Hey all, sorry for the lack of updates both here and at Welcome to Bridgetown….I’ll be off my normal schedule for a bit while I continue focusing on the Theadia rewrite and the final act of Queen Ophelia. Once I’ve got things under control again I’ll have more to provide.
Welcome to another series of Twenty Years On, in which I go through a year’s worth of favorite songs, singles and albums that were favorites then and are still favorites now. So where was I at this point back in 2002?
I was most likely down in my parent’s basement — yes, even in the dead of winter, unless it was too cold — working hard on writing A Division of Souls, which I would finish later in the year. By this time I had my daily schedule down to an artform: I’d leave my job at Yankee Candle sometime around 2pm (my shift started at 6am); on Wednesdays I’d drive over to the Amherst/Hadley area and do my comic book and CD runs, and get home in time to watch Tenchi Muyo! on Cartoon Network before dinnertime. After dinner I’d head down to the Belfry (though I don’t think it earned that name until much later in the year) and spend a couple of hours writing and listening to my new cd purchases.
This was an important time in my life in terms of writing, as I’d finally reached a level of quality I was happy with, and that I was hitting at least a thousand words a night. I was also writing consistently, nearly every single day without fail, even weekends. I loved the project I was working on — one that I would plan out during slow times at work to make the actual prose writing flow much faster — and I considered it some of my best work to date.
As for music, I really had no idea what the year would bring me. The previous year did have its share of great records, but it didn’t completely spellbind me. My year-end mixtape felt a bit forced and meandering. But I kept an open mind, armed with my copies of ICE Newsletter and CMJ magazines. January ended up being a pretty good release month considering it was usually a wasteland of small indie releases and leftovers.
bis, Fact 2002 EP, released January 2002. A four-track EP of cover songs original from Factory Records, it’s more of a curio than a collector’s item, but it takes the label’s early dance tracks and makes them even dancier and bloopier. (This is now available on the 2014 deluxe reissue of their Return to Central album.)
Osymyso, “Intro-Inspection”, released January 2002. Mash-ups had been around for a good couple of years by this point, but while most of them had been relegated to white label limited releases and played in the clubs, by the early 2000s they were being uploaded and shared online for everyone to hear and add to their own mp3 collection. This particular track subverts the usual mash-up by mixing the first few bars of a staggering 103 songs in a brisk and mind-blowing twelve minutes. It’s supremely clever and all kinds of fun.
Various Artists, I Am Sam soundtrack, released 8 January 2002. While the Sean Penn film was not a success, the soundtrack, which features all covers of Beatles songs (Penn’s character is a fan) is an intriguing collection featuring bands and musicians such as Rufus Wainwright, Michael Penn, The Vines, Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan and more.
Concrete Blonde, Group Therapy, released 15 January 2002. After a seven-year breakup, the original Napolitano-Mankey-Rushakoff trio reunited to release a laid back and boozy album recorded in just ten days. It’s not as punk-infused as their earlier records, but it’s just as strong.
Nine Inch Nails, And All That Could Have Been/Still, released 22 January 2002. A half live, half studio album produced during the tour for 1999’s The Fragile album. Like most of his 90s records, it’s a bit of a tough listen given how raw and chilling most of his songs were at the time, but it’s also a really interesting collection, especially with the Still portion of ‘reconstructed’ versions of many of his best-known songs.
Sneaker Pimps, Bloodsport, released 22 January 2002. The third SP record kind of came and went before anyone noticed (and for the most part was ignored by the US, considering their second record, 1999’s Splinter, didn’t even get released there), but it’s actually a really solid record. They’ve already moved on from their echoey trip-hop sound of 1996’s Becoming X (and dropped former singer Kelli Ali) and become more trippy alternative. They would break up in the next year with lead singer Chris Corner starting IAMX, but in late 2021 they surprised everyone (including me!) by releasing a new album entitled Squaring the Circle.
Violet Indiana, Casino, released 22 January 2002. This was a short-lived but lovely-sounding duo featuring Robin Guthrie (ex-Cocteau Twins) and Siobhan de Maré (ex-Mono, the UK one that did “Life in Mono”), and their brief output of only a few albums and singles provided a lovely backdrop of chanteuse-like balladry and dreamlike pop.
