My pal Jessica Meigs (pronounced Jess-i-ca) recently published a blog post about her books’ soundtrack and the way she shared the music was so good that I just had to steal it. I too have been holding onto a soundtrack in my head for a long time and was looking for a way to share it. Hopefully, my link to the playlist on Spotify will work…my technical blogging ability begins and ends with clicking on Publish.
Anyway, like I’ve said before I don’t actually listen to anything while I’m writing. I need absolute silence, as I am very easily distracted. (Damn you, Angry Birds! Damn you AV Club comment threads! Damn you, internet!) My process is letting the action unfold in my head like I’m watching a movie. And movies have soundtracks. So sometimes, I will be “watching” my movie and think of a song that I imagine to be playing as the scene unfolds. Or I’ll hear a song later and think that it would be a perfect fit for a scene I have been working on.
Now that the book is in widespread release, I feel I can finally unveil the soundtrack I’ve been keeping to myself for almost 2 years. Of course, if you still haven’t read it, the remainder of this entry will be MASSIVE SPOILERS!!!!
1. “Titus Andronicus Forver” – Titus Andronicus
When you’re cruising around in the wild, dodging zombies left and right, what better song could there be than basically one lyric over and over “The enemy is everywhere!”? Plus, there’s the creepy weird dialogue at the end that very well sums up DJ Haddox’s frame of mind. It’s apparently a Lincoln quote, which is kind of depressing and I wish I could un-know that. “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on Earth.” This is the song DJ is listening to in the truck as he pulls up to the Whitman house and I imagine him shutting the engine down just as the song ends. Here’s a miserable guy and let’s begin his miserable story…
2. “Lust For Life” – Girls
There’s a big jump in the action before I get to the next musical accompaniment. I don’t actively pursue a soundtrack. So we go from the absolute beginning of the story to Chapter 6: The Lap of Luxury. The survivors have made a stop at an abandoned hotel and are having their first safe and even fun night. The song itself kind of has a fun, whimsical vibe and the lyrics are about wishful thinking. “I wish I had a sun tan. I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine….Instead I’m just crazy.” I don’t know how to write the ol cinematic montage and I only briefly touch on what the guys are doing during this fun time, but if this actually was a movie, there would be a montage of pool and darts and drinking… and this song would be playing.
3. “2/11 Don’t Forget” – Times New Viking
Stacey Pepper is the only character who gets her own theme song. All I can picture when I hear this song is, I don’t know, like weird psychadelic dancing or something. I feel like it has a seductive, feminine sound to it and whenever Stacey is doing something cool, I imagine this song playing. Particularly when the gang watches her killing zombies in the middle of an intersection, this song accompanies the fluidity and grace of her movements.
4. “Month of May”- Arcade Fire
This song isn’t on the playlist because Spotify doesn’t have it (BOO). Arcade Fire isn’t exactly known for up tempo rock-sounding songs, and it’s not one of my favorites by them, but this song is just perfect for a crazy pit fight. DJ jumps into a hole full of zombies with no plan and no weapons and this song starts blaring. http://youtu.be/XAAyYvzRb5U
5. “Swim” – Surfer Blood
DJ does crazy things. And he prefers to do it with a kickass soundtrack. Much like the pit fight being kicked off with an action song, “Swim” kicks off the most exciting part of the book: when DJ is being chased by 200 super zombies. His only plan seems to be “don’t die” and even that plan is not very realistic. I love the manic energy of this song, it fits perfectly with the scene and it was the first time I realized that music could enable me to enjoy the movie in my head even more.
6. “Let it Die” – The Dutchess & The Duke
This song plays for me after DJ has just survived the farmhouse super zombie debacle and is very upset about Maria’s death, Bill’s disappearance and how much his plan ultimately sucked and cost a lot of lives. He’s in a very bad place now but he has no choice but to keep going. This song didn’t really do anything for me at first, but when I heard it at the same time I was writing this scene, I fell in love with it and listened to it about four or five times in a row. The song again captures his frame of mind…sometimes literally: “I’m out here all alone now.” Not to mention the meaning the title “Let it Die” takes on in a post-apocalyptic universe.
7. “Terrible Love” – The National
The National is the go to band for moody, depressing masterpieces and so when my hero was down in the dumps, I naturally turned to them. This song doesn’t really accompany any particular moment and the lyrics aren’t the closest match I’ve had, but it’s sad and very much conveys the bad mental place DJ has allowed himself to go. Cinematically, the song would play over a long shot of the house where he ends up or maybe as he’s constructing the homemade tombstones. That’s the absolute low point for the character. Then he goes crazy and things get comical because who wants to read about a depressed guy?
Honestly, I struggled with where to go with this for a long time. Permuted Press wanted an expansion and I initially thought, “Oh, that’s easy, I’ll just complete the round trip instead of splitting it into two books.” Easier said than done. Part Two was already partially written and DJ was nowhere to be found because…I really had NO IDEA what to do with him. So there I am sitting with no less than three unfinished versions of how the story continues after the Stacey POV switch and the only thing they had in common was that the main character was spinning his wheels. So basically, I said, “what if spinning his wheels IS what he is doing?” I finally had a launching point to finish the story, and crazily enough, it ended up being one of my top 5 favorite parts. It was the first time I had to just put the character in a place and trust that he would take me somewhere instead of vice versa and thankfully, it all worked out.
8. “Colours” – Grouplove
This song has become a big hit, so I it kind of has an asterisk next to it in its place on my soundtrack. At the time of my writing, it was just a quirky cool little song I had recently discovered and I thought it had a nice beat to match Mike’s big moment with its HUHs and HAHs. Mike is a very underdeveloped, fairly unimportant character and playing this super song that has dominated Sirius Alt Nation’s countdown for most of the year over his big moment would just overshadow him. But even so, I still like it for the scene.
9. “Truth” – Alexander
“Let it Die” was originally my “things suck but let’s keep moving on” song when the farmhouse was the ending of the book. Then the expansion came along and Alexander came along and blew everything out of the water. THIS is the real “things suck but let’s keep moving on” song! DJ manned up, decided to save everyone he could and go home at last and what does he get for it? He killed his best friend…twice. This song’s mood plays so well for the ‘resolved, yet in a depressed kind of way’. They even used it in same exact way in the premeire of the latest season of Breaking Bad and I felt totally justified and validated by my song choice. Score one for me and my cranial cinemetography!
10. “Solitude is Bliss” – Tame Impala
It’s the closing credits of a happy ending! I need something completely different than anything else since this was mostly an unhappy story. This song sounds kind of happy but it’s all an act. “You will never come close to how I feel.” “Solitude is bliss.” These are not happy thoughts. I like the idea that DJ knows that it’s all over now and he’s safe and he should be happy…but is he? He’s spent an entire adventure learning that he cares about people more than he thought he did and he now knows that solitude is NOT bliss, so there’s an irony there. I like the idea that this is a happy sounding song that’s about sadness and DJ is a guy who is now projecting happiness but it remains to be seen if he truly is happy.