Everyone has a few favorite songs they like to workout to. Since I’m a neurotic and hyper-anal freak, I not only agonized over creating a short, 12 song mix, I analyzed it too! Take a peek at how I get down while torturing myself on the elliptical trainer. Did your favorite song make the cut? Check it out after the jump. (By the way, I almost put a picture of Richard Simmons on the front page, but realized I didn’t want to look at it for several days any more than you do. Enjoy Kiana Tom instead. You’re welcome.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I spend more time creating mix tapes than virtually anyone else. I agonize over each song, its placement, and its effect on the overall aesthetic of the mix. I’m like Rob Gordon in High Fidelity. A mix tape says as much about you as any other aspect of your personality. I have created 10 different punk mixes, that if you listened to them sequentially and paid attention carefully, you’d get a startlingly accurate snapshot of who I was when I created each one. Between 2002 and 2007, my life is summarized in CDs. Some people keep journals. Some make scrapbooks. I make mix tapes. FYI: I’m toying with the idea of writing about these 10 mixes, but I haven’t figured out a way to do so without sounding like a completely self-involved douche bag (despite the fact that may actually be true).
Plus, since the creation of these mixes carry with them some intense personal feelings and intimate deconstruction of the E Dagger psyche, I may shitcan the idea entirely. I doubt anyone’s interested in hearing lamentations about my ex-girlfriend or how I didn’t think I could hack it in graduate school. If I’m wrong about this, let me know, and I could be persuaded to write about Punk Mixes Volumes 1-10.
Anyway, when I joined 24 Hour Fitness, it was obvious that I’d need a mix tape for my workouts. (A word of clarification before we go any further: By mix tape, of course I mean iPod playlist. I’m not walking around with a Walkman like some weird time traveler from 1989. Mix tape just sounds infinitely cooler than playlist.) Working out is challenging enough on its own; doing so without the proper musical backing is idiotic. Creating a haphazard workout mix is akin to going into battle armed with nothing more than a Super Soaker – that you promptly turn on yourself and blast up your nose.
A workout mix needs songs that contain a precise blend of three elements: Proper intensity, motivational lyrical content, and the ability to put you in a good rhythm. If you need a good mix for pure weightlifting, some good-old fashioned heavy metal will do you just fine. I listen to Pantera while I lift, myself. But many of Pantera’s songs lack that head-nodding quality that makes you forget you’re endlessly toiling away on some piece of machinery for a half hour or more. An effective cardio mix requires Pantera’s intensity, but must be tempered with pop sensibility to achieve maximum motivation in getting through a difficult aerobic workout.
This was my task in creating a mix for the gym. I almost always use the elliptical trainer, so please consider that the mix outlined below achieves utmost listenability on that machine. I hate the treadmill since I run like a Clydesdale (clop clop clop clop), the bike is no good because I don’t have the tenacity to overcome the inevitable sore next-day taint, and the Stairmaster is retarded since I live in a city full of stairs. Why pay $40 per month to climb fake stairs when I work on the 18th floor of an office building (where a couple of fucking guys never flush the fucking urinal or wash their fucking hands)? I’ll never understand the people on the Stairmaster. Just go downtown and climb them for free.
So, I sat down with my trusty iTunes and crafted the following mix. The first nine songs fit into a 28 minute elliptical session perfectly. Song 10 is good to listen to during the 2 minute cool down, the subsequent refill of the water bottle, and the walk over to the abdominal machine. Songs 11 and 12 make my ab sets less painful.
Without further ado, here’s what E Dagger listens to while working out.
1. Strung Out – “Too Close to See (Live version)”
Since this is the first track on Strung Out’s live album, begin listening to it when the monkey at the front of the club scans your ID. You then have 1:10 to confidently stroll through the club, give the gym rats doing incorrect bicep curls the stink eye, generally feel like a badass while the crowd noise builds, and choose where you make your scene on the elliptical trainer. You feel like a badass while the crowd chants “Strung Out! Strung Out! Strung Out!” As you make your selections – weight, time of workout, type of workout, etc. – you brace for when Jason Cruz blasts in with the first lines of the song.
He screams, “Alright guys, what’s up? Let’s tear this fucking place… DOOOOWWWWNNN!”
And you’re off to the races, and well on your way to tearing the fucking place down. What follows is a furious punk song that doesn’t let up for three solid minutes. The melodious yet insistent guitar sets the tone for the rest of your workout while Jason Cruz lyrically casts out whatever demons live in your head with words like,
“In a world that don’t owe you shit,
you gotta think for yourself
and fight for every bit of that peace of mind
that keeps you going on -
gets you out of bed and out that door.”