Cornelius, Point, released in the US on 22 January 2002. I know I’ve posted this video many times in the past, and mentioned this record as well, and it’s one of my favorites of this era. This was the Japanese musician’s fourth record but his second readily available in the US, and it’s a wonderful record brimming over with wonderful creativity. It’s an album you should listen to with headphones to get the full stereo experience. This was the first 2002 CD that I had on constant rotation during my Belfry writing sessions.
The Anniversary, Your Majesty, released 22 January 2002. Another example of getting into a band just as they release their last record? Perhaps so, but this was a great indie rock record that reminds me of The New Pornographers. A bit odd but extremely melodic and fun.
Various Artists, The Mothman Prophecies soundtrack, released 25 January 2002. Say what you will, I really enjoyed the spooky Richard Gere monster-conspiracy flick, and unsettling tomandandy score is quite an interesting listen. Low provides the end-credits track “Half Light” that fits the movie’s creepiness perfectly. [tomandandy even borrowed their track “Not That Kind of Girl” from 2001’s Things We Lost in the Fire for a recurring theme.]
Chemical Brothers, Come With Us, released 28 January 2002. I don’t think this band has ever quite topped the success of 1997’s Dig Your Own Hole, but that doesn’t really matter when your output is so consistent and consistently creative and clever. This record felt more like a kicking-back, groove-in-your-own-head sort of album and it’s enjoyable from start to finish.
During my long hiatus from blogging this year, I thought about closing down one or both of my WordPress blogs. I don’t think I’d run out of things to say on them, just that I’d gotten repetitive, focusing on the same finite number of subjects to write about. I still enjoyed talking about music here on Walk in Silence, and about writing at Welcome to Bridgetown, but it had become a chore and a deadline assignment, and one that felt a little overwhelming at the time. Come April, I’d decided that I wouldn’t just leave the Former Day Job but distance myself from the blogs and the daily words.
I of course immediately recognized that I was emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted, probably had been for a long while, and this was a perfect time for me to take a long overdue vacation. And think about what it was I wanted to do next.
I’ll be the big Five-Oh next month. It’s not the age that bothers me, to be honest. Aside from the creakier joints and a bit of extra weight, I’m actually in good spirits about it. I still have a lot of years ahead of me and I’d like to think I’m ready and equipped to take them on. I’ve trained myself to think more about future endeavors and less nostalgic (and obsessively so) about what I’ve already done. A funny and unexpected side-effect of this is that I finally see my long-simmering Walk in Silence 80s college radio book project with somewhat more detachment. Which is a good thing, a very good thing, because I’ll be able to write it without once again falling into the trap of Proustian rambling. Maybe I’ll finally get that damn thing done and released in the next year or so.
This is the same with my music listening habits as well. I feel less manically obsessive about it. Sure, I’m still an avid collector and a nerdy librarian when it comes to my mp3s. But I’m no longer trying in vain to recapture the moods, memories and thoughts that come with listening to music. I experience the music again, in the present. I enjoy it. I create new moods, memories and thoughts about it. I can listen to those favorite records and mixtapes of thirty, forty (!!) years ago without my brain slipping into “it was a very good year…” mode. I didn’t forget any of the memories, I just allowed my present self to loosen my grip on them. Those memories are hard-coded into those songs and albums and mixtapes so I can call them back up easily.
Where did this come from? Good question. Most of it was due to a distinct lack of creativity on the Daily Words front, which itself was due to the Former Day Job situation. Instead of trying to write any kind of microfiction for the Daily Words, these entries ended up being an extension of my personal journal and yet another retelling of my Walk in Silence idea. It was so ridiculous and frustrating! So when freedom of the FDJ presented itself, I also chose to free myself from everything else that was holding me back: including my listening habits.
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.
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?
As I’d mentioned elsewhere, I’ll be quite busy this month working on revision for In My Blue World. I’ll do my best to continue posting here regularly, though! The entries might not be as intensive as normal, but never fear, I’ll always provide you with some fun tunage!
