Talk to just about any writer you know about their mood music for writing and you’ll get every possible response. At one end of the spectrum you have those who avoid music altogether, the sound of the keys clacking away and the occasional slurp of the writing fuel of choice the only interruption to their perfect silence. At the other end of the spectrum you have writers who have a specific playlist that they write to—the soundtrack to their creative process, if you will. In between, where we find the majority of people, the music can change, but it’s a specific mood we are looking for. Whether it be mercurial synths, invoking the atmosphere of the movies of John Carpenter and others or a churning rock soundtrack, where the lyrics might even nestle their way into your ear and add their own little flourishes to the story—undetectable until it’s finished.
Music and storytelling. They just fit together for many of us.
But what happens when the story inspires the music, rather than the other way around? What happens when you are a musician, and some tales of weird and dark fiction burrow so deep into your subconscious, that all you want to write is the musical equivalent—the soundtrack—to that tale. When that happened to Marc Tams, Hush was born.
It all began when Marc picked up Adam Howe’s collection of three novellas, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet. The first story, ‘Damn Dirty Apes, grabbed hold of his attention and, though he had always mentally created a soundtrack to the horror stories he read, with this one, he felt compelled to compose a song for it. Called Skunk Ape Strut, Marc felt satisfied with the song but, for the time being, simply sat on it. This had, however, revealed to him that these mental soundtracks to his favourite fiction pieces no longer had to stay cooped up in his mind. He could get them down and give them life of their own.
The next logical step was to contact Adam, which he did via social media. After some time, he bit the bullet and revealed the song to him. Adam’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and this gave Marc the courage to push on with Hush and reach out to more authors. His experience has been universally good, with authors being supportive and open to his ideas.
The next landmark moment and the one which really allowed Hush to take off, was with Jeffrey Thomas. Marc found a recording on YouTube of Thomas performing a reading of his story ‘A Matter of Truth or Death.’ Here, it dawned on Marc that what he really needed was exactly this: his music, fused with the author themselves, reading their work. He sent the recording to Jeffrey and he loved it.
Since this time, Hush works collaboratively with authors, discussing the musical themes they each feel are appropriate for the story concerned, as well as what influences and moods they would like to capture. The writing process happens in stages, and he reports back to the author at regular intervals as the layers of the music are added, to get feedback and further input. This has been the process with Matthew M. Bartlett’s ‘Uncle Red Reads the News Part 1 & 2’ and the haunting trailer for S. P. Miskowski’s ‘Muscadines.’
After working with such stellar writers, the Hush project is gaining more renown and also reaching out to new areas. New to the roster is a piece based on the story ‘A New Kind of Drug’ from Mike Thorn’s recent collection Darkest Hours, published by Unnerving, late last year. He is also working on a weird fiction vinyl LP with three as yet unnamed writers on the theme of WWII, with plans to have the record pressed on the same machine which recorded the Nuremberg trials, as well a trailer for a forthcoming collection by Duane Pesice.