Thanks to Tucker Bickler, my tasteful, affordable webmaster, I finally have a blog. Since it will be awhile before I get this epically long post I’m working on finished, here’s a mediocre song from the hundred or two I have written. The mix is very bad. I made it a couple years ago:
If anyone remembers a little show called Are You Afraid of the Dark? then they probably also remember the notorious episode Laughing in the Dark (I know Rob Secker does). AYATD was sort of a children’s “Twilight Zone”. It was also a show on “Snick,” Nickelodeon’s Saturday evening cash cow which consisted of several hours of high-quality, youthfully addictive entertainment. Some great shows came out of Snick, which I have always surmised was due not only to it having the highest viewership of any time during the week other than maybe Saturday or Sunday morning cartoons, but also due to a noticeable shift in the flavor of content vis a vis the light of day.
AYATD was a perfect example. It gave me very much a grown-up feeling, the terror of The Entertainment. There is an autonomy about subjecting yourself to that kind of terror, and is probably the same reason why people watch scary movies. Perhaps this deeper compulsion to watch the show also rubs off on the parent directly or out of concern/curiosity of how scared their own child will get. I wonder if paternal eyes were ever rolled at the timid mettle of a young boy weeping in fright when Zeebo the clown popped out of a funhouse door.
When I found out how to sample audio from internet videos, this was of course the first thing I thought of, and I found the YouTube of it, broken up into several parts. My song opens with the first scene of the show being cleanly sampled while swirly, elongated and abbreviated samples from throughout the entire episode are pitch bent. Next, a guitar that I sampled from something I don’t remember allies with a goofy Nickelodeonesque beat and some samples of “The Midnight Society,” the group of cool, popular kids that gather around a fire to tell the stories, and are featured before and after commercial breaks to sort of bracket the episode’s scarier content with some good-looking, racially diverse teenagers.
The only way to get friends that cool is to tune in at eight PM, enormous bag of off-brand Fruit Loops in hand, and get your adrenaline shot up by AYATD. The Midnight Society also served the purpose I mentioned above of bracketing from the scariness. By using a second layer of fiction (the kids telling the story) to insulate a potential child (who didn’t realize that Dora the Explorer came on at eight AM) from being noticeably scarred by AYATD, Nickelodeon was probably doing a good job of keeping parents comfortable with the channel even if they walk in on their children watching this scene, which is from a different episode:
The beat gets cut off by the ringmaster welcoming the story’s protagonists to the funhouse where the rising action increases in slope. The ringmaster is arguably the most evil character in the episode. Though I’m not entirely familiar with D&D classifications, Zeebo is more of a bad-chaotic antagonist than the ringmaster’s soul-collectorish characterization. The Stevie Wonder sample was a non-sequitur that occupies an amount of sonic space cheaply relative to how much work I had to put into integrating it into the song (time is an issue when you have only four or five hours on Saturday night to finish a song, and a test to study for on Sunday). Having Stevie provide a produced, repetitive melody gave me ample freedom to write a grimy, contrasting drum break (which I have more practice doing) reminiscent of the intro, playing parallel to phasing audio from the kids walking through the funhouse.
I still enjoy listening to this song as it evokes not only the nostalgia of watching AYATD, but also the nostalgia from memories of myself listening to and chopping up the audio of one of my greatest childhood fears, and feeling vengeful.