Sunday, February 26, 2006


Kevin de Groot, from the band Leopardskin Nuclear Bomber (see previous blog entry), was kind enough to send me a most peculiar sound file stripped of the overlying guitars. I then sent it around to a few people and asked “Does this sound like the gray caps?” The gray caps, for those of you who don’t know, are the underground inhabitants of my imaginary city of Ambergris, driven there when the current colonists arrived.

You’ll find the responses, which run the gamut, below.

But my question now, for the rest of you out in cyberland, is Does this sound like the gray caps? And if not, what Ambergris sound is it? (I’m sincerely interested, and looking for your honest opinion—your first reaction. Please take a few moments to leave a comment—and, besides, it’s a 13-second sound clip. It won’t take you long at all. And you might be helping with the Shriek movie...)

You can listen here.

Robert Devereux
I imagined them a bit more like one of those African languages with clicks and whistles, but this works well.

Tessa Kum
Egads. I had my volume up too loud, and now the dogs are barking. I never actually imagined the grey caps making any noise, they were much more creepy when silent. That said, the last few seconds of that clip, when there is gibbering/choking going on...that worked for me. The middle, not so much. I couldn't see a context for the middle except for, say, a foreman yelling orders. I could hear lots of teeth in the whole thing. That bit was spot on, heh.

Keith B. Johnston (book collector)
Sounds gray cappish to me!

Rick Kleffel
Yep, perfect, and it made Cosmo bark. She got out of bed to chase whatever was making that sound. The staccato bits near the end of the sample sounded particularly great.

Clare Dudman
Well...that is truly disturbing. Honestly, quite worrying. But no, not at all like my idea of a grey cap, I'm afraid. I imagined them silent, insidious, a moan rather than a screech, even when they were at the door trying to get in and they escaped over the roof. I imagined maybe a howl, a low one...but mostly I guess I imagined a SILENCE. I guess it could represent something to do with the festival of the Great Squid, and maybe when the two coloured factions were fighting...but that would be more low pitched. No, what this reminds me most of all is the EVIL MONKEY - mid-throw...It really is incredibly affecting - it doesn't lose its power either when you hear it again which is strange. It is the sound of a smashed up mind. That's what I thought, unrestrained insanity.

Luis Rodrigues
Jesus. Yes.

Matt Cheney
The greycap sound seemed odd to me, because I'd never imagined them as high-pitched. (And now you can scold me and tell me they're always referred to as high-pitched screamers in the book.)

Jeffrey Ford
The grey cap audio thing, for some reason, cracked the shit out of me. Laughed like hell when I heard it -- supremely annoying.

Juliet Ulman (my Bantam editor)
AAAAAAAAACK! And yes, yes it kind of does.

Eric Schaller (writer, illustrator, man of science)
Not the version I have in my mind--which tend to be quietly menacing.

Hannes Riffel (my German editor)
The sound file sounds like the seven dwarfs on dope, which certainly fits the profile ...

Gilles Goullet (my French translator)
Actually, gray caps had always given me the impression they were quiet (almost mute) people. Maybe because they don't have a single line in the book. So I guess nothing will sound like gray caps to me! But I like the sounds, though. Kind of creepy. I wouldn't like hearing that while being underground...

Tamar Yellin
All I can tell you is that really, really upset the Jazz-dog. It also freaked me out! Brr. Remind me not to visit Ambergris!

Robert Wexler
More like the gray cat after you stepped on its tail. I always thought they sounded more like a woody vibration, a bassoon made of cork.

Anna Tambour
No. But everyone will have their own aural image of gray caps' sounds. I always thought of them having bass voices as they mature, and also, I think of them never sounding wild and unsocietal as this clip does to me. They would sound articulate, and soft-edged as adults. But again, there's no 'right' to this, is there? I don't know how you think they sound, but I've hunted for how they would sound to me, and if you can imagine the sounds of boiling mud in a place like Rotorua (or slowly boiling and popping oatmeal) add that to sounds of your foot being pulled from mud, and these clips (with the first one speeded up in parts), and that's what they--young, adult, and aged—sound like to me.

Jonathan Stephens (book collector, writer)
Very Cool!

David Lynton
I always imagined them making a tongue clicking or perhaps whispering, but that definitely sounds like the noise they would make when they are doing "something" to someone they have captured!

Juha Lindroos
I love it!

