Pop Questions: To Sleep, Perchance to ****

Grown Backwards, David ByrneGrown Backwards is an incredible album.

I’m a huge fan of David Byrne’s work as both the frontman for Talking Heads and as a solo artist. He’s an acquired taste, but one I’d say is worth acquiring. And as much as I love his music in general, Grown Backwards, I think, is his strongest album front to back. (It’s predecessor Look Into the Eyeball puts up a damned good fight, though.)

Seriously. It’s great. Go buy it. Listen to it for a few years. THEN FINISH READING THIS POST OK

Okay. So, there is one song on the album that leaves me wondering about something. It’s embedded below, and you should listen even if you don’t give a crap about helping me with my question, because it’s an excellent song with a pretty adorable guitar line.

It’s called “She Only Sleeps.” And that might be the clue to my answer right there, but I’m honestly not sure. See, the entire line in the chorus is “She only sleeps with me.”

And that can be interpreted two ways.

So, here’s my question: When Byrne says “she only sleeps with me,” does he mean…

a) He is the only man with whom she has intercourse, or
b) They literally slumber together, and that’s it.

They’re mutually exclusive possibilities, and I go back and forth on how I hear the song. Byrne’s dreamy, detached delivery doesn’t tip the scales for me either way. He could be loosely bragging, or just spinning a little story about unrequited love. (It’s unrequited in the verses, at least. But you may hear something a little more behind the music.)

And even if he is bragging…couldn’t he brag about either possibility? Either he alone is enjoying sex with this force of carnality…or he’s the only one that gets to know her in a non-sexual way.

Either is brag-worthy, but it’d be two very different kinds of people doing the bragging.

In reality I’d guess Byrne would be more fascinated with the other side of her life: the one that you can only see when she’s resting from a long night of topless dancing, hard drinking, car crashing…the life she lives when she’s quiet. Helpless. Stopped in her revelry by the most basic need of all…the need for rest.

But that doesn’t mean that that’s what his character is more fascinated with.

So, what are we hearing in “She Only Sleeps”? What do you hear?

Is it the self-satisfied croon of braggadocio, rubbing it in that he has what you want? That while she might light fires in your chest, his are the only ones she tends to?

Or is it a quieter, shyer singer, one whose electric guitar plays softly so as not to wake her, as he discovers in her sleeping form a woman that those who lust after her never get to know?

Does she only sleep with him? Or does she only sleep with him? The phrase gets emphasized both ways verbally…but how are we meant to take it emotionally?

Either way, the singer has some definite issues of female ownership to work through. But I’d be curious to know in which direction he needs to steer.

Drive-in Saturday

Detective Fiction, Philip J Reed

David Bowie died yesterday. I was tempted to write something about his passing, but, ultimately, I decided instead to post something he’d already inspired me to write: a chapter of my still-unpublished novel, Detective Fiction. You can find a little background on the project here, which may help with context. Every sequence in the story was inspired by at least one piece of music, and Chapter Twenty’s flashback to the time Billy Passwater met a girl whose life he is about to ruin — the calm before the calm before the storm — was inspired by one of Bowie’s. I’m posting it now to share with you, if you’d care to read it. And his passing reminded me, and inspired me, to keep writing. I’ve started another project this very evening, and it’s the first fiction I’ve written in over a year. It’s a productive mourning. Thank you, David.


When he heard from Helena that night, he was in his car outside of the Thornweed house where, as ever, nothing was happening, could happen, or was going to happen. He’d given up on reading about Super-Spider’s self-proclaimed “Love Quest” after the hero — his city in villainous chaos around him — spent an entire comic presenting a didactic lesson on Dating Education to the elementary school children.

Dating Education was meant to precede Sexual Education (or so Chester Kenneth Thornweed explained in one of his increasingly intrusive authorial asides, each of which featured illustrations of himself looking suspiciously fit), and it would teach the children the various skills they needed in order to get close to the boys and girls that they liked. Sexual Education was fine, Super-Spider explained, but how was anybody to get to that point in the first place?

Why Super-Spider was so interested in facilitating sexual contact among grade-schoolers was — thankfully — neither questioned nor discussed. Thornweed even inserted a lesson plan that he had drawn up, consisting of activities, projects, and a 50 question multiple-choice exam with the answers at the back of the comic book.

Billy closed the binder and decided to return this issue, and the pile of other issues he hadn’t read yet, to Thornweed in the morning.

When she called him, his feeling was one of relief. There was something refreshing about her, about seeing her name when the phone rang, about hearing her breathe, “Billy, hey!” when he picked up the phone.

