The Musical Drug

The only thing that takes up more space in my brain than movie quotes is music lyrics. I do not have a regular physical happy place where I write all my tales of horror, romance, and bad puns. I am a semi-regular at a local coffee shop here in town where I have written quite a few tales whilst sipping a very large chi latte. The library is my second choice. The ladies who work there always greet me with a smile and friendly conversation. The very last place I write is at home, sitting on the couch with kids, wife, animals, television, and video games all calling for attention. The music on my iPod is how I tune the real world out and reach my safe writing space.

There have been so many great songs and albums created that I have listened to during my short time on this planet. Fantastic artists have taken me on journeys to places I thought I would never go, or would never go willingly, and they have enhanced the experiences of my life first-hand.

I incorporate music into many of the stories I tell. I often write yarns veiled in the lyrics of the Beatles, Clutch, Tool, Ray Stevens, Megadeth, commercial jingles, and many others. It helps get my creative juices flowing and lubricates the process with emotion.

I labor under the delusion that there are three things can touch your soul “in person” per say: the spoken word, a great book, and music (I know there are paintings and sculptures out there, but I personally have never been moved emotionally by one. Also, I don’t like the theater/plays. I respect the art form, I just don’t go).

I have had many lengthy discussions with various people about music and I have come up with my top 5 albums that in addition to being perfect from beginning to end, aid in my daily writing. Keep in mind this is what works for me. As a writer or someone who aspires to be a writer, we all have different muses. I’m not trying to convince anyone that my way is right or wrong, but I will say that you are missing out if you don’t have something in your life that inspires the way music does me.

#5 Album — Like Swimming by Morphine (1997)


Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album HERE

Favorite Track: Empty Box

Morphine is classified as an alternative rock group hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts. This album is one of my ultimate “chill” albums. On many of the tracks there are often only two instruments playing, much like the White Stripes, but it is not always a voice, guitar, and drum. Sometimes it’s a saxophone and a drum, or just a voice and a guitar, or a bass and an organ. Every song has a story to tell and takes you to a different place. This album delivered me through many tough times growing up and its creativity never ceases to amaze me even over twenty years after its release. Interesting side note, I was dating a hippie who gave me my first copy of this album.

#4 Album — Frizzle Fry by Primus (1990)


Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album HERE

Favorite Track(s): A tie between Too Many Puppies and John the Fisherman

The first time I ever heard of the band Primus was on the movie Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey during the battle of the bands scene. The next time I heard them was this album. My friends in high school all had unique tastes in music and thankfully Primus was one of the bands they listened to nonstop. We would all laugh and marvel at this amazing album. Years later, after gaining a larger appreciation for music, I am still able to be continually impressed by this album. It is wonderfully weird and complex in the best of ways. Les Claypool is a bass god, contrary to what the latest dub step DJ or rapper might claim. Les is a once in a lifetime talent on that instrument, and he puts in work on this album. I challenge anyone to find a group that is more uniquely creative than Primus.

#3 Album — American Standard by Seven Mary Three (1995)

seven mary three - american standard Front

Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album HERE

Favorite Track: Lame

This is probably the most pure of all my musical picks. No gimmicks, outside of one song that is just drums and vocals, and just straight up great music. The vocal style of Jason Ross is unique to this band and is worth more than its weight in gold. Every song on this album should only be played a max volume. Each song tells its own story in an outstanding display of both hard hitting sound and lyrics. American Standard just makes me feel good when I listen to it. It stands alone among the other music of its time.

#2 Album(s) — Blue Lines (1991) and Mezzanine (1998) by Massive Attack

blue lines

Photo credit HERE 

Listen to the whole album Blue Lines HERE

Favorite Track Blue Lines: Hymn of the Big Wheel


Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album Mezzanine HERE

Favorite Track Mezzanine: Teardrop

Words cannot describe the void that Massive Attack fills in my musical life. Massive Attack is one of the few groups that can be playing as background white noise and still instantly send me to another head space. I have almost their entire discography, but these two albums, in my opinion, define what the band is all about. These two albums are probably the most listened to when I want to do an extended writing session. Someone usually has to make physical contact with me before I even notice they are there if I am listening any of their tracks.

#1 Ænima by Tool (1996)


Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album HERE

Favorite Track: Pushit

This was the album that changed my life forever, and I am grateful. I first saw Tool in concert in Dayton, Ohio in 1996. The opening song was Third Eye, and I was addicted for life by the end of the set. This band is the reason I love music. Maynard has a gifted voice, Danny has been voted drummer of the year numerous times, Paul and Justin’s bass tones perfectly complements Adams guitar-work. This album touches on a wide variety of subjects from science, to magic, to Scientology, to a love of comedy, and so much more. I could probably write a research paper on the various topics and influences that this band touches on in a near 80-minute experience. This band is deeply connected to every aspect of the art of music and showmanship.

Honorable Mention for an Individual Song: Jidenna — Hail to the Chief (listen HERE)

Favorite Line / Lyric: Now they say “Jidenna why you dressing so classic?” / I don’t want my best dress day in a casket

Is it a coincidence that all my favorite albums were released in the 90s? Absolutely not. The 90s had one of the biggest influence on my life and played a crucial role shaping who I am today. It was a musical awaking for me, and I am forever grateful for it. I could fill up twenty more pages writing about all my musical influences and favorites, but it felt right listing just the top 5. My musical tastes currently number over 20,000 individual songs from all genres of music and that number grows daily.

I hardly ever shy away from talking about anything musical. I enjoy hearing about how other lives are affected by music. My writing is better because I have music in my life. Much like books, music helps to take me to places I would not be able to reach on my own. It is, for lack of a better term, my drug of choice.

Good luck and happy writing!

Arthur Unk

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