Interview with Michael Arnzen of Audiovile

I want to let the world know, Audiovile is NOT an audio book. It is really in it’s own class of audio actually, “spoken narrative”. My first experience into the world of “spoken narrative” was in 1991 with the Group 2NU and their track Ponderous. I was hooked in finding as many of these types of CDs as I could. It was not until 1994 that I found my second “spoken narrative” CD, Cyborgasm (I will leave that CD for another blog for another time). I had to wait until 1999 for my second chance at another 2NU CD, this time it was called 2NU2. I’ve always had an attraction to this type of medium, this spoken word set to music. I’ve been searching high and low to find a new fix, as 2NU seems to have dropped off the face of the planet. But I also wanted something darker. Something with a bit more “bite”. In 2008, Raw Dog Screaming Press sent me a CD of Michael Arnzen’s CD, Audiovile.

Audiovile is exactly what I needed and I got it exactly when I needed it! I drive a lot. I mean, A LOT. Each week my car probably clocks in close to 200 miles. Okay, so that’s not a huge amount, but it seems like a lot to me. I hate driving. Audiovile has fixed that for me. It’s not something I can pop into my CD player at home and listen to, I’ve got a wife, a 4 year old daughter, and a 2 month old son.

The wife: Shes not going to object listening to it. But it’s not her cup of tea. She’d be much more content with Josh Groban’s latest CD.

My two kids: No way. I love horror and things of the macabre, but Audiovile is a bit beyond them right now. Quite a bit beyond them. My daughter is into SpongeBob SquarePants and Barbie, and Little Mermaid. My son just like to watch colors. Maybe when they are older I’ll give in and see what happens. When they are much older.

That leaves Me: Audiovile delves deep into what I’m really all about. I hope that when I fall asleep each night that I’m able to dream the stuff of nightmares. During my waking hours I think of different scenarios about zombies attacking. When I go to work I look at everyone around me and think about which ones could be vampires. I can’t help but think of this stuff. I keep it to myself mostly, but I realize to someone who does not get it that I would seem a major head case. To that end however, I do know the difference between fantasy and reality. In reality I work hard, am kind to everyone I see, play with my kids, and show my wife every appreciation that I can. In fantasy, I want to live in a different world, in a world where magic can happen, in a world where vampires exist, in a world where only the strong can survive a zombie outbreak.

It is through reading books, watching movies, and listening to music that I am able to make this fantastic escape.

It is Michael Arnzen’s Audiovile that has helped me make that escape as well.

Over the weeks since Raw Dog Screaming Press sent the CD to me, I have had quite a bit of contact with Michael. I have a need to surround myself with people who view the world, if not exactly as I do, at least just a few steps away from where I view it. I need to surround myself with people who do get it. To that end, Michael has agreed to sit down in an interview. Trust me, if you have found your way to ZombieMall.com and you like it even just a little, Audiovile is for you.

This is the interview I held with the man behind that vision.

1) How do you cope with those people in your life that just don’t get it?

First off, I am willing to laugh at myself and recognize that there is a
goofy element to my love of the horror genre. I’m just having fun most of
the time, and I think when others recognize that they often are willing to
cut me a break…and when they finally lighten up, they realize that it’s
pretty interesting stuff! Usually, those who don’t understand just need to
be reassured that you’re not insane or a threat to them because you enjoy
writing about flesh-eating dead creatures or tentacles that rend a body into
a ragdoll of gore.

Truth is, most people CAN be persuaded. First I try appeal to their reason:
since horror is about fear, it is about humanity. If that doesn’t work, I
try to educate them: many classic works of literature are horror stories.
If that doesn’t work, I go for the gross-out joke.

But there’s always going to be somebody who is a stick in the mud against
horror — usually harboring some old-fangled, puffed-up concern about moral
and social virtue in fiction, even though they’ve never bothered to read a
single thing in the genre. For them, there’s always voodoo.

But seriously: the reason I write weird stuff is BECAUSE there are people
who “just don’t get it” and those are the ones we need to look out for: the
closed-minded and censorious. Often the villains in my stories are people
who are unreasonably fixated, emotionally obsessed, and unwilling to change.
So maybe I “cope” with them by writing in a generalized away about their
personality type. I also just keep writing — that’s all that matters
really. I have a larger audience than those consternated people do, and
those reader’s opinions matter more to me.

2) When recording the tracks, did it ever take time to “get into character”
so to speak, and did you ever have some many issues with a particular piece
that you just decided to say “fuck it” and not complete the recording?