Helena Silvering was a flight attendant he had met years ago in Pittsburgh at a crew tavern called The Landing Strip. He saw her across the room, still in her blue uniform. Her reddish brown hair was done up professionally, and she had the round and chubby cheeks of a teenager, which she had been not long before they met. She was presumably in the company of her fellow hosts and hostesses, and Billy was with Caitlin and her brother, downing a few drinks for the ride home, and he was in the process of conjuring up an excuse to drift her way and steer her someplace quieter when he noticed that her lips were moving…but she was not talking; she was singing along to David Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday,” which had just started playing on the jukebox, and it looked like she was getting the words right as well, so he stood up and, pretenses be damned, decided to speak to her on that account alone.

She stood up to make it easy on him. They met halfway across the room and she presented herself to be held, and they both told each other what a great song it was, and that was all they said until it was over, moving slowly, hazily drunk against each other, and she felt so temperately cold, as she always would when he touched her, as she always would every time he touched her, and there was something about the sincerity of the night, the conditions and the context of the meeting, that made him behave himself. He kept his hands above her waist…and not that far above. He moved in to kiss her, but did not, and she sighed, because she wanted him to move in to kiss her and then not. It was the closeness she wanted, and that much he could give her, and wanted to keep giving her, and would, every so often, when circumstances and schedules aligned, give her again.

He hadn’t seen her since he moved to Florida, though several times she did get the chance to call him from Tampa, where she’d be waiting for some short period for a flight home, or elsewhere, but timing had yet to work out, and they were never able to meet up for drinks or hasty intercourse.

The thoughts of hasty intercourse were relatively distant in his mind when he answered her call. She was a welcome distraction from assassins, from dead dogs, from blown cover and tall, beautiful blondes who hated and distrusted him. From debt (he’d gotten his first balance statement for the car and wasn’t entirely convinced he’d ever see the amount due decrease). From family old and new, from whatever it was that Andrew and Les, independently, might have thought about him now, at this point, and about where he was going. From his future. From Debbie Indemnity and her fat, soft thighs and the shoe he’d sent her home without, the one he found beneath a lawn chair in the living room, which was where it had come off along with her shirt…he put the shoe in his closet in case she called, which he simultaneously hoped she would and wouldn’t. From Thomas St. Quentin, who must have thought that Billy was the biggest ass in town, and yet who kept paying him for reasons Billy could not understand. From Roger Jackchick’s boy, and the future Billy felt at least somewhat responsible for not being able to salvage. From Rebecca, who was going to come down after his birthday in August…who had already bought her ticket…who was as good as here already and her baby who was as good as here already, too. From decisions he did not want to have to make and decisions he did not want to have anybody make for him…from dreams and from nightmares and from people he was starting to realize that he missed and would never see again…

“Helena,” he said. “Hi.”

“How are you?” she asked. “I feel like it’s been forever.”

“I feel like that, too,” he said. “I’m okay.”

“What are you doing with yourself now?” she asked. “Are you still looking for work?”

“Kind of,” Billy said. “I have a job now. I don’t know. I might not keep it.”

“Listen,” Helena said. “I only have a minute, but I wanted to call you, because I’m going to be in Tampa for a few nights this week. And I was wondering if maybe you’d like to get together.”

“I would like that, Helena,” he said.

She cared about him; that was what Billy was reacting to. This was a human being who genuinely wished him to be happy. She cared about him more deeply than any family member he had known, she desired him more strongly than any of the women with whom he had shared beds, back seats and bathroom stalls, and she wanted to be closer to him than any friend he had had in his life. She was a perfect girl with endless patience and freckles on her chubby cheeks and a smile that made him smile, too.

He’d never, ever be able to love her.

* * *

On Wednesday the seventh she flew in, and Billy picked her up in the employee parking lot, where she was waiting, out of uniform, with a co-pilot who was still in his.

“Billy!” she said as he approached. For the first time in a month, he left his hat in the car. She threw her arms around him, and Billy couldn’t help but notice how big she had gotten. Not…not fat, exactly…but larger, like her mother. (Whom he’d made sure to identify in photographs.) She’d filled out, and then kept going, and it took him a moment to readjust his expectations for the next few nights. Otherwise, she looked very similar to the girl he remembered, the girl with whom he periodically wondered what his future would have looked like. She was wearing only one earbud, and as she embraced him he heard Pete Townshend singing “You Came Back,” from a mixed CD he had curated for her six years and a thousand miles ago. It made him close his eyes. Maybe she was heavy, now. Maybe it didn’t matter…

The man standing beside her was older than Billy by possibly as many as ten years. He was waiting for Billy to introduce himself, which Billy passively refused to do. There were two men here, right now, and the only pretty girl had chosen him to throw her arms around. He was not about to squander that advantage.

“This is Felix,” Helena said, after a moment. She was still holding Billy’s arm.

