You’re messing with the enemy

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.

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 5 (Under Construction)

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?

Writing Time

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!

Thirty-three (and a third?) Years On: 1985

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.

OH HEY I HAVE A BOOK OUT

Meet the Lidwells Cover F Outside 2

MEET THE LIDWELLS! A Rock n’ Roll Family Memoir

“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.

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NOW AVAILABLE AT SMASHWORDS!
ON SALE ALL THIS WEEK FOR ONLY $1.50!

Come check it out!

 

WIS: Unexpected inspiration

The other day while reading Martin Aston’s book about the 4AD label, I came across a single sentence:

By 1985, American college radio had gathered momentum alongside the spurt in independent record labels, with the likes of [Clan of Xymox’s] “A Day” striking radio programmers as adventurous and commercial, and a modern, gleaming alternative to the guitar-centric homegrown scene spearheaded by bands such as REM, Sonic Youth and Hüsker Dü.

To be honest, I hadn’t been thinking of my Walk in Silence project lately, partly because I’d put it aside some time ago.  I didn’t trunk it, I just put it aside so I could focus on the Trilogy Edit and newer fiction.  I’d also gone through my projected timeline last summer on a personal level, if only to purge it from my writing brain for a while.

That personal version really wasn’t the original idea that I’d had.  I was thinking more along the lines of a chronological book about college rock.  The releases bracketing the story would be The Smiths’ third single, “What Difference Does It Make” (January 1984) and Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine (October 1989).

I could never quite figure out a way to solidify my idea that that was the golden era of college rock, before it became much more mainstream in 1991 with Nirvana and everyone else.  Until that one sentence.  It made sense to me, though…1984-85 was about the time that a lot of independent distributors and labels in the US, such as Relativity and Caroline, started licensing British bands that had only been available on expensive imports.  [Only Sire had any sizeable share in that field as a major label, having signed the Smiths, Depeche Mode, and others.]

So it occurs to me that perhaps it’s time for me to resurrect the Walk in Silence project as it was originally intended, focusing on the sounds of college rock in the mid to late 80s.  Maybe without so much of the personal added to it this time out.

Of course, I already have a few writing projects on tap as it is, so I’ll have to figure out how the hell to fit this in.  Heh.

Meet the Lidwells: Musical Inspiration

I’m thrilled to report that in the span of one month, I’ve already hit over 13,000 words for the Meet the Lidwells project, averaging around 500 to 700 words day. I’m still on track for a fall release at this point, as I think I’m about a fifth of the way done already!

Meanwhile, here’s a few songs I’ve used for inspiration and reference so far. As you can see, there’s definitely a deep Britpop influence going on.

The Stone Roses, “I Am the Resurrection”: The four-to-the-floor beat of this track was part of the inspiration for the Lidwells’ first major hit, “Grapevine”.  Theirs is a catchy track that captures the interest of not just their younger teen fans but also the older ones, thanks to their ability to cleverly mix pop stylings and creative alternative rock. The Lidwells were known for stretching out “Grapevine” live, much like how The Stone Roses did with this song.

The Charlatans UK, “Opportunity”: Keyboardist Danny Lidwell wrote a groovy deep track called “Trust” for their debut album inspired by the keyboard-heavy Manchester bands like The Charlatans and Inspiral Carpets. He claims that “Trust” was when he deliberately decided to stop being self-conscious about his playing and just powered through it, revealing his own unique style in the process.

The Real People, “Window Pane”: I’m using this song as a sort of template as to what the early Lidwells sound like aurally: a lot of harmony, a positive and funky vibe, and definitely catchy and fun to dance to.

The House of Love, “You Don’t Understand”: This would be a good example of the type of song they would write, especially eldest member and band leader Jason. In fact, Jason will end up writing a song similar-sounding to this one by their third album.

Veruca Salt, “Volcano Girls”: This is definitely a great example of how I picture the two women in the band, Hannah and Amy, rocking out. Hannah is a badass drummer with no fear, and Amy is one hell of a shredder. They’re both solid songwriters with no filter at all.

