Desert Island Discs

I have never listened to an episode of Desert Island Discs, but it has always fascinated me. I have heard myriad tales of politicians and personalities being picked apart for their tastes, both real and purported. I expect it to be a rite of passage for anyone making serious headway in British culture.

A person being interviewed takes on the role of a “Castaway”, and has to choose several things, to make their enforced solitude on a desert island more bearable: eight records (pieces, not whole albums, sadly), a book, and a luxury item. The story of those then forms the basis of an interview.

I’ll likely never appear on Desert Island Discs, so I feel I should give you my own list, as recompense.

Record 1: The idea for this post always crops up whenever I hear this tune. Almost unique within my music collection, it is an instrumental, although still a piece of pure metal perfection. It is Rage of the Skullgaffer, by Týr. Týr are Faroese, and a band who are very important to me: when my partner and I first started chatting to each other, I was listening almost exclusively to Týr, so I shared a few pieces with her. We bonded over their songs of Gods and Vikings, and travelled to see them live, although not often enough. Our shared love of all things Nordic later spilled over in to food, books and travel.

Record 2: The next choice is a little more contentious. Covers always divide opinion, but covers of classic bands by other classic bands with very different styles divide doubly. Katatonia are a Swedish band who I cannot seem to find a way in to. Judas Priest are the reincarnation of Black Sabbath, but imbued with 80s leather and lust. The former’s cover of the latter’s Night Comes Down is perfectly judged, and utterly mesmerising. It is cold, Nordic and passionate. Musically, it opened new doors to me, but with the original band, rather than those covering them. Which is rare in my experience.

Record 3: From the gentlemen who brought you Katatonia is a very different beast: Bloodbath. If it hadn’t been for Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost joining Bloodbath, I’d never have heard of them. If it hadn’t been for hearing of Bloodbath, I’d never have found my way back in to the murky depths of the Death Metal in particular, or of Extreme Metal in general. The video for Hades Rising gripped me like nothing else. All of a sudden, my aged fear of unclean vocals began to evaporate, and my record collection would never be the same again. Honourable mention goes out to Behemoth’s input, too.

Record 4: I have, in previous blogs, mentioned the band Nachtmystium, and their divisive nature. As contentious as they are, they have been my favourite bunch of Black Metal miscreants for a long time now, and this song / video kicked it off. Every Last Drop is a descent of a junkie in to hell, and it serves as a reminder to anyone who will listen that drugs are not good. While the subject matter and the video are heart-rending, the music, and the atmosphere it casts make me incredibly happy every time I hear them come on my player. I have listened to this song so many times, I’ve had to stop.

Luxury item: Whisky or food? Whiskey or food? I mean, I do know I could live without whiskey, and that’s a good reason to go with food. But food is hardly a luxury, is it? The kinds of foods I would go with are ramen – one of the first things I learned to cook, and something I still eat on a regular basis to this day – or spicy sauces, like Gochujang or Sriracha: my current condiments of choice. A bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 will only last a fraction of the time of a bucket of chilli sauce, paste or a box of ramen. It’s such a panic decision, the microphone live to the nation, that I freak out and say haggis.

Record 5: I have been listening to hard rock and heavy metal since I was a nipper, and some of the most formative bands from my past need to find their way in, so that is where we are now. If it had not been for Queen I would not have found out that I like very loud guitars, and gone looking for heavier and heavier treats. Derided nowadays as “housewives’ favourites”, Queen were a huge part of my childhood, and Brian May was my hero. Written by him, with some of his most crushing guitar work, Hammer to Fall, is the song that made me realise I loved heavy music. Cheers Dr May.

Record 6: If Queen introduced me to big guitars, Paradise Lost threw open the doors to doomy, dark, miserable metal. If it weren’t for PL I would not have found Black Sabbath, I would not appreciate Depeche Mode, and I would never have even heard of Entombed. I could listen to every Paradise Lost album on shuffle, all the live-long-day. Yet, the one I return to, heretically, is Host, and the cold dark fury of Deep. Yes, I am anathema (not Anathema) to many of my fellow PL fans when I cite this album, this song, as a favourite, but I do not care. Although Eternal is still a masterpiece of gloom.

Book: I love to read, but I no longer do so for show. Telling people books which I love, which have changed me, feels like an exercise in showing off. Trust me, it’s not the bible, and it’s not some kind of “classic” which “people” say you “must” read. The book I come back to is Player of Games, by Iain M Banks, and I do so because it is masterfully done, and beautifully harrowing. Also Use of Weapons.

Record 7: If it weren’t for Nine Inch Nails, I would have no understanding of, or love for, electronic music. Whatever your view of such things, I think that would be a bad thing. Trent Reznor’s ability to create soundscapes dripping with self-loathing, with malevolence, and with melancholic hatred are greater than any who have gone before him. No wonder he makes such beautiful soundtracks now. It may have been Head Like a Hole which drew me in, but it was Deep which kept me hooked.

Record 8: Yes, that is an awful lot of very heavy music there. Do I like anything lighter, I hear you ask. Yes, and some of it is for purely sentimental reasons. Katzenjammer, however, is not. Another one of those bands which my partner and I bonded over – her introduction this time – and which still very much move us to this day. They’re crazy Norwegian folky pop, and they are far better musicians than you. Sadly, they seem to be no more, as a group. There are greedy crows in God’s Great Dust Storm.