I'm so excited that one of my newest favorite authors, Stacia Kane who wrote, Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic and City of Ghosts is here. When reading the fist two books in the Downside Ghosts series, I couldn't help but notice that music played a big part in the book, and asked her to talk about all the great music that was mentioned in the book and what role it played.
Music Makes A World Complete
Our world is never silent.
If you think about it, in fact, you realize that silence—complete, utter silence—is often a clue that something is wrong. The power is out. Someone has abandoned you. The killer is coming. Whatever it is, it’s usually not good.
In the real world, there’s pretty much always some kind of ambient noise, and often it seems to be music. The music you listen to is part of what makes you you. We know without even looking that a girl is under the age of about fifteen if we learn she’s a Justin Beiber fan. We know someone is probably a bit of an intellectual or is artistic or whatever—or tries to be—if we discover they listen to opera or classical music in the car.
There are a lot of truths music can give us, and we don’t really even have to think about them. We just know. Music is a clue, a hint at who the person inside really is. As writers we can use it, and as readers we can learn what the author is trying to tell us about that character through it. It completes a person. It completes a world.
In the Downside books I mention a lot of music. Mostly punk rock, stuff I listened to when I was younger and still do. It’s the music that shaped a large part of who I am; it’s how I found myself, and I wanted to use it in the books because I wanted to create a certain feel. It’s music I know a lot of readers might not be familiar with (which is why I’ve put the playlists on iTunes for readers who want to hear it) but I thought it might be fun to talk about it here, specifically the songs in UNHOLY GHOSTS, and what they are and why they’re there. (I’m leaving out the Pagans song, because iTunes didn’t have it, but the Pagans are another stripped-down garage band, and I really like them a lot).
1. SKULLS by The Misfits. This plays in Terrible’s car; it’s the first song mentioned in the books. And really there wasn’t any particular reason for this one (a few of the songs fit certain moments, but I didn’t want to always underline what’s happening in the scene). This is a great song, IMO. The Misfits were a great band, one of my favorites. And yes, it’s about a serial killer who wants to collect skulls and put them on his walls. So? Everybody has hobbies. I thought the Misfits’ awesome music, coupled with their horrorshow image (lots of white makeup and fake blood) was a great introduction to the book.
2. ALTERNATIVE ULSTER by Stiff Little Fingers. Another of my favorite songs, by another of my favorite bands. Lex is wearing a SLF shirt when we first meet him. This is where I started to clarify and differentiate his character from Terrible’s; Terrible tends to listen to more rock’n’roll/rockabilly punk, whereas Lex is more 70s-style “classic” type punk, and garage punk (they both listen to some of that, in fairness). The differences extend to their hair and clothing, as well, but for me the music was really the clearest indicator of how different they are.
3. BLAST OFF by the Sonics. My ex-boyfriend was so into this band. It was insane. I think he dragged me into every record store and record convention is South Florida—and beyond; anytime we went out of town to a show his band played, or to see some other band or whatever, we had to visit every record store, and he would always ask if they had any Sonics records. They didn’t. Those records are unbelievably expensive. I was never a huge fan of theirs, but when I needed something that made me think of tattoo-parlor greasers, the Sonics sprang instantly to mind.
4. 354 by the Devil Dogs. Now this is another of my favorite bands. I LOVE the Devil Dogs. Driving around playing their music really loud is still one of my favorite ways to relax, and I absolutely knew Terrible would be a fan. Anyway, they have a song called “Brand New Chevy,” that probably would have been a fun kind of nod to Terrible’s Chevelle, but I thought that would be too obvious. So I went with this one instead, which is still about a car.
5 & 6. I’M TALKING ABOUT YOU and COME ON by Chuck Berry. I didn’t actually mention the titles of the Chuck Berry songs (this is when Terrible and Chess drive out to Tyson’s place), but when it came time to do soundtracks I had to put him on there, and I couldn’t decide which of these to use. So I figured, it’s a long car ride, right? These are great songs, taken from a fantastic album. It’s a best-of type collection called “The Great Twenty-Eight,” which is sadly no longer in print, because it was pretty much all the Chuck you absolutely need to have. I absolutely love Chuck Berry. No matter what he does with poop.
7. I WANNA BE YOUR DOG by the Stooges. Oh, yes. When it comes to sexy songs, this one is waaay up at the top of my list. And when it came time for that bar scene—you know the one I mean—I knew I couldn’t possibly use anything else as background music. I knew it would be something they’d both remember, so I wanted it to be a memorable song, an evocative one, and romantic in its way without being corny or anything like that. This fit perfectly. I’m happy every time I think of it.
8. KILL THE POOR by the Dead Kennedys. Another Lex shirt. The Dead Kennedys were one of the first punk bands I ever heard, way back when, and their album “Frankenchrist” was one of the first punk records I ever bought. (This song isn’t actually on that album; it’s from “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables,” their first album, and it kind of sums up for me everything I always loved about them. The snide social commentary that picks on hypocrisy wherever it occurs, the humor, and of course just great music.
And that’s pretty much it. I don’t actually mention any bands or songs that were formed or released after 1997; haunted Week killed so many people, I needed to have a clear delineation in the music as well. And there’s another reason for that as well; by having the characters listen to so much BT music, I can make the subtle point that they kind of long for those times, and that the Church censors so much, bands don’t really get to make political points or really be what they were before. These songs are almost the only connection people in Chess’s world have to the world BT, so they cherish it even more.
Not to mention that the books take place so far after that, who knows if any of those bands would still be together? So I use older stuff, and when reference is made to a band actually playing Downside, it’s one I made up.
Well, I’ve rambled on, haven’t I? I hope you’ve enjoyed it, anyway, and that it gave you a little more insight into Chess and her world. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them here, or contact me through my website.
Thanks for letting my visit your blog, Colette! And thanks for reading, everyone.
Where to find Stacia: