Saturday, 14 April 2012

M is for Music

Time for "M" in my A-Z series "26 Things that Made Me a Writer".

Music is definitely a massive inspiration to my writing. I find it too distracting to actually listen to while working, but those songs and albums that have made the biggest impression on me are ingrained in my head and I can play them internally any time.

I'm going to talk about two bands, both cunningly beginning with M, that have created works of art that have had a great effect on me. If I wrote a book that made an artistic statement approaching either of these discs, I'd be pretty damn pleased.

First up, it's the third album by Welsh rockers Manic Street PreachersThe Holy Bible (1994). Yep, this record is pretty controversial from the title on, but don't let that put you off. It's hard to sum up just how I feel about it. Imagine someone wrote an album chronicling all the very worst aspects of human nature, but in such an eloquent way that you can't help being impressed. Anorexia, prostitution, the Holocaust, self-harm, serial killers and American imperialism are just some of the topics covered. Sensationalist? Some might say so. But guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards, who mysteriously vanished six months after the album's release, was in the depths of despair with humanity at the time and this is what came out of that. It's a pretty powerful statement and makes you realise just how flawed we are. A book that did that might seem depressing but hopefully would ultimately be compelling.

The other album, my favourite of all time, is the incredible Six by Mansun (1998). Although influenced by the Manics record, it is somewhat different musically, sprawling and constantly changing pace as opposed to being tight and coiled. However it too is a great work of art, being loosely narrated by an outsider to society taking satirical sideswipes at themself as well as everything else. It's the music though that I love the best in this record. Although there are 13 tracks, there are actually around 70 individual tunes spliced together, which might sound messy but there is a great sense of drama in the musicianship. It's like being inside the head of a schizophrenic, vacillating through every emotion. Each time you listen to the album, you pick up something you never heard before. That's no mean feat.

I don't think I've done justice to either of these masterpieces, but hopefully I've piqued someone's interest. A word of caution, though, even if you know something of either band, you'll feel like you want to clean your brain out after listening to either of these discs for the first time, so I would recommend some of their more accessible work to any newcomers before taking the plunge.

If you made it through this not particularly short post, I'll reward you with a video which is only two minutes! This is "Being A Girl" by Mansun, a frenetic punky tune which still manages a quiet spooky breakdown - just a small window into their genius. By the way, the band do not feature in the video! Bonus points, though, if you can spot a Brit actor who has since starred in several movies.

What are your musical influences? Any other bands or artists beginning with M to recommend?



How are you already on M?!?!?! I just finished L, like six hours ago. EEEK!

Music is huge to my writing. Sometimes, when I am writing a certain scene, I will play the same song over and over again. I even have some songs quoted in my novels, which is a huge problem if I ever want to get them published cuz of that whole permission/ royalties thing.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I love to listen to music while I write but the disrtaction only comes when I'm listening to a piece that has lyrics, or has the wrong mood that I'm after in my writing.

Kyra Lennon said...

Love the Manic Street Preachers!

I can't listen to music when I work either. I used to be able to, but now it distracts me. :(

Kyra Lennon said...

Love the Manic Street Preachers!

I can't listen to music when I work either. I used to be able to, but now it distracts me. :(

Luanne G. Smith said...

I like using music for motivation, but like you I can't actually listen while writing.

Never heard of either of these bands, but the song on the video was kinda fun. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Simon .. not my scene .. but I did watch the video - don't know who the actor is though ... Anything on in the background usually interrupts my thoughts ..

Cheers Hilary

Shelley Sly said...

I think we have different taste in music, but some M artists I can recommend are Metric, Mother Mother, and Mumford and Sons.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

I'd never heard of either of these, but I'm intrigued and I'll be clicking over to YouTube from here.

Some of the bands I'm stuck on right now are The Airborne Toxic Event and Jack's Mannequin, although I usually don't listen while I'm writing.

Liwi said...

Gah, I couldn't watch the video cause of country restrictions. I do second Mumford and Sons when it comes to M's. Other than that, there's a Norwegian band called Kakkmaddafakka and they do good and hilarious music. Everyone should check them out.

Mina Burrows said...

Music can be incredibly inspiring when writing. Distracting too. It depends on my mood.

I couldn't make out the Brit actor though. Dagnabit!

Susan Oloier said...

Music is my biggest form of inspiration for writing. I just can't listen to songs that have catchy, sing-along lyrics during the writing process.

Haven't heard of either of these, so I'll have to check then out.

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of The Beatles and Tori Amos, but my musical tastes are always fluctuating depending on mood.

Nick Wilford said...

