Guest Post: ‘Music To Write To’ by Oliver Langmead

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Welcome to the latest stop on the Dark Star Blog Tour! I’m very happy to be featuring today’s post, so without further ado, let’s get to it, shall we?

Oliver Langmead was born in Edinburgh and now lives in Dundee. He has an LLB in Law, and an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study, with a distinction. He is also part of industrial electronica outfit, Surgyn, recently back from their US tour. In his own words, he is ‘occasionally seen behind a midi keyboard or shouting into a microphone, but mostly behind a regular household keyboard, agonising over word order.’

As a writer, you need a lot of time and space to think.

I started writing Dark Star just under two years ago now, living in a place roughly an hour’s walk from anywhere. I don’t drive and, being the poor student that I was, I steadfastly refused to take public transport. So, I would walk that walk. An hour there, and an hour back, headphones in, and daydreaming so much that from time to time I’d have a car honking its horn at me, another pedestrian diving out of the way or find I had ended up in entirely the wrong place. It continues to be a wonder that I have not been gravely injured in my wandering.

I spent a lot of days just considering how to build the city of Vox, which is the centrepiece for Dark Star. I had the seed: the idea that it had to be perpetually dark. But the shape, and the mood of the city needed putting together.

I’m listening to the song I was listening to when I had the first inklings of what Vox could be as I write this. It was the first single from Thom Yorke’s supergroup project, Atoms for Peace, Default. There was something in the sparse pacing and the crescendo chorus, I suppose. I got a vision of rain on a dark street, and the silhouette of what would eventually be my main character. That clichéd 1920s hat and long coat, that bowed back as if the rain was heavy, and the blocky shadows of the city around him.

It’s funny. In the end, I named my main character Virgil Yorke. His last name was just going to be York, because I wanted Vox to feel like New York, and because I wanted that accent, that voice, to be on the tips of my fingers while writing. But maybe it was that song, Default by Atoms for Peace, that made me add the E.

Beyond that, I was listening to a lot of quite unusual artists at the time of writing Dark Star. It wasn’t a great time in my life, so the running theme is that it is quite a bleak selection, with some hopeful moments in between. I can look back at playlists, and see a lot of Majical Cloudz. There was something in the melancholy of their song, Your Eyes (the 2012 version), that I listened to repeatedly. Also their whole second album, Impersonator, which is so sparse it almost aches for colour. I was listening to a lot of Grimes, as well: the songs Genesis, and Oblivion: the kind of songs made for a pessimistic new generation. “See you on a dark night.”

Remember when you were a teenager, and you could find an album that would change your life? As an adult that doesn’t really happen much to me any more. But near the end of writing Dark Star, I did find Trust. Their first, self-titled album, was really really good. Not life-changing good, but still unlike anything I’d heard before. Listen to their song, Heaven, a few times to get an idea. But then, near the end of 2013, and at the start of 2014, they started releasing songs from their second album, Joyland. The first was Rescue, Mister, and the second was Capitol. If Rescue, Mister was a life-belt among the drowning melancholy I was experiencing at the end of 2013, then Capitol was my life-raft.

It had been a long while since I’d heard songs that affected me like they did, and I imagine that they influenced the end of my book, as well.

So when you get to the end of Dark Star, maybe give Trust’s song, Capitol, a go. You might hate it, or maybe you might just need it.


My thanks to Oliver, and to Unsung Stories for arranging this tour. Dark Star will be released at the end of March, and reviewed here very soon. Stay tuned!


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