Well, I’m a writer more than a musician, so it took a lot of time to do
everything. Starting with published stories and trying to match them to
musical accompaniment really dictated that I approach process in a creative
way (i.e., I had to learn and make things up as I went along!) I did
Audiovile because there was interest in an audio book version of my book 100
Jolts, and the publisher gave me the freedom to do something unique to
create one. It all emerged as an experiment, really: I thought I’d just
lay down some moody background music to the stories as I read them
aloud…but the next thing I knew, the music was moving into the foreground,
and I was revising the rhythm of the stories to match the beat, often
pulling out a line I liked and repeating it like a chorus even though the
original story didn’t do that. The stories started to break down into
poems, almost, and I often rearranged the lines. Sometimes I would take the
way a sentence sounded and then build a bass riff around that, and then
explore the rest of the song musically, retrofitting the story to the
sounds. It was a process of discovery and revision the whole way.

So, yes, I made a lot of mistakes and I did have to try on different hats to
“get into character” (for example, I used a british accent to tell a Xmas
story… It just ‘fit’). There were a number of tracks I recorded that were
good, but which I abandoned (some of these are on an EP called “Live and
Vile” that was bundled with the special edition of my book, The B*tchfight,
from Bad Moon Books this year). The music for “The Seven Headed Beast” was
originally going to be this quirky 80’s-like keyboard track…but when the
words came out it all sounded too much like a wannabe goth teenager getting
all angsty over a PlaySkul piano. So I abandoned it entirely and just went
to the ugliest depths of the bass I could find, pulled out one percussion
instrument for each of the seven heads, and made the whole thing a sick
psychedelic experience. and I’m not done exploring the sonic landscapes of
horror.

3) There certainly is enough material to draw from, is /Audiovile/ something
you will return to one day? Maybe an Audiovile II or Audioviles?

It may be awhile before I have enough material done for an Audiovile II and
I haven’t even spoken with Raw Dog Screaming Press about such a thing yet.
I probably wouldn’t want to just adapt more stories from 100 Jolts, but
instead try to do something new and completely original — maybe even a
concept album of some kind, but with the same approach as Audiovile, with a
focus on storytelling rather than songwriting. But the main problem is
having the time to produce it without help. Audiovile took me about a year
to do — it was as much work as writing a novel, if not more, because I did
virtually all the songwriting, sound production and instrumentation on my
own. I even had time off from my day job as a teacher (I was on sabbatical)
which really helped. I haven’t really thought about doing a sequel, per se,
but I definitely will continue playing around with sound and I’m sure to
post successful experiments online as I make them. I have a feeling I might
do my own limited EP (like “Live and Vile” in the future for fans, if I
don’t ever get around to Audiovile II. But right now, writing has a
priority over messing around in the studio.

4) /Why Zombies Lumber /is a great insight to why they do what they do, how
did the idea come to you to match up zombies and dreams?

This is one of those instances where the idea came to me as I wrote the poem
(which first appeared in my book, Rigormarole, before I set it to creepy
music on Audiovile). I had the title first — “Why Zombies Lumber” — but I
didn’t have the reason why set in my mind yet. As I wrote, it came to me
that there might be a motive behind why they hunger after brains that has
less to do with the stomach than with the soul. So why not a hunger for
dreams?

I like “Why Zombies Lumber“… It has this creepy distorted guitar buzz that
almost sounds like something Jimmy Page would do live — and I was trying to
pretend I was the horror equivalent of Laurie Anderson on the vocals so it
turned out really sick and weird and funny.

5) Cow Cafe’, probably my favorite track on the CD, I cannot enter a
Starbucks now without thinking of cows in the back room. Was there a
specific cafe’ you went to that gave you inspiration for this?

Nice catch. The inspiration for “The Cow Café” was actually the restaurant
in the hotel for World Horror Convention held in Kansas City a long while
ago. They had this artsy and colorful paintings of cows on the wall. I
thought it was odd to be chewing the meat of those cows, while looking at
them treated in such a highbrow fashion at the same time, right there in
front of my face. I took the concept literally and then ran with it in a
different direction, pulling in the popularity of coffee shops along the
way…and the story wrote itself.

Here’s a “behind the music” moment: Adding that song to the disc was
actually a last minute choice and unlike most of the tracks on the CD I did
the vocals BEFORE I had a beat or music; when I did the second take I just
riffed on an acoustic bass along with the words and later added a jazz
club-styled drum and some acoustic guitar strums that you can barely hear.
Turned out pretty good! I put it on Audiovile because it always went over
well at live fiction readings, and it worked better than a story called
“Stress Toy” that I originally had planned to use. (In “Stress Toy” an
infant is tortured, and I had the sound effects for that on the song, and
when I listened to it I realized that people might not have found that one
as funny as I did.)

