Short Story in a Song — “Waiting Room”

Even 30 years after I first heard it, Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” still fills me with angsty anticipation from the moment the opening bass line kicks in. It’s three minutes of post-hardcore perfection that triggers some kind of Pavlovian response in me. And while I may not publicly drool as often as I used to, I do find myself almost hypnotized by the pulsating tension. The mysterious lyrics would make a great short story.

Our narrator sounds like he’s saying a lot without saying much at all. Instead of intricate detail, we get broad strokes and powerful imagery that evoke feelings of frustration and isolation. As if “the waiting place” from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go has been stripped down to its non-psychedelic core to reveal the mind-numbing horrors of inaction. Whether this is a song about a Dante-esque Limbo, the effects of mood-altering prescription drugs, or an actual physician’s waiting room—our hero has had enough and is ready to rise up. He’s calling on all of us to stand up with him and spring into action. Are you ready?

Read the full lyrics for Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” HERE.

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “Date With Destiny”

SoCal’s South Bay community (including Hermosa Beach) has long been considered the cradle of American hardcore. Once home to the legendary church immortalized in The Decline of Western Civilization, this laid back beach town has produced an endless flow of punk bands over the decades including the big four—Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Descendents and Pennywise. Formed a decade after their forerunners, Pennywise picked the flag up and continues to carry it around the world thirty years later with hard-hitting songs that are often about positivity and self-reliance.

“Date With Destiny” from their 1997 album Full Circle exemplifies the band’s sound, but the lyrics would make a great short story. Our narrator opens by describing a series of untimely deaths ranging from a plane crash to an earthquake. It’s clear that he’s having extreme thoughts about the nature of life and coming to grips with the inevitable demise awaiting us all. More than just a morose examination of mortality, our protagonist challenges us to examine the way we lead our lives. He asks what we would do if we only had one hour to live, ultimately pleading with us to live every hour like it was our last.

Read the lyrics for Pennywise’s “Date With Destiny” HERE.

My podcast interview with Pennywise lead singer Jim Lindberg:

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

 

Short Story in a Song — “Nervous Breakdown”

Black Flag’s unrelenting sonic onslaught might make your ears ring, but the visceral anger and paranoid isolation will rattle your soul. It’s an unapologetic approach that’s evident in their earliest recordings, including the legendary “Nervous Breakdown” EP. Released at a time when Donna Summer, The Knack and Bee Gees topped the charts, this misanthropic slice of fury and confusion remains a blistering reprisal against all of mainstream culture. Forty years later, Black Flag continues to define the hardcore sound they helped create.

Which is why the straightforward lyrics of “Nervous Breakdown” would make such a great short story. From the opening line, our narrator declares himself a ticking time bomb. Fed up with the platitudes he hears from the people all around him, he pushes forward against the crowds that he’s grown to hate. But even in his apoplectic state, when all he wants is to end the misery, he cries out for help that he’s certain will never come.

In other words, Happy Monday!

Read the full lyrics for Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

 

 

Talking To Punks About Books (Podcast)

I recently spoke with two punk singers about their favorite authors and books. If you like punk rock and reading as much as I do, you’ll definitely dig what Joey Cape (Lagwagon) and Jim Lindberg (Pennywise) have to say. These two episodes were part of a podcast mini-series called “Books on the Bus.”

As the Descendents like to say, ENJOY!


S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”

It’s hard to imagine a more influential LA punk band than X. With a sound that’s equal parts punk, roots rock and hard-driving rock and roll, X has been dodging easy classification since they burst onto the Hollywood scene 40 years ago. In that time they have released some of the most iconic songs this town has ever heard. One of my personal favorites is “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” from the 1983 album More Fun In The New World. Performed with acoustic guitars and a shuffling snare beat, the power in this song comes from the lyrics and the dual lead vocals by Exene Cervenka and John Doe.

“I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” also makes for a great dystopian short story. The action starts with our narrator having a debate with him/herself on a crowded city sidewalk. The world, as they see it, has become divided on every issue, with debate too easily giving way to violence. Wars break out, people starve, and chaos rules the day. But there’s nothing our protagonist can do despite a position of privilege, so s/he tries to force those thoughts away instead. This continued inaction fuels an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and guilt that the narrator eventually turns inward to examine his/her own helplessness in the face of obscurity.

Read the full lyrics for X’s “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” right HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

 

Short Story in a Song — “Clean Sheets”

One of my favorite rock docs is “Filmage” about the legendary SoCal punk band Descendents. It’s a thorough history of the band’s evolution that gives them credit for creating “pop punk” while outing drummer Bill Stevenson as the band’s mastermind. It’s also nice to see lead singer Milo Aukerman acknowledged as one of the best punk singers of all time, without making the film about him. And I love how the director explores ALL, the Milo-less band that has lived a parallel existence with Descendents since the 80s. So, if you’ve read this far and still haven’t seen “Filmage”—you totally should, bro.

