February 28, 2007
"This book marks the debut of an author who will surely become a major voice in alternative literary fiction . . . rich, lyrical language reminiscent of a modern-day Faulkner informed by the postmodern narrative strategies of Dennis Cooper."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
First off, I wanted to thank you for asking me to do this. Music has been a major influence on my work – perhaps even more so than literature – yet it’s not something I’m often asked about. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to try to go back to that mental state I occupied during the writing of Victims – kind of a tough exercise, as it feels like it was so long ago, but ultimately a rewarding one.
I was really obsessed by the music of Royal Trux when I started working seriously on Victims. This would be the year they broke up, ultimately. I remember it very clearly, because I had just started seriously working on the novel around the time their last album, Pound for Pound, came out – the summer of 2000. I remember I had the chance to interview Jennifer Herrema by phone that summer, shortly after the cancellation of the Pound for Pound tour. It was really a nerve-wracking experience for me, as I had never interviewed anyone before in my life, and like I said, I was so enamored with the Trux’s music at the time. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t have a tape recorder to capture that amazing, smoky voice – I had my questions prepared, and would type out her answers – ridiculous, I know, but I was really young and didn’t know any better – I thought this was normal procedure for conducting interviews. What an idiot.
1. Phiiliip – Pet Cancer (American Patchwork)
This one’s more circumstantial than anything, I guess. I was living with Phiiliip in Seattle the summer I started working on Victims. We were living in a basement apartment, and I had access to a computer upstairs. So I’d go upstairs to work on my book, and he’d remain downstairs, where he was recording the album that would become Pet Cancer. It was his first album, Victims was my first book, and if memory serves me correctly, they were both released around the same time. The two of us, we were so ambitious, we were both crippled by our ambitions. I think both Victims and Pet Cancer are highly ambitious, crippling works. Twin infinitives, if you will.
2. Royal Trux – Twin Infinitives (Drag City)
I first heard this album as a teenager, and it had a major impact on everything I did or tried to do ever since. It’s a completely epic work, it can’t be described in any language I know of, it forges its own language – something that all literature should aspire to, but rarely does.
3. Royal Trux – Untitled (Drag City)
4. Harry Pussy – What Was Music? (Siltbreeze)
For some reason, I’ve always been really into bands that are duos. Probably just the inherent romance of the idea. In the book, Tanya has a band with her boyfriend L.D. These two bands were sort of the models for their thing. You’ll notice that I’m listing albums rather than songs here; I hope it’s not pretentious or too obvious to suggest that certain albums are made to be heard in their entirety rather than in radio-friendly snippets. Nonetheless, if I had to isolate particular songs from Royal Trux’s 3rd Untitled album as being directly influential on the writing of Victims, I could name the hazy minimalist track “Hallucination.” Lyrically, I find “Lightning Boxer” to be perhaps the most beautiful love song ever written.
People tend to forget that Victims is, among a lot of other things, a book about being a teenager. How everything that you experience during this time in your life is experienced in a heightened, more extreme way. It always seemed to me that Harry Pussy was transmitting a lot of that raw, horny energy of youth – an energy that can lead you to do extreme things – in to sonic form. I must have seen them live for the first and only time when I was fifteen or sixteen. In many ways, I consider HP to be rawness’s last blast, before digital came along and ruined everything.
Okay, now for some songs.
5. Poison – “Fallen Angel”
This song is vintage ‘80s. It’s about a girl like Tanya who gets into trouble, runs away from home, and “wins big.” I don’t know why, but the Tanya segments of the book are the only ones that are really calling to my mind any specific musical memories at the moment. (And such sentimental memories at that!) I suppose the other bits of the book were influenced by other things.
There are a lot of Poison songs there. That one “Talk Dirty To Me,” about the teenage importance of talking on the phone and f*cking – two things that Tanya and L.D. like to do when they’re not jamming. And the great working-for-the-weekend tune, “Nothin’ But a Good Time.” Poison is often unfairly overlooked when people start talking about the ‘80s. Poison was like the Wu Tang of the ‘80s. They were for the children of America. I’m talking about the first two albums, mainly.
6. Nile – “Black Seeds of Vengeance”
I remember first hearing this song in New York City when the Black Seeds of Vengeance album came out in 2000. I can’t say how much immediate impact it had on the writing of Victims itself – it’s a relatively “quiet” book – but I know that I would never forget the powerful intensity, volume, speed, and epic stature of the music. It would no doubt influence a major transition in my writing towards a more “maximalistic” plateau, and served as a heavy metal revelation for me. (I had not really paid much attention to the genre since childhood. This song, and the album in general, would awaken an interest in death metal and other forms of “extreme” music that continues to this day.) I would later find out that Nile originated in Charlotte, North Carolina – the town I grew up in. There’s a bunch of stuff about driving around Charlotte late at night, aimlessly, in Victims, although the town is never aimed. Sometimes I get depressed when I realize that I’ll never be as good at writing as every member of Nile is at playing their instruments. I go out of my way to see this band whenever they tour Europe, and have had some pretty amazing out-of-body experiences listening to their music live. Since out-of-bodiness is a significant theme of Victims, it makes sense to include them here.
Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)