In our Writers and Music series, authors discuss the music that has either been included in their most recent novel/poems or the influence music has had on their work overall.
Paul Corman-Roberts edits fiction for Full of Crow and writes the monthly column "Dispatches From Atlantis" for Red Fez. His upcoming flash fiction collection is Sometimes You Invent New Words for Old Losses from Tainted Coffee Press. He's had coffee with Eldridge Cleaver and tea with Harold Norse (not at the same time).
I remember the moment I renounced my right to call myself a musician. It was the moment I decided to sell my trap drum kit in 2005, all so I could have a little bit of extra cash to go out partying with my friends.
I probably did the kit a favor since I sold it to a chemistry teacher who found himself ditched in an office gig. Unlike me, he was not a parent and not trying to be a writer. He genuinely played a lot of music in his free time away from our desk jobs at the school where we worked.
For $60 my co-worker was getting a bass drum, snare, two toms, cymbal with a shaky stand, high hat with a dodgy clutch and my now dead dream of helping hold down the bottom end in a completely unhinged band like the Sisters of Mercy or at least a metalized version of The Cure. I remember saying to myself at the time, “Now I’m a writer.” I knew in intellectual terms this wasn’t true, but I couldn’t viscerally tie it to my practical, everyday existence.
I can now.
It’s absurd to think my desire to write fabulist analogies has nothing to do with how haunted I feel listening to the sturm and drang and/or gothic chanting laid out over the tribal rhythms of the blues. I was four years old when I first heard Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”…and I had heard Jimi Hendrix and the Stones at an earlier age, but NOTHING had grabbed hold and shaken my understanding of what music could be like in those three power chords as delivered by Jimmy Page, and particularly, power drummer John Bonham, who would become my hero.
I would get that same feeling at the age of 29 when I went to see a couple of post-Beat performance poets named "Vampyre" Mike Kassel and David Lerner at the Paradise Lounge in San Francisco. Those men and various performers in their scene, known as the Babarians, changed my conception of what a poem could be, just like John Bonham changed my conception of what a rock tune could be. Like Bonham, Kassel and Lerner would succumb to substance abuse. The discovery of art that is haunted holds the same thrill as discovering a new haunted house.
To this day, it is why I love dark music and dark writing. Not just the thrill of self-destruction made manifest in art, but the sense that unless that haunted quality of the human condition is not being addressed, then the art being created is not entirely genuine. Or honest. Or even worthy of being considered art.
I miss my drum kit. There are times when I wish I could pound something in anger, but truly, I miss being able to play it when I’m sad. When I’m haunted. Maybe someday I’ll have it back. Until then, I’ve got these words and you. Thank you.