Music And Writing by Aidan Thorn

Music and writing, for me have always gone hand in hand. I can’t write without something on in the background (right now? Rival Sons, if you have to know). I guess it could be because I’m a failed musician that’s turned his hand to writing for that creative outlet. I actually find I enjoy the writing more – and it seems so does the audience, which is nice. But, I still think it’s a shame that my funk metal rap outfit, Acid Fungi, never took off when I was 14 – I think we had something in that one awkward jam session where the only person that could play his instrument was a young Daniel Pugsley, who’s actually a bona fide rock star these days as the bass player in reggae-metal band, Skindred.
It’s little wonder that when I first started writing, naively diving straight in with a novel, one of my main characters was a failed rock musician from a ‘90’s band that had found grunge a couple of years too late. I filled it with references of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. I remember re-visiting all of those classic albums during the writing of that book and getting lost for hours in tunes I hadn’t heard in years.
And, the novella I’m working on, that is probably a couple of weeks off finished, focuses on the accidental kidnapping of a rock star by a group of clueless twenty-somethings. I guess a psychiatrist would have a field day with me for putting my rock star characters in challenging situations.
With my short stories I feel they’re even more linked to my relationship with music. Because, every short story I’ve ever written gets a soundtrack in my head, it’s based on what I was listening to at the time of writing. And, I can pretty much remember every one of them. During much of the writing of my latest collection, Urban Decay, I was listening to a lot of British music – Xfm’s become a bit of a fixture in my life.
And so, the soundtrack to which I wrote my collection of stories set in the dark corners of urban Britain has a distinctly British flavor to it. Bloc Party, Jamie T, Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, Stone Roses, Pulp, Oasis, Blur, The Stones all feature heavily in my mind’s ear as I read back stories from this latest collection.
As a character walks a city street in my story, ‘Lucky’, in my head they do it with a swagger to the beat of Jamie T’s ‘Don’t You Find’. Morning breaks in my tale ‘Sign of the Times’ and for me Ben Howard provides the tunes. As the protagonists in ‘The Replacement’ drive through deserted urban streets at night, my ear hears Bloc Party’s ‘Banquet’ from their car stereo. And, as violence breaks out, as it inevitably does in many of the stories in a collection called Urban Decay, my head is filled with tracks by Royal Blood, Arctic Monkeys and The Prodigy.
There’s a distinctly British voice to Urban Decay. I’d suggest you grab a copy, dust off your Jam, Clash or Stone Roses LP’s and settle down for some tales from the underbelly of the city.

Aidan Thorn is a 33-year-old writer from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic sailed from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than sinking ships and terrible R’N’B music. His latest short story collection ‘Urban Decay’ is available now and more about his writing can be found here http://aidanthornwriter.weebly.com/

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Ten Songs by Aidan Thorn

1. Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses
I’d like to pretend that my passion for loud music was awakened in some exciting way. To be honest nothing could be further from the truth… It was the late 1980s, I was on a family holiday at a caravan park in Dorset, there was a clubhouse on site and karaoke was at the height of its inexplicable popularity. Maybe it was the fact that I’d sat through endless attempts to make already terrible songs by the likes of ABBA and Cliff Richard sound worse than they already did, but when the post intro part to Paradise City roared from the speakers I suddenly stopped staring at the walls and paid attention. It helped that the fella doing the karaoke version was a better singer than what had gone before (not a glowing recommendation I agree) but what really struck me was the music. That Christmas I asked for Appetite for Destruction, and thankfully my parents ignored the parental advisory sticker, and the concern of my older cousin (‘Are you sure?’) and got it for me. I played that album until the tape reeled itself around my cassette deck in a tangled mess. It opened my eyes to so much music that I love today and it’s still an album that I go back to from time to time and enjoy as much as I did as a wide-eyed 10-year-old.

2. Lithium – Nirvana
Whilst the rest of the world was falling over themselves to tell us that ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was the best song in the world ever I was a bit ‘meh’ about it. It was probably because people were suggesting that this was the end for the likes of GN’R, Metallica, Maiden and I wasn’t ready for that – In fact the idea of that made me want to collapse in a crumpled mess and cry until my eyes bled. Still, once Lithium hit my ears I could no longer resist, I wouldn’t say I was converted, I was never going to turn my back on the more ‘traditional’ rock sounds that I was so fond of, but I’d certainly found a new one to add to them, my ears were open to the ‘grunge’ sound.

