I need to get things right in order to write. I need everything in its place, not just on my desk – chargers coiled, books stacked, books aligned, pens in their pen cup – but in the bathroom, living room and kitchen.
I need to clean my head out of the things to do, and plough through my to-do’s – emails, applications and purchases – checking each off the list.
And then I need the room at the right temperature and light, the right drink in hand, the right food eaten, and then the music, a snap decision. Go ambient or go home.
I need to find my place in the story, remember where I was and where I was going. I just need a glimpse, something sharp and clear, and away I go. Unless I don’t. And it all starts again.
I do my most satisfying writing when listening to looping sounds. Around and around, on repeat and again.
My love for repetitive music started when I was a kid. My favorite song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Chris Superstar wasn’t I Don’t Know How to Love Him or Superstar but Trial Before Pilate (including the 39 Lashes).
39 Lashes features counting, whip Foley and a guitar riff that goes around and around. That’s basically it. I felt weird about liking it so much. Did I enjoy hearing a man being whipped? No, it was the sound. It went around and around. I liked that.
I discovered more looping magic over the years in the music of John Coltrane, Ravi Shankar, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Fripp and Eno, Eno and Byrne, Godspeed You Black Emperor, NIN, Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine.
Bandcamp now feeds my addiction, offering an endless ebb and flow of the sounds, such as Off the Sky, Alex Bober, Drape, Keith Berry, Green Kingdom. The list goes on.
There are times I find these sounds in the city, a distant jack hammer, air conditioner units, honks, whirring and yelling, but it never holds and dissipates into a mess.
There just has to be a sound – preferably electronic – that goes around. I will listen to that on repeat, the song of the repeated sound again and again. There is something pure in that. Something divine. Something definitely to write by. The problem can be coming up for air.