The Theme(s) of Evil


So there is this crazy thing that happens when I work on a big project. It always arrives with a song. Not like an existing song that I think of or listen to while I'm writing. No, I mean a theme song. The original How to Succeed in Evil theme song was this -- played by me on a cheap keyboard.

The Merchant Adventurer had a theme -- that I played on a ukulele, even though it's not at all a Ukulele song. But I think I got the right sound out of it.

As a writer, I use playlists as a creative tool. But they are filled with songs that I don't really listen to in the way that I listen to songs when I'm not writing. They set the vibe, let me get into the feel of the world and remind me that now it's time to put all that other bullshit aside and write.

So I've taken all these songs and put them on a Spotify playlist. (Yes, I've literally made you a mix tape.)

Super Bon Bon by Soul Coughing.

This song was the first thing that pulled at me about Edwin Windsor. This idea of him breaking bad and being this unstoppable force.

I Don't Want to Know About Evil by Beth Orton

Just as I finished the draft of the Original How to Succeed in Evil novel, Pandora served this song for me. It was something of a mystical experience. Serendipity in the Jungian sense, not so much in the Police sense.

We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) by Tina Turner

Okay, in college I used to go to this bar that has now been turned into a Starbucks and play at an open mic there. And there was this guy who would come in late. A black guy who worked as a security guard and he'd come in in uniform, get up on stage and just crush it. Amazing voice, played the guitar as much a percussion instrument as a melodic instrument. And he covered this song. He just tore it up. Just burned the place down every time he played it. Not my favorite Mad Max movie, but this has been one of my favorite songs ever since.

Superman's Song by The Crash Test Dummies.

"Superman never made any money, savin' the world from Solomon Grundy." This song, to me, speaks to the essential sadness at the heart of Excelsior's character. For all his superpowers, he's just lost, adrift in the world just like us "normal" people. There are more stories to tell with this character and I know how to tell them better now.

Eminence Front by the Who

This is partially Topper's song from Hostile Takeover, but it's also that drive and the whole world of deception and everybody having a dual identity. It's just a great, great song and really helped me write these books.

For this round I really got hooked on Jose Gonzalez', Cover of This is How We Walk on the Moon, I Will Possess your Heart by Death Cab for Cutie, Corporation by Jack White. And this Torre Florim cover of Firestarter by The Prodigy.

As I've been working on How to Succeed in Evil this time around, I realized that I was going to need a theme. I mean, I didn't push it. I just put it on the list. Find some music for the intro and outro. The last thought in my head was to compose something.

But at the same time I found myself noodling this little thing on guitar. Playing it incessantly, really. You know, just working at it like a kid works at a loose tooth. Drove my wife crazy, she said, it's beautiful, but do you have to play it all the time? There may have been more cursing involved in that conversation.

And when it really started to gel, I realized it might be the theme. So I sent it to a musician friend of mine both whose judgment I trust and whose taste is very different than mine. He liked it too.

So anyway, this is the theme for the new How to Succeed in Evil. I'm going to get a little help and try to produce a richer, more polished version of it, but this totally works as just guitar or piano.

And that's it. That's all I've got to share with you right now. It's all coming together right now. And we're very much on track for an August launch.

If you have a song that you think would fit on the unofficial soundtrack of How to Succeed in Evil, put it in the comments.

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