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i made you a mixed tape

well, i sort of made you a mixed tape. i made you a playlist of things that you can listen to, at least. it's a special, heartfelt playlist that's designed especially for those special people who've bought and read my short story collection "interference". if you haven't, of course, you still can; it's available in both print and ebook format, depending on your preferences and budget. the content is the same either way.

the "soundtrack" isn't just intended to be general background music, either. there are specific tracks i've picked to go along with certain stories. but more about that a little later.

those of you who know me know that i have some "off the beaten path" taste in music, so if you find that sort of thing difficult, i'll just put it out there: this probably won't be your cup of tea. however, i do think that it would heighten the experience of reading the stories, but my tastes certainly aren't everybody's, so your mileage may very. if something creeps you out and makes you hide under the sofa for a week, i'm just going to say that it isn't my fault.

you can download the playlist right here. [i know that the interface isn't ideal, but the file is too big for soundcloud.] or you can just listen to it without leaving the page:

so now that you've waded through the morass of my mind, how about i show you that playlist? [note: the playlist is one track. i'm just telling you the divisions for the sake of interest.] it runs about two hours and doesn't necessarily reflect everyone's reading speed. pace yourself as you like.

story one :: the tower
coil :: the snow
bohren + der club of gore :: midnight radio 2
suburban knight :: echo location
sardh :: stuur pulse

story two :: on call
m.j. harris + martyn bates :: long lankin

story three :: an honest day
ghent :: jemini
led er est :: agua fuerte
flipper :: sex bomb
blancmange :: holiday camp

story four :: long gone
novy svet :: utopia
novy svet :: traicion
triage :: the stoning
ask denizi :: zehra eren

story five :: ushered
skullflower :: can you feel it?
sigillum s :: ravishing fury in glass puke
brighter death now :: slow death

story six :: end of shift
simple minds :: twist/ run/ repulsion
maska genetik :: quanrantine
derniere volonte :: les yeux fermes
mortuo similis :: her heart's own grave
november novelet :: when the world was white

story seven :: body to body
swans :: the sound

and now it's a little later, which means i'm ready to discuss a few of the things that i mentioned before. ok, i'm not going to make you look, i'm going to talk about the process of selecting these tracks and what they mean. but first, i'd like to give a little warning. what follows after the break is a short essay on why i chose each of the songs and also the role of music in the creation of each of the stories. it's a symbiotic thing. although i try not to create any spoilers, i also didn't want to edit what i had to say because i was worried about ruining the ending for the uninitiated. so yes, there are some bits where i'm just going to talk about what happens and if you haven't read the pieces yet, it's going to take some of the mystery away.

the piece is intended for people who have read the book, or people who don't care. i wrote it because music and creativity are intrinsically linked for me and i wanted to talk about that. you can choose to read this or not, it's a sort of addendum to the book. not reading it will not make the book make any more [or less] sense.

made up your mind what to do? time to decide...

music has always been important to me in writing. no, that's way too morning-porridge bland. music is crucial to how i write. too executive.

music is how i write.

every time i write, i have a soundtrack. a lot of times it's just whatever i felt like listening to, or whatever was new, or whatever happened to pop up on my computer in recent days. rarely, it's something i pick in advance. sometimes, it picks me. the short stories in "interference" don't have a lot in common, but what they do have in common is that they were grown from soil seeded with music.

the songs that i picked to go on this soundtrack are a combination of songs that inspired me to write the short stories in "interference" and ones that i felt expressed some feeling that was important in the creation of the stories. so let's start at the very beginning...

"the tower"

the beginning is all the way back in 1991. i was in my mother's living room listening to coil's album "love's secret domain". it wasn't the first time i'd heard the album, which was a life-changing experience in itself for me. it was some time afterward and i was just alone in the house [i never listened to my music on the big stereo if i wasn't totally alone] enjoying my new obsession. when the track "the snow" came on, i was immediately struck with an image of a radio tower, a beacon in black and white against a cloudy sky, either at dawn or twilight, pulsing out a message to the world, encoded in a way i could never understand.

it was at once hellishly taunting and endlessly fascinating, this strangely clear image. and thus did a fresh musical obsession breed a fresh creative obsession. there was no question that this had to be the first song on the soundtrack, just as there was no question that it was "the tower" that had to be first in the collection, or that the cover be simply the image of the tower as i imagined it- actually an incredibly fortuitous accidental find on my space from a connection i'd made through shared musical interests. i'm not making that up. it's all about the music.

the upbeat track may seem like a strange choice for a story that opens so morbidly, but it could be no other way. i don't believe that anyone will hear the music of the tower quite the way that i heard it, but perhaps something of the atmosphere will remain.