You’re fired up, you’ve got the live crowd behind you, and you’re ready to kick this workout in the face. If this song doesn’t wake you up and put you in the correct frame of mind, you might as well go home and watch Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. This song is a mainline of espresso. It’s the jump start you need for 30 minutes of intensity.
2. Less Than Jake – “Plastic Cup Politics”
With your adrenaline good and fired up, you need to maintain the intensity for the next song. It’s too early to plateau, so this song will keep you breaking out. If it’s a horse race, you’re still just out of the gates and need to maintain that hole shot before everyone settles in for the long haul.
Quick aside: What the hell happened to Big Brown this past weekend? Has there been a bigger anticlimax than the end of the Belmont in the past few months? I say no only because if you’re Rick Dutrow and getting that disgustingly sweaty, your horse should at least win. He looked like he’d just finished a vaguely racist sermon at Barack Obama’s old church. Good God, man. Get a grip on your sweat glands!
Anyway, Less Than Jake brings the awesome with a song about partying. This song keeps in the correct frame of mind because the vivid and “Hey, I was there!” lyrics accomplish two goals: 1) I think back fondly on any number of college parties littered with plastic cups which keeps my mood up for the hellish endurance of elliptical training, and 2) Thinking of the ungodly amount of beer I’ve consumed in my life and the resultant spare tire around my midsection reminds me of why I’m even doing this in the first place.
In short: This is the ideal track to maintain the intensity from track 1. And I like beer.
3. Good Charlotte – “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”
First of all, to the punk rockers in the audience: Fuck you, I like this song.
I mostly associate this song with Colin, Jamie, and Mark blasting through the finish line in the final mission of the first Real World/Road Rules: Battle of the Sexes. That was an awesome show that we watched in college every Monday night – and if we were drinking that night, the rerun on Tuesday afternoon.
For a workout mix, it’s perfect pop punk trash – up-tempo beat, big ol’ catchy hook, dated pop culture references (Hello, Johnnie Cochrane!), and singable lyrics. By now the adrenaline from the first two songs has probably worn off and it’ll be impossible to maintain the speed of those songs for 28 minutes. You need something a little more measured, and a little less intense. Good Charlotte popularized dance punk with songs like this and “Anthem” that were copied by the bands currently plaguing your local alternative station like Panic at the Disco and Fallout Boy.
This song serves as transition from early set eagerness and intensity to middle set rhythm. It’s a punk song in name (and a bit in aesthetic), but functions more like a late-in-the-reception wedding anthem when everyone’s good and drunk and wants to work off those 12 free Red Bull and vodkas. You’re moving, but not as fast as before.
4. Finger Eleven – “Paralyzer”
This is such a perfect workout song, I suspect the band composed while on an elliptical machine. The beats match up with approximately 55-60 strides per minute (I’ve never been able to figure it out exactly – I have no rhythm), so adjust your resistance to match this beat and you’ll forget what you’re doing for those 3 minutes and 28 seconds. Lyrically, structurally, rhythmically perfect… if you don’t have this on your workout mix already, you’re probably retarded. Try out for the Special Olympics.
5. Rise Against – “Give It All”
This is my favorite Rise Against song, and one of my top favorite songs by any band. Lyrically the song tackles themes of conquering adversity, persevering in the face of impossible odds, and sacrifice for the greater good… kind of like monotonously laboring away on a machine to improve your health on a Wednesday in a club that never turns on its fucking air conditioning even though its 80 goddamn degrees outside at 9 fucking 30 while some bitch with breast implants keeps distracting you and you could be home watching the Cubs kick the crap out of the Braves on ESPN, but the club won’t change the channel — Fuck! Just turn the fucking air on, you Nazis!
But, in the face of all those challenges, you press on. It’s about mid-set at this point, so the charm of a workout just begun has faded away and the endorphins of a workout near completion have yet to kick in. You need some positive reassurance, and Rise Against is there to give it to you. It’s like having your own personal Tony Robbins – you know, if Tony Robbins didn’t look like something out of Gulliver’s Travels and made kick ass punk rock.
6. Rage Against the Machine – “Sleep Now in the Fire”
It’s only fitting that Rage Against the Machine follows Rise Against since I spent most of my time while writing my thesis getting annoyed by people that didn’t know these were two separate bands.
