July 30, 2013
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Dead Pig Collector is the first release in the FSG Digital Originals series, and a wonderfully bizarre and dark story from Warren Ellis.
Dead Pig Collector is a long short story, long enough that it qualifies as a novelette, which in literary terms is sort of the grotesque wizened Jivaroan shrunken head of the field. I banged it out in four days, as I recall, blasting out four or five thousand words on the last night. Which I hope never happens again, because the day after that I had all the motive power and threat potential of pre-chewed food.
Dead Pig Collector is a love story about the effective disposal of human bodies. These are some of the things I was listening to during the week I wrote it.
"King Night," Salem
I personally think that most stories should be started by listening to "King Night." It encourages delusions of grandeur. It is the sound of a choir of demented angels singing a city to death. It's a ridiculously massive piece of music, it gets the pulse moving, and soon you're fantasising about finishing the story so you can get to the real work of organising mass executions in giant amphitheaters. This is good.
"Elemental Trigger," Robert Rich & B. Lustmord
I was in Los Angeles, where Dead Pig Collector is set, back in January. My first time there in two years or so. I discovered that my usual West Hollywood hotel had become a greasy, crumbling Lynchian nightmare of flickering lights down endless corridors smeared with dissolving carpet.
I don't like the city, not least because it's not a real city. It's a Zone. A Zone Of Alienation. So I threw the superb Stalker album on repeat for a bit while I descended into my memories, and it worked brilliantly, because four hours later I found myself huddled in the downstairs toilet under an old grey blanket crying quietly into a rusted vegetable can half-filled with expired orange juice.
Lustmord is great.
"Blood Witness," Regis
And then we got going. This was, to my mind, one of the finest bits of techno 2011 produced. The great thing about modern techno, particularly -- and "Bolts" by Northern Structures, which informed a chunk of my book Gun Machine has this, too -- is this feeling that you’re just nailed to an engine that’s careering towards a black iron wall. Regis’ work, especially "Blood Witness," isn’t just functional music -- there’s a specific narrative journey to it, that’s going to end up in sparks and flying metal.
If any of this music is familiar to you, then you’ll have noticed by this point that I’m not listening to a lot of singing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that words in music while working pull me out of the writing a bit. I don’t playlist songs unless I’m looking for them to cause a specific effect. If I need a certain colour in the writing, then I’ll listen to the singers and songwriters whom I associate with that colour -- before now, I’ve listened to Tom Waits all day just to nail an opening scene. With Dead Pig, I needed the voices of the characters front and centre, so the music informing it was mostly instrumental.
"Wind and Snow," Grouper
Grouper got looped a fair bit, to the point where it’s difficult to pick out just one. It was this or "Alien Observer," but tonight I think it was this that was more affecting. It’s aching. This is a story whose manipulative cruelty actually surprised me as it was coming to me -- which may actually say something about me that I don’t want to hear -- and this was the soundtrack for that feeling.
"Sunlight, Heaven," Julianna Barwick
This is the first piece by Julianna Barwick I ever heard -- the day it was released on eMusic -- and I fell in love. I saw her perform live a few months ago, and, even though the speakers struggled with the tide of vocal loops, it was an absolutely transporting experience. She may be my favourite vocal artist today.
If you play this over the final two scenes of Dead Pig Collector, you will discover exactly what an evil, heartless bastard I am. I'm laughing just at the thought of it.
Warren Ellis and Dead Pig Collector links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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