Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Music to Murder By

I've been listening to Skinny Puppy since the late '80s.  It was a mainstay in the Walkman on the way to school, an outlet from the human misery that was high school.  The sounds swirling in my brain were nothing short of a nightmare.  There were rumors (I have no idea if they were true or not) that Jeffrey Dahmer looked for victims at Skinny Puppy shows.

That seems about right.

These days I listen to the band on the way to work as part of my "meet, greet and beat" the day routine. Tonight I was blasting a little of the industrial mayhem when I got a call from a friend.  He could hear the music in the background and surmised that I was either writing or carving up some door to door salesman because, as he put it, "Skinny Puppy is music to murder by."  Hell, it beats reggae.

Skinny Puppy is by no means an easy band to digest.  You aren't going to listen to it while trying to study for a big final or paint landscapes (unless those landscapes are what Vlad the Impaler saw from his bedroom window).  It's not that it's too bleak or violent (though it is), it's because it really is a nightmare made audible.

I remember when I first had a fairly decent stereo system in my room.  There were speakers in every corner, and playing Skinny Puppy on it and sitting in the middle of the room was quite the trip.  My brother's girlfriend came over, and while waiting for my brother to show up she made the offhand comment that she didn't think I could scare her.  (She didn't like me much, as I often made fun of her love of Air Supply, but if there's one thing I do well, it's scare people.  I will go that extra mile to get the desired result.)  So I took her up on the challenge.

I placed a chair in the middle of my room.  I had her sit down.  I turned out the lights and put on Too Dark Park, which is a classic.  I let her know all she had to do was say she was scared and I'd turn off the music and turn on the lights.  She said the music was weird, but it wasn't scaring her.  I didn't think it would, but the things I started whispering in her ear did.  Wonderfully dark and forbidden things.   By the time we made it halfway through the second song, "Tormentor," she was done.  She was shaking, and she never really talked to me again.  I proved my point.  She was wrong.

I don't always listen to Skinny Puppy while writing.  I typically only listen to it when I'm writing certain scenes, as I can't see making it a soundtrack to a manuscript.  (There is a scene in Melinda that was written under the influence of Skinny Puppy.  If you've read the story and have listened to the band, you can probably guess it.  The story itself does not seem like it is inspired by the band's music, and it's not, but that scene has a Skinny Puppy feel to it, and the way I wrote it directly corresponded to the song I was playing as I wrote it.  The song was "Testure (God Lives Underwater Remix)," if you were curious.)  It is too busy to center an entire novel around, but as a scene setter few can beat it.

I wasn't murdering anything but characters tonight, but Skinny Puppy was playing.  Had a door-to-door salesman come to the door, however, I can't guarantee I wouldn't screwed with him just a bit.  Maybe said some of those dark and forbidden things.  And people think hip hop is dangerous...

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