the lengthy bohren track that i selected has a languid, jazzy feel, which meshes especially well with the scene i had in mind for our [anti?]hero waiting in the little cafe bar. it's a bit otherworldly, quite david lynch-esque in its way and very remote. remoteness is a big thing in this story, the idea of being at a distance from even your own life and memory. the track "echo location", something i envisioned as playing at the overcrowded club that our hero gets dragged to in order to confront his nemesis [a nemesis who i always imagined looking like the late john balance as pictured on the inside photograph from "love's secret domain"]. it's very danceable, almost hypnotically groovy, but, like much of the great techno that comes out of detroit and chicago, almost eerily cold. plus the sonar-like sound called to mind the same squelching morse code i imagined from the tower when i first came up with the idea for the story.

and as things devolve into their inevitable end, i thought that the track "stuur pulse" from the criminally under-appreciated sardh took that rhythmic element and drew out the ominousness that underpins the entire story.

"on call"

i desperately wanted something ghostly for the backdrop to this story- which holds the dubious distinction of being my most rejected piece of work, having been turned down for publication about half a dozen times. i struggled to think of something, but it wasn't until i saw this album in my collection that it clicked: what i needed was a long track, because what was bothering me wasn't any of the individual songs i considered so much as the fact that the transition between them would break up the flow of the story.

flow is important to "on call". i wrote it in one sitting just after my thirtieth birthday. it's been edited some [for all the rejectors], but not a lot. at the time, i'd rarely tried to write much about things that were going on in my own life, but this one does touch on some of those. i'm just not going to tell you what they were.

although there are flashbacks, the story is one continuous movement in a defined direction. the man is walking towards a destination and all of the events that he's remembering- that haunt him, which is why i always make a link between this story and ghosts, even though it's not a 'ghost story'- have moved his life in one direction.

the track "long lankin" is from a trilogy of albums by mick harris [scorn, lull] and martyn bates [eyeless in gaza] called "murder ballads". it features old british stories of death and betrayal set to music very much like what you hear here, with bates' plaintive voice murmuring the tales amidst the sound. for me, the albums are always linked to a winter trip to montreal, sitting in the glassed in car of the train and watching snow blow around me in the deepest part of the night. i've never come across anything that so perfectly embodied the combination of isolation, fear and cold.

"an honest day"

so from my least popular story to one of my more popular ones. i've never quite been able to figure out what it is that people can relate to in this- well, sometimes i can- but it does seem to have something to it that others find charming. for me, it was all about writing down stuff that i saw happening around me when i used to go out to clubs in montreal. yes, some of those things really happened. pants really were dropped. [i told the guy responsible that i'd put him in a story that had won an award and he's cool with it.]

i didn't actually intend to publish this with "interference". it was an accident that took on a life of its own. in my mind, it's a sort of precursor to "conversion", sharing the same emotional bent and the same strangely blissful ending. i was worried within the collection that it would stick out. in retrospect, i think that it makes a nice reprieve in the centre of some pretty gloomy prose. the flower in my literary dunghill.

the music i chose to go with it is more upbeat, has a certain sweetness to it, other than flipper's "sex bomb", which is just a great raunchy ride. [i used the version from "generic" which is longer, so you can raunch out an extra couple of minutes.] i do think that that one is a great party song accompaniment to the images of debauchery that get peppered throughout the story. but ultimately, i returned to sweetness with the blancmange track at the end. i'd originally thought of eyeless in gaza's "sun bursts in", but that just seemed too big, too grandiose for the ending of that story. after all, it's a bit bittersweet.

and thank you, everyone who's read this story for not responding with "who in the hell writes letters anymore?!?" even if i were to try to excuse it by saying that it could have been done via email, the fact is that no one sends emails anymore either. the modern version of this would be a multimedia project involving text messages, snapchat and someone's twitter feed.

"long gone"

up until about an hour before it was published, this story was just called "cuori", as in "cuori di petrolio" by novy svet, the album that i was listening to when i wrote it. this was another case of an album that changed my life also bringing me to a new creative space. when i wrote this, i was desperate. i hadn't completed anything in years and my claim that writing was of paramount importance to me seemed almost laughable. at the same time, my life had fallen into a rut that seemed to go on forever. hearing this album connected me to something unique, something that felt like nothing i had experienced. it inspired me to write and it inspired me to make some changes to my life. hurrah.

the boozy glamour of novy svet is exactly what i had in mind as i wrote "long gone" [which i still think of as "cuori" and always will] and in this case, i think that it's likely that others will feel the symbiosis between word and sound.