“What are you writing your thesis on?”
“Theories of constitutive audiences in punk rock, specifically the bands Rise Against and Yellowcard.”
“Rise Against? Like Rise Against the Machine?”
(resisting the urge to blow my own brains out having answered this approximately 700 times already) “No, that’s RAGE Against the Machine. The band I’m writing about is Rise Against. No machine involved.”
“Oh. What major did you say this was for again?”
And so it went. Eventually I learned just to tell people I was writing about the history of punk rock – which, while technically untrue, made for quicker conversation.
Anyway, “Sleep Now in the Fire” bridges the gap from punk rock to metal where we’ll finish our set. Metal guys and punk guys don’t always get along, but this was one band that everyone always agreed on. They had the chops to play like a metal band, but the ideology of a hardcore political punk band. This song was one of their most popular offerings, and with good cause.
This song is noisy, calamitous and has a march beat. When you listen to Rage, for the minutes you listen, you’re part of the Rage army. I disagree fundamentally with most of their political ideology (as a matter of practicality, not necessarily principal), but they still rank as one of my all-time favorite bands. I think the reason is passion. No band comes off more passionately than Rage, and that passion courses its way through your veins as you push to the end of your set. You’re ready for the final push, and this song acts as preamble for the skin-splitting metal tunes ahead.
7. Rob Zombie – “Superbeast”
An absolute face melter. This one carries you out of the mid-workout slump where you get about half way and think to yourself, “Awesome. Half way done. But oh fuck, that means I have to do what I just did… again! Goddammit. Fuckin’ stupid inability to fast forward time.” Rob Zombie has such a commanding presence and a guttural, powerful voice, it’s impossible not to get re-invigorated by this song. The opening sounds from the cemetery belie the fury underneath. The beat erupts like zombies shooting from beneath ground to tear off your face and eat your brains into a hell-spawned techno-guitar riff with a hidden dance beat.
The beauty of working out to Rob Zombie is that while Rob Zombie makes some of the most ghoulish heavy metal around, thick with death, murder, and demons, his construction denotes dance music. The metal overtones of the music are unmistakable, but when you listen to the beat serving as the song’s backbone, you realize Rob Zombie very simply makes uptempo club music. When you take the lyrics out of this song, any club DJ could easily use the beat to create a floor shaking dance anthem akin to “Sandstorm” by Darude.
I remember seeing Rob Zombie interviewed one time where he said that his biggest influence is early Michael Jackson. I recently downloaded “Thriller,” and the parallels in song construction are unmistakable. Zombie takes funk beats, speeds them up, adds his own macabre twist, and creates a genre-twisting symphony of destruction.
Having this song at #7 not only propels you to the end of your workout, but continues the rhythmic section of the previous three songs. You’ll move to a beat, but you’ll be doing it faster which is what you should be doing. If you’re not finishing the workout strong, then why even be there?
8. Papa Roach – “…To Be Loved”
You’re on the home stretch now, and since Rob Zombie has picked up your pace, it’s time to close hard. As much as I try, I can’t hate Papa Roach. When I was working for the City of Golden, and consequently, spending most of my days in a truck listening to the radio, their breakthrough hit “Last Resort” was on all the time. I found this song embarrassing. You remember. It’s the one that starts laughably “Cut my life into pieces! This is my last resort!”
Even though this song is about (I think) thoughts of suicide as an angsty teenager, I still found it ridiculous. I just couldn’t get over the goofy way he said the opening lines, so the entire message was lost on me from the get go. From that point on, I wrote off Papa Roach. Petty? Yep. But who cares, it’s music. There’s lots of it out there. You need a few bands to make fun of, you know?
But then they came out with this one, and I begrudgingly warmed up to them. Full disclosure: I fell in love with the song when it became the new theme song to WWE’s “Monday Night Raw.” Yes, I’m a huge dork. And yes, I’m okay with that.
In contrast to the hopelessness and despair permeating “Last Resort” this song is oozing with positive energy. The chorus alone is worth a shelf’s worth of self-help books: “Whoa ohh ohh, I’ll never give in / Whoa ohh ohh I’ll never give up / Whoa ohh ohh I’ll never give in / I just wanna be, wanna be loved!”