EVIL MONKEY’S TIP OF THE WEEK: If someone is stealing your plastic-wrapped newspaper, get up earlier than the culprits for five consecutive days and replace the new newspaper with an old one into the middle of which you have stuffed a ton of cat poop. Not only will this soon stop your paper getting stolen but you’ll have cleaned the cat box for the day.


At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It sounds like the Tasmanian Devil having an orgasm.

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

but I like it.


At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Jay Tomio said...

That brought back memories of me when I tore my ACL (which I just found out sounded like the Tasmanian Devil having an orgasm).

I always thought of them as a slight echo, a more reserved and ominous quality. The sound I heard was like greycap audience finding out Oprah bought them all cars (Oprah in Ambergis - now that's chilling)

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I've always thought of the greycaps as more quiet and sinister, rather than high-pitched gibbering. Sounds like something Draden's fever-ridden brain might have heard deep in the jungle.

At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Sovay said...

I could certainly picture some bit of Ambergris sounding like this (most likely during the Festival of the Freshwater Squid, or maybe a Living Saint on a bad day), but not the grey caps: I'm not sure I'd ever associated any particular sound with them, but if I had, it would have been more subdued and sibilant, whispers and clicks and mutters; or maybe no sound at all, ever, and that would have been much worse.

How do you think they sound?

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I, too, always imagined the Grey Caps being quiet, with the collective sound of susurration.

But that sounds is unnerving ... maybe I should set it as my ring tone?

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always imagined the Grey Caps as veryvery quiet, too.

(Which isn't to say the clip's not freaky because: brr!)

- Hannah

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great responses. For those of you who don't think it sounds like the gray caps, what Ambergris sound do you think it is?


At 7:26 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Either something to do with the squid festival, or it's the sound heard while you're in the process of being brain scrambled by Buscard's murrain ...

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous J.J. Rohmaller said...

I had the sound up loud on the computer(I'm sorry now), and I'd closed my eyes, imagining myself in some darkened underground passage beneath the drowsing shops of Ambergris...too damp down there, with drifting spores brushing my arms...and when I heard the sound my first reaction was serious terror! God yes, the grey caps WOULD sound like this, because it's unexpected but it fits, because they're sinister and sneaking but aggresive & immensely scary too. Our cat Hannah was atop the gecko tank above the pc and all the hair stood up on her body, and her eyes looked like squid 12 year old daughter, who ran in from the bath to see what I was laughing over, ALSO though the sound was perfect for the grey caps. So there you are!


At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rather imagined the greycaps sounding like a badly tuned radio station, turned down really low so you can't distinguish the words and it irritates the shit out of you.

The sound in question would be fitting for a dark Ambergris alley on the night of the Festival of the Freshwater Squid where an unwary tourist encounters his worst nightmare...

Anne S

At 4:09 AM, Blogger Martin R said...

Whilst the soundclip is undeniably freaky, it still comes across as a high pitched male voice.

Maybe a victim of the Grey Caps?

I have to agree with those that imaged SILENCE when the Grey Caps came-a-stalking.

My general impression of the sound of Ambergris was of a rich tapestry of conflicting sounds.

And the sudden absence of that sound the only indication of the aforementioned stalking.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Jason Erik Lundberg said...

I'd have to thrown my hat in with those who pictured the gray caps as more of the silent type. That's part of what's so creepy about them, that they never say a word, that they could be creeping up right behind you and you'd never know it.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger JeffV said...

Well, they say a bloody lot in the next novel, Zamilon File, so I guess you'll all have to get used to it. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Jakob Schmidt said...

It sounds quite Donald-Duckish to me ... but that may not be that bad, since DD's voice always seemed quite scary to me. That way, it also fits with the Disney-theme of "X". Even though I imagined them as silent as well, I could definitely picture them producing this kind of noise while attacking Dradin.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Deightine said...

I think that is probably the sound of a grey cap recently denied his priestly sacrifice, screaming orders at the ones around it to hunt him down and kill him.

Normally I kind of imagined a cross between the sound of cutting through a mushroom (like a rubbery shivery squeak) and the african clicking language... only less discernible. More in a range the ears can hear, but the brain can't process.

I imagine they would be quite sparing with how often they spoke too, especially with the effect it would have in a large cavern with possibly unstable stalactites (ouch). Might explain the quiet otherwise.


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