NOTES ON IMAGINARY EXTANT, LOST, DELETED, AND UNRECORDED TRACKS WRITTEN, PERFORMED, RECORDED FOR OR DURING THE PERIOD OF TIME IN THE LIFE OF JOHN DARNIELLE THAT WOULD PRODUCE “ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS” NOT INCLUDED IN THIS COLLECTION BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL IMAGINARY
1. A Warrior of Jarella (3:16)
John Darnielle (“Dar-NYEEELehhhh”)* was born in Bloomington, Indiana (“Bloomington: The Other Bloomington”). This son of the Midwest moved around much as a child before settling in California (“The Golden State,” “Fucking California”). This record is thematically “into” movement and Texas (“The Lone Star State”). West Texas. Not West, Texas, which is a real place, but western Texas, maybe representative of a certain state of mind? It’s vast and expansive and maybe better than this. After Jarella died, Hulk went completely shithouse for a whole issue. Recorded live to Panasonic RX-FT 500.
*not actually how it’s pronounced —ed.
2. Ron Santo Will Rise Again and Have Revenge, Bloody Revenge, on Cooperstown (1:14)
Some of the places in Texas that have appeared in Mountain Goats songs include Brownsville, Denton, Toyahvale, Austin, Houston, and, of course, Lubbock. Dallas, too, right in the title of this album’s closing track. This is a band that is heavily into restless searching. Ron Santo, Randy Hundley, Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger, and Ernie Banks — Chicago Cubs all — played together on the NL All Star Team in 1969. Five Cubs. Can you imagine? Performed live in parking lot of Ziggy’s, Winston-Salem, NC and recorded live to HI-8 camcorder.
3. Mountain Ghosts (4:04)
Darnielle, about whose upbringing has been written about extensively by others as well as by Darnielle himself, started releasing work as “the Mountain Goats” in 1991 (“The Year Punk Broke”) while attending Pitzer College (“Provida Futuri”). Across the next three years five more boombox tapes like TEXAS would follow. 1994 saw the first Mountain Goats “studio”** recording, ZOPILOTE MACHINE. In 2010 a mountain goat gored a hiker to death in Olympic National Park outside of Seattle. The collective noun of “mountain goats” is ‘trip’. A trip of mountain goats. Sung without accompaniment by Darnielle while driving to grocery store, Ames, Iowa.
**loosely defined here as “any room with a guitar in it” —ed.
4. What If We Called It “Bitcoin” (3:00) (approx.)
This track, weirdly prescient and specific, came from Darnielle’s ill-advised “krautfolk” phase. Darnielle worked in psychiatric hospitals as a nurse. His time in the employ of those hospitals would influence not only Darnielle’s lyrics but also his 2008 novella MASTER OF REALITY. Darnielle is pretty heavily into metal. In 2010 Hate Eternal/Morbid Angel guitarist Eric Rutan would record four Mountain Goats songs, so, you know: thatheavily. Mountain goats are herbivores; so is Darnielle. Performed in men’s room of Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT and later on-stage.
5. Going to Jack Parsons’ Lab (2:48)
The volume of songs released between 1991 and 2001, on cassettes, LPs, EPs, 7” singles, and various other formats, number more than 200 across 20-some releases that, to the best of my ability to ascertain such things, have seen the light of day. Lots of Mountain Goats songs are about going places, not just in Texas. Kansas, East Rutherford, Lebanon, Hungary, Palestine… somebody made a Google Map of ‘em all. Seriously, Google it. What happens if you Google “Google”? Time to find out. Performed as a prank to some guy’s voicemail, New Year’s Eve party, 2001.
6. A Debt to Asclepius (2:03)
Sometimes there were songs about the doomed “Alpha” couple. These songs sometimes had the word “Alpha” in the title. There are no songs with the word “Alpha” on ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS. In 2002 the Mountain Goats released two hang-‘em-in-the-rafters great, all-time, goddamn masterpieces: TALLAHASSEE and ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS. TALLAHASSEE would be a studio effort, his first with longtime collaborator Peter Hughes, amongst others, and would be, more or less, an album about the obliteration of the Alpha couple. Recorded onto wax cylinders “liberated” from the Edison Museum, on the road from West Orange, NJ.
7. Song for Old Dummy Hoy (2:51)
ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS is the apotheosis of Darnielle’s boombox tapes in a lot of ways; the quality of the songs themselves musically and lyrically are stellar and the entire thing is framed by Texas geography as thematic device and the RX-FT 500 is in fine, droning, form and tone throughout. So two albums in the same years both, more or less, concept albums. TEXAS sees many Mountain Goat lyrical leitmotifs drawn into crystal focus: survivors, the doomed, the aforementioned restless travelers, houses, the beaten down, the lovers searching for geographic cures, Satan. You are going to meet Cyrus and Jeff on this record. Oh! Oh. Oh you have no idea. Omitted for two reasons, both that it was the second baseball-themed track and Darnielle’s well-documented fallout with the Society for American Baseball Research. Recorded at Paisley Park, Minneapolis, MN, 6/7/02.
8. Electric Eliminators Making Soho Streets Run Red (2:59)
Subsequent Mountain Goat releases include but are not limited to WE SHALL ALL BE HEALED, THE SUNSET TREE, BLACK PEAR TREE (with Kaki King), GET LONELY, SATANIC MESSIAH, TRANSCENDENTAL YOUTH… the writing and releasing has yet to relent; the Mountain Goats produce at a velocity like Kiss in their prime. This song would transmute forms and be resurrected as “High Hawk Season” on 2011’s ALL ETERNALS DECK. Recorded to 7” for inclusion in time capsule, Horace Mann Middle School, Burlington, IA, before the fire.
9. Baron Karza Begets (Song for Dave) 17:04
Lyrically, this song appeared to be a list, with no order or organization, of whatever Micronauts (“The Interchangeable World of the Micronauts”) that Darnielle could recall at the time in a John Cage-ian test of listener endurance. The Mountain Goats core lineup is John Darnielle, Peter Hughes, and master skins-basher Jon Wurster on drums. Sometimes they have company. Sometimes not. In 2013, Darnielle and Hughes will tour as a duo. Danzig took the SAMHAIN logo from an old CRYSTAR comic book cover by Michael Golden who used to draw MICRONAUTS too. Recorded on those long, like, scrolls of paper that robot pianos in the old west used to play PLAYER PIANOS that’s what they’re called OK recorded to Player Piano scroll and let’s sayyyyy… lost in a car fire, Alamogordo, NM.
10. Hope Clouds Observation (2:22)
I was supposed to meet John Darnielle after the first time I got to see the Mountain Goats perform live; before the show I was nervous so I let the man and the band eat in peace. After the show I felt unwell — like, really unwell. I was shivering. Turns out I had swine flu. What if you went on your favorite band’s tour bus and gave them all swine flu. Swine flu killed my uncle a long time ago. It didn’t kill me. And I have yet to meet John Darnielle. I don’t have to: we already know each other. I was Jeff. My Cyrus was named Jay and he died in 2009. My star high school running back was named Peyton, and it was coke, not acid. This tape is my life. This tape is your life. Guess what? We survived it this long. All hail West Texas. Recorded with ink and needle into human skin, forever, and with gratitude, endless gratitude, Anytown, USA.
All Hail West Texas will be reissued by Merge on 23 July, 2013 - it’s available for presale now at that Merge link. John Darnielle will be grateful to Matt Fraction for writing this bio even unto the grave, yea, and far beyond. The town of West, Texas could really use whatever help you can give so if you have a little extra pass it along. Thanks!