Ep. #140: John Darnielle

John Darnielle is one of the most esteemed songwriters working today. Currently based in Durham, North Carolina, he is the founder and leader of a beloved contemporary folk and rock band called the Mountain Goats who have been prolific over the past 25 years and praised for their infectious, impassioned, and vivid songs. In 2008, Darnielle’s first book, Black Sabbath: Master of Reality, was published as a unique, fictional entry in Bloomsbury’s 33 ⅓ music series and he has also contributed a regular column called “South Pole Dispatch” in the American heavy metal magazine, Decibel. This past September, HarperCollins published Darnielle’s second book, Wolf in White Van, a dark, dizzying novel about isolation and connection and interpersonal impact that was promptly longlisted for a National Book Award. Here, John and I discuss active, entertaining three year-olds that don’t always sleep so well, parent partiality, the unique temporal structure of Wolf in White Van, mapping out the characters and getting to know them and the story, the famous case of Judas Priest being taken to court by parents after their children shot themselves, heavy metal, the fictional role-playing game Trace Italian, sci-fi and D&D, playing games with Jason Morningstar, trying on new identities, collective creative engagement and the life of the mind, typification and sub-genres, formulating the Trace Italian game that’s depicted in the book, why Sean Phillips created this role-playing game while he was in the hospital for doing an inexplicable thing, playing a game where you can only advance via mail order instructions, life and limitations, generating questions, the role music may or may not play in this book, not leaving music behind, Laurel & Hardy get chased by the alphabet, getting a typewriter at six years old, whether or not he might be good at most things, the book not the song, what’s coming up next for him and the Mountain Goats, a book tour might be more exhausting than a music tour, going dancing or seeing Robert Plant live, dad clocks, cooking on the road, coming to Canada and why crossing the border can be an unpleasant experience, how Propagandhi is the best, border guard mind games, other people have it worse, the song “Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes” by Propagandhi, and that was it.      

Related links: mountain-goats.com vishkhanna.com

John Darnielle

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