Now the man stepped forward, and held out his hand for Billy to shake. Billy took a moment to himself before doing so.

“Felix Deckett,” the man said.

“De wonderful, wonderful kett?” said Billy.

“Be nice,” Helena said, smiling. “He’s one of our co-pilots.”

“Co-pilot,” Billy said, nodding. “Got to start somewhere, I guess.”

“If you need anything later,” Felix said to Helena, taking his hand back, “just give me a call. I’m staying in the area.”

“She won’t need anything,” Billy said. “Did I tell you I got a BMW, Helena?”

“No!” she said. “But I saw you pulling in. It’s a convertible!”

“Yeah,” Billy said. Then, to Felix, “Thanks anyway. Good to meet you though.” And he waved the back of his hand at him as he and Helena walked away.

“Helena,” the man said, and Helena told Billy to wait. She went back and spoke to Felix for a moment, and he kept throwing glances that Billy made sure not to look away from. She laughed after a moment, he did not, and she placed a hand on his arm when she finally said goodbye.

“And so it was later,” Billy said as she joined him again. He made sure to look back at Felix, who waved once. Billy turned away. “Have a nice chat?”

“Sorry about that,” she said. “He’s kind of my co-pilot. We fly together a lot, and he gets a little protective.”

“He seems like a dick,” Billy said.

“No,” Helena said, leaning her forehead on his shoulder. “He’s actually very nice. I think you two just got off on the wrong foot.”

“I did alright,” Billy said, unlocking his car. “He was just a dick.”

* * *

They got into the vehicle, Billy started the engine, and Helena leaned over to kiss him. He held her back for a moment so that he could look into her eyes, and search out that same young girl, the anonymous airhostess in the short blue uniform, underappreciated Bowie lyrics on her lips, and the beat of his band in the tips of her toes. He wanted to see her again, as he saw her then, with his face in her hair and the cool warmth of her neck against him, the smell of daiquiris on her breath, the gentle hum of her breathing, like a soft and constant engine in the distance, speeding a fleet of passengers along into a future they thought — all of them thought — they could comprehend. They’d be wrong. They had to be wrong. Because sometimes the future was the past, and sometimes the future was now, because all he had was now, and days couldn’t last forever, and words couldn’t make wishes come true, as the song went, or basically went, and he pulled her in and he kissed her and he told her that he loved her, because that was what he wanted to believe and because that was what she wanted to hear, and she closed her eyes, and he kept kissing her, and he tasted salt from her quiet tears, and he buried himself in her face and her body and her presence, and shut the world out…the entire world…piece by piece, until there was nothing left.

Only him, and only her.

And in time, he knew, that would be all he needed.

Splatoon’s Demo Was a Celebration of Event-hood

Just a few minutes ago (as I begin writing this) the first of three hour-long, free demos for Splatoon has ended. In a way, it’s odd to require everyone to participate in a demo at the same time (and god knows I’ve read enough grumbling about it elsewhere) but since Splatoon is a competitive shooter, it makes sense. It wouldn’t be much fun, or much of a sales pitch, if someone downloaded the demo just to sit around waiting around for other participants.

It’s also true, though, that Nintendo used this as a pre-release stress test. It was a good marketing move to turn a server test into an interactive commercial, and they might get a sale out of me now that they wouldn’t have gotten before.

But here’s what this Splatoon trial really accomplished: it reminded me that I miss Events.

That’s captial-E Events. In a world where everything is available at the push of a button, we start to lose a sense of importance. We can have so many things at the instant we want them…but at the cost of a reduced value. When it’s always there, and it’s always accessible to anyone who wants it, what is it really worth?

At a very young age (well, before I could drive) I fell in love with attending live concerts. Woodstock ’94 was actually my first concert, period, and it served, I’d say, as a pretty incredible introduction. It was several days long, there was some great music, there was camping, food, vendors…it was a great time. I remember much of it well. It wasn’t a patch on the original festival, I’m sure, but for some little kid discovering live music for the first time, especially in the early 90s, you can’t have asked for much more.

After that I’d see everything I could. Growing up in New Jersey sucked, for sure, but I was within easy commuting distance of Philadelphia, New York, and D.C. Between those cities — and New Jersey’s own venues — I was able to see almost anyone who was touring at all.

And it was great. When the artists — whomever they were, whether or not you even knew their names — put on a great show, it felt that much more special for the fact that it was temporary. Fleeting. You spent your time, money, and effort to get there, and so did everyone around you. You’re there for a purpose…a common experience. You share with a room or a field or a stadium full of people something that would only happen once. Right then, right there, and then never exactly the same way again.

