt-rock. Here’s a few albums that have been spinning lately here in Spare Oom…
White Lies, Five. This album kind of reminds me of the modern pop sound of the late 80s/early 90s that I used to listen to back in the day. It’s light but has just enough heft and emotion to it that it’s not throwaway.
The Cinematic Orchestra, To Believe. Great mood music I can get lost in. It’s quiet and lovely and just kind of floats everywhere, and I love it. This is the kind of stuff I listen to when I just need background but not exactly a specific mood.
UNKLE, The Road Part 2: Lost Highway. I can never go wrong with James Lavelle’s brilliant work. It’s dark and brooding, but it’s also quite expansive. (Having Tom Smith from Editors singing a few tunes is also really cool.) I usually reserve UNKLE for my Epic Novel sessions, but I’m such a huge fan of the band that they fit in quite nicely for any book I’m writing.
American Football, American Football (LP3). This is an AMAZING album, and it’s absolutely gorgeous and dreamy. This one’s been getting some heavy replays, almost on a daily basis, since it came out a little over a week ago. It’s just enough for me to get lost in the mood of the record without it interfering with the book proper.
The Sound of Arrows, Stay Free. This one’s a few years old but it’s been a huge influence on the book since I started writing it last year. (So much so that the title track plays during the ending credit sequence for the anime version in my head. Heh.) It’s a lovely and quite positive album to listen to, and it fits the mood of D&K perfectly.
I’m still on the first couple of chapters of this novel right now, and I’ve purposely not given myself a deadline; I’m already damn proud of this book and think it’s one of the best I’ve written (even better than the trilogy!), so I want to give this one as much TLC as I can before I decide whether I want to self-publish it or submit it to a professional house. I’m not even focusing on that right now, to be honest — I just want to give this one my all. Establishing a writing soundtrack, then, becomes an important part of my process; writing with music helps me focus on the work at hand, and it also mutes out any background noise that might distract. Creating this kind of playlist is one of my favorite parts of the process, as the music helps me achieve the mood of the story.
Every now and again I’ll hear a new song that will just floor me. Recently I’ve been grooving to this new single by the band Bob Moses called “Heaven Only Knows”.
It’s got that mid-tempo, low-range electronic groove that I love for many reasons: it’s great chill-out music, it’s got a gorgeous melody, it sounds awesome in headphones, and it’s perfect for my writing sessions.
Sometimes when I like a song that much, I’ll zip online and check out the rest of their discography. As it happens, their entire output is currently available on eMusic, so I was able to download it quite cheaply and add it to my collection.
Come to find out, I already knew one of their songs already! I recognized their 2015 single “Tearing Me Up” from hearing it on the various indie rock stations, but always forgot who it was until now.
I gave their EPs and album a good listen today and I can definitely say these guys are going to get some serious play in the next few weeks. It’s really great mood music for the writing projects I’m currently working on, and it’s also great to listen to during my Day Job hours. And they’ve got a new album coming out in two weeks! Woot!
[Battle Lines will come out on Sept 14th.]
What’s that, you say? Is this an official follow-up to the original four compilation volumes from 1997-98? Didn’t I make a bunch of semi-official compilations for the trilogy over the next decade and a half? Am I just recycling the same damn mixes over and over again at this point?
What’s the diff, anyway?
Well, the original Songs from the Eden Cycle mixes were made when I was writing The Phoenix Effect and were used to get me inspired, rather than songs that were assigned to specific scenes (with a few exceptions). The follow-up mixes, on the other hand, were when I wrote and revised the Bridgetown Trilogy and were specifically focused on those stories.
Thus, this new “Volume 5” is a return to the original reason for the series: music to get me inspired to write the new Mendaihu Universe book(s). Like the original four, these will be mixes that will be made over an extended stretch of time, as certain tracks pop up.
Here are a few that I’ve gathered so far…
Blonde Redhead, “23”. This song popped up on my radar in 2015 when I was playing around with MU story ideas, and caught me at the right moment with its unrelenting, twisting power. Beauty and tension at the same time.
Kasabian, “Club Foot”. I’m surprised I never put this song anywhere on any of my major compilations other than a half-assed one I threw together in 2005, because it’s one of my favorite badass bass lines. Also surprised I never used it in any Mendaihu Universe stories, either. Admittedly the video (again, one of my favorites) did give me a bit of inspiration as well.
U2, “The Blackout”. Say what you will about U2’s last two albums, personally I still think they’re the best and strongest albums they’ve had in years. Pretty sure they’re both going to get a lot of play when I start writing the new stuff.
Editors, “No Harm”. These guys consistently blow my mind with each release. In Dream was quite the dark affair — not as creepy as In This Light and On This Evening, but emotionally raw — and got a hell of a lot of play when I was revising the original trilogy. Pretty sure it’s gonna get play here as well.
Dot Allison, “Message Personnel”. This track actually dates back to the original TPE/trilogy sessions and popped up on one of the “Mendaihu Universe” mixes, but I’ve chosen to add it to this one because it’s the soundtrack to one of the first scenes I’d come up with for the new story. This is one of the few exceptions where I had a perfect song in mind for a specific scene.
The Horrors, “I See You”. I think I need to look into this band more, because they totally slipped under my radar until I heard their Luminous album a few years back. I love their dark post-punk sound, which fits in quite nicely with what I’m trying to achieve with the new story.
I’m still working on this one right now, and it is in fact a mix of newer and older songs (note: the original four volumes did in fact have the same type of content as well). With the exception of maybe one or two songs, the rest of these haven’t been put on an official Eden Cycle mix as of yet.
