John Darnielle

Quote Topics Cited
A band's first album's usually not great. When you made the first album, you had a day job and you were still trying to be serious about it.
A book is a journey: It's a thing you agree to go on with somebody, and I think every reader's experience of a book is going to be different.
A Cat Stevens record isn't just Cat Stevens' ideas. It's Cat Stevens and all the musicians who play with Cat Stevens, right?
A song is fire. You react to it primally, instantly. You don't have to decide whether you like it, and you don't really have to sit down and think about it much after you're done listening to it. It really does run through you like wind.
Adulthood is interesting to adults. But I would never want to write about stuff I don't feel everybody can connect to.
As an idea occurs to me, I'll either follow it or not, but I'm more instinctive than master-planner about stuff.
At 23, you can completely, literally reinvent yourself if you want to.
At my high school, there were always kids carrying acoustic guitars around, which is why I named my band the Mountain Goats. I didn't want to seem like one of those guys who brought his guitar to the party whether you asked him to or not.
Back in the '90s, if you did mail order in music, you could make a good living doing it if you could hustle. Music, Chants & Rapps
For me, fiction isn't very cathartic. It can be a broad, long catharsis, but it's a whole different thing - whereas music is physical. Essentially, it goes in through your ear. Fiction is cerebral, necessarily. It can do emotional stuff. But they don't really compare - not for me. Music, Chants & Rapps
For me, moving is always a big opportunity. It's just a enough of a shift in outlook that every time I move, it seems to open something up. Time
For years, I've written narrators who aren't gender-identified. When I do autobiographical stuff, that's different, obviously. But I've always tried to keep my songs as potentially not a man's thing.
'Heel Turn 2' is about a person who's in a match, and he's playing as though the match were real. But it is real! If you're standing in the middle of a ring, and you're playing the villain, and everyone is booing and throwing things at you, that's real.
I always assumed people wanted to hear me tell stories, but then I had 'The Sunset Tree.' It turned out, my own stories were the ones that registered with people the hardest.
I always worry that I'm a dilettante: I know something about lots of things but don't have exhaustive knowledge of much. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
I am permanently a student of people who make great songs, but besides sort of learning by absorption, I just love listening to music, hearing what's going on, hearing new things or new old things. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Music, Chants & Rapps
I don't have a favorite drink. I don't do favorites of anything, practically.
I don't sit down and say I'm going to write a song about this or that. They are never mapped out.
I get nostalgic about having lived in Ames, Iowa, even though being a vegetarian in Iowa is not fun. But I really love Durham more than any place I've ever been; some small towns can be really provincial and strangling, but Durham is the best city in the world. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I got a promo of 'Nichts Muss' in what would have been 2002 or 2003 and fell totally in love with it after listening to it on an airplane that took me to Australia via Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I hang out and sign records for an hour or two hours every night, and I like to hear as many people's stories as I can, because if somebody wants to share their story with me, I want to honor that.
I know the Bible pretty well. I'm not one of those guys who can immediately start quoting every book, but usually I know where to look to find certain themes.
I love Joan Didion, but I love her writing. I don't think meeting her could solve my problems or make me understand the world better. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I pretty much just focus on making the records - unless I'm self-releasing them; then I do my own thing. But at some point, you have to stop worrying about chains of distribution, or it takes out of your time to write. Time
I still can't manage to keep a journal, and people have been telling me to since the fourth grade.
I think all writing is necessarily autobiographical to a greater or lesser extent, and the less it tries to be confessional, the more likely it is that you're somehow sneaking the things you need to say in there.
I think any real one-sheet for an album would say, 'Well, here's what I've been doing.' And that would be it.
I think I am a religious person just by nature. I think I sort of view everything through the lens of some inner undying thing in people that drives them to act as they do or to feel ashamed of not acting in some other way. Nature
I think I read too much Arthur Conan Doyle when I was young and got this idea that a gentleman should know a lot about one thing and plenty about most everything else.
I think the self is complicated, that at various times we are all various people, and wrestling actually does a lot with that. You have things like heel turns where a person goes from being a good guy to a bad guy.
I think 'The Sunset Tree' is really the album on which I really learned to trust other musicians, which is so important. Trust
I think there are some writers - like, if you read Kerouac, I think you probably need to take a little break before you sit down to the typewriter because he's the type of writer whose voice infects you.
I think wrestling is the one that presents theater for people who want to see some theater but don't necessarily have to dress up or be quiet while they're watching.