It was yours, and it was theirs. You were in it together. At some concerts I’ve made friends. At others I didn’t talk to anyone I didn’t already know. But the experience was communal. A wave of applause, gasps, sighs…the artists creating — creating — something there for you.

You could have stayed home. Most people, obviously, do. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you choose to make that journey, you get to witness something that will never happen again: that one particular Event.

Concerts still exist, and the reason I bring them up is the fact that they’re still popular. They’re still happening. They’re still one way to keep Event experiences alive, while film events and television events and video game events leak early, or immediately. While we can dial up almost anything we like on YouTube (or less-savory equivalents.) While we can torrent the complete works of almost anyone you’d care to name.

And that’s not, in itself, a problem. It’s magical, to be sure. But, again, it’s magic at a cost.

I remember reading a Bob Dylan biography years ago, in which the author struggled to describe to us the sound of some bootleg tapes he personally obtained. There was something lovely about that…an attempt on the part of the writer to reach the reader and convey the accomplishment of a musician. I was several degrees removed from whatever that song was that the biographer was describing, but I was rapt. I tried to layer it in my mind. I tried to hear it, impossibly, through text.

Today? I could type the name of whatever song it is into Google. I’ll be taken to a streaming version I can listen to right now, a dozen covers of it by amateur musicians, a legal opportunity to purchase it as an mp3 or a ringtone, and an illegal opportunity to download it along with another hundred Dylan bootlegs I never knew existed.

Today I’ll know what it sounds like, easily. Which is nice. I’d have died for that opportunity years ago. But it also robs the listening experience of being Eventful.

I remember when I was very young. Word got around that somebody on my block could beat the original Mega Man. I was skeptical. That game was tough as nails, and I was convinced no human being could finish it without cheating. I wasn’t alone in my suspicion.

So my friends and I got together, and we walked over to this kid’s house. We sat in his living room, eyes glued to the television set, watching him as he tried, over and over and over again, for hours, to beat Dr. Wily and save the world. When he succeeded, the thrill in that room was incredible. It was emotional. There was screaming and there was laughter. You’d have thought we’d liberated Ireland.

In retrospect, I’m sure his Mega Man skills were nothing impressive. He finished the game, which was more than we could have done, but today I can watch any number of people anywhere in the world playing the game perfectly. I could see somebody finish it in 20 minutes without dying. And I have. But it didn’t move me. I didn’t care as much. It was something to watch. It was cleaner, more structurally perfect, more accessible.

But it wasn’t an Event.

Splatoon turned gaming, for an hour, back into an event. “If you want to play,” it said, “we’d love to have you. Here’s when you can come over.”

I don’t know who I played with. I don’t know if I’ll ever meet them, and I’d be surprised if I ever did. (And if I did, it’s not as though I’d know it.) But like all the people I never interacted with at the concerts I attended, they shared an experience with me.

Splatoon was new. It was unique to everyone there. Nobody had prior experience with the weapons or the stages. Nobody had time to strategize. For everybody involved, it was a process of live, communal discovery. And that’s something that I haven’t felt in a long time, and probably ever in terms of online gaming.

Whatever happened, happened. If you were there, you know. If you weren’t, you don’t. And if you attended one of the other two demonstrations, then you know something I don’t. Every experience was valuable, simply because it was fleeting.

I know that this was a one-off (well, three-off) Event, but I would love it if this kind of thing became more common. Once a month, at a certain time, you could log in and play the game with some twist that isn’t announced beforehand. Maybe a new weapon or stage, but it doesn’t have to be anything that substantial. The twist could be that all of the paint is the same color, and you don’t know whose is whose. Or that everyone moves at half speed. Or that every thirty seconds, everyone dies and respawns somewhere else, turning the game into a challenge of orientation as much as it is one of survival.

Those are just ideas, and I wouldn’t say any of them are very good. But I do know that for one hour (which felt, but was not, far shorter) a game I didn’t care much about in a genre I’m still not interested in became a magical experience. What’s more, it was magical because I didn’t get to experience it on my own terms.

In a world of instant gratification, restrictiveness really does feel like a big step forward.

Radio Free Melmac

ALF, "Don't It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?"

No idea why it took me so long to think to do this, but, compiled for your listening enjoyment, here is every song to which the ALF episode titles refer.

I figured this might be of interest to folks who don’t know the songs off the top of their heads. An unexpected bonus is the fact that this compilation is…pretty damned listenable, actually. It’s not a half-bad playlist to have going in the background.

Despite the writing quality of the actual show, somebody on staff had very good taste in music. This is also reflected in the episodes themselves, with songs like “City of New Orleans” and “The Letter” making appearances…but in the interest of simplicity I included only the title songs.

