by Stan Munson
Working in the tech department can be a drag. Even though I’m a sys admin and programmer, people seem to think that one of my responsibilities is to be their personal tech support department for all the usual problems like printers that don’t work or connecting their mobile device to the network.
Fortunately for me, my office, (my lab as I like to call it) is downstairs, away from the main offices and general traffic of the office. While this provides me with some relief from the incessant support requests, people still seem to enjoy leaving their desks and coming down to my lab to bother me about why their browser with 56 open tabs has frozen. The worst part of the bother is that EVERYONE IS CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET. 99.9% of their problems are a simple web search away, but instead they insist on roaming down to my lair like an endless army of undead employees that feed on my time like brains. This used to be my work life, but then, I discovered a secret that changed my work environment forever.
My favorite type of music is horror movie soundtracks, there is just something about the dark and frightening tunes that I can relate to, especially as a backdrop for an office environment. A few months ago, I bought a stereo system at a thrift shop for 12 dollars and set it up in my my office. I immediately started realizing that I was getting less people actually coming into bother me about batteries for wireless mice or extension cords. That’s when it hit me, my spooky tunes were actually keeping people away, like a subconscious auditory warning that made people turn back when they entered the hallway that leads to where I work. Then, I started hearing that people we’re talking amongst themselves about how I must be crazy to sit downstairs all day listening to that twisted music. As soon as I found this out, I started playing my music louder and even installed a covert speaker outside my office door. It seemed that I had discovered a magic trick, a way to keep all jokers and blowhards from thinking that I was their personal member of geek squad.
Horror soundtracks, the office shit-head and general creep repellent, turned my horrible work life into a wonderful escape of ambiance and focus. Today, I not only share this secret with you, I have also provided a list of 5 soundtracks that will allow you to do the same thing at your office. This isn’t a “best-of” list, and is in no particular order, just a list of some of my favorite horror soundtracks and ones that have an excellent ability of making people in my office want to have nothing to do with me. Try it and you’ll see results in as little as 2 days. Guaranteed.
The soundtrack of one of my top 10 favourite movies of all times, Maniac, the 1980s version. Joe Spinell plays a brain-damaged serial killer haunted by childhood abuse, who preys on the innocent women of the city and collects their bloody scalps as trophies, which he mounts to the heads of mannequins. The composer, Jay Chattaway, takes hold of the horrendous situation and weaves an uncomfortable auditory tale of madness and violence that seems to haunt and sooth at the same time. The airy melody that oozes gently from a flute feels like it is played by an evil force as it vibrates through the air. Throw in some weeping, moaning and screaming outtakes from the film featuring the magnificent work of Joe Spinell and you have a record that is guaranteed to keep people from coming over to your workspace to talk to you about anything. The best part about this soundtrack is when people ask what you’re listening to and you reply “The Maniac Soundtrack”, it doubles the effect of keeping them away once they hit Google and investigate what you were talking about. If it’s 2pm and you’re watching the clock tick until quitting time and want to be left alone, try listening to the Maniac soundtrack and see if you don’t feel better afterwards. You definitely won’t be bothered by a boss or coworker to do anything else that day.
Disclosure: Goblin is one of my favorite bands in the world. They have such an amazing repertoire, it’s hard to pick just one album for the purposes of this article. I chose Suspiria because it was the album that totally guided my formative years. After listening to a copy of the Suspiria OST on vinyl in a friend’s basement, my musical life changed, and while I always loved horror soundtracks, suddenly, the genre became the official soundtrack to my life. The main theme’s music box style melody are plucked on a mandolin while breathy lyrics float over top like the smoke from a cremation. The album feels like it was recorded live at some sort of Wiccan ritual, perfectly combining music and sound effects into a record that consumes the imagination, evoking images of bonfires, dark forests, and sacrifices, with subtle notes of absolute fear and terror. If you are going to attempt using horror music to keep your cubicle or workspace free from visitors, this is definitely the place to start.
Prince Of Darkness
“This is not a dream,not a dream…” from the first seconds of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness soundtrack, a plea from another dimension transmitting from year 1999 makes you wonder whether or not you’ll get through the work day before some diabolical force takes over the world. The best part is, that those around you will start to wonder the same thing and steer clear of your desk and surrounding area. Not only is this soundtrack expertly crafted and played, but is a perfect example of an 80’s style synthesizer based musical score. John Carpenter is known for his classic films, but very few people realize that he wrote and played most of the music featured in his films. The son of a music teacher, John’s musical abilities came naturally to him and provided him with the ability to pen the music himself during production of his earlier works. This unique double duty has provided us with some of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time, as the mind who crafted the visuals also created a perfectly matched soundscape. Also check out, The Fog, They Live, and Escape from New York. Zombi Zombi also did a tribute album where they play updated versions of some of Carpenter’s greatest works, which while not quite as spooky as the original, is definitely a worthy update deserving a listen.
The most abstract of the selections, David Lynch’s soundtrack to Eraserhead crawls into your ears and down your collar like a mutated creature over an automated industrial landscape. Much of the album consists of droning interference and repetitive sounds that invoke images of a haunted factory making frozen foods for ghosts. What I like about the sounds and dark droning is that it is the perfect soundtrack to what it feels like working in a shitty job. The noise effortlessly mixes with the ambient sounds of your office creating a truly horrifying audio vision of what work actually sounds like. A work life disguised by a glitzy patina of fancy desk furniture and expensive art, that bosses use to fool employees into thinking they actually care about you. They may not get it, but it’s good to subconsciously remind everyone that that even if you work in a fancy looking office, in the end, we’re all just robots pulling levers and pressing buttons in a factory. This album is best used when a boss or manager is proudly showing off the office to visitors. When asked what that noise is, I will often answer, “What noise? I guess that’s the sound of the office at work.”
When Dark Souls was released, many that played felt helplessly small in its gigantic open world of monsters and misery. I have never experienced a game that had such an effortless ability to create a non-stop feeling of dread and unease every moment that you are playing. But rather than scaring you away with it’s seemingly impossible enemies and levels, Dark Souls creates a connection with the player that makes you keep going deeper into it’s horrible world of dread. Besides the horrific creatures you face, the endless ways you can die at any moment, much of that pit of the stomach sickness is provided by an epic score composed by Motoi Sakuraba. It’s orchestral grandness hints at sanity but most of these songs are played during the most tense and dangerous parts of the game when a grasp on reality is the furthest thing in a player’s mind. While most of your coworkers won’t make the miserable mental connections to these songs that a seasoned player will, there are many tracks that evoke images of giant indestructible monsters from another world like the “Ceaseless Discharge” or “Seeth, the scaleless”. The ultimate track in the game, which isn’t actually on the official soundtrack, is the teeth-itching sound that comes out of a gramophone in the “Duke’s Archive”. This unsettling track is sure to keep any VP of Sales away from your workspace.
As mentioned, these are is not a top 5 list but rather 5 examples of musical scores that are sure to keep pesky co workers, management, and cleaning staff away from your workspace. I hope that you become as empowered with this knowledge as I was when I discovered the music that I loved, doubles as a crummy coworker and tech support request-repellent. Try one of the soundtracks in your office and reclaim your right to work undisturbed.