I think 'The Sunset Tree' is really the album on which I really learned to trust other musicians, which is so important.
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.
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.
One or two people have named their children after characters in my songs. That's pretty intense.
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.
A Cat Stevens record isn't just Cat Stevens' ideas. It's Cat Stevens and all the musicians who play with Cat Stevens, right?
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.
Back in the '90s, if you did mail order in music, you could make a good living doing it if you could hustle.
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.
I always worry that I'm a dilettante: I know something about lots of things but don't have exhaustive knowledge of much.
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 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.
I still can't manage to keep a journal, and people have been telling me to since the fourth grade.
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 write for a lot of places, so I'm on a lot of promo lists.
I'd played with Jon Wurster as a duo just for a lark.
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.
It usually happens that I have multiple different projects going on at once, and one can be referencing the other.
It's not my style to be thinking about what a record is while I'm making it: I just write songs.
My father would tell me if I wasn't writing in meter verse, it wasn't poetry.
My favorite movies are gory horror films. I love Faulkner. I wanted to see the most painful things possible.
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.
My songs tend to sprint toward some epiphany and then explode.
Once you start talking to people, you find out there's a lot more wrestling fans than you think there are.
People do all sorts of things impulsively and follow those impulses into strange places.
People think of me as a nice person because, I think, I have grown into a nice person.
Adulthood is interesting to adults. But I would never want to write about stuff I don't feel everybody can connect to.
Sometimes I do 'So Desperate' solo in the middle of the set. I really love to sing that song.
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.
Songs are often character studies.
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.
I think any real one-sheet for an album would say, 'Well, here's what I've been doing.' And that would be it.
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.
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.
To me, everything is always new. People involved in my personal life make fun of me a lot for not being jaded.
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.
Wrestling's a form of expression, and it expresses vastness.
Your intelligence doesn't override your desire to destroy yourself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'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.
One of the great things about wrestling is how it interrogates this silly idea that you have one authentic self.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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