For now, I’ve got a bit of revision prep work to do these first few days of the month that’s gonna keep me occupied, so I’ll leave you with a few ELO tracks that inspired my new novel.
I’ll be doing my usual month-in-review post of June’s releases on Thursday and the Twenty/Thirty Years On series next week. Thanks for waiting!
This past weekend I was falling down the YouTube rabbit hole and stumbled up on one of my favorite Phil Collins songs, “Take Me Home”, from his third solo album No Jacket Required. One of the wild realizations that occurred to me was that, a little over thirty-three years later, I have visited at least half of the locations in this video, and currently live in one of them. More to the point, I don’t think the fourteen-year-old me would ever have imagined that ever happening. Visiting Hollywood, various parts of central and greater London, and living in Greater London was something I’d have wanted to do as a teen but had no idea if it would ever happen. I just thought of it as a fun pipe dream.
I’ve been thinking about that year lately, actually. On IHeart80s Radio, they’ve been playing full episodes of American Top 40 (with Casey Kasem hosting), and now and again I find myself listening in, because that was the era I listened to it almost religiously every weekend. Most of my radio mixtapes from that era came from those shows. That year’s chart-topping sound was an amazing mix of rock, R&B, soul, pop, and everything in between.
It was right at the end of my sucktastic years in junior high and my freshman year in high school, where I hoped my life (social and academic) would be so much better. It would take some time before I finally grew out of the small-town groupthink that I was so desperately trying to fit into and move on to bigger and better things, but for the time being I let myself get more immersed in my radio listening and mixtape-making. I still went to the school dances and hung out with my buddies, but I was there for the tunage, not for the girls. [Okay, that’s a half-truth. I was desperate, but at the same time I knew I was in no good frame of mind to have a girlfriend when I was an overly emotional twit with an overactive and underused imagination. That’s about when I buried myself in my burgeoning writing habit as well.]
I’ll be honest, I was getting sick of all the social drama. So I immersed myself in all the music that I could. If I happened to have money from an allowance (or saved up from my leftover lunch money) I’d head downtown to buy a few cassettes. I’d pick up cheap records at flea markets with my dad. I’d make copies of albums my sisters bought. Anything to buy the new albums that were being played on the radio.
It was definitely a strange time when I didn’t quite know who I was or what I wanted to do, just that I didn’t want to be what I presently was. Listening to the radio was the escape. It was the soundtrack to my writing (my other escape). Music gave me a connection to my classmates in a way that other things like sports and whatever else couldn’t. Even then I was known as the weird kid who knew every song on the charts and a lot of deep cuts on albums. Where the popular kids might not have given me the time of day, they’d ask me about some album or some band and if the album was worth picking up.
In a way, I’m kind of glad that I’ve kept that part of me all these years. I no longer use music purely as a social escape (at least not as much as I did then, of course), but I’m still a Subject Matter Expert for some of my friends. And in this internet day and age, it’s a shared interest that’s brought me all sorts of new friends and acquaintances that I might not have met in a different setting.
And here I am, writing this at home in San Francisco, one of the locations in the “Take Me Home” video I loved so much.
“Rule number one in the music business: never start a band with any members of your family.
Sure, it’ll start off just fine, everyone having fun, with big dreams of success and gold records, but then you realize you’re stuck in a stinking, too-small tour bus with your siblings for the fifth year running, and your brother hates you. Next thing you know, the band implodes just as it’s reaching its highest success, your family won’t talk to you anymore, the press is having a field day ripping you to shreds, and you’ll need to start your career all over again as a solo act. If you dare to at that point.
Rule number two in the music business: rules were made to be broken.” — Thomas Lidwell
Meet the Lidwells! is the story of four siblings and two cousins who start a band as teenagers and achieve success beyond their wildest dreams. But while they consistently top the charts with their irresistibly catchy tunes, they’re also fighting their own demons: perfectionism, disenchantment, addiction, exhaustion, sexism…and figuring out how to become an adult in front of millions of fans.