The La’s, “Looking Glass”: If A Division of Souls had Failure’s “Daylight” as the soundtrack for the final scene, this is the one for MtL‘s finale. This would be Thomas, the youngest Lidwell, singing this as the final song on their final show on their last tour, going out on one hell of a high.

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More to come when I have more written! 🙂

Everything you’ve ever said is brilliant

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. 🙂

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 1

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The TDK D90 blank cassette. My tape of choice for almost all of my 90s mixtapes.

One thing I’d always done during the course of a writing project is to give it a soundtrack.  Whether it’s a playlist, a list of specific albums, or a mixtape, it serves to create a specific mood that I’m looking for.  With The Phoenix Effect, having envisioned this as a multi-book project even then, I’d given the series the name The Eden Cycle (referencing both obvious religious imagery and EdenTree, a megacorporation that would be a part of the plot).  It seemed fitting to give the mixtapes the same title.

At the time, my idea had been of souls inhabiting AI cybernetic bodies — which in hindsight created a lot more trouble than it was worth — so the imagery I was looking for was much darker and creepier.  That said, however, I chose not to focus on dystopian pessimism; instead I wanted my story to ascend past that into something positive.

This is the first of four mixtapes I made during 1997-8; this one was made in mid-April of 1997, just before I went on a road trip out to Ohio to visit a friend of mine.  One of the major reasons for making it was so I could listen to it during my commute and think about what I was going to write.  Over the next few days I’ll be sharing the other three original volumes from this era.  The links are to their YouTube/Vimeo videos (they’ll open in a separate tab), and I’ll also provide a brief background as to why I chose the song for the mix.

Side A

  1. Poe, “Hello [Band Version]”
    I liked Poe’s Hello album, but the kickass single remake of the song felt like a perfect opening to a mix tape.  It fit in with the cyberpunk feel of TPE that I was originally aiming for as well.  An ‘opening credits’ song, if you will.
  2. Failure, “Heliotropic”
    Fantastic Planet was getting a crapton of play on my cd players, both at work and at home during my writing sessions.  This track’s spaciness, loudness and extremely heavy, crunchy bass evoked the exact amount of tension I was looking for.  It had that feeling of being outside on the brightest day with the heaviest of hangovers.
  3. U2, “Mofo”
    Pop was still getting a lot of play as well, and I loved how twitchy this one was.  I used this track as a kind of gauge to remind me of how Bridgetown felt on a spiritual energy level: a sprawl of millions of people, each with different levels and directions of this energy, all dissonant and discordant.
  4. David Bowie, “Dead Man Walking”
    I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest of Bowie collectors — I think I only owned maybe five or six releases, tops — but Earthling (released earlier in 1997) connected with me big time.  I loved its techno influences and its paranoia.  This track fit my image of Nehalé: a man who was destined to take a specific action that would affect a vast number of people, and he had to force himself to come to terms with that.
  5. Psykosonik, “Need to Die”
    There was a brief surge of darkwave techno in the mid to late 90s (super-generalization: darkwave = gothy electronica) that I got into, and Psykosonik’s Unlearn was handed to me by one of my HMV coworkers (Thanks, Doug!).  I put this here mostly as a mood piece, but I did like how it fit in with one of the TPE themes: people didn’t necessarily have to die to be reborn spiritually.
  6. Live, “Lakini’s Juice”
    Another mood piece, this one suggesting (to me) discomfort in a situation one could find themselves in.  I believe I used this as inspiration for Poe’s constant irritation at not being able to complete tasks put before him.
  7. Elysian Fields, “Lady in the Lake”
    Their Bleed Your Cedar album was handed to me as a promo, and I liked its swampy feel.  The album (and this track) helped me focus on how a recently awakened character would have to deal with their situation; both feeling disconnected from everyone (I’m the only one like this) and superconnected (I can intimately sense everyone around me) at the same time.
  8. Moby, “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver”
    As a Masshole, I had to appreciate Moby covering the Mission of Burma classic (as well as putting out a punk album, considering he’s more known as an electronic musician).  Just like the original, this song was a perfect example of dedicated and determined nonconformity that fit in with Vigil.
  9. The Verve Pipe, “Veneer”
    Not that long before this, I’d seen this band live in Boston, and they did a beautiful and transcendent version of this track (which, as it happens, is about a long road trip through Michigan while high).  To me, it evoked a sensation of being elsewhere; in the process it inspired how I had my characters react when they first visited Trisanda.