I think youth will always be connected to the strongest music at the time because... I don't want to use the word 'tribal,' but there was this sort of familial affiliation that people would feel with the music they were listening to. Time ;Music, Chants & Rapps
I think, taking too long to work on a record, you sort of lose some of the feeling, so I write as fast as I can; it's just this manic phase where I'm by myself and or on tour, and I write, and I write. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I try not to write songs in which men glamorize their own need for approval from women. That's kinda a bogus way to go out. But I try to do this quietly. I'm not about to go around telling people how they should or shouldn't think. My feminism is for me. Women
I used to assume no one would care, but I do think now I've written songs that are useful to people having dark hours.
I used to break three or four strings a night, and the show would be over because I didn't know how to change the strings.
I want to make sure people know I don't think I have any magic powers. I just have a story that I share.
I was a huge comic book fan. It's weird because the era of 'Marvel' I was into turns out to be very important in the long run, but it's not the one that anybody romanticizes.
I was writing poetry, and the Mountain Goats was an outgrowth of that. Literature, Writers & Writing
I watched 'Fame,' and I just love the choreography. It just gives me a place to be in another zone. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I write for a lot of places, so I'm on a lot of promo lists.
I write stuff down. I have a chalkboard in the kitchen where I will scrawl stuff down if I have a faint outline of an idea. And I'll go into my office or whatever. But that goes from format to format.
I wrote 'Lakeside View Apartment Suites' with Roman in my arms. He was about a month old. I was playing left-handed and finally handed him over. On the demo of it, you can hear him crying in the next room.
I'd played with Jon Wurster as a duo just for a lark.
If I go see a band, and they play, like, zero from any of their old albums, I'm very happy about that. I do not want to see the bands of my youth playing the songs of my youth. I hate that.
If you show up to work five days in a row, nobody's going to pat you on the back - everyone does that. Well, do that with your writing. Just show up. Be there for it. When you get an idea, write it down somewhere and then be a steward of that idea. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I'm finding things out about myself as a person - as a writer - as I write, and so are the people who listen to what I do. But they have this additional aspect of how they take the stuff that I do, and so it broadens the work, and it creates this strange connection. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
It usually happens that I have multiple different projects going on at once, and one can be referencing the other.
It's like fiction - the fact that somebody's telling you a story about people who didn't exist doesn't make the experience of the story any less real in your heart and mind. You go through heavy emotional responses to these stories, and wrestling is a similar thing - but it's happening in real space.
It's not my style to be thinking about what a record is while I'm making it: I just write songs.
I've written a lot about southern California, but I don't use the same characters. Leave the people in the songs in the songs, is my philosophy.
Life is entirely unthinkable without any of the creative arts, and they're all a continuum - the force in question is creativity, not its mode of expression. Life
Metal has its own code of cool, but it's not really trying to be cool. And that was very refreshing to me, that metal is very much about expressing something that seems awesome to you even if, at the time, much of the world was going to mock and reject it. Time
Metal isn't necessarily aggressive. There's metal that's contemplative, there's metal that's sad, and there's metal that's exuberant. No genre is limited in what it can express.
More and more, I enjoy hearing people who are good at their instruments and who've found a distinctive voice. In death metal, a lot of guys are Eddie Van Halen disciples, but they take his style to really expressionistic places. It's a real pleasure for me to hear people pushing their craft. Death
Most of 'All Hail West Texas' was written during orientation at a new job I had. I had basically worked this job before, I knew this stuff, so I was writing lyrics in the margins of all the Xeroxed material.
Most of my interests in terms of writing are dark, so it's discordant how much I try to lock into the vibe of wherever I'm at. Inhabiting the life of the imagination is the nature of survival strategy - you build yourself little worlds to enjoy. Life ;Nature
My father would tell me if I wasn't writing in meter verse, it wasn't poetry. Literature, Writers & Writing
My favorite movies are gory horror films. I love Faulkner. I wanted to see the most painful things possible. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
My feminism is what came squarely up against my faith. There's a lot of ecstatic post-patriarchal Christians who have stuff they do with that. But at that point, you're doing Christianity with a double-superscript. The Bible, and especially the book of Genesis, is pretty unapologetically patriarchal. Religion & God
My songs tend to sprint toward some epiphany and then explode.
My strongest hope is for a cameo as a band playing in a club visited by the detectives on 'Law & Order: SVU' during the course of an investigation, maybe during sound check, or something, so they can force us to stop playing while they question the sound guy. Hope
Once you start talking to people, you find out there's a lot more wrestling fans than you think there are.