On the bright side, this means I didn’t include any of the original songs written for the show, so your listening experience won’t be marred by hearing “The Asparagus Song,” “You’re The One That’s Out of This World (Sweet Bayy-baaay!!!),” or “We Love to Fart” by The Ochmoneks.

If you do give it a listen (or at least a scan) let me know if there’s anything you think I should change. Since these are scattered all over youtube, I might have missed ones with higher sound quality, for instance. In other cases I had to resort to guesswork, particularly in the case of old standards, which seem to have been covered by every popular vocalist in the history of recorded music. I didn’t allow any covers that were released after the airdate of the show, but beyond that, I just guessed based on what other artists were more explicitly drawn from for the show’s titles.

Then there are cases like “On the Road Again,” a title applied to at least three entirely different (and equally applicable) songs by Willie Nelson, Canned Heat, and Bob Dylan. In other words, while I can guarantee around 85% accuracy, I’d love people to tell me what they think I should change.

This can be a pretty cool resource, and everyone will get to hear how much better these songs are than the episodes they inspired.

There’s a pretty good mix of artists, with only a handful getting two songs in the mix. If you’re interested, those are Billy Joel, The Beatles, Elton John, Judy Garland, Roy Orbison, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, and The Supremes.

Only one artist has three songs represented in the mix, but depending upon how you want to assign the covers, he could have another one or two. Who is he? Frank Sinatra, of course.

Anyway, here you go. 95 songs. (Bear in mind that a small number of episodes were not named after songs, and that fucking Gilligan’s Island episode was named after two songs.) I hope you enjoy them, and maybe discover some great old tracks that’ll stick with you.

If nothing else, skip to “Keeping the Faith” and watch the world’s most gloriously batshit music video.

You’re welcome.

20 Questions: Magnus Pålsson (SoulEye)

Magnus Palsson interview

A while back I reached out to Magnus Pålsson, better known as SoulEye, and best known for composing the stellar soundtrack of VVVVVV. He had just released a metal remix of that game’s soundtrack, MMMMMM and he quickly consented to an interview to help promote it.

Great! …except that when my computer crashed soon afterward, I thought I lost the draft. Only recently did I find it, and it might have been a stroke of good timing, since Pålsson had some technical difficulties with his web-host that prevented anyone from purchasing the album until now. So, while the delay wasn’t deliberate, I’m happy to be able to finally post the interview at a time when you can actually buy the album!

(Also, on a personal note, I can highly recommend Adventure. It’s absolutely incredible, and has been on permanent rotation for me.)

1) How did you originally get involved with Terry Cavanagh? How did your contribution to VVVVVV come about?

VVVVVVFirst of all, thank you for having me on here on this excellent site for an interview! It’s my pleasure to answer your questions.

I had put up some of my music for free download online, and one of Terry’s friends named Charlie asked me if he could use one of my songs for his game. I said sure, as long as I can have a copy of the game when it’s done.

He came back a month later and gave me a copy. The game turned out to be a shoot-em-up where you play a severed dog’s head, raining hot death on evil attacking space-penises that attack you with semen. That game is spunky. It’s called Space Phallus if you want to play it.

Anyway, Terry naturally played Charlie’s game, and liked the song I had provided. (The song is “Retro Tune” and can be found as track number four on my album “S” here.) He emailed me and asked if I wanted to make music for his (then-supposed-to-be) free game called VVVVVV.

I thought it was a great idea, since I’ve loved games all my life, so I was happy to make a songs for the game.

2) How much guidance were you given in terms of your work on the soundtrack? Any specific atmosphere or tempo to reach for?

I got a beta copy of the game. It was using an old c64 placeholder song, but I was largely given free reign. Instructions were limited to just a few adjectives. He would give me the beta, I would play it, and then think, “What does the ideal platformer song sound like in my head?” And then I produced “Pushing Onwards.”

Terry put “Pushing Onwards” into the updated beta, and got inspired by the song so much that he created a new level. And then he needed more music! So I made “Positive Force.”

And then he had that one on loop for days on end, and made another level. And so it went on. We inspired each other, like a symbiotic relationship designed to evolve the game.

At a certain point, I felt there was enough good stuff in there, but I wanted a masterpiece in there, that would stand out for a long time. And thus, “Potential for Anything” was dreamed up.

I cut out entire sections after writing these songs until I got everything “just right.” It took almost a month to complete because of all the structures, details and harmonic intricacies that went into it.

3) I’m not sure I’ve ever read a review of VVVVVV that doesn’t specifically praise the music. Why do you feel it’s stood out to players in a way that few soundtracks have?

I am entirely self-taught when it comes to music, for good and bad. Many people come to me and ask what programs I use, how I get inspired, how to be creative. Sometimes, those who have the hardest time being creative are those who have been taught in various educations that there is a right way and a wrong way to create music. That you should follow a certain structure, follow the rules, and if you don’t do it right, you shouldn’t be in the business of making music.