Side B

  1. Richard Einhorn, Anonymous 4, “Exclamavit”
    I’d heard Einhorn’s Voices of Light on NPR one evening when I was driving into Boston in the summer of 1995, and I was completely floored by the gorgeousness of it.   [It was inspired by Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc and can be heard as its soundtrack on the Criterion dvd.]  I wasn’t the biggest orchestral music fan at the time, but this slowly set me on my way.  This particular opening felt like another good ‘opening credits’ piece, and thus opens Side B of the tape.
  2. Pulp, “Common People”
    The album version of their classic single is a much more sinister affair than the single version (there’s an additional verse that truly reveals the disgust he holds back in the rest of the song).  While the plot of the song doesn’t quite fit the plot of my story, it does reflect the bigoted view of The Other that was part of my story’s plot.
  3. Sponge, “Isolation”
    There’s a great Lennon tribute album called Working Class Hero from 1995 that I listened to a lot then, and I loved this version of the Plastic Ono Band track.  This ties in with the previous Pulp track, a forced cultural disconnect that one can only accept for so long before one has to fight back.
  4. The Offspring, “Gone Away”
    Part of the reason this one was on here is that I heard it so many times during that Ohio road trip!  Again, tension and discord.  This time because something’s been taken away and you can’t do a damn thing about it.
  5. Filter, “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
    This track inspired my love for the Slow Build:  starting off quiet and sparse, but gradually growing louder and more intense in energy.  The original Chapter 1 of The Phoenix Effect used this song as a template, which carried all the way to the opening of A Division of Souls.  The ADoS opening is supposed to feel like someone slowly turning the volume louder and louder until it climaxes in an intense burst of energy.
  6. Failure, “Daylight”
    Okay, how many times is this track on one of my mixtapes?  One of my favorite songs of all time, and even at the start of the project I knew it would be the Ending Credits track to my story.  [NOTE: I’m planning on writing a script of the ‘director’s cut’ for the ending of A Division of Souls and posting it over at the Bridgetown blog later this month, which uses this song as its soundtrack.]  The story is done, everyone’s exhausted, and the day has been saved…but the fight is far from over…and roll credits.  [Seriously, folks…go buy Fantastic Planet.  It’s a fucking phenomenal record.]
  7. U2, “Wake Up Dead Man”
    A denouement track after the epic ending track preceding.  I knew TPE was going to end on an unresolved note, leaving it wide open for its sequel.  The day has been saved, but the work’s not over.  Relationships between certain characters have been strained or broken; others have refused to give in so easily.  For me, this song is a plea for the war to cease before it goes too far. [I never forgot this idea and eventually used it in The Balance of Light.]
  8. The Tragically Hip, “Grace, Too”
    Canada’s favorite band with one of their favorite hits, which I remember seeing on MuchMusic back in 1994 (partly because I loved that the video was created using monitor feedback).   A lift from the previous song, in which we shift viewpoint to someone who knows they’re in the lower classes but still has high hopes for themselves.  This idea would later become the gathering of the Mendaihu at the Moulding Warehouse in A Division of Souls.
  9. Jamiroquai, “Virtual Insanity”
    …and after all that, ending on a slightly more positive note (somewhat), the final track brings a kind of…well, not hope, but an awareness.  This was a big plot point even in TPE: the characters had to become completely aware of their situation, where the conflict wasn’t in trying to figure it out, but in coming to terms with it and choosing either use it, abuse it, or avoid it as long as they could.

 

Hope you enjoyed my little bit of tunage sharing there!  I’ll be following up with the other three volumes in the original series soon!