100 Musicians Answer the Same 10 Questions
Part Forty: John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats
instigated by dave heaton
If you haven't heard of the Mountain Goats, I feel sorry for you. Or no, that's not true – I just feel like you should get yourself to a record store right now, and start experiencing the legacy of smartly crafted, moving and thought-provoking (and enjoyable to listen to, don't forgot about that) songs that John Darnielle and band (right now, Peter Hughes) have amassed over the years. His new album Get Lonely (4AD) is as good as anything he's done, and quite different in tone: quiet, emotionally draining, and absolutely haunting. For more information, check out the Mountain Goats website…and while you're out there, visit Last Plane to Jakarta, Darnielle's thoughtful and provocative zine-turned-blog/whatever.
What aspect of making music excites you the most right now?
The sort of trance I get into randomly at points during the process. Sometimes it's after lots of work, sometimes it happens quickly, but there's this moment (usually when I'm writing, not recording or playing) when I just get lost. That for me is the best part. It does happen onstage sometimes too.
What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?
Oh, all the usual stuff, you know: sitting around waiting to play is pretty much the supreme irritant for me, whether it's backstage or in the studio waiting for microphones to get moved around. Also, the tension between people wanting to hear old/established songs and me being much more passionate and involved with new ones.
What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc).
Tour tour tour tour tour tour tour check self into institution tour tour tour tour tour yell at friends/family tour tour tour read boxing magazines tour tour tour tour complain about actually-pretty-sweet-life tour tour tour go home. Past that, the Extra Glenns will make another album soon.
What's the most unusual place you've ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
I recorded "There Will Be No Divorce" in a tiny toolshed behind our house near the train tracks in Colo, Iowa. Interestingly I was having to think so hard about not stepping on rusty nails and stuff during the recording that the performance sort of took care of itself, which was a nice effect.
In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music?
I always feel like the place I grew up is the most important contributor. You're likely to take your self-image from your early surroundings, I think: the "me" you see when you close your eyes and try to think of what you look like. I do think where you live impacts you greatly, but I hesitate to say "active landscape = busier songs," etc etc - it's more like, "What sort of scenario inspires me?" Well: one with interesting natural flora & fauna...I have to say, since moving to North Carolina I feel more inspired by the terrain than I have in years, it's so awesome here.
When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it?
I think the last time I wrote one was in my office. I don't like to talk about songs before they've been recorded, they're sorta private 'til I get done with them.
As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people...and why do you think that is?
I don't know that the two are related but your question implies a causative effect (make more music => get more/less interested in other musics). I've always been pretty voracious about getting music.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? (Old or new music? Music like yours or different from yours?)
Instrumental stuff - the more familiar I get with my own instruments, the more I want to hear other people play them. I'm really into ECM records right now, and Kaki King, and the Idol Tryouts 2 disc - these are some very disparate areas but they share a meditative quality. Then again, I'm enjoying black metal more than I ever have right now.
Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What's one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?
Kaki King. I think her new album's going to get a lot more listeners though, the fellow from Tortoise produced it. I am a fanatic for her stuff - I listen to a live recording of "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" pretty much on a loop sometimes.
What's the saddest song you've ever heard?
There is no answer to this question! It varies! I kinda don't believe in saddest song/best album/etc etc stuff, it's rather an article of religious faith for me that things don't really work like that. I am not trying to be obstinate here though it probably looks that way, eh? Mahler's "Um Mitternacht," though, that one's almost transcendentally sad. Sarah Dougher's "40 Hours." Christine Fellows's "Vertebrae." The Geto Boys' "I Tried." there are a few.
Band photo above taken by Mark Van S..
To check out the rest of the Q&As, click here.