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September 12, 2019

Rob Hart's Playlist for His Novel "The Warehouse"

The Warehouse

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Rob Hart's The Warehouse is one of the most timely novels of the year, a dystopian thriller that haunts the modern day with its themes of late stage capitalism, income inequality, and drug addiction.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"While touching on income inequality, drug addiction, and corporate espionage, Hart creates a compelling and intriguing thriller that holds up a black mirror to our own frightening state of affairs."

In his own words, here is Rob Hart's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Warehouse:

Before I start a new book, I create a soundtrack. And it has to adhere to three rules: It should be roughly CD-length (which in my head is 12-15 songs), only one song per artist, and there needs to be at least one Johnny Cash song.

I don’t listen to this while I write—for that, I prefer electronic and classical. This is for me to listen to while I’m at the gym, or wandering around, or doing busywork. All that inactive-active writer time, when I’m mulling things over and figuring out the story. It’s about getting in the headspace.

Eat the Rich - Aerosmith

It’s a little on the nose for a book that’s stridently anti-capitalism, sure. But Pump was one of my first albums, and I always loved this song. I listened to it so much as a kid, you could probably credit it for planting some anti-establishment seeds in my head.

Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) - Hamilton Mixtape

I need a couple of high-energy songs in any book soundtrack, and this certainly fits the bill, while also building in some very smart, fun lyrics about exactly how much of this country is built on the backs of immigrant, unappreciated, and if you reach back far enough, forced labor.

Maggie’s Farm - Bob Dylan

One of my favorite protest songs, full stop. Sure, Rage Against the Machine is a ton of fun and makes you want to run into a brick wall at full speed, but the exploration of worker exploitation in song lives at that blues-folk crossroads.

The Hard Land - Bruce Springsteen

Yeah, if we’re going to talk about the corruption of the American dream, it would be crazy to not include Bruce. And this was a tough one, because I grew up on Springsteen, but also, you could comfortably put a dozen tracks onto this and they would fit perfectly. After a lot of combing through his catalogue (never a bad problem to have) I settled on this one, in part because it dovetailed nicely with the farm theme in the previous song, but also, it just felt right.

Mississippi Goddamn - Nina Simone

A civil right’s anthem disguised as a show tune. What’s not to love? I think this was the first song I thought to add to the soundtrack. I love Nina Simone’s voice so much, and I love even more the way the urgency of the song builds up.

60 Revolutions - Gogol Bordello

Another high-energy track. Gogol Bordello is up there with Johnny Cash—I almost always include them on book soundtracks. The references to “overthrowing tsars” doesn’t hurt.

I’m Free from the Chain Gang Now - Johnny Cash

Like I said, there has to be one Johnny Cash song. This felt like the most natural fit, in the sense that the way of life in the Warehouse universe is very chaingang-like. All the allusions and comparisons to prison in the book are not an accident.


KMFDM is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve always described them as the German Rage Against the Machine, if Rage had a better sense of humor about themselves and more commitment to their schtick (they formed in 1984 and they’re still around—they are almost as old as me!). And like Rage, there were a ton of songs I could have pulled for this, but WWIII felt right, because there’s something very primal and appealing about a song that starts:

I declare war on the world
War in outer space
I declare war in a nutshell
War all over the place

Pull Up the People - MIA

More high energy, but still, can’t beat the refrain: “Pull up the people, pull up the poor.”

New World Water - Mos Def

My one regret with The Warehouse is, I wanted to use a lyric from this song as the epigraph. “Cash rules everything around me—move!” As if it could ever be that simple, but I love the sentiment. I gave up on trying to license it because the process was getting way too complicated, especially with all the foreign sales. I didn’t want to have to keep track of when and where it was being used, or risk it being used where it wasn’t supposed to be. So I gave up, quoted a former president, and moved on. At least I can share it with you here.

Ashes in the Fall - Rage Against the Machine

The soundtrack for this book could have been Rage Against the Machine and only Rage Against the Machine. It was hard to pick a track I thought would be a good fit for the vibe, but there’s a stretch of lyrics in here that, I think, cut to the heart of the book:

Ain't it funny how the factory doors close?
'Round the time that the school doors close?
'Round the time that the doors of the jail cells
Open up to greet you
Just like a reaper?

Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare) - Saul Williams

This is one of those songs that I thought: I bet I could pull some really effective lyrics out to show why I picked it. Then I started reading the lyrics and realized they’re all effective. It’s a banger of a protest song, and includes some vocals from Rage frontman Zack de la Rocha, which allowed me to get a bit more of his sentiment onto the soundtrack, while keeping to my “one track per artist” policy.

Empty Walls - Serj Tankian

Even though it’s more of an anti-war song (check out the video, it’s great), it’s always stuck with me, in part because of Tankian’s amazing voice. I think he’s a bit underrated, or at least overlooked, in the pantheon of great vocalists. When he’s pushing it out, he’s really pushing it out. And in a general sense, there’s an incredible mix of anger and melancholy here that I love.

Rob Hart and The Warehouse links:

the author's website

Guardian review
Kirkus review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review

CBS This Morning interview with the author
The Real Book Spy profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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