Music & Fantasy with Peter V. Brett

Sci-Fi Songwriter John Anealio sits down with Fantasy Author Peter V. Brett to talk music and its relationship to writing and Fantasy.


John Anealio: What was the first album that you bought with your own money? Do you still listen to it now?

Peter V. Brett: 1984 by Van Halen. I’m not positive I actually BOUGHT it in 1984, but it was still popular at the time. Might have been 1985. I was 11 or 12 at the time, and had just gotten a Walkman, the cassette tape player that was the absolute height of portable entertainment at the time. It was about the size of a paperback book, but not some wimpy 80,000 word media tie-in novel. I’m talking a The-Name-of-the-Wind-sized paperback. And heavier. It would play one ENTIRE cassette tape… if you flipped the tape halfway through. That was like ten songs! Truly I grew up in a golden age.


I had wanted a Walkman the moment I saw the commercials and saw people jogging around with them. Music wherever you go, drowning out the world with sweet melodies or rockin’ tunes? It was a bookish introvert’s dream. But they were expensive back then, and it took me a few years of cajoling before my parents relented. At the time, I had a bare handful of cassettes, mostly inherited (stolen) from my parents, or copied onto blank tapes for me by my older brother. Basically it was like four Beatles tapes and a Kenny Rogers album.

So I took my allowance and whatever money I had scraped together shoveling snow and raking leaves to a music store (Musicland?) on Main Street in White Plains, New York. It was across the street from Sam Ash, where my brother had gotten his drum set (I called it “Sam Ass”, and thought myself quite the comedian).

Anyway, I picked up 1984, and for a while, music began and ended there for me. I forget exactly why I chose it–probably on recommendation or in imitation of my big brother, upon whom the sun rose and set. Regardless of the reason, I think it’s a selection that stands the test of time. 1984 is a great fucking album, even today. I don’t listen to the album as a whole in proper in order as often as I should, but many of its songs are still in rotation in some of my usual playlists. Weren’t we all a little Hot for Teacher at some point in our lives?

JA: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what?

PVB: Always. I listen to music constantly. In the car, on the train, in the shower, while exercising, working, reading, writing, you name it.

The “what” is a more complex answer. I listen to a wide variety of music based mainly on my mood. Sometimes I want instrumental and sometimes lyrical. Sometimes rock or metal, sometimes dance or pop. Sometimes I want soothing female vocals, and other times I want to feel like the singer just kicked me in the balls. It all depends.

Some of the artists on my writing playlists include: Florence + the Machine, Medieval Baebes, Audioslave, Loreena McKennitt, the Decemberists, Drive-By Truckers, Iron & Wine, Clutch, Apocalyptica, Simon & Garfunkel, Beast, Lady Gaga, David Garrett, Tori Amos, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Milla, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and the Matrix Soundtrack. Lots of movie soundtracks in general.

JA: One of your characters (Rojer) is a musician. What is the significance of music in your books and did you base Rojer on any real musicians?

PVB: I think a lot of the gifts I give to my characters are traits I wish I had. Fearlessness, confidence, brilliance, an ear for foreign languages, etc. One of the many musical instruments I failed to learn how to play in my youth was the violin. That is a hard instrument to even get passable at, much less play with real skill. No doubt that played a part in my making Rojer a prodigy.

I didn’t base the character on any real musicians, though he was influenced in some ways by the bard archetype common in fantasy stories. As with everything else, though, I tried to approach it in a unique way. Rojer is a crippled boy full of self-doubt who finds solace in music. It is the one constant in his tragic and tumultuous life. Music and art have always been a solace and escape for me, so I guess I passed some of that on to Rojer.

JA: List your Top 5 Albums of All Time.

PVB: Man. That is a hard question, as it is so dependent on my mood. I did a loooooong blog post about this a couple of years ago. You can find it here. I’ve been looking over that list and my more recent musical acquisitions to see if there is any movement. There is–quite a bit, in fact. I’m gonna go with:

  1. Ten – Pearl Jam
  2. Led Zeppelin III – Led Zeppelin
  3. Master of Puppets – Metallica
  4. Undertow – Tool
  5. Picaresque – The Decemberists

Want more? Check out these podcast interviews with Peter V. Brett over at The Functional Nerds and right here at SF Signal.

One thought on “Music & Fantasy with Peter V. Brett”

  1. Having zero musical talent, I do find the intersection of genre and music interesting in a “you are more creative than I am” sort of way.  

    In the RPG world, some friends of mine like to make soundtracks for their characters, or their games. I have also read F/SF novels where there is a “soundtrack” to the book. I’ve learned about some interesting music that way.

     

     

     

     

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