Let Me Hang You, a work of “psychedelic spoken word” featuring legendary beat author William S. Burroughs reading some of the most controversial selections from his novel, Naked Lunch, set to musical accompaniment, premiered as a livestream on Dangerous Minds. The 20-year-old recordings of the late author reading some of the raunchiest passages slither over a soundtrack created by a bevy of notable musicians and unlikely collaborators.
Begun by producers Hal Willner and James Grauerholz and featuring noted musicians including Grammy award winning jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, acclaimed pianist Wayne Horvitz, and violist Eyvind Kang, the project was shelved until 2015 when Willner called in singer/songwriter/producer extraordinaire King Khan. Khan in turn recruited composer and counter tenor M. Lamar and ’60s style Australian garage punk group The Frowning Clouds.
Burroughs died after suffering a heart attack in 1997; he has been recognized as one of the great counterculture authors of the twentieth century, helping to popularize the literary cut-up technique, and heralded by fellow beat author Jack Kerouac as the “greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift.” 1959’s Naked Lunch, his third novel, is his best known work (despite his reportedly having no recollection of writing it), drawing on his numerous drug-related experiences; a cinematic adaptation directed by renowned horror/surrealist David Cronenberg and starring Peter Weller was released in 1991. The 1982 cyberpunk classic Blade Runner borrowed its title from Burroughs’ 1979 novel Blade Runner (A Movie), though the two are unrelated beyond the use of the title.
Burroughs famously recorded with industrial/metal band MINISTRY, appearing most notably on “Just One Fix” and in the accompanying video; a reading of his poem “A Thanksgiving Prayer” was included on the track “Thanx But No Thanx” on 2013’s From Beer to Eternity. He also collaborated with the likes of U2, R.E.M., Laurie Anderson, and Golden Palominos’ Bill Laswell.
Let Me Hang You is available for pre-order now for the July 15 release.