Richard Kadrey: Five Albums/Books/Movies That Changed My Life

Iggy and The Stooges: Raw Power
I remember hearing the first chords of Search and Destroy and thinking “I’ve been waiting for this music my whole life.” The combination of Iggy’s voice, the poetic violence of the lyrics, the relentlessness of the drums and distorted guitars hit me in a way that nothing had to that point. The album was sloppy and wild. It felt like music by a band that didn’t care how it sounded. It was easy for my teenage self to imagine that they just turned on the amps and went mad. If the best rock and roll makes you want to jump up and break things, Raw Power makes you want to burn down the whole neighborhood.

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
For all the transgressive sex, drugs, and hallucinatory science fiction in Naked Lunch what attracted me to it was the language. Burroughs’ “routines” were hilarious, like jokes whispered between damned souls in Hell. The book was also a portrayal of the street level gutter culture I was just starting to discover by hanging out at 24-hour diners downtown where junkies waited for their dealers, cops waited for the junkies, and pimps waited for their money. Burroughs’ hustling prose was a more controlled and poetic version of conversations I heard every day, some directed at me. These people taught me to lie and to be fast on my feet with a story or a line because I was a kid from the burbs and had to justify why I was hanging around their territory.

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
Dog Soldiers is a tense thriller and hardcore social commentary all in one. This isn’t anything new, but it was to me when I stumbled on it in my early 20s. The crime at the center of the book—a load of heroin smuggled into the US—is shocking not because it’s a dope deal run by a journalist covering the Vietnam war, but because of its utter banality. The deal happens because all bets are off. Politics, morality, and belief in general were burned out by the war. I’d seen my share of crime movies and read plenty of novels but I’d never read anything with the moral exhaustion of Dog Soldiers. Taking a genre story so seriously and mixing it with beautiful prose changed the way I saw storytelling.

Aguirre, The Wrath of God
I’d never heard of Werner Herzog or Klaus Kinski when I saw Aguirre. And I had no idea what I was getting into. I saw the movie once at a little theater in LA and went back to see it again the next day. Aguirre was everything I wanted in movies but seldom got—all beauty and mystery and violence. Popol Vuh’s haunting soundtrack sounded like the music on God’s radio drifting down to Earth. The Peruvian forest where the movie was shot was frightening and oppressive. And Kinski’s performance was terrifying as he descended into madness, his mind becoming as chaotic and primitive as the jungle that swallowed him and his dreams.

Night of the Living Dead
More than Lovecraft or Poe, Night of the Living Dead scared me to death. Maybe it was the modern setting and crude documentary-like filmmaking. I was more used to horror that took place in the past and somewhere far away, but Night of the Living Dead could have been happening in my neighborhood. The slow, shambling zombies haunted my dreams for years. Their armies felt ancient and relentless, completely alien in a modern setting. And the ending was a solid kidney punch. Chaos wasn’t defeated. Things didn’t return to normal. True horror might be pushed back, but it’s never over. That was a hell of a lesson.

Richard Kadrey is a writer living in San Francisco. He is the author of dozens of stories, as well as the acclaimed Sandman Slim novels. The next in the series, DEVIL SAID BANG, comes out Aug 28th.
His Wired magazine cover story, “Carbon Copy,” was made into one of the worst movies of 2001. It starred Bridget Fonda. Sorry, Bridget.

Kadrey created and wrote the Vertigo comics miniseries Accelerate, which was illustrated by the Pander Brothers. He plans to do more comic work in the near future.

He is written and spoken about art, culture, and technology for Wired, The San Francisco Chronicle, Discovery Online, The Site, SXSW, and Wired for Sex on the G4 cable network.

He is also a fetish photographer.

He has no qualifications for anything he does.

You can learn more on his site. You can also find him on Twitter and on Facebook.