Which is all fine and good, but we’re actually here to discuss a Descendents love song that would make a great short story. Driven by the band’s signature mix of straight-ahead punk energy and Beach Boys-worthy hooks, “Clean Sheets” is a devastating tale of betrayal and no-frills road life. In a little over three minutes our protagonist goes from falling in love and letting himself get comfortable, to getting destroyed by infidelity and moving on. He may smash a mirror with his fist in the end, but the moral of this story is clear—even punk legends get their hearts broken when they’re young.

Read the lyrics for “Clean Sheets” by Descendents right HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “Throwaways”

This is the start of a new blog series. The point is to post some of my favorite songs and briefly look at the lyrics through the lens of short fiction.

Listening to music as you get older can be tricky because pure enjoyment sometimes gets clouded by needless comparison. Or at least it does for me. So when I first heard the Philadelphia punk band Beach Slang a few years ago, I couldn’t listen without thinking about The Replacements, Sugar and Jawbreaker. Thankfully, good music doesn’t care about our stupid comparisons. It can wait us out. These days, Beach Slang isn’t a collection of references to me any more—they’re just a great band that I like listening to.

One of my favorite songs from their album The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us is the opening track, “Throwaways.” It’s a familiar tale of hometown hopelessness that feels universal and ageless. The protagonist reminds us that a full tank of gas, pocket change and a good book can seem like salvation when you’re brimming with ideas and out of options. He’s no revolutionary, but tonight he’s fed up enough to lead a few of his friends to a place that’s only better because it isn’t here. I don’t know about you, but every time I hear this angsty anthem I want to climb in the passenger seat of that car just to see what happens. Great song, great short story.

Read the full lyrics for Beach Slang’s “Throwaways” right HERE.

Like punk rock and books? Check out Books on the Bus, a podcast mini-series about the books musicians like to read. Here’s my conversation with Jim Lindberg from Pennywise:

And here’s Joey Cape from Lagwagon:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

“Books on the Bus” Podcast—Episode 5

 

For the fifth and final episode of the Books on the Bus podcast mini-series, I connected with Jim Lindberg, lead singer of Southern California punk band Pennywise. I’m thrilled to connect with Jim because Pennywise is among a handful of legendary South Bay bands—along with Black Flag, Descendents and Circle Jerks—that fueled my Greg Salem punk rock P.I. novels including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, GRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME.

In addition to writing the autobiography PUNK ROCK DAD, Jim writes most of the lyrics for Pennywise, with self-reliance as a running theme throughout their catalog. He also has a degree in English and counts Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau among his influences, citing them as America’s “first punk rockers.” We also discuss DARK MONEY by Jane Mayer, FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac, among many others.

Here’s “Books on the Bus,” episode 5:

Find out more Jim Lindberg’s passion for music and reading HERE. Find out more about Pennywise HERE.

Here are the four previous episodes of Books on the Bus:

S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novellas, CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

It’s “Hang Time” Release Day

Hard to believe that the third book in the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. trilogy is officially out in the world today. It’s been quite an adventure watching this series—including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION (book 1) and GRIZZLY SEASON (book 2)—come to life. Thanks to Tyson Cornell and Rare Bird Books for believing in Greg and his crew, and to all of you for reading these books and helping spread the word.

Here are a few of the kind things that people have said about HANG TIME:

“Lauden’s prose zooms along with an arch energy, and the final installment in his Greg Salem trilogy (Grizzly Season, 2016, etc.) keeps the plot twists coming at warp speed.”—Kirkus Reviews

“As a rock journalist in my spare time I know the scene pretty well and Mr. Lauden just manages to convey so well how it is and feels, it’s impressive. Awesome, awesome stuff.” —Son of Spade

“The twists, turns, and shocks are enough to leave the reader gasping for more.”—Crimespree Magazine

“Addiction, isolation, punk rock and murder — all on a hot mic.”—Liam Sweeney, author of DEAD MAN’S SWITCH and WELCOME BACK JACK

As savage, fast-paced and bleakly comic as your favorite punk rock anthem, S.W. Lauden’s HANG TIME is a wicked and fitting finale to a first-rate trilogy, packed full of both sex and violence of the no-holds-barred variety, and building to a gut-punch conclusion that’ll leave you reeling long after you’ve closed the last page.” —Owen Laukkanen, author of THE PROFESSIONALS and CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE

S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novellas, CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

Interrogation—Dietrich Kalteis

Who: Dietrich Kalteis

What: The award-winning author of RIDE THE LIGHTNING, THE DEADBEAT CLUB, TRIGGERFISH, HOUSE OF BLAZES and ZERO AVENUE. Nearly fifty of his short stories have been published internationally.