One of the great things about wrestling is how it interrogates this silly idea that you have one authentic self.
One or two people have named their children after characters in my songs. That's pretty intense.
Opera combines pretty basic theater and poetry, but the storyline itself is actually quite poetic and, after some digital research, taking that actual content and seeing it as undeniably poetic. Literature, Writers & Writing
People do all sorts of things impulsively and follow those impulses into strange places.
People like to say how much they like stuff, but with 'The Sunset Tree,' people shared stories about what it meant for them. And that stuff's so humbling and amazing.
People think of me as a nice person because, I think, I have grown into a nice person.
Readings are more like weaving a tapestry. Possibly people are getting a cathartic release - but music is physical. Music pummels you. It's got a beat; it's loud. Whereas this is more cerebral. Music, Chants & Rapps
Something I've learned being in this industry for so long is that if you want to work with somebody, call them up. Very few musicians have any illusions about genre boundaries. They are useful descriptive terms, but they don't really bind musicians. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Sometimes I do 'So Desperate' solo in the middle of the set. I really love to sing that song. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Sometimes I feel very young, and other times I feel like the side of a ship that's got a bunch of layers of mussels and barnacles on it.
Sometimes I'll write without the guitar or the piano, but most of the time I'll be playing and just improvising some words. And when I get something that sounds good, a line with a story in it, I'll try and tease it out and figure out where the story is going. Time
Songs are often character studies.
That's what I used to enjoy so much: Bringing a record home, having it arrive in the mailbox. Having the whole experience of hearing it as you're holding it and looking at it and reading the liner notes, if they're anything.
The best ones - Hulk Hogan believes in Hulkamania. It's not a thing he's selling here. It's real. He knows it's real because he goes to the Mall Of America and everybody goes insane, right? Wrestling is real. Those characters are real.
The better I get at writing songs, the harder it seems to be to relate to people. But when I get on stage, I'm extremely happy.
The more established you are, the less likely you are to do something ridiculous, which is one reason I'm proud to put out a wrestling album. If you stop and you go, 'Well, what if people don't like it?,' if you're already established in what you do, that'll strike fear into your heart.
The way the vocal folds work is that they can get inflamed and in pain, but actual tears in the folds are somewhat rare. I've never torn anything. Been too strained plenty of times. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
There's the dual challenge of wanting to speak from an authentic place, and then being able to be honest about it. Even in the most mannered art, I think that's what people value, is a voice that comes from a real place. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
This is why improvisational music and comedy is so inspiring: You are seeing something being born, and that energy, there is no substitute for. These songs, most of them, are about a minute old when you hear them. Music, Chants & Rapps
To me, creative work is labor, like any other kind of labor. It's got value, and it takes your time, and it's useful to people, depending. Time ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
To me, everything is always new. People involved in my personal life make fun of me a lot for not being jaded. Life
To me, the only good reason to be touring is if you still have something good to share instead of just revisiting past glories.
Touring is just not normal for me. My personality is to never ever talk to people if I can help it.
When I'm writing a song, I'm just making stuff up as I go along.
When you're born into a showbiz family, the deck is stacked against you. Families, Children & Parenting
Wrestlers give their bodies to their work. I don't know if I like the word 'crazy' here. What I would say is there are people who have a different relationship to their bodies than most people. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Wrestling is like any form of drama or pretty much any form of entertainment - some people understand this about forms of entertainment really intuitively when they're younger, and others would have to be really not very intelligent for a long time until we realize that every human mood is an art. Time ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Wrestling's a form of expression, and it expresses vastness.
You always feel like your 18-year-old self in some sense. And that's what walking through New York on a June evening feels like - you feel like it's Friday, and you're 17 years old.
You get this really cool groove when you're playing just piano, bass, and drums where everyone's sort of feeling each other's space, which is the only way to put it, but it really is true, and everyone's sort of sitting in their own pocket. It's kind of jazz-like.
You want the song to be at least at the same level of goodness throughout. Whereas with something you're doing live, a song dips and rises and that can actually be worked to the song's benefit.
Younger songwriters will ask me, 'What did you do?' And it's like, 'Well, I worked a day job, and I didn't stake anything. I didn't quit my day job. I didn't have any hopes at all. I just did the thing that I believed in, and I waited a long time.' Time
Your creativity before it gets formed into words and songs is the actual substance. No one else can see it, right? Unless you give it the shape of a song or a painting or whatever.
Your intelligence doesn't override your desire to destroy yourself.