Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle: “I’m not interested in back in the day. We are always in the present moment”
In the summer of 1999, John Darnielle and his wife, Lalitree, lived in Ames, Iowa. Over the prior decade, Darnielle had written and released dozens and dozens of songs under the name the Mountain Goats. Sometimes he performed with friends such as Rachel Ware, Peter Hughes and Franklin Bruno, but usually it was just him and a cheap tape recorder. One week, John found himself attending orientation for a new job while his wife was away at hockey camp. Anyone who's been through a corporate orientation knows how easy it is to drift off into a somnolent haze. John wisely used the time and office supplies to develop rough lyric drafts, recording them at night on his trusty boombox.
Early in 2002, now-defunct indie label Emperor Jones released the results as "All Hail West Texas." Even by the high standards of the Mountain Goats' material to date, this was something special. Songs like “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton” and “Fall of the High School Running Back” were far more detailed and self-reflective than anything that had come before. Without really adhering to a unifying concept, "All Hail West Texas" now appears to foreshadow the more thematic approach Darnielle would shortly adapt on such studio albums as "Tallahassee," "The Sunset Tree" and last year's "Transcendental Youth."