Yes, I know…I’ve got two other novels I have to finish first before I can get anywhere serious with this new Mendaihu Universe novels, but it doesn’t hurt to get an early start with the notes and the soundtrack, right?
New mixtape/mp3 playlist! This one’s Songs from the Apartment Complex, and I have to say this is probably one of the quirkiest mixes I’ve made in a while. The Apartment Complex story (still working on the title, folks) has evolved into an unexpected direction for me. Unlike previous book-centric playlists where most of the songs are there to set a mood, many of these tracks here are aimed at specific characters and what kind of person or being they are. Hope you enjoy it!
- The Sound of Arrows, “Stay Free”
- U2, “Get Out of Your Own Way”
- Ra Ra Riot, “Water”
- Beck, “Dreams”
- Elbow, “Firebrand & Angel”
- Gang of Youths, “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?”
- The Naked and Famous, “A Still Heart”
- U2, “13 (There Is a Light)”
- Embrace, “Love Is a Basic Need”
- The Sound of Arrows, “Don’t Worry”
- Shame, “Friction”
- Elbow, “One Day Like This”
- GoGo Penguin, “Strid”
- Eels, “There I Said It”
- U2, “You’re the Best Thing About Me”
- The Sound of Arrows, “Beautiful Life”
- Love Tractor, “We All Loved Each Other So Much”
EDIT: As you may have seen over at Welcome to Bridgetown, I’ve put the Apartment Complex story on hiatus as I’m having even more problems with it than I thought, and need to put it aside for a while. Frustrating, yes. VERY frustrating. But I’m still keeping this up, because I think it’s a pretty interesting mix, and something I’ll listen to when I come back to the project. [And I *am* coming back to it — I just don’t know when.]
Alas, my recent fascination with 70s music has been sidetracked due to my starting in on the Meet the Lidwells project; in this case, I am now immersing myself in the poppier side of alternative rock circa 1990-1996. Not complaining, considering.
I’m trying to avoid the expected hits, the songs that still pop up from time to time: “Unbelievable” and “Right Here Right Now”, Achtung Baby and Nevermind, and so on. I’d like to dig just a little deeper than expected — something I am wont to do for my writing projects anyway — and bring back some of the tunes that were on my Walkman during my college years.
Sure, I’ve often said that the early 90s was definitely an unpredictable era of great highs and miserable lows for me personally, but that’s not the story I’m writing here. [And that’s another blog post entirely anyway.] I’m reconnecting with a lot of the great music that came out at the time, and channeling that energy into the Lidwells story.
The early 90s was an interesting time, for a multitude of reasons anyway. Musically, post-punk and college rock was becoming the new mainstream, 80s pop was aging a bit (sometimes not that well at all), and new voices and sounds were popping up from around the globe. Politically, old walls (literal and figurative) were being torn down, and soon a new President would be entering the White House. It felt like there was a weird positivity in the air that we’d almost forgotten about.
It may have been the political sea change, or it may have been something else. For me at any rate, I was thinking this was the last decade in the millennium, and that we were all looking forward to a more positive future than the sometimes dreary one we’d been recently subjected to.
Musically, I was getting into the wave of Britpop that WFNX was playing (when they weren’t playing grunge, which took me a lot longer to get into). In addition to that, Boston was experiencing a small renaissance of sorts with a hell of a lot of great local bands old and new getting some serious airplay — Manufacture, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Tribe, Heretix, The 360s, Think Tree…a bunch of bands I may not have been able to see live, but I certainly bought most of their releases when I could.
I was also doing a lot of shorter writing at the time — my fiddling with the Infamous War Novel had faded into the background; I’d created my comic character Murph and put him through all kinds of weird universes; I’d finally gotten out of the ‘doom poetry’ phase I’d put myself through and was writing some solid Flying Bohemians lyrics; I was also pushing myself to play around with new story ideas.
This is the energy that I want to use for Meet the Lidwells; a feeling of optimism and strong bursts of creativity. Sure, my story will deal with their personal ups and downs and their eventual demise as a band, but that’s only part of it. This is about celebration as much as it is about struggle.
It’s about the love (the characters’ and mine) of music. 🙂
As I mentioned previously, having a new writing project means having a new playlist. Nearly all of the Bridgetown trilogy music leaned more towards darker atmospheric moods, so the hard switch to a new musical style has felt a bit like whiplash.
Meet the Lidwells! features a family band that plays what some would call power pop: quirky and upbeat, often guitar-oriented, sometimes a bit odd, but never an uncomfortable listen.
Well-known examples would be Fountains of Wayne…
or Veruca Salt…
or Matthew Sweet…
….you get the picture.
So why power pop? Well, the story of the Lidwells is partly set in the late 80s-early 90s; they’re a band heavily influenced by the Beatles (thanks to their parents) as well as late 80s college rock (thanks to their elder siblings). Much like the Beatles, they started out writing simple poppy love songs aimed towards the young teen market. Over the course of five chart-topping albums and numerous hit singles, their sound evolves from that catchy pop to more adventurous alternative rock. And just like the Beatles, weary of the ups and downs of fame and tiring of the game, they decide to go out on a big note with their strongest album.
Right now, while I’m working on notes and piecing together a coherent story, I’m also making it a point to look for more music to listen to that would fit this project. It doesn’t necessarily have to be explicitly power pop, of course…as long as it’s somewhere in the neighborhood. And I’m specifically looking for both male and female singers, as it’s important to the story.
So yeah…if you have any suggestions/recommendations for bands and songs, please feel free to let me know in the comments! I’m always open to new tunage. 🙂