This song is like a drag race amplified by the guitar riff just before the first chorus. The guitar hums like a dragster just before the Christmas tree flashes green at the start line, and when it does, the chorus explodes like some positive energy volcano and you’re powering through the last two songs of your set. You should be going at least 85% here dripping with sweat, huffing and puffing, gritting your teeth and testing your body’s limits. Papa Roach is cheering you on with lyrics like, “I gotta roll the dice / Never look back / And never think twice!” The finish line is in sight and need one final push to get there…
9. Andrew W.K. – “I Get Wet”
If there’s any one album ideally suited for a workout, it’s Andrew W.K’s I Get Wet. The dude IS energy. He’s neither man nor beast, he’s just a cosmic energy force come to earth to bestow good vibes, unparalleled exhilaration, and an “I will beat the world” outlook upon his listeners.
“I Get Wet” is the magnum opus of workout songs. Nothing will touch this song in terms of sheer motivation, ever. You can pick virtually any song off the album of the same name, but none provides the kick in the ass the title track does. The ultimate closer. The final adrenaline boost. The end of your workout.
You’ll never catch this song, but you should always strive to. The last three minutes of your workout are an all-out sprint. The human body is meant to be tested, so don’t give me any nonsense about not wanting to push it. Throw caution to the wind and go as fast as you fucking can while listening to this. Andrew W.K. goes all out in everything he does, there’s no reason you can’t go beyond your limits for three lousy minutes.
You’ll ache. You’ll gasp for breath. Your shirt will hang heavy with sweat. It’s supposed to. This song says it’s okay. “I get wet when the party is dying / I get without even trying / I get wet whenever you trying / I get when I know that you’re dying!”
I read an interview with Andrew where he said “I Get Wet” is a metaphor for life. It symbolizes going for it – whatever “it” happens to be. Whatever you do, go all out. Get wet. Get dirty. Get hurt. Go for fucking broke. You just made it through a tough but satisfying cardio set, give the rest of it whatever you have left. Your body will thank you.
10. Marilyn Manson – “Beautiful People”
Coming off an endorphin rush like the previous song can be dicey. That’s why I choose freaky goth-metal for the cooldown. This song still has decent intensity, but the beat is substantially slower helping your legs transition from autopilot insanity into a more normal cadence. Plus, it’s a nice lyrical metaphor for the cumulative effect of sticking to the previous workout set for an extended period of time. Do it enough, and soon you’ll be one of the “beautiful people.” Ok that’s lame, but I’m trying to think of reasons why I have this on my workout mix besides “was once the opening theme to WWE Smackdown.”
I got nothing. Honestly, choose whatever song you like here since it’s the cooldown, the requisite spraying with whatever that disinfectant shit in the spray bottle at the gym is into a paper towel, and the walk to the ab machines. You could choose the Spin Doctors here if you want and it wouldn’t make much difference. Choose B2K. Hell, choose a chapter from Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village book on tape for all I care. The point is, this is the most expendable song on the mix. I happen to like Marilyn Manson.
11. Pantera – “Cowboys From Hell”
Like I could make it through a workout mix without including Pantera. They’re best known for this song, and it’s no wonder why. It’s a fucking ripper. This song drips with aggressive machismo powered by Dimebag Darrell’s awesome guitar riffs and Vinnie Paul’s insane drumming.
I listen to this for the first set of abs. I like to use the machine that positions you so you look like you’re either in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guard, or like you’re ready to have your diaper changed. You lay on a bench with your feet on some pegs, grab the handles at your sides, and start crunching. I like to do 15 regular ones, 15 with my feet close together, 15 while laying on my left, 15 on the right, 15 with my feet on the floor, and 15 with my feet straight in the air for a total of 90. It’s a nice long song, so if you need a few moments after your cardio to recover (or wait for some jagoff to clear the machine), you can take it. “Cowboys From Hell” gives you plenty of time to complete your first set.
12. Less Than Jake – “Sugar in your Gas Tank”
“Sugar in your Gas Tank” does not. This song is only 2:07, and I keep it here to make sure I don’t drag ass on the last ab set. I do what I listed above again, and if I don’t complete the second set by the time this song ends, I give myself a 30 extra sit-up penalty. It’s good incentive to finish promptly. Plus, the lyrics provide amusing irony considering at one point the lead singer croons “But I’d rather sit back / Just smoke cigarettes / Be the one with the loudest mouth / Be the most close-minded as I could be.”
When you finish your last crunches, you can go home and do just what he says. It’s a nice way to finish.
And with that, I’ll call it a column. I’d love to hear the rest of your mix tapes, so feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email.
Until next time…
Keep gettin’ wet.
12 Jun 2008 E Dagger