David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks has returned to television 25 years after the original series ended to haunt our dreams and fuel our nightmares. Back now as an 18-episode new series, the cult TV phenomenon and its Angelo Badalamenti-composed soundtrack has inspired an impressive range of musicians and genres over the years. April Clare Welsh asks six artists for their take on the enduring allure of Twin Peaks.
Twin Peaks is renowned for its unique eeriness, but it simply wouldn’t be as impactful without Angelo Badalamenti’s Grammy-winning soundtrack. The longtime Lynch collaborator’s noirish synth soundscapes created another evocative dimension to the show entirely (although, Lynch’s instruction for Badalamenti to “make it like the wind” sure does help the process).
Both Badalamenti’s compositions and Lynch’s singular vision have been interpreted by countless musicians to varying degrees. In fact, the show’s pertinent themes and motifs, from psychosexual torment and the evil lurking beneath the surface to howling winds, murder and doppelgängers, are so ripe for the picking that it’s become somewhat clichéd for musicians to cite Twin Peaks as an influence.
But it’s hard to deny the allure of the show’s dark and twisted world that makes it so influential to artists. Twin Peaks has been sampled mercilessly and had its themes re-worked countless times. It doesn’t take a finely-tuned ear to detect an air of Lynch in Lana Del Rey’s “Hollywood sadcore” or in Marilyn Manson’s pitch-black glam rock. Mount Eerie’s skeletal folk perfectly encapsulates the sublime environment of the fictional hilltop town, and Ariel Pink’s haunting avant-garde pop mirrors the show’s warped and layered narratives. In hip-hop, the show has even been name-checked by Pusha T and El-P.
To celebrate David Lynch’s vision and the return of one of TV’s most influential shows, we asked DJ Shadow, Moby, Au Revoir Simone, Kool A.D. and Stars of the Lid what it was about Twin Peaks that made it so timeless.
Moby owes his first big hit to Twin Peaks. In 1992, the US star’s debut single, ‘Go’ – a rave-ready club banger that samples ‘Laura Palmer’s Theme’ – peaked at no. 10 on the UK Singles Chart. The rest is history, but Moby says he will “always be profoundly indebted to David Lynch and Mark Frost.” He praises Lynch’s ability “to take the ostensibly banal and make it either menacing or sublime: the fan spinning at the top of the stairs, pine trees blowing in the wind.”
For Moby, Twin Peaks has stood the test of time simply because “it’s smart, insightful, and based on the idea that the banal world we inhabit is actually a lot darker and more complicated than we’d imagined.” If he could bring any Twin Peaks character back from the dead, it would be Major Briggs: “That’s if he actually died.”
DJ Shadow famously sampled The Giant’s goosebump-inducing “it’s happening again” speech on his seminal 1996 album Endtroducing. And even the most casual of Shadow listeners will be able to detect similarities between the show’s aesthetic and those big empty spaces and dark undertones that often underpin his productions. It’s what Shadow describes as “the creeping darkness just below the surface” and “the celebration of the normal and abnormal.”
The slow pace of Twin Peaks is what the legendary producer finds most impressive. “Allowing scenes to transpire in a natural rhythm, and the inclusion of the mundane and random,” he says. “It’s more reflective of real life, and it resists the Hollywood inclination to turn everything into an action sequence or catch phrase.”
“Frost and Lynch created a world that was unique, inhabited by a fascinating cast of characters,” he adds. “If you could bottle US television in 1990, Twin Peaks felt like an antidote. It was different in every possible way.”
Au Revoir Simone
Au Revoir Simone’s emotionally-charged synth-pop taps into the palpable sense of yearning that defines Twin Peaks and consumes a number of its characters. Lynch is a longtime fan of the Brooklyn trio and asked the band to appear in the new series. (They perform their 2007 track ‘Lark’ at the Roadhouse in the fourth episode.) But even though they’ve had Lynch’s support for years, the band’s Annie Hart says it still “feels like a dream.”