Of course, this isn’t always the case, and most educations are great. This is not about saying education is bad. And I have a point to make. It’s that if you believe someone when they say that kind of stuff to you, you might unconsciously put a lid on the very thing that made you want to go into music in the first place: your own soul’s unique voice.

For me, music is an expression of my inner life. It’s a way of sharing myself to the world, how I feel. The music I write is therefore “true,” in the felt sense of the word. There have been few places where I’ve forced myself to make music in a certain way. This intuitive way of writing music has also made me make music only when I feel like it. Typically, I like to write music when I’m feeling really good, happy and enthusiastic. If I’m not, the music reflects that.

Given the above, consider that the songs in VVVVVV were written from my heart. They were made without any thoughts on profits, career in music, fans, recognition, future travels, and so on. They were made for the sheer joy of it all. No agenda. All the things that happened later were really unexpected.

4) What was the first album you ever owned?

It was Hey Stoopid (released in 1991) by Alice Cooper. I remember buying it because I liked the music and a part of me thought I became cooler just by owning it.

I would listen to it a few times, but not obsessively. At that point I had no plans for making music. I was just enjoying it. I remember being fascinated how one track was produced so that it naturally flowed into the next at one point. I would hear the click sound when the CD player changed tracks, and keep the same synths playing.

It’s a good album even today, but Alice himself was never my biggest influence. The most enjoyable thing on there was, as I think back to it, was Slash and his masterful play on the guitars.

5) What was the first video game whose soundtrack really grabbed you?

Wizball on Commodore 64. The first minute of Martin Galway’s title track is a stroke of genius.

It made me feel like I was tapping into something magical. Like…welcome to the world of wonders, where anything is possible. I had my C64 hooked up to my parents’ old TV, and its crappy mono-speaker (by today’s standards) was, for once, producing something clear, beautiful, new, and real.

I felt exhilarated by it, and wanted the world to know this feeling, this music, and have the same experience I was having. And my teenage self didn’t give an F. I opened the door to the garden, turned up the music, and hoped the neighborhood would rejoice in this wonderful new discovery of mine, that surely would make all those grumpy grownups a reason to put a smile on their faces. But the only result was my mom telling me to shut it off.

I’m happy to report that by now, my now 67-year old mom likes chiptune music. Well, mine at least. There are a few tracks she plays over and over at her house.

6) What was the first film whose soundtrack really grabbed you? How did it make you feel?

The truth is that I was never aware of being really grabbed by a film soundtrack. The only thing that comes up when I think of early movies with good music is Star Wars (1977). I was still in daycare when I saw that movie, and I didn’t completely get what was going on. The appreciation for that music came later on.

I saw an orchestra playing Star Wars music in my home town of Helsingborg a while back. That was an amazing experience. They played it so true to the originals, but the fidelity and quality of the raw vibrations of the different instruments resonating in my body is something I won’t forget easily.

7) MMMMMM is a complete reimagining of the VVVVVV soundtrack with live instruments in a very different style. What sparked this project? How did you come to collaborate with FamilyJules7x?

FamilyJules7x has a long history of covering game music soundtracks. I remember seeing him do a Super Meat Boy medley, and thought, “that’s cool, I wonder what my music would sound like there,” and a seed was firmly planted in me. Given half a chance, I would make it happen.

But I went on my merry way, and didn’t think of it until way later, when, one day, this subconscious dream was realized, and he made a medley of the VVVVVV music, presumably after a number of requests from his listeners. Or, as he put it: “VVVVVV‘s soundtrack is a work of genius and it’s a crime that I haven’t had a go at these songs earlier.”

Anyway, after popping all my gaskets while listening to that, I wanted to make a full remix album a reality, if nothing else, then for my very own listening pleasure. So I just emailed him and we worked it out. It was one of those “this is right; this needs to be done,” kinds of moments, where my guts had a stronger say than my brains.

I love those moments.

8) Explain “Plenary.” This was a track composed for the game, but which wasn’t ultimately featured, to my knowledge. Where was it meant to have gone?

Allow me to enlighten you. The name “Plenary” means “an adjective related to the noun plenum carrying a general connotation of fullness.”

The track which sounds like this in its original form ) is actually in the game but perhaps not heard very often, since it only plays once, when you complete VVVVVV. Am I to take it you haven’t completed the game?

It was a blast creating this jingle. It has a whole slew of intermingling leads, creating a pompous (in the good sense) fanfare that is fitting of a game complete stinger.

[ed: Believe me, I completed the game! I actually meant “Phear,” not “Plenary.” Magnus was kind enough to explain that track, too, once I’d had my mistake pointed out to me.]