Where: Vancouver

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the release of your fifth novel, ZERO AVENUE. What inspired you to write about the late 70s punk scene in Vancouver?

Thank you, Steve. I guess when I started writing the story I was thinking of forgotten times and a music scene left behind. I liked punk’s edge and the way it threw a middle finger at the establishment. And Vancouver was this backwater place back then, a sharp contrast to what it is now. And the late seventies were also a time before Google Earth, Google Maps and satellite imagery, back when pot fields were a lot easier to hide. All of that seemed a perfect fit for the story I wanted to write.

You depict the denizens of that scene as destitute and a bit desperate. Do you think the history of punk rock has been sanitized? 

I think when punk came along, there was a certain shock that came with it. Outside of its small fan base, it wasn’t well received in the mainstream. Major labels were reluctant to sign punk bands, most radio stations wouldn’t play it, and clubs wouldn’t book punk acts. When I first heard it, I liked its edgy sound, but I thought of it as a kind of music experiment, a fad that would burn out as fast as it came, but it sure was a welcome change from disco.

Has it been sanitized over the years? Maybe it has, or maybe the shock has worn off from when it started over forty years ago. It’s interesting to note that stars like Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, Joey Shithead, Jello Biafra, Patti Smith and Mick Jones are still standing and involved in making music.

The drug trade plays a big role in this book. What came first for this story—the drugs or the music? How did one lead to the other?

The idea was for the heart of story to revolve around the indie music scene. The drugs came in as a way for Frankie del Rey to make ends meet and to scratch up enough cash to cut a record and get her band Waves of Nausea out on the road.

I couldn’t see someone like Frankie having a nine-to-five job. Running dope shows us something about her character, like she’s willing to take some risks. After she starts seeing Johnny Falco and he goes and rips off Marty Sayle’s pot field, the risks get stepped up.

Is the marijuana catapult real, or a figment of your imagination?!

A bit of both really. Back in the day, I did know a couple guys who found out about a pot field growing out in the country, and they couldn’t resist. Armed with plenty of big green garbage bags, they drove off to fill up the back of a pick-up and ended up having rock salt shot at them. Coming back with only a really good story to tell. And I guess that story stayed with me over the years. As a lot of story elements I use, this one just spun from something that really happened to what ended up in the book.  

Which was more fun—creating characters like Frankie Del Rey and Johnny Falco, or the names of the fictional punk bands in ZERO AVENUE?

It was a fun coming up with both. While I love dreaming up my characters, I wasn’t sure I could pull off a female main character like Frankie at first, but once I started writing her character it all came together and worked out. She’s just so punk and obsessed with her music, and I like how she never let anything get in the way of her dreams in spite of everything that comes at her. She’s definitely not someone to mess with, and that makes for a pretty good protagonist.

I loved dropping my imaginary characters among the real life ones like Wimpy Roy and Joey Shithead. And it was fun coming up with band names like Middle Finger and Waves of Nausea and dropping them among the real bands of the time, bands like the Subhumans, Pointed Sticks and the Braineaters.

Speaking of Joey “Shithead” Keithley (of legendary hardcore band, D.O.A.), why did you choose to feature him among the fictional punks in ZERO AVENUE?

Joey Shithead’s a punk legend around Vancouver, and he was right at the heart of the punk scene back then, and he’s still standing and going strong. In fact, he’s even run for public office, and his band D.O.A is still pumping out music. How could I not include him, even in a small way?

Why do crime fiction and punk rock go together?

Crime novels are fast-paced and packed with action, violence and desperation, and the punk scene was so edgy, raw and angry and had this us-against-them outlook. It just made a great backdrop and a perfect fit for a crime story.

What’s next for you?

After ZERO AVENUE comes POUGHKEEPSIE SHUFFLE which will be released by my publisher ECW Press next June. The story takes place in Toronto in the mid-eighties and centers on Jeff Nichols, a guy just released from the infamous Don Jail. When he lands himself a job at a used-car lot, he finds himself mixed up in a smuggling ring bringing guns in from Upstate New York. Jeff’s a guy who’s willing to break a few rules on the road to riches, living by the motto ‘why let the mistakes of the past get in the way of a good score in the future.’

I also have a short story that will be included in the upcoming VANCOUVER NOIR, part of Akashic Books’ Noir Series, edited by Sam Wiebe.

Find Dietrich Kalteis: Facebook, Twitter, Blog

Some Recent Interviews:

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S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas include CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.