In Guest List, Paste’s favorite artists and auteurs reveal the music that’s inspired some of their most seminal works.
The hyper-stylized comic Limbo announced itself to the world with an unraveling mixtape cassette labeled “Dead Man Jams” on its first cover, so it’s only fitting to mark the arrival of its trade-paperback collection, released earlier this month, with a retrowave mind-trip of a set list from UK-based co-creators Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard.
Set in the Lynchian Dedande City, Limbo is, at its heart, a detective story—albeit one bathed in the neon and static of ‘80s VHS covers and infused with the essence of David Cronenberg’s “Long Live the New Flesh” era. Music (and minor appliances, and just about anything else) can be weaponized in Limbo; scroll down to check out Watters and Wijngaard’s armory.
Dan Watters on the Music Behind Limbo
I know some people don’t like to listen to music when they’re writing, but I’ve always found that it helps—it’s just important that the music tonally fits the writing and adds to the vibe of the piece rather than jarring with it.
Caspar and I brought pretty different influences to the book, both artistically and musically, which is probably reflected below. Since Limbo was always intended to be somewhat kaleidoscopic, it’s probably fitting that the soundtrack has ended up similarly so.
“Say Goodnight To The World,” Dax Riggs
Watters: This song sums up a lot about Limbo for me. It’s swampy, stomping and lyrically sounds like it’s tottering on the brink of apocalypse. Riggs used to front the sludge band Acid Bath, and I probably could have put a bunch of Acid Bath tracks on here too—but the restrained blues of this track is so atmospheric, I’d use it to get into the headspace of Dedande City a lot when sitting down to write.
“Strawberry Skies,” Games
Watters: Caspar and I have always agreed that this track is the unofficial theme tune to Limbo. Loaded with synths and yearning.
“The Night Bell With Lightning,” David Lynch
Watters: It’s probably pretty obvious that Lynch’s films were one of our influences. This instrumental track off his first record really hits that same lounging tone of both sinister and playful.
“Waiting Room,” Fugazi
“Somebody Put Something In My Drink,” The Ramones
Watters: To be honest I’d normally think this track is a little overproduced for a Ramones song; they’re at their best when stripped way down. But there’s a mania and confusion in Johnny’s voice here that I just really connect to Clay.
“Cosmic Hearse,” Rudimentary Peni
Watters: Later in the book we move into what could perhaps be considered Lovecraftian territory. Rudimentary Peni released a whole record based around Lovecraft’s works, but I’ll stick with this earlier track from Death Church. Chaotic anarcho-punk, laced with madness; there’s a sparseness to the instruments that really give that sense of screaming into an uncaring void. Which is…fun. Shit, maybe I should have stuck with more synth pop.
“New Orleans Is The New Vietnam,” Eyehategod
Watters: Moving from cosmic horror to a similar idea in microcosm—with this song it’s all there in the title. There are powers-above-us that don’t care about us, so we have to find our own way, and we sure as hell have no obligation to be happy about it. This is another song that’s swampy, chaotic and furious.
“After Midnight,” Jonwayne
Caspar Wijngaard: Really simplistic and repetitive with an upbeat intro that leaves you in a false sense of security. For me, the tone of this tune really encapsulates the dark neon nature of Limbo’s VHS-trailer world.
“Tanto Adios,” Los Angeles Negros
Wijngaard: I’ll never not imagine Clay sat in a bar sipping whiskey and chewing a lizard on a stick whenever I hear this track. If Limbo were a TV show the intro would be the theme.
In fact, the cover for the LP is on the vinyl clay picks up whilst digging with Sandy.
“Emergency Room,” Ford and Lopatin
Wijngaard: This song emulates the new retrowave theme we were going for with Limbo, perfect music for when you’re driving shotgun through the Televerse with the Teleshaman.
“4am (Power Glove Remix),” The Fauns
Wijngaard: I always imagined Bridgette singing this on stage whilst the fishmen made the way back to the bayou to chow down at the end of issue one. Again, it’s the perfect bend of retro and modern that Limbo is all about. Dark and unsettling to boot.
“Open,” Com Truise
Wijngaard: Ahhhhh, this track. If Dan was tackling the dark brooding swamps of Dedande with his music, I was daydreaming of palm trees and 10-floor apartments downtown. When Clay makes VICE, this will be his theme song.
“Let’s Get Hyped,” JJ. Fad
Wijngaard: Whenever I drew Sandy and Clay’s apartment, it was important to capture their polarizing personalities. I listened to music that would make Clay stamp on the floor when drawing Sandy’s Bedroom. I think Dan pretty much covered Clay.
Also, JJ.Fad are great.
“As,” Stevie Wonder
Wijngaard: I’d like to think this was playing on Sandy’s mixtape when she handed Clay the headphones whilst the Second Line were advancing.
Selfishly, it’s just on of my favourite songs, so I’d hope Sandy would dig it.