Hart notes that although Twin Peaks can be “a lot more violent” than she can comfortably handle, “it nevertheless shows a complexity to humanity that most other Hollywood productions completely gloss over.” She praises Lynch’s ability “to go deep and explore every uncomfortable side of people.” Member Heather D’Angelo appreciates the “eerily familiar” aspect of the show: “The faces of our loved ones warped with menacing expressions and the ghosts of grandmothers hiding under our beds.”
Hart agrees that the feeling of longing is ever-present in the series and the band’s music. “Aching want is unshakable and all-consuming,” she says, “and it’s what we tend to write songs about and a strong theme in Twin Peaks.”
Glasgow polymath Kay Logan released one of our favorite albums of 2016 under her dusty, lo-fi techno alias Helena Celle and is a committed fan of Twin Peaks. She suggests that the reason why the show remains so relevant is that it’s a “contemporary tale of sinister forces that continue to haunt the United States of America.”
But Logan feels like she can partly relate to Lynch on a personal level for a different reason entirely – his dedication to transcendental meditation. He famously claims he has meditated twice a day since 1973. “Meditation can get you out of the limits of language, to perceiving the symbols and archetypes that inhabit the unconscious without semantic filters,” Logan says on the importance of the practice on her work.
“[I’m interested] in the interactions between the self, the unconscious, and a system that can generate and organize sound throughout time,” she says, noting that she tries to accomplish the same thing with her music. “I have a general interest in artists who devise methods and technologies to do this sort of thing (Austin Osman Spare, William Burroughs, Kathy Acker, etc), in this sense of general semantics where language may been seen to bias perception, or exert control.”
Stars of the Lid
In 2016, metal and drone mainstay James Plotkin released a 10-minute remix of Stars of the Lid’s ‘Music For Twin Peaks Episode #30 Pt. 1’ – taken from the duo’s 1997 album The Ballasted Orchestra – that brought an electric piano flourish to the beatless classic. To say that SOTL’s Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie are fans of the show would be an understatement – both band members gush with obsessive enthusiasm about Twin Peaks and its enduring impact on their music.
McBride recalls that the track was made after he’d seen the show’s original finale for the first time. “I’m relatively sure there were hallucinogens involved,” he says. “We were at my place in Austin and Adam was in one room with his guitar and I was in another armed with a bunch of samples and some pedals and we basically droned on for an hour. That piece of music wasn’t so good and shouldn’t ever see the light of day. I’m lured by Lynch’s reliance on elusiveness, intuition and being open to making use of what’s around you.”
Musically, McBride says he’s always been drawn to sounds that reflect a certain level of familiarity. “Working with what is given around you and drawing upon your surroundings is also something that’s inspired me,” he says. “To me, Twin Peaks worked because it also inspired me to play a bit of detective in my own life, re-investigating not just the episodes again and again but also some of my own inner space.”
Wiltzie adds, “I have often said that I never could explain the longevity of SOTL, as making art is a perishable skill, but after recording ‘Music for Twin Peaks Episode #30’ all the way back in 1995, it still is one of the tracks people often ask about, and we even play as a coda for our live shows.”
Former Das Racist member Kool A.D, aka Victor Vazquez, references central character Laura Palmer in his 2013 track ‘Eroika’. He calls Twin Peaks “a perfect stoner TV show, hella confusing, great opening theme song, beautifully shot, well-costumed, hella weird and surreal, hella re-watchable.”
“Dude’s work is mind-blowing,” Vazquez says of Lynch, whose work he admires beyond Twin Peaks. “[He has a] complete disregard for so many conventions of traditional narrative, [a] knack for twists, [a] hardliner’s approach to staying trippy. [I appreciate] his sense of humor and his uncanny ability to pull strange moments of surprisingly authentic emotion from such surreal worlds he creates. Dude’s a beast.”
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