Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kanye Loses the Definition of Irony

If you attend an Occupy Wall Street protest with bodyguards, have a spokesperson in the form of a multi-millionaire (who even wrote a book on it), and happen to perform songs that worship the excesses of capital, I believe it is safe to say the definition of irony is lost on you.

Kanye West apparently, if the video is to be believed, did not want to make a statement (I'm not sure he'd know what to say), but his mouthpiece made it known that West offers spiritual support of the movement.  I'm not sure what that means, but I think it means West thought it may make an interesting photo op.

Love or hate the protesters, you have to admit that Kanye making an appearance there is the height of stupidity.  Even moreso than Jay Z making shirts about the movement.  Kanye looks befuddled and sometimes scared.  It's like he didn't know what he was getting into and feared that at any second people would start chanting in unison at him.

Stay home, West.  Stay in your mansion and write your songs.  It's better for everyone.  Yes, you've looked like a dope countless other times, but this one sort of takes the cake.  What's next?  A tree sit.  Come to think of it ...

Your Satanic Majesty

If you went to Pocono Mountain Senior High in 1986 and listened to Iron Maiden, you were considered a Satanist.  I know.  I was one of them.

It was easy to see why Iron Maiden frightened teachers and administration.  The skeletal Eddie.  The Number of the Beast album.  Loud guitars.  Of course, if anyone ever took a moment to listen to more than one or two songs they would see that Satanism was about the last thing on Iron Maiden's collective mind.

Metal, in whatever form it takes, has always scared those in authority.  Whether it be the sexually questionable (and utterly harmless) hair rock bands like Poison and Cinderella (I have always even questioned lumping them in with metal, but I will concede to history).  Or the seriously evil sounding (and often evil acting) black metal.  There is something about metal that has those in power grabbing for their Bibles and signing people up for re-education camps.  Not even punk has such a widespread effect.

I've always had various theories on why this is, why metal seems to make parents, teachers and politicians fear for their lives.  After all, there are far more insidious types of music out there, some of which a fear of could be warranted.  Metal, on the other hand, is diverse enough that any kind of group reaction should be mitigated by the sheer amount of subgenres, but I've noticed that time and time again the fear and disdain is all-encompassing.

I guess the mixture of loud, aggressive guitars, "frightening imagery," and confrontation is too much for some people to witness.  People may fear their teen son will kill himself to Ozzy, but chances are it will be some loathsome pop song on FM radio on a Saturday night that actually sets the bullet in motion.  Nothing makes you feel more lonely than pop music on a Saturday night.  Metal makes you feel empowered, and maybe that is what people fear.

Metal has always played around with violent and evil imagery.  Old blues has done the same.  So has country.  Metal mixes it with something more powerful, though, and that power transfers to listeners.  Let's face it, losing one's virginity to Marvin Gaye may well be romantic, but losing it while Motorhead plays in the background is how gods are made.

So, authority types, keep fearing it.  Keep calling it "devil music."  Those who know better will continue to listen and continue to scare you.  And isn't that what is truly empowering?

Friday, December 23, 2011


I had just written about the music I'd be listening to when I start work on the next manuscript, and it happened.  Strange.  Prophetic.  Powerful.

I had scraped the ice from my windows, got into my car, and turned on the MP3 player.  The first song was none other than Non's "Predator/Prey."  The exact band I'd be listening to.  One of the songs I envisioned.  It was as if the dark universe I'd be tapping into gave me its approval. 
The magic of music is its ability to transform an otherwise normal situation into something sublime.  You're at dinner with a friend and you hear just the right song.  You meet someone special you are interested in and the moment you realize it you hear a song that seems to sum up your mood perfectly.  You are driving in Boston during the Big Dig and Skinny Puppy is doing its best to kill you.  Yesterday was one of those moments.  This manuscript will require a lot of work, a lot of research and my job is just going to get in the way, so as I was scraping I was wondering all the things I could do about it.  I came up with some solutions, and then when that song hit, I knew I was on the right track.  Magic, indeed.

Those who have heard "Predator/Prey" know how the tones change just enough to make you feel on edge.  It is almost sublime.  It's the kind of song that a friend will ask you to change when it comes on.  It makes listeners uncomfortable.  That's my manuscript idea.  (That's usually the idea behind my stories, actually.)  To have that come on at a time I was thinking of it seems perfect.  Pulling out of my driveway as the noise continued unabated I could only laugh.  Even the song title was an omen.  Predator.  Prey.  That is the central theme of the next manuscript.  That is the central theme of life.  You are either predator or prey ... and somewhere there is a soundtrack to whatever end of the hunt you are on.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Next Manuscript ...

I usually listen to music while I write.  For Nothing Men (look to your right for how to purchase), I listened to a lot of old country music.  For the manuscript I'm working on now it is primarily classic rock.  For the one after that, the one that's been bouncing around in my head for the past month or so, it will be music like Non's "Between Venus & Mars."  Grinding, destructive, pure.  Italian music from its fascist history may also come into play.  If you've heard it, you'll understand why.

There is something amazingly beautiful about music that most people would dub "noise."  It lets you escape into your mind to unleash whatever hungry beast lurks there.  It is confrontational.  It is the opposite of the prefabricated madness that pushes itself as "art."  It is a god amongst swine.  When the future manuscript is finished, it will be easy to see why this music was my soundtrack.

Every manuscript calls for different music.  Some writers can only write in silence.  Some need a crashing chorus to help set the scene.  I could do either, but I prefer the latter.  I like losing myself into the flow.  When I was writing a scene for my current manuscript, "Sympathy for the Devil" was playing.  It was a nasty scene and it got nastier as the song went on.  Would I have written it differently if I were writing in silence?  Maybe.  I know the music added an element to it that fit what I wanted to create.  It only helped what was going to already be there.

Grinding noise.  Confrontation.  Purity.  I cannot wait.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

May I Suggest You (Watch Out Adele)

Whitehouse has always been ... interesting.  It pretty much embodies the sound of a insanity.

A friend of mine once said that listening to Whitehouse made him think people were after him.  I laughed at that and told him that was the point.  Whitehouse is the sound of someone after you.  It's that hand you feel on your shoulder at 3 a.m. as you struggle to get the keys in the door, a little too much to drink.  That hand makes you piss a little bit.  That is Whitehouse.

Of course, the band has had its share of controversy.  (Peter Sotos was a member for a time, so how could it be anything but controversial?)  I think the controversy wouldn't be there if the music sounded ... different.  It rubs people the exact wrong way. Put it on in the car at night, driving around looking at the people walking the streets, and suddenly you get it.  This is what will play when some stalker does in Adele.

Whitehouse isn't content to just present the filth.  It absolutely wallows in it.  Not like a pig, but like a hungry worm with teeth.  And that worm eventually finds its way into your brain.

It's not a band that will get air time or ever find its way onto a Disney cruise.  It exists solely to make you uncomfortable, and I have to admit that makes me quite fond of it.

Thank you, Whitehouse, for existing in a world of country crooners, hip hop stars who want to be pampered Beverly Hills housewives, and pointless pop stars who couldn't create music without a fucking committee.  Thank you for the soundtrack to the madness.  You may (thankfully) never win a Grammy, but hard work is really its own reward, right?  You bet.  Let's bring back the awful and do away with the offal.