6) In the CD cover you state that the recording is ultimately for your dad,
Andy Arnzen, who did it first and did it best
. Can you elaborate on that
for us?

Great question! My dad is a guitar player and in the 1970’s he bought a
four-track reel-to-reel recorder and made this totally bizarre concept album
that makes Audiovile sound like child’s play. It included not only some
amazing music (my dad can make the guitar sound like a jazz saxophone!) but
also some over-the-top lyrics (quick example: there is an inexplicable
chorus he used to sing to me — his child — from one of them that goes, “My
child, myself, who is my MURDERER!”). The album mixed in sound bytes he
recorded from TV, like an excerpt from a Reverend Jim Jones TV movie, and
weird snippets from a Tom Brokaw interview with Charles Manson. And this
was in the 1970s — long before hip hop sampling or death metal. The demo
never got much distribution, but it did get hand-carried overseas and was
shared in the music scene…my dad swears that Throbbing Gristle probably
borrowed ideas from it. I wouldn’t be surprised — my dad is a genius.

His first response to Audiovile was “Amazing stuff, but it sounds like
you’re having too much fun…” He’s right!

7) You’ve written several things in the horror genre, have you ever written
or do you have a desire to explore other genres? If so, what ones?

I’ve dipped my ill quill into a number of genres in the past, because to me
every project is a new experiment and I like to see where genre conventions
will take me. Science fiction and noir crime thrillers are the two genres
I’ve been attracted to on the side, but the truth of the matter is that
horror so saturates my thinking now that I’ve come to think of it as a
worldview rather than a genre anymore. I write stories of all kinds that
are filtered through that worldview and I don’t consciously try to write
“horror stories” anymore. It’s just that horror venues are the most
receptive to that worldview, and tend to publish my work — and horror fans
find it fun, too. I don’t mean to say that I’m stuck in a type, though,
because not only do I always feel like I’m doing something fresh and new,
but also because I feel horror is the most open, flexible, and experimental
genre there is: it’s the genre where the unexpected is the only thing
that’s expected and I enjoy playing with ideas that way.

8) When the impending doom-plague of zombies breaks out, what will be the
first thing you would do, and where on the planet will you go?

I’ll pick up a camera, and record my survivalist journey to Hollywood.
(They might not be much of a safe haven, but it sure would be fun to have my
brain eaten by a beautiful movie star once I arrived).

9) What is your favorite color?

Rust red, the color of the scab.

10) What were the last 3 books you read?

Matt Warner’s Horror Isn’t a Four-Letter Word (Guide Dog Books)
Thomas Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco (Mythos Books)
Jeffrey Sconce’s Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to
Television (Duke U Press)

I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately, I guess. Usually that feeds into my
fiction writing. By the way, your readers might want to know that I do book
reviews of my favorites every few months in The Goreletter:
http://www.gorelets.com/blog/dept/not-dead-yet-print-reviews/

11) What were the last 3 movies you saw?

Teeth (Lichtenstein, 2007)
Pineapple Express (Green, 2008)
Gone Baby Gone (Affleck, 2007)

What an odd mix to watch back-to-back, eh? I also list “odd triple
features” in The Goreletter that your readers might like:
http://www.gorelets.com/blog/dept/our-odd-triple-feature/

12) In closing do you have anything you would like for me to plug for you?
The floor is yours!

The best way that folks can keep up with me is to subscribe to my free
newsletter, The Goreletter, over at
http://www.gorelets.com/ I try to treat
it like a creative workspace and I post original work in there, along with
contests and things every horror fan would like. My most recent books are
Proverbs for Monsters — a “best of Arnzen” retrospective from Dark Regions
Press that won the Bram Stoker Award for Fiction Collection — and the
novella, The B*tchfight — a raucously disturbing story about children who
are raised as combat fighters from Bad Moon Books…both would make good
Xmas presents for the naughty people on your list…even if it’s only
yourself.

Michael, thank you for your time and thanks for the interview!

Anytime. This was a lot of fun, and I appreciate talking with someone who
so closely listened to the CD. You truly are a madman in plaid flannel.
And THANK YOU for feeding the hoarde at the Zombie Mall!

 
For those of you interested you can visit my main site www.ZombieMall.com and check out Michael Arnzen’s CD Audiovile and listen to some snippits of some of the tracks, buy a copy or three while you are at it!
 

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2 Responses to “Interview with Michael Arnzen of Audiovile”

  1. Reece Khan says:

    Josh Groban is one of my favorite classical-pop singer after Hayley Westenra;`*

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