TIDAL Book Club: Uniform on Stephen King’s ‘The Long Walk’

TIDAL Book Club: Uniform on Stephen King’s ‘The Long Walk’

Stephen King has had a long and storied relationship with the music world: from King’s love affair with the Ramones (which led to the band’s 1989 schlocky classic “Pet Semetary”) to the 40-minute musical film, Ghosts, that he co-created with Michael Jackson. Well, here’s another entry for the old Wikipedia page: Brooklyn band Uniform’s upcoming album, The Long Walk — named for King’s 1979 dystopian classic, The Long Walk.

The book, released under King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman, centers around a cadre of children who reside under a dictatorship that requires 100 adolescent boy volunteers to take part in a grueling walking contest. Only one boy will survive, and said boy will be set for life. The others… well, this is a Stephen King novel.

Uniform singer Michael Berdan is a longtime fan of King’s first novel, and spoke with TIDAL following the release of the record’s near-title track, “The Walk.” We talk King, capitalism and the long walk away from and toward religion.

 

On the book… That book in particular has been a favorite of mine for a long time; it’s something that I periodically revisit. Over time, I’ve found it to be somewhat allegorical for life in capitalism and things that are relevant to my everyday [life]. Theoretically, that story is a bit overblown — you’ve got the suppressive government that is forcing its children, 100 children, to sign up to [walk a great distance], and only one survives, and by the end, he’s lost his mind, anyway, because of what he’s been through.

You see the boys’ process from moment one where no one’s really sure why they signed up: they just want some kind of mythical prize, some of them don’t know what else to do with their lives, some of them have some kind of morbid death wish. Not even a quarter of the way through, the majority of them are questioning their motive for getting involved; even the ones that did it wanting to die wish that they didn’t do it like that.

The book resonates with me in terms of living in a society where we’re expected to adhere to certain rules, imaginary rules involving success and finance and greed where we’re supposed to get one over on each other and we’re supposed to fit into a mold. We’re supposed to go to school, go to college, become a father or a mother, own property and feed into this general system. And very few of the people I know who have done this, what they’re supposed to do — very few of them seem happy.

It’s something that I’ve felt very guilty about for a long time: not wanting to do those things. School felt very unnatural to me. Traditional types of work feel unnatural to me. I have no desire to be a parent. It felt very stifling, and in the end, I kind of felt that this is just a capitalistic illusion that I’m supposed to achieve this thing, and by achieving this thing, I’m supposed to walk over other people in order to have the most or have enough — but nothing is really enough. That’s kind of where a lot of this came from.

On the book/album’s title… With [the title of] The Long Walk, the second part of the walk to me is one that has to do with a path away from spirituality in my teens and a path back toward that in my late 30s. I grew up in a very religious family in a very religious part of town. Over time, I felt that it was bullshit, and it was inherently oppressive, and that there was nothing in dogmatic human beings that I wanted anything to do with. So I stopped identifying as a Catholic. I turned to Atheism in my early teens.

Over the years, I started to take comfort in varying forms of meditation. I’ve needed to get help with mental health issues and other kinds of issues and meditation was always something that was recommended to me. Through that, I started coming back around to prayer as a mantra. In that, I started to kind of romanticize some ideas of Catholic ritual: the Mass and the holy days and whatnot.

Occasionally, I’d find myself going to church just so that I could be in a pretty building for a while. I would take comfort through being in these environments, through these prayers and through listening to a good priest’s homily. I started to come back around to this idea that all world religions at their core are based on this idea of radical love and radical kindness and radical empathy and try to apply that to my everyday life. … I have slowly come back to identifying as Catholic. Still, a lot of the things that put me off about the church are still very present, and I have real hard time reconciling that.

(Photo credit: Ebru Yildiz)

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