“Phear” was a “song” (it’s more of a sound effect) which appeared on PPPPPP, the game’s soundtrack album, but wasn’t used in VVVVVV. It was supposed to be an Easter egg where if you stood still in a certain room for a long time, the screen would darken, and the creepy sound would start playing over and over at ever-increasing volume. Sadly, it had to be scrapped due to lack of time on Terry’s part for implementation.

9) Name the six biggest influences on your music.

Chris Huelsbeck, Martin Galway, Rob Hubbard, Jeroen Tel, Ben Daglish, and Tim Follin.

You may notice they’re all previous C64 musicians. There are so many others though, and much of what inspires me is unconscious. It’s easy to name these people, as their creations were the music playing during a lot of my formative years. Some of these have gone on to become famous on other platforms as well. Curious fact: one day a few years ago I saw that Jeroen Tel started following me on Twitter. That was a fun moment for me.

10) Name the six biggest influences on your life.

VVVVVVI like how that question was worded. I get to choose any type of influence! I’m going to give them to you chronologically, with the oldest influence first.

1. Games.
I would never be where I am if it wasn’t for computer games. I would play for hours on end, and still do some days, and escape from reality, like so many others. I love it. And at the same time, I’m aware that playing games too much can be detrimental to social interactions, which is where real life is lived.

2. Music.
Obviously. An offshoot from playing games, and hanging around tech-savvy people who liked computers. Music was often a joint interest, and some knowledge on how to work a computer was required to get games working back in those days when it all started. And then it became easy to get music programs working. Suddenly, I found myself at home in making music on a computer, and then I was creating music for others. And now I’m making a living off of it. It’s like I just fell into it.

3. Eben Pagan.
He is a well-known self-development teacher and business coach. He got me started on the road to self-knowledge, which is, like, the best thing ever.

4. Terry Cavanagh.
Again, obviously. And also inadvertently. I never knew what was in store, and how my life would change, after making the songs for VVVVVV. He didn’t either. Terry is one of the most straight-up good guys I know.

5. Decker Cunov.
Decker is transformational coach. If Terry’s influence made external things possible for me, Decker’s influence reshaped my insides in a profound way. With him (and his peers) as a powerful catalyst, I had my mind reset completely after a workshop in personal development back in 2012. I now have a completely different view and approach on life, and those who know me before and after can vouch for me changing.

Because of the great things I experienced in this workshop, I am happy to be part of a worldwide network called “Authentic World.” It consists of people who like authenticity and telling the truth, along with developing ourselves and welcoming different sensations. I educated myself in the subtle arts of the practices that Decker uses in his 6-month course held in your home state of Colorado, and now me and my friends do workshops in Europe in the same fashion, to my great excitement and benefit for participants.

If this tickles your curious bone, more info can be found here. We recently did a workshop in Amsterdam, and if you want to be part of the next workshop in Europe, I strongly recommend signing up for the newsletter.

6. Stefan Molyneux.
Stefan is a philosopher and runs the largest philosophy show in the world. He’s got some 60 million downloads of his stuff, and has almost daily videos put up on his youtube channel. His site is www.freedomainradio.com. If Decker Cunov changed my way of connecting with my feelings, Stefan has changed my way of thinking. He’s radically different than most people, and some of what he says is causing some upsets, but the show contains, in my opinion, healthy and important discussions for any decent human being.

11) The success of VVVVVV must have opened a lot of doors for you, but you haven’t composed for many games since. Are you just being choosy about your next major scoring job?

I have enough material to release a new album tomorrow on my hard drive if I could. There are many reasons for not releasing some stuff. I’ve made music for some games that were shelved at the last moment and now need a new game to make sense, and some games have yet to be released.

To be honest I’ve been dividing my time with other things as well. I’ve been traveling the world and exploring different life stuff. (See my answer to question #5!) I also have a few ideas about making my own game, and am doing research.

The game that is brewing in my mind is a social game about telling the truth or lying, and catching other players doing the same thing. I am still looking for a team on this one (coding and graphics to begin with), and it’s preferable if anyone interested has a solid sense of, and can differentiate between, both objective and subjective truths.

That being said, I’m open for music business! If you’ve got that killer game needing some Souleye TLC, don’t hesitate sending me an email. I would love to make some chiptunes for another fun game. Perhaps they will be chiptunes with some metal infused next time…

12) They’re making a live action VVVVVV movie. Who plays Captain Viridian?

VVVVVVKeanu Reeves. Haha! He took the red pill and became green. Maybe Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt would work as well…let me talk to their agents.

Already confirmed supporting actors are: Christopher Lloyd as Chief Verdigris, Kirsten Dunst as Doctor Violet, Scarlett Johansson as Doctor Victoria, Jim Carrey as Officer Vermilion, and Jim Parsons as Professor Vitellary.