Sarcasm Goddess - Must be a time zone thing. I am not as organised as I appear - as of this point I've got nothing else written for the rest of the Challenge - think I'll be busy tomorrow!

Yeah, it certainly is expensive to quote lyrics in a book... but I do like when a novel has a slight musical background to it, it can add something to the atmosphere.

Lynda - Yeah, it would need to be the right music, I can see instrumental music would be good.

Kyra - Hooray, another Manics fan! :)

I used to listen to music all the time when I was writing essays etc, but I think that was to make it bearable!

L.G. - Glad you liked the song. That's only Part 1 of it - it's 8 minutes on the full album version!

Hilary - There are actually a couple of people there who have done other things - the other guy was in Eastenders for a while (don't know his name though)... I'll reveal the film actor guy's name tomorrow if no one gets it! He's not a fave of mine at all though - quite one-dimensional.

Shelley - I love Mumford and Sons! Heard of Metric but never heard a song. Don't get me wrong, I'm not completely dark and angst-ridden. I like a bit of cheesy pop too!

Ruth - I've heard of Airborne Toxic Effect but not the other band you mentioned. Might follow your suit and Youtube them!

Liwi - Interesting name for the Norwegian band... worth checking out on that alone!

Mina - Yes, I guess it depends how you're feeling, how useful it is.

I don't know if the actor is particularly known outside the UK - he's not crossed over to Hollywood yet!

Susan - Thanks for checking them out - I just wouldn't start with these albums as it might be a bit of a shock! They're quite extreme - seriously. For Mansun, I would start with their first album, Attack of the Grey Lantern (there are only three LP's from them as they split in 2003). For the Manics I would recommend Everything Must Go first.

I love the Beatles. Liking your 80s posts too!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry, don't know either of them.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love music and often put my iTunes on shuffle as I'm writing. The variety keeps my brain popping!

Chuck said...

Hey Nick thanks for stopping by site during the A-Z. Here is the link for the STM site:

And of course my M was Metallica so of course I recommend them heavily. New follower!

C.B. Wentworth said...

I'm always looking for a new band! I'll be checking these guys out . . . especially because I love the UK music scene. :-)

I listen to music while I write. In most cases, I need it as part of my process. Every story, including my novels have a playlist.

Elise Fallson said...

Oh, my. You're out of pre-written posts!? You're going to write them on the fly? You're mad! You'll be busy, and tired. Trust me, I know!! (; But I'm sure they'll be great and I'm looking forward to the rest.

As for music, I love all kinds and can put on my headphones and listen while writing, as long as it doesn't have a lot of lyrics.

Tami AKA My Kid's Mom said...

I can't listen to music while I'm working either. I get lost in the music and can't concentrate on what I'm supposed to be doing.

Nick Wilford said...

Alex - Check 'em out!

Jemi - I never really bought into iTunes and still rely on my CDs. Bit of a luddite really!

Chuck - Thanks for the link and the follow. I like a few Metallica tunes but never really got into them majorly.

C.B. - Thanks for checking them out - neither ever really cracked the States so I'm not surprised many don't know them! Most people don't remember Mansun in THIS country, which is criminal!

Having a playlist for novels is a cool idea. Ian Rankin is a good example of someone who uses music effectively in his books.

Elise - You've done yours on the "fly" and they've been great so far - really detailed. Monday's is now written and scheduled, at least!

I've heard a lot of authors talk about using classical music while writing, which is good from the "no lyrics" point of view, but it's not really my bag. Might get into it some day!

My Kid's Mom - Yep, that's what I'm like!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Like Chuck, I'm a Metallica fan. I liked the song, but didn't pick out the actor. Boo. Usually I'm good with that, but my movie-viewing has faltered the last few years. I need to look up the bands you recommended; sounds like powerful music.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Nick Wilford said...

Shannon - Oops, I forgot to reveal the name of the actor - it was Danny Dyer. Like I said, I don't think he's really known outside the UK. He always plays the same sort of cockney geezer. The black guy was also in Eastenders, but I think there was zero chance of anyone recognising him! I'd forgotten what the video was like - it was more the music I was hoping to showcase! Those two albums in particular are powerful, I hope you will appreciate them.

Mel said...

Manic Street Preachers and Mansun...awesome bands!! Some fave bands of mine that fall under the "M" category: Mest, Millencolin, The Matches, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (because they're hilarious),Muse, MxPx...and some individuals: Mat Kearney, Matt Nathanson. I could go on, but I'll stop. Needless to say, music is a huge influence and love of mine :) Great post!

Nick Wilford said...

Mel - Glad you like them! Heard of a few of those you mentioned (love Muse in particular).

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