Brian Paone

Author // Musician

Drop Kick Jesus' "Depress the Heart" turns 17

Seventeen years ago this month my second band, Drop Kick Jesus, released our second album, Depress The Heart. It was recorded with Grammy Award Winning Producer, Neil Kernon, in Haverhill, MA and then mixed in Tornillo, TX. We moved into both studios during the recording, and it was one of the best times in my musical career.

I was in a weird place during the writing of this album. I was very angry at a lot of things: myself, religion, the state of the world … and I think of the 6 albums I have been the lyricist for throughout my life, this album is the #1 album that shows that much anger and frustration through my lyrics toward things I couldn’t control. This is also the last album I wrote where the lyrics weren’t cryptic or in story form. The 4 albums I wrote after this (the Grave Machine album, the 2 Transpose albums, and the latest Yellow #1 album) all were conceptual and thematic. Depress the Heart was the last album where I was writing individual songs, and the words I chose were very specific about what I was angry about. No reading between the lines.

The album is harsh, aggressive, in-your-face, and even after 17 years, it still sounds current and relative. I’m glad I was the front man for a band and an album that seems to have stood the test of time. Too bad this was our last album before we broke up. I think if there wasn’t so much in-band fighting after we got off tour for this album, we could have written a 3rd and even better album.

My 4th novel is out ... and what a rollout it was!

Well, it's been offered to the world ... and with such a crazy and exciting welcome too. Of my four-now published novels, nothing has compared to the launch of Moonlight City Drive; my supernatural, crime-noir thriller. What started with a Facebook message back in October 2016 turned into a year of the fastest and most grueling writing schedule I've ever had to keep in regards to the writing process of any of the novels so far. It was the first novel that had a strict deadline and a confirmed book release party months in advance--in Cleveland no less!

The book, a rock-fiction novelization of Dog Fashion Disco's Adultery album, is not only revered by the band's fans as their masterpiece, but even some say it might be the greatest concept album ever written. I knew I was stepping into some of the largest shoes one could step into as a rock-fiction author and that the potential for disaster or being blacklisted as a rock-fiction author was a very good possibility if I didn't get it just right. I know, unequivocally, if I mucked up this story and didn't ride the wave of the fans' expectations right on the crest all the way through, there would be public backlash. And the possibility of a large, bearded man hiding in my bushes with a machete, Annie Wilkes-style.

But, I did what any good and professional rock-fiction author would do, I drank a lot of alcohol and used the fans with me, not against me. The band members themselves got involved and were always available and transparent with what they expected from me as the author, and were willing to answer any questions I may have had with some of the more ambiguous lyrics of the album. (Is all their hair REALLY on fire? -- okay, that was never asked but I use it as a humorous example).

Fast forward to November. Moonlight City Drive is finished, edited, printed, and shipped in masse to Cleveland for the big weekend. Dog Fashion Disco hosted a two-day concert event at the Agora Ballroom and, brilliantly, realized we could make it the book's official release party too. The band and myself signed 200 copies of the book as a limited edition version, which was a trip. Sitting in a lobby of a hotel with the band members of the band that I had written the album that I had adapted into a novel, all signing the book. Todd Smith, the vocalist and lyricist of the band, during the signing offered me the best review of the book I could ever receive: "Brian, you really hit this one out of the park..." That was all the validation I needed for the 6 months of outlining, 4 months of writing, and 2 months of editing that had gone into the novel.

This is also the first novel where I had merchandise available for sale as companion pieces to the book. The band approved the "Top Gun For Hire" campfire mug (which is the exact mug the detective main character was given as a birthday gift by his secretary and drinks out of throughout the book), the "Rippetoe's Jazz Lounge" shot glass (which the reader can own the shot glass from the main character's favorite drinking spot throughout the book), and "Desert Palms Motel" and "Rippetoe's Jazz Lounge" matchbooks (which play an important role in the book's action.) 

The reaction from the crowd about the book, once doors opened on both days, was amazing. Nothing but love and hugs from the real Mushroom Cult. Which, this book was really written for. The reviews have started to trickle online and they are all positive so far. I guess I don't have to worry about the large, bearded man in my bushes anymore.

On stage during the second night, before they went into the Adultery portion of the set, Todd officially announced and endorsed the book to the fans, saying the bands' "great friend" and "an amazing writer" wrote the Adultery novelization. From a professional standpoint as a rock-fiction author, THAT is the promised land; having the band publicly endorse your work to their fans. It means they recognize it as part of their "canon", and your work is considered quality enough to add to their brand.

What else could I ask for as a rock-fiction author? Now it's on to see how Digital Underground is going to feel about my adaptation of Sex Packets...

10 years today as a published author ... and the wild ride to get here...

My career as a novelist would never have happened, or at least to the success that I have had, if one of my best friends hadn’t died in 2005. My friend David, the lead singer of the industrial-rock band God Lives Underwater, who enjoyed some commercial success in the 90s, had been struggling with drug addiction, depression, and the throes of the music business since I met him in 1995. We became fast friends, and I was one of the few people who stuck with him through all his highs and lows.

When he passed away in 2005, I didn’t know where the put my grief. I just couldn’t find a healthy outlet for how I was feeling about losing him. It was suggested to me to write a memoir about our friendship, but in novel format so it read more like a story than a journal. My wife was the biggest advocate of me using my grief to write my first novel, and recant all the good and bad times that come with being close to someone who struggles with addiction, and someone who was on major tours, on MTV, and all over the radio. He was a multi-dimensional person, and our friendship was trying and rewarding all at the same time.

Since 1988, I had only written short stories and novelettes. I had never attempted a piece of work beyond 30k words long. So, I started writing what would eventually become my first novel, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, in January, 2006, and it was published in October, 2007—on the second anniversary of his death.

And here we are. Ten years to the day of that first novel being released into the world. What a wild ride it's been. I am on the eve of my 4th novel's release (Nov 6), Moonlight City Drive, and my 4th published short story will be released in the next few months. It's only been over the last two years that I have been dubbed a rock-fiction author (adapting albums or songs into novels or short stories) but my entire ten-year career has been steeped in music, which is my true love in the world. Between Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts being steeped in the touring life of bands and the tribulations that world can trap the musicians in, and my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, stemming from the idea behind Billy Joel's song, "Piano Man," writing about music has been a part of who I am as an author since Day One.

Over these ten years, I have met a lot of my heroes and idols in the music world because of my writing, and I have created friendships among band members that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever make. After I finished Welcome to Parkview in 2010, I honestly thought I only had those two novels in me ... and I was done with writing. Then in 2012, I had a flash of inspiration to try to novelize Electric Light Orchestra's album, Time. The process was so enjoyable and liberating for me as a music fanatic, that when Yours Truly, 2095 was released in 2015, I knew I had found my niche in writing, and I knew I didn't want to stop. Since then I have had three short stories published all adapted from bands' albums or songs (Moby, Jethro Tull, and Porcupine Tree respectively) and my new novel, Moonlight City Drive, is another rock-fiction adaptation; this time of Dog Fashion Disco's album, Adultery.

I started ten years ago writing on a desktop computer next to my CD collection in my bedroom in an apartment that I shared with two other roommates, to now having my own writing office in my house that I share with my wife and four children. The list of bands and albums I have stored in the back of brain to adapt into rock fiction (either novels or short stories) is so extensive, I will probably die before I reach the bottom of that list. The immediate future of my rock-fiction career includes Digital Underground and Pink Floyd.

It's been an amazing ten years. Here's to continue the inertia of heading upward to the next ten years...

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