13) Which Mega Man boss has the stage music?

My experiences aren’t THAT in-depth with the series. I’ve played through Mega Man 2 from start to finish, but that was a long time ago.

14) What has your experience been like with fans of your music? I have to assume it’s been positive, as you’ve collected many of their remixes and given them official release on the PPPPPPowerup album.

Oh, the people have been great. Just great. The fans are really nice to me. It’s one of the great things about being in this line of work; you get paid not only in money, but also in little internet hearts! I love my fans. <3 One of the most touching letters came from a guy who had been suffering from depression for months and months, and then he started listening to PPPPPP, and, I don’t know, subconsciously caught on to the subliminal messages that I would never admit to putting in there, because they’re not in there, and anyone who says they are in there haven’t played some of the songs backwards yet because that’s how you really get to…

Wait…I’ve said too much about those subliminal messages. They aren’t there…

Okay, enough with the joking. He claimed that my music helped him out of his depression in a very real way, and was very nice and thankful. His message moved me to tears. When I get feedback like that I sometimes feel like the effect the music had on him alone would have made it worth making the music.

Music is powerful.

15) Name one song that makes you want to turn the radio off every time you hear it.

Oh… I know where this is going. If I bring a song up like that to a friend, they’ll instantly start singing it back to me…

Haha! Well okay, it doesn’t matter. I’ll look forward to getting Rick-rolled with the song in the future.

That which you resists, persists, so… I’m going with a Swedish song called “Hej Monika.”

16) Go back in time and give one piece of life advice to Magnus Pålsson, age 10.

Trust yourself. Find out what your values are, what feels good. Learn how people make meaning out of words. And if the world seems to be doing it wrong, and you don’t quite understand it even if you really try, most likely they’re all doing their best with what they know and the only thing you can do is learn the ways they were taught to do it so that you one day can untangle those webs from yourself and others.

17) Go forward in time and give one piece of life advice to Magnus Pålsson, age 100.

Hey dude, I didn’t think you’d make it this long! But it’s time to face the fact: it’s near the end.

After you’ve said your goodbyes to your, well, to be honest, rather obscenely large family, I want you to have a good time and not fear death. I hear that hard drugs are effective in achieving that.

They’re also addictive and ruin your life in the long run, but there’s no long run anymore, so it’s time to find out what you’ve been missing! Full speed ahead! Geronimo!

On a more serious note though, what I believe is one of the best ways to go is to be in deep connection with your loved ones. Ask them to spend a lot of time with you during those last moments. Knowing that you’ve already imparted what you’ve learned about life with them, and that they’ll be all right. All what we got left is to be with each other, and stay connected for as long as possible.

But then again, that’s true for every moment in life, so why save that piece of advice for later?

18) If you were physically transported into VVVVVV, taking Viridian’s place, how far would you make it before dying?

VVVVVVI would die to the first thing that could kill me, because I’d be in total disbelief and want to see how it feels to die and respawn. If I respawned, I’d be yelling at the fourth wall a lot about wanting to be let out of this Groundhog Day-like spiked-hell existence, or maybe hit on Victoria to create some mini-Vs.

19) Who was or is the handsomest world leader?

Bill Clinton. I’m not that big into checking out political leaders but Bill is definitely charismatic. I even listened to his biography audiobook, read by himself.

20) Your star has risen to the point that every major gaming company on Earth is offering you full creative control over the soundtrack to the next installment of any franchise you like. Which series of games do you give the SoulEye stamp to?

Good question. I went through a bunch of games in my mind before singling out a series, and the honor would go to…


The Street Fighter series. I think I could really do it justice, legacy-wise, and bring something new and fresh to the series. A bit ironically perhaps, as some of PPPPPP (and therefore MMMMMM) has influences from Street Fighter II. But there you go!

BONUS: Say anything to our readers that you haven’t gotten to say above!

I’m going to go out on a limb and give you a poem on life I wrote two years ago.

As I lay my heart to bare
plain for all to see
the pain I carried deep within
is shared, to more than me

The walls containing my fragile heart
came tumbling down, they broke apart
the life I thought was not for me
revealed itself, and it was free

Connected, I would sense the pain
of life, love, death, my sadness
and for the first time in my life
I made sense of all the madness

The cross I now have to bear
is holding pain, for all who’s dear
I want to ease your heavy burden
shoulder all your fear
staying present, to my purpose
I am with you here.

With strength and courage to be weak
I will shelter all the meek
Let me shield you from your pain
I don’t mind, it’s my gain

I must die, it is my path
from this earth I’m torn
And in knowing but this simple fact
my true love is reborn