as the story degenerates somewhat and the plight of the hero becomes more desperate, i figured it was best to abandon the melodic and move into something more grating, more appropriate to digging around in the middle of the night. triage [a collaboration between american northwest noise artists ruhr hunter and gruntsplatter] are perfect, in that they maintain a sort of plodding rhythm, but also because the track has disembodied and oddly sexual voices fluttering through it. the allure of the sexual is, of course, a big part of what drives "long gone" forward.

and just for a surreal touch, "zehra eren" at the end is from an album of iranian jazz. i think of it as the sort of apotheosis of the story.


this one stems from the great work ethic of the mid-2000s. for once in my life i was getting a lot written, largely because i wasn't doing anything else except working. ah, i miss the focus of younger middle-aged me.

this is probably the most violent story in the bunch, although at times the violence is so ridiculous that it borders on funny, but i did think that it deserved the most violent selection of music. the gut-kicking power of skullflower seemed like a perfect blend, followed by the dull horror of sigillum s. this is a story about observing the dead and dying. i thought that the contrast was important.

i once read an article in the magazine "music from the empty quarter" that described brighter death now's music as being like the sound of water rushing into your lungs as you drown. i don't care to find out if that's the case, but their cover of leather nun's "slow death" did seem like a perfect embodiment of the clock running out on a life.

in all honesty, i can't remember what i was thinking when i wrote this. it came out quickly during a period when i worked a lot and as a result, always seems like a bit of a stranger among my children. but i do think that it generates a reaction, at least it has in the people who have read it, so i've tried to pair it with music that will as well.

"end of shift"

this is what happens to my brain when i listen to a lot of music on galakthorroe. the ideas of automation, images of the age of anxiety that followed world war two, as the spectre of the cold war grew and players changed sides in a game that people didn't truly understand. everything became covert and coded and complex.

for me, the bustle of the post-war american city is well-described by the frantic sound of simple minds' "twist/ run/ repulsion". yes, this is the same band who got famous singing the song from "the breakfast club". they had a whole life before that which became obscure, kind of like the origins of the characters in this story.

the sinister side of the automated world in which these detached characters live could not be more perfectly matched by anything- i believe- than maska genetik. that track just drips tension, fear and also detachment. the single is unfortunately sold out, but i believe it's still available as a download directly through the label.

in the middle of this story, of course, there's a strange sidebar, the tale of the central character's brother during the war, something that might seem completely separate from the rest of the story [hint: it isn't]. it was for that section that i included something by derniere volonte, who always seem to capture just the right amount of old europe nostalgia without making it seem overblown.

on the other side of that is mortuo similis, whose album "the rise and fall of stars" connected to my own adoration of silent era stars, while at the same time indulging my love of the quirky, the unexpected. mortuo similis was known in an earlier life as nightmarish, who released two albums early on for galakthorroe before the two amicably parted ways. i see this track as the feminine balance of the earlier maska genetik one, the mysterious heroine to the anxiety-ridden antihero.

and of course, one couldn't speak of the masculine-feminine balance without embracing november novelet. the icy perfect voice of mrs. arafna over the grinding synthesizers of her husband. rather than go for something with a really huge, crashing finale, i thought it made sense to round out the music for this story with something that is reserved and that finally just slips from view.

i can't play favourites with my stories any more than i can with my cats, but i'll be honest: i have a real soft spot for this one. perhaps it's because it was just so easy to write, since i'm a naturally paranoid person. perhaps it's because i managed to squeeze a whole other short story into it. perhaps it's because everyone else who's read it has felt it was too long and i feel like i have to defend it. but this is the mama's boy of my stories. the others can stand on their own, but i'll always be helping this one along because i feel like it needs me.

body to body

this one was easy to choose. again, i needed something that would not provide distracting interruptions, because this is one of those things you have to decide you're going to read and just stick with it. how can i say that? because that's what i had to do in order to write it. it wasn't going to come out any other way. there's lots about this story that makes me cringe, or that leaves me feeling like i need to shower. it wasn't easy to write and, from what i've heard, it's not easy to read either.

swans leave me with that same feeling. you just need to commit yourself to hearing it and deal with the feelings afterward.

so that's my little roundup of the tracks i picked to augment your reading experience. of course, you don't need to follow my advice. you can listen to whatever you want while your reading things that i've written. you might even be doing it right now. that's how life works.

my intention was more to create something that i thought could help with the reading experience and that gave me the opportunity to talk a bit about the importance of other people's creative work in the production of my own. thanks for hanging with me through that.

note: i am not offering this music for sale and my intention entirely to promote the work of the artists included. if you would like to have your track removed from the playlist, please contact me and i will do so. if you'd like to find out information about the artists, labels or tracks cited here, it would be my pleasure. just leave me a comment or send me an email.


as long as you're here, why not read more?

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