(Dies ist die englische Originalfassung des Interviews. Eine deutsche Übersetzung von Thorsten Panknin findet sich bei der Deutschen Lovecraft Gesellschaft. Weitere cthuloide und musikalische Themen finden sich unter dem Tag Cthulhu.)
In 2006, Gary Hill published “The Strange Sound of Cthulhu” (Review in German, playlist) – the most comprehensive book on cthuloid and Lovecraft-inspired music to date. Other projects of his are the “Music Street Journal”, the publishing house “Tale of Wonder and Dread Publishing” and writing fiction. We asked Gary about (horror) music, new publishing projects and what he listens to for fun. Enjoy!
You wrote an entire book about music inspired by Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos: „The Strange Sound of Cthulhu“. Where did you get the idea for that project?
I had been doing Music Street Journal for quite a few years at that point. Additionally I had written for places like All Music Guide and others. I thought that I should try to write a book. It seemed like the next logical step for me.
The only problem was, I didn’t know what kind of book I wanted to do. I thought about the band Yes because that is (and was at the time) my favorite band. There were already several books out about them, though. I didn’t really see what I could bring to it that hadn’t already been done.
So, I started thinking about my other interests. I was a big fan of Lovecraft by that point, and I had noticed that there was a decent amount of music related to Lovecraft’s works. Since there wasn’t a book like that already out there, it seemed a great fit for me, given that I had already established myself as a music journalist.
15 years after: Plans for a second edition
More than 15 years have passed since the publishing of „The Strange Sound of Cthulhu“. I heard there will be a new, revised edition some time in the near future. Can you tell us about it?
I’m planning to release the new edition on the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first edition. So, that will mean on Lovecraft’s birthday (August 20th) in 2026. I have been thinking about it for a long time. Within a month after I published the first edition, one of the artists I had sent questions to a year or two earlier sent me his answers. So, almost as soon as it was published, it was outdated.
Since that version was published the world of Lovecraftian music has exploded. I also managed to ask some questions to some other people I hadn’t been able to reach first time around. So, it is really due for an updating.
Every time I looked at it, though, it looked like such a chore. It becomes pretty consuming when you get into doing all the research. I was never ready to commit to it. So, I’ve been taking it more slowly this time. I think I have about 30 or so pages added so far. I’m planning to get more heavily involved in the new edition later this year so I make sure it’s ready to go by the deadline and that it’s as complete as I can get it.
I’m not getting any younger, so I can’t see myself updating it again 20 years after that, so it will likely be the final edition ever. I want to get it as close to perfect as I can. I gave up on the idea of ever achieving perfection a long time ago. You get something to the point where you can live with it, and let it go. If you wait for perfection, you’d never get anything out in the world.
What else to expect in v 2.0?
How long did it take to write the first edition – including research, correspondence, interviews etc.?
I think it took three or four years. So much of that was research, tracking down music, tracking down musicians. I wrote it in small pieces and then worked on assembling it all into something cohesive.
It seems, the first edition mainly focused on Hard and Heavy music. I guess that’s because there wasn’t too much orchestral or electronic cthuloid music back in the day. Will you include the vast landscape of ambient, electronic, orchestral artists in the second edition?
I don’t know if I would characterize the first edition that way. Yes, there was a chapter on punk rock, and two on heavy metal. There was also progressive rock, psychedelia and a lot of other stuff, too. Metal certainly has more Lovecraftian music than other genres do. There is even a sub-genre called „Lovecraftian metal“ now. I tried to work everything that’s Lovecraft based in, if I can. Last time I made a conscious effort to not include filk, though. I’ve thought about it, and might include that this time. On the other hand, that might warrant a separate book because there is so much.
Cthuloid music exploration
How do you do your research and how do you explore the world of cthuloid music?
I did a lot of Google searches looking for lists of music said to be Lovecraft based. I joined groups devoted to Lovecraft and asked for suggestions.
Once I had my list of items (which kept growing as the project went along), I started digging around trying to make contact with the artists. Having done Music Street Journal for long enough by that point, I knew how to do that, and how to approach people. Still, I wasn’t able to reach everyone I wanted to get in touch with.
I also tried to find all the music so that I could listen to it. That involved borrowing music from friends, getting sources to hear it from artists, and anything else I could think of. These days that will probably be easier because more stuff is available online.
What was the biggest surprise to you while working on „The Strange Sound of Cthulhu“?
There were a few. One was when I discovered that there is actually a group of people who think Lovecraft’s mythos is real. I wound up bouncing emails with a guy for months who was the leader of one such group. They believe that on his death bed Lovecraft confessed that all of it was true.
I think the one that was the biggest takeaway for me, though, was how that Lovecraft fandom was almost tribal, for lack of a better term. Pretty much everyone I managed to get in touch with was so enthusiastic and interested in the project. I stayed in email contact with quite a few of them over the years, and got to know them as long-distance friends. It was really the passion for Lovecraft’s work that was a binding force, creating an instant connection.
Music just for fun
What music do listen to in your spare time (if you still can listen to music just for fun)?
I listen to music a lot. During the week, if I’m not listening to music to write about it, I generally have my 300 disc CD changer on shuffle, and on the weekends it’s vinyl. I have pretty eclectic tastes. My three favorite bands are Yes, Black Sabbath and Hawkwind. Beyond that, though, I love everything from The Residents to Tori Amos, Judas Priest, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Rush, Motörhead, a lot of punk rock, jazz and even classical. My favorite jazz album of all time is John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things. Sibelius‘ Finlandia is my favorite classical work.
My CD changer has stuff in it ranging from a lot of the artists I already mentioned to Kiss, Metallica, Iron Maiden, The Dead Boys, The Doors, Dream Theater, Scorpions, Queen, Jefferson Airplane, Rainbow, The Beatles, Spock’s Beard, The Grateful Dead, The B-52s, Devo and more. It is tough to pin me down on any one type of music.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Well, I guess that while The Strange Sound of Cthulhu was my first book, it was definitely not my last. I’ve written and published quite a few books since. The next one was a book containing interviews with musicians about the music that inspired them to start creating their own music. Since then I’ve published all the Music Street Journal articles in book form, launched a publishing imprint focused on science fiction and horror and released a number of other books.
Under the Tales of Wonder and Dread imprint I published three short novels or novellas of my own (Wizard Song – science fiction/space opera, The Homestead – home invasion horror and It Ends in the Graveyard – creature feature horror) along with compilation books, the first two novels of a trilogy of dark urban horror leaning fantasy from Elizabeth Lynn Blackson and more. I also run something called „Spooky Ventures“ that is based around YouTube videos of the Spooky variety including interviews, reviews and lots more. All my projects can be accessed via GaryHillAuthor.com. You can find Music Street Journal at musicstreetjournal.com. Spooky Ventures is at SpookyVentures.com.