Soundtrack to the Weird West

So that game I was bewildered about last week is happening. I still don't know if it's going to work, but I come armed with all the great feedback and suggestions that I received on the topic. If it flops at this point I have no one to blame but myself.

Apparently we're running Deadlands without calling it Deadlands or even realizing we had chosen it. When we were deciding what kind of game to try I told my group that I was willing to run one of four types of games:

1. Sci-fi (more appropriately, space opera, a la Star Wars/BSG/Serenity)
2. Zombie survival/horror
3. Western
4. Pro-wrestling (knowing no one was going to do it)

Of course, we ended up with a sci-fi/zombie/western hybrid. Just couldn't shoehorn the wrestling in there. Through brainstorming (yay, FATE!) we ended up with a vaguely wild west setting with supernatural elements, heavy on steampunk and airships (so the one guy who wanted to play Firefly could still get to be Captain Reynolds). 

I didn't want to just run Deadlands because I'm not at all familiar with it, plus I really like that everyone is getting a chance to contribute to our weird little mash-up of a world. If anything it's turning out to be more of an homage to the world of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, but that works, too.

Anyway, my point today is that we're still shaping and creating the style and mood of the game, and I thought some appropriate music would be, um, appropriate. But what kind of music fits with a weird west/steampunk/dark fantasy setting?

Here are a few I've come up with. More suggestions are welcome and encouraged!

1. Ghoultown

Anyone who calls themselves "gothabilly" or "hellbilly" is probably appropriate, which is what puts these guys on the top of the list. Their videos certainly have the look we're going for. The music might be a little too heavy for some taste (I would prefer something a little more classically western for this setting), but it's a damn fine place to start.

2. Iron Horse

These guys are f*cking awesome. Instead of taking classic downhomy stylings and metaling them up (how many words did I invent in that sentence?), they do the opposite by taking hard rock and metal and arranging them into acoustic bluegrass numbers. It adds a whole new layer of oddness and weirdness (their cover of Enter Sandman is downright creepy in a way distorted guitars can never achieve) that fits perfectly into the setting. I think.

3. Ennio Morricone

You can't go wrong with classic spaghetti westerns, and in that case you can't do better than Morricone. The Clint Eastwood "Man with No Name" movies, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Ecstasy of Gold - his soundtracks are iconic, and they have an epic, larger-than-life grandeur to them that totally works.

4. Alabama 3

A British electronic-blues-gospel-country band shouldn't work, but that's probably why it does. And it works so, so well. It's got a touch of funk that kind of throws you for a loop in a western (I can't picture Clint Eastwood or Roland Deschain shooting a guy to this soundtrack... or can I?) but if you crank up the Steampunk a few notches this becomes wildly appropriate.

5. Puscifer

I don't think this will work, I just really like this song. (CAUTION: Wildly NSFW)

So what about you, or faithful readers? What are some other good songs and bands that could score the soundtrack to a weird west/steampunk type of setting?


  1. The Pine Hill Haints

    Kind of folksy but good for this in a pinch

    There are a good number of others constellation around them that may lead to good results (Natchez Shakers)

    Somewhere I have a folk music/bluegrass against the death penalty album

    1. They're pretty cool, and could definitely fit. They have a gloomy kind of tone without being traditionally dark. I like it!

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Fixed the embedded videos. Previously they wouldn't load on mobile devices.

  3. I hope you share more details about your world. It'll be interesting to see where you and your players take the inital pitch.

    Try Abney Park for Steampunk music. Victorian Vigalanite is my favourite song from them.

    1. As long as it doesn't collapse in upon itself, there will definitely be some more updates. Probably more than anyone will care to hear about. ;-)

      Abney Park is awesome! And they even have a song called "Airship Pirate!" Gaming aside, these guys are totally going on my iPod! Thank you!

  4. I'm also liking that you're doing a "weird west" setting that isn't necessarily beholden to Deadlands per se. Having said that, I did put together a soundtrack of my own (not for use during games, but rather as in-between-session inspiration) when I ran Deadlands last year. I put it up on 8tracks, and I'll list the songs below (since 8tracks doesn't let you do that):

    Jack Shear of "Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque" also did a "weird west" mix on 8tracks you should check out:

    Here are my picks (which happen to include the same Ghoultown song you posted!):

    "Knights of Cydonia" Muse (as much for the video as the song)
    "The Man Comes Around" Johnny Cash
    "Cattle Drive" Man or Astro-man?
    "Drink With the Living Dead" Ghoultown
    "Ghost Riders in the Sky" The Trashmen
    "Demon Valley" Bobby Bare, Jr.
    "Fistwhistle Boogie" The Legendary Shack Shakers
    "Minas de Cobre" Calexico
    "Death is Not the End" Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
    "Four Score and Seven" Titus Andronicus
    "El Hoyo" Perdito Diablo & Los Cadaveras
    "Little Ghost" The White Stripes
    "Big Sky" Reverend Horton Heat
    "Black Soul Choir" 16 Horsepower
    "Cousin Randy" Black Joe Lewis
    "Misery Train" The Legendary Shack Shakers

    1. Holy sh- thank you so much. I haven't had time to listen to all of them, but from those songs I do know, I can tell you have exactly the tastes I'm looking for! Thank you so much.

      Man the internet is awesome. Just say "show me something cool" in a weird and specific genre and suddenly I can't keep up with the suggestions!

  5. Fade to black is my favourite of the Iron Horse Metallica covers.
    As for the "Good, Bad, Ugly" theme, I like the Metallica version at the start of S&M - it's a little more epic feeling.
    you can also checkout the Steven Seagulls.
    the gravels spreaders:

    Thgough really I picture our gamer having more of a boogie woogie or honkytonk feel.

    1. Musically Fade to Black is a better crafted song, but I think Unforgiven (in tone and content) actually adapts better to bluegrass.

      The GBU theme is also cool, but I just watched it dubbed over the original scene and it doesn't work.

      That boogie woogie piano tune is awesome. not quite what I was picturing but Knowing the way our games always veer in ridiculous slapstick though, it may end up being appropriate.

    2. We could also head in the directio of "outlaw country" from the 70's... or newer versions like this:

  6. I've always been partial to Tom Waits' "Bone Machine" in this particular headspace.

    Especially this song:

    Also, I think you can always slip a little wrestling in there, what with all the esoteric orders of vampire fighting luchadors coming north from their secret Aztec temples and hidden monasteries seeking fortune and glory.

    1. Vampire Aztec luchadors! Why didn't I think that??? Thank you sir, you just made my day.

      Also, Tom Waits is brilliant and that song is excellent. +1


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