It goes without saying when you're talking to a music journalist, but music can be the greatest inspiration for a writer. Even if you're not writing about the music itself, it can still be an indispensible catalyst for the written word. More and more in modern literature, the afterwards feature a list of artist that the author was listening to while writing.
Beyond that, however, is a whole new realm of two sensory inputs. There are actually books and albums that are designed to intertwine and complement each other. It's not a common occurrence, but there have been some pretty impressive collaborations over the years.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier/"Immortal Love" single
Ask any ten people on the street to name a comic book writer and the odds are good you'll hear Alan Moore's name. He completely redefined everything about the medium through V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Swamp Thing, The Killing Joke, and more than we have room to name.
Our personal favorite work is the massive fictional crossover series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in which the finest figures of Victorian and Gothic literature are all united under one literary canon. They even made a movie with the same premise and the same name which we could call an adaptation with about as much sincerity as we could call Willow an adaptation of The Hobbit.
The third collection of the series was supposed to include a single of two original songs sung by Moore himself. Before you go, "huh?' you should know that Moore has released several albums in the past under the moniker The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels.
No less a figure than David J of Bauhaus is a member of the group. Sadly, DC decided not to include the 45 rpm single in either the original run or in the Absolute reprint. Currently, we're still waiting to hear it.
Rock Bottom/Various Artists
Michael Shilling's Rock Bottom is the greatest rock and roll novel ever written. It's the tale of a loud, Motley Crue-esque band that falls from sudden fame and fortune to playing dives in Amsterdam for 20 people. No other book perfectly sums up the brutal reality of the music industry while also reminding each of us that for artists the journey is its own reward.
The band in the book is called Blood Orphans, and we get a fair number of glimpses at the lyrics of their songs, whose offensiveness is a major part of the public turning against them. Over the years since the book was released, a fair number of real-life bands have turned those lyrics into actual songs.
The Wipes busted out the ode to sex with black chicks, "Double Mocha Lattay," and the Magic Carpet Riders tackled Blood Orphans' most notorious track, "Hella-Prosthetica." It's about sex with a legless girl. You might be noticing a pattern here. All of these songs are available for listen at the Blood Orphans' website.
The Erbeth Transmissions/Asmodeus X, Sanctuary
The Erbeth Transmissions is a wonderfully dark alternative mythology to Earth written by Houston's own Paul Fredric. Rather than the accepted Judeo-Christian creationism that we swallow as schoolchildren, Fredric populates our planet and worlds beyond with alien angels and demons whose names may sound just a bit familiar to those who delve into more esoteric histories. Somewhere between the drunken humanism of Hunter S. Thompson and the dreamscapes of H. P. Lovecraft lies Fredric's view of heaven, hell, and all of the cosmos.
A planetary landing becomes both a fall from grace and an ascension for the future of all mankind, and the true nature, and perhaps danger, of man's "angels" is explored. This book is not for those who are comfortable with the world they have grown up knowing, but if you have the urge to explore the mirror image of all that is held holy, you might just want to pick this up to read on the spaceship with Beelzebub.
The best part is that the album Sanctuary, released by Fredric's darkwave band Asmodeus X, was written specifically to coincide with the novel. Sanctuary, like most Asmo albums, is an electronic triumph that elevates the consciousness of all who hear it. Combined with his eccentric cosmology, your mind will probably be blown.
House of Leaves/Poe, Haunted
To read House of Leaves is to court madness, and we aren't joking in the slightest. Every time we've loaned Mark Z. Danielewski's novel to someone we always caution them to read only one chapter a day. They always brush us off, and we always find them a week later hollow-eyed and jumping at shadows.
The book is the story of a family trapped in a house that is bigger on the inside than out. Strange, black passages appear at random, and the family's patriarch begins to obsessively explore them to increasingly horrific results. Even this description does no justice to the balls-out insanity of the book.
Footnotes go on for pages. Pages may contain only a single word written upside down. Books referenced may or may not exist. Quotes in other languages are presented without any translation. Combined with the dark, terrifying world Danielewski paints the result of the book is that you can no longer feel safe anywhere ever again,
The book has a companion album by Danielewski's sister Anne, who you may know better as Poe. Poe's 2000 album Haunted was written to coincide perfectly with her brother's novel, and the result was easily the best album of that year.
Unfortunately, the album was cursed. The title track ended up in the commercial failure that was the Blair Witch sequel. MTV refused to air the video for "Hey Pretty" - deeming Poe writhing around naked in mud to be too racy, and the song "Walk the Walk" was used as the theme song to a TV show that was cancelled after two episodes.
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Still, the Danielewski siblings put out corresponding works of dark genius that have not yet been rivaled in all of the realm of pop music or literature, and we're willing to bet never will be.
Elvis Costello once said "writing about music is like dancing about architecture... it's a really stupid thing to do," a quote also attributed to Frank Zappa and Martin Mull. That may be, but music and the written word can and have been linked together into some incredible synergies. Hopefully we'll see more of them in the future.