I think it’s about time for a non-serious post. Most writers I know listen to background music when they’re producing, and some blog about playlists. I don’t have anything specific I listen to; I generally tend to just get the PC to play some generic medium rock or metal. Iron Maiden, AC/DC and especially Queen are long-term favourites, while Alice Cooper is a more recent discovery.
Some tracks mean something to me as a writer. Maybe the lyrics, tone or video are in tune with what I produce. Other songs have influenced me. So, with my tongue firmly in my cheek, here are my ‘Top Ten Richardson-Relevant Writing’ songs.
10. The March of the Black Queen (Queen). An epic from the exceptional ‘Queen II’, my all time favourite album. This track is from Queen’s progressive/fantasy early years. The lyrics are tongue in cheek, but point to a dark side of the Black Queen. I think of the Black Queen as a caricature of The Morrigan (who I equate with Andraste) who appears in my first novel, ‘Andraste’s Blade’. The Morrigan was a feared Irish goddess of war and death.
9. Wild West Hero (Electric Light Orchestra). I’m fortunate that I often get to see Phil’s work before it’s released. Phil is best known for his westerns and I’ve always thought this song is the closest I’ve heard to the spirit of the Old West.
8. I Would do Anything for Love (But I Won’t do That) (Meat Loaf). A typically massive-scale song from a performer who specialises in epics. Despite being a wonderful song this makes it into the list due to the video, which is based on the dark fantasies ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (according to Wikipedia). The video contains fantasy and mild horror elements I like to combine to tell a story – and Dana Patrick looks gorgeous!
7. Highway to Hell (AC/DC). Perhaps less serious than most of my work, but still a great romp describing how to reach the infernal regions. I like to let my characters of the leash for a bit of fun, and this track is in that spirit. Probably the group’s trademark song, even after all these years.
6. Newgrange (Clannad). A typically haunting piece from the Irish group. You can almost see the druids performing their ceremonies at the ‘magical ring of stones’. The ballad reflects the gentler, Celtic fantasy element of my writing. It’s a feel I aimed for in much of ‘The Doe and the Dragon’.
5. The Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden). Arguably the group’s most famous track, and often voted one of the greatest metal songs of all time. The music and lyrics are serious, but, strangely, the video has a very light-hearted style. The lyrics contain a lot of horror staples such as devil worship, demonic possession, sacrifice and nightmares. Which horror writer hasn’t touched on these themes? I know I have, in too many stories to list.
4. Vengeance (Dream Evil). Revenge horror is notoriously difficult to write well because it runs the risk of turning into near-pointless ‘torture porn’. The nearest I’ve come to doing a revenge story is ‘The Well’. It can be done well, though – some films in the ‘Saw’ franchise are a superb telling of a man getting revenge on society. Anyway, ‘Vengeance’ gets inside the mind of a man driven to murder by years of unfair treatment. The lyrics are virtually required listening for anyone wanting to try writing from the bad guy’s viewpoint.
3. Bite Your Face Off (Alice Cooper). No list of horror music would be complete without a contribution from the king of shock rock. Several of his songs fit the bill, but as ‘Andraste’s Blade’ and my current work both feature a head-eating evil goddess, ‘Bite Your Face Off’ will more than do.
2. Space Oddity (David Bowie). This one, of course, is about an astronaut who is marooned in space and waiting to die. I first heard it as a child. With the character’s certain death and haunting style, I was chilled. That’s a trademark of genuine horror. This isn’t a theme I’ve deliberately used in my stories, but the feeling I still get from listening to ‘Space Oddity’ is one every horror writer surely aims to instil in his or her reader.
1. Fear of the Dark (Iron Maiden). Well done to Maiden for being the only group to make my top ten twice! They could have probably had two or three more entries (‘Hallowed by thy Name’ and ‘Bring Your Daughter…’ might have crept in on another day). In my view ‘Fear of the Dark’ is the ultimate horror song; like ‘Space Oddity’ it has genuinely chilled me. It brilliantly captures the feeling of being alone at night; always looking over your shoulder for the bogeyman who you know isn’t really there (is he…?). Sure, the song is helped by Bruce Dickinson’s voice and the haunting music which are tools an author can’t use, but the words are ones I would have been proud to have come up with. The song’s atmosphere is one I tried to match in ‘The Wood’, particularly the outside, night time chapters.