Mountain Goats

Mon Oct 6

Berbati's Pan

Six cassettes, 10 seven-inches, 16 12"/CD/10" records, a gianormous collection of songs on comps and collabs, plus the terrific, music-obsessive fanzine Last Train to Jakarta--this is what John Darnielle has to show for himself. The prolific songwriter, known to the drooling masses as Mountain Goats for his eloquent storytelling and passionate delivery, has most recently released Tallahassee, an epic, sad fable about a marriage gone south. The album is explicitly non-autobiographical, yet rings with a painful truism, and shows exactly what kinda sublime yarn this man is capable of weavin'.

But what's up with this guy; do you really like him that much? *

Does anyone ever come up to you and say, "I can really relate to you, I'm divorced, too," or like, "Tell me about your dysfunctional marriage!" based on your fictitious lyrics? How do you react?

Yeah, that happens all the time. I'm always trying to think of good ways to answer that sort of thing. For me, the feeling behind whatever story I'm telling is real--and certainly I don't believe in the whole authenticity trope, since to get really authentic you'd have to abandon language. A big part of my purpose in writing is to do for other people what great songs have done for me, i.e. comfort or encourage me in difficult times, so I'm always really happy when somebody connected with one of my narrators. But when people think, "Boy, that John, his life is sure fucked up," then I brood a little, yes.

Do you think being open-minded/obsessed with various and many types of music helps you as a songwriter?

Yeah--I can't imagine listening to only one kind of music, let alone only listening to the kind of music I already know how to make. One of the reasons I listen to heavy metal so much is that I know I couldn't play heavy metal if my life depended on it.

But I wonder if the musician-who-only-listens-to-his-own-kind-of-music isn't a straw man: I don't really know anybody who's completely insular in regards to music. Musicians ought to be curious people by nature.

What do you think about face-eating viruses, such as the real one portrayed in Cabin Fever?

I am not at liberty to speak about my work with face-eating viruses, and vociferously deny that there is any truth to the rumors about said work. Hey, wait a minute. Never mind.

* Line from Janet Jackson skit.