3. Fade to Black – Metallica

I could not believe what I was hearing – there was that almost medieval haunting rhythm guitar part with the howling lonely lead part in the introduction. Then Hetfield sings. And then, crunching heavy metal… This song is a lesson in heavy metal song writing at its very best. I picked up a guitar purely with the aim of learning this song. I was rubbish at the guitar, this is a difficult song, and it’s the only song I persevered with enough that I could do a competent job of most of it. Even today when I hear this song the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and I’m transported to a distant place – I’m not sure where it is but it’s magical.

4. Supersonic – Oasis
All change – up to this point I was all black t-shirts, black jeans and Doc Martins. I even went through a bandana phase – honestly it was a mess! And then along came two brothers from Manchester with more self-belief than the collective casts of The Apprentice and changed my life. It was still guitar music, but it had a swagger about it that I hadn’t heard before. It was simple and catchy – it almost said, anyone could do this stuff. I dispensed with the Halloween costumes, pulled on a pair of blue 501s and a pale blue tee with stripes down the sleeves and lightened up a bit.

5. She Don’t Use Jelly – The Flaming Lips
I went through a phase of liking those kooky songs by the likes of Presidents of the USA, Green Jelly, Primus – I think I discovered this song during that phase. Thankfully, The Flaming Lips were never a phase I got over. This song opened my eyes to one of the best bands on the planet with a huge and diverse catalogue of music. They’re still my go to band if nothing else is inspiring me. I’ve only managed to catch them live twice and both occasions have to go down in my top five gigs of all time, great music and great shows – those great experiences are thanks to this song.

6. Soul to Squeeze – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an important band for me. They’re not my favourite band, they’ve probably never even been in my top 10 bands but they’ve made some incredible pieces of music (they’ve also made some absolute dross) that cross genres and have led me to explore music more. Their blend of rock, funk, soul, hip-hop gave me cause to listen to the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Parliament etc… For me there’s no better example of their fusion of styles than this song that never made it onto any of their studio albums. Also, as a bass player you have to take your hat off to Flea!

7. Move On Up – Curtis Mayfield
Does music come any cooler than this? Possibly, but I don’t think so. I’ve picked this one song to represent all of Curtis Mayfield’s music, perhaps the obvious choice but to me it epitomizes what the guy was all about. The sort of music that played over the titles or the credits of shady movies that I used to watch in bed when I couldn’t sleep, poorly acted but compulsive viewing due to the cool characters and the funky soundtracks. Whenever I have the iPod on and Curtis shuffles into the ear I feel like my life is being sound-tracked and I walk with a little more bounce – I probably look ridiculous!

8. Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living) – Eels
There are some songs that just lift you up and if this one doesn’t do that to you, I think you’re probably dead. I love Eels, people say they’re melancholy and depressing, yep at times that’s right, but at times they’re bouncy and uplifting – like here. I like melancholy and depressing, a lot of the best songs are written by miserable people. I read ‘Things the Grandchildren Should Know’ – the autobiography of Mark Oliver Everett (E of Eels), believe me he’s got more reason to be melancholy than most – and having read that book I have even more love for ‘Hey Man’, it seems to mean more having read through Everett’s life with him. I mean, the fact that the same man that wrote ‘It’s a Motherfucker’ and ‘Cancer for the Cure’ penned such a happy, bouncy song – there’s something quite special about that.

9. That’s Alright Mama (live version 1968) – Elvis Presley

There’s a video of Elvis from 1968 when he did an hour-long show for NBC in America. He’s just sat around with his band, leather jacket, guitar, microphone – cool… There’s not a white jumpsuit in sight. This is Elvis Presley clearly enjoying the simplicity of what he does, he’s laughing and joking with his band, he’s smiling and playing to the audience. There’s no escaping the fact that Elvis was a beautiful man, with a velvet voice, I could have picked any number of songs from this session but ‘That’s Alright Mama’ seems to be the one that captures what he was and his enjoyment of that session the most – I implore you, if you haven’t seen it head straight over to Youtube after this.

10. Toxicity – System Of A Down

As diverse as my musical tastes have become over the years the heavier side of music will always be my first love. There was a period when I probably didn’t listen to anything new and heavy for about five years… That changed on the day I heard ‘Toxicity’ by System Of A Down. After grunge I thought ‘heavy’ appeared to be going down a route that I wasn’t all that impressed with (Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit I’m looking at you!). System Of A Down made me realize that there were still great bands out there doing ‘metal’ well – God bless ‘em.

Aidan Thorn is a 33-year-old writer from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic sailed from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than sinking ships and terrible R’N’B music. His first short story collection ‘Criminal Thoughts’ will be available on Kindle very soon and more about his writing can be found here http://aidanthornwriter.weebly.com/