Words & Music with Paul Michael Anderson


Today on Words & Music It’s the turn of Paul Michael Anderson. Paul blew me away last year with his debut collection of dark fiction published through Dark Regions Press called ‘Bones Are Made To Be Broken’. You can read my review here. then you would be wise in picking up a copy for yourself from here. It is a feast of fantastic fiction encompassing many different themes and I am sure you will dig it. Short story collections are really my thing, I love them, and this one is a doozy.

Inside of this essay, Paul talks about how big of an influence music is on his writing. We have a very similar taste in music so I really enjoyed this piece and I’m sure that you will too. He name drops bands like ‘Ghost’ – one of my current favourites and also mentions the much maligned UK grunge rockers, ‘Bush’, and their album ‘Razorblade Suitcase’. ‘Bush’ is a band I used to listen to a hell of a lot when I was younger and I still love this album. Anyway, without spoiling any more I will hand you over to Mr Anderson. Thanks to Paul for once again making a great contribution to my blog. Enjoy.

“And the Beat Goes on…”

By Paul Michael Anderson


When I was 14, I became aware of a special species of human.  They looked like a regular humans.  They liked human things, spoke with human speech.

But…they didn’t like music.  Like, at all.  If music was around, they didn’t sneer or squash their hands to their ears to block out the awful, awful sounds, but conversations with these creatures about music went nowhere and conversations about music were pretty much the only things I had in common with most kids in school at the time.

The year before, when I was thirteen (we’re talking about 1997 when all this went down), I got into music in a big, bad way–particularly punk, metal, and the death-throes of alternative rock (yay for Bush’s Razorblade Suitcase!).  It’d always surrounded me–the radio, long car rides with my parents and their cassette tapes, early-’90s MTV–but it wasn’t until puberty that I really discovered it.  Most guys discover sex when they hit puberty; I discovered that and the Sex Pistols.

So, to come across people who just weren’t into music bugged the fuck out of me.  I can tell you where I was to the minute with certain songs.  From the time I was 14 until I was 22, I was a complete music snob and could dissect why your taste in music was terrible right down to the progression of chord changes.  I think I learned how to play guitar when I was 15 just so I could be that much more insufferable when it came to music.  Most guys learned guitar to be impressive at parties and get laid; I learned guitar so I could tell you how much your G7 sucked.  Y’know–priorities.

The marriage between writing and music for me, then, was to be expected.  I can’t write in front of a television or while holding conversations with people.  I need music, always and forever, even back when I was a college journalist turning in sarcastic columns for the campus paper.  Music is a cocoon for me, a barrier between me and the regular world when I’m working.  If the words are good and the scenes are flowing, it’s like dreaming, where I come up for mental air and realize four or five tracks of whatever album have passed.  I know I heard the songs, but they were like echoes down the hallway while I was working.

I think that’s neat.

But, of course, it goes further.  To date, I’ve written and published three stories directly related to this song or that song: “Passive”, “Crawling Back to You”, and “The Universe Is Dying”.  Each song had something that sparked something in my head–with “Passive”, which came from an A Perfect Circle song of the same name, it was the way the song built to its screamed climax; with “Crawling Back to You”, which came via Tom Petty, it was the lyrics and the way Tom Petty sang them.  “The Universe Is Dying”, a story about a man who has to face his past in order to really by alive (like, literally), I took the name of the song “Jimmy” by Tool for my main character and the lyrics and theme for my general idea, but also imported the mood of “Happy Anniversary” by Motion City Soundtrack, and my own personal connection to the topic with “A Long December” by Counting Crows.

While writing the novella Bones Are Made to be Broken, I heard the song “Everything That Hurts” by Justin Courtney Pierre, the lead singer of Motion City Soundtrack.  I was writing a horror story about a single mother suffering a nervous breakdown and here came this song about struggling with mental health and seeking help.  When I began the second draft, I put the chorus of that song at the top of the page, like an epigraph, to keep me focused while I worked.  This was what I was talking about with the story–struggling to keep it together and feeling like you’re failing and not knowing what to do to help yourself (or for someone else to help you).

As my collection marched through production, I contacted Pierre about using the chorus as the actual epigraph to the story (not the book) and it was so.  Bones would’ve happened without the song, but it wouldn’t be the same monster, y’know?  “Everything That Hurts” brought the story, and the book, home.  To me, that song made the book what it is.

(Sidenote: not a commercial, but you really should hear the song.  You can stream it, or buy it for a dollar, over at justincourtneypierre.bandcamp.com.  You’re welcome.)

I can’t imagine people not having some form of music that touches them–even if it’s just a single fucking song.  I’m not the snob I once was–my wife might disagree with that, but she also likes “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness–but to be complete devoid of loving some progression, or lyric, or chorus is beyond comprehension to me.  Not to be too fucking cliché about it, but music is the rhythm of life.  If absolutely nothing else, it marks off time in four-minute chunks (unless you like prog-rock, I guess).

For me, music is a part of my career now.  Right now, I’m noodling an idea inspired by Modest Mouse’s “Little Motel”.

While writing this, I listened to Ghost’s Meliora album.  Y’know, as you do.

Check out Paul’s Amazon page here.

Visit his blog here.

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