DARNIELLE: And I went back to my room and just sat there listening to music and my mom came down the hall to see what time she should make dinner and I had been sitting there for a half hour contemplating what I was gonna do to express that I didn’t deserve this, and this was at the extent of the rage, so I punched my window. I put my fist through the window. It felt like a million bucks. I never felt so good in my whole life. It was like, holy shit. And the house melted down. Right there was just this immediate, my stepfather screamed he was gonna beat everyone’s ass even worse and my mother and my sister’s crying and this whole terrible scene… bleeding down my arm and I just felt like a million bucks. It was like, you know what, it felt so good, to show them what it felt like inside. There was no way of getting it through their heads.
MARON: It’s also a way of trumping the pain they inflicted.
DARNIELLE: Exactly, that’s right.
MARON: You win in some weird way.
DARNIELLE: Yeah that’s right, that was my victory.
WTF With Marc Maron with John Darnielle, Episode 366
When Amy Winehouse died, I wrote the first ‘Spent Gladiator’. That’s what people don’t say when drug addicts die—that they are mentally ill, that it is a disease. I felt really sad and I thought about all the other Amy Winehouses in the world who aren’t famous, whose deaths go uncelebrated. Then I was sort of off to the races thinking—writing about people who were suffering with various psychic ills
John Darnielle on “Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1” (via mrasrotinhell)
One thing pop music is good for is remembering that somewhere inside us is the potential for unvanquishable joy.
“The song’s about accepting the permanence of one’s condition. The narrator is a guy who’s in and out of hospitals a lot. I’ve worked with people who’ve experienced that, and I always assume there has to come a point where it’s really hard, but then you try to find some way to be OK with it. There’s a lot of sadness in that song.
What I’ve been learning over the course of my life is that diagnoses exist to help get people services they need— but there’s no such thing as mental illness. We’re all mentally ill and we’re all haunted by something, and some people manage to find a way to ride it out so that they don’t wind up needing extra help. So I think that “mental illness,” as a term, is garbage. Everybody is in various states of needing to transcend something. I believe in mental health care, but when we call people “crazy,” we exclude them from our circle. That’s bogus— you’re in the same boat as they are! Maybe some people are better at pretending they don’t harbor all kinds of issues, but, really, everyone has them. Everybody experiences reality in a way that’s only true for them.”
john darnielle is normally so progressive about everything else (reproductive rights, sexism, rape culture, etc) that seeing him talk about mental illness as “everyone has issues but some people are just more honest about it” is a real disappointment
this album and this song are still great though.
i understand where he’s coming from re: mental illness both as a concept and as a phrase being used as a way to classify and exclude others. but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!
i am surprised because (a) his politics are really progressive but also (b) because his music suggests that he’d have a much different attitude
but then again i know people who are diagnosed with depression etc who don’t like the term “mental illness” because it implies sickness which i think is what jd is getting at here - i don’t think he’s denying that people have problems but instead the way those problems are labeled
tbh i am definitely biased in defending him because his music really means a lot to me and was really really good for me when my depression was at its worst and i know a lot of people have had similar experiences with his music so
idk i just feel super weird about this claim because standing on its own it’s really not pretty
oh and john darnielle introduced “up the wolves” by saying “this is a song about verb tenses” and talking about how when people say “you will live to fight another day” they mean “fight” in the intransitive sense, you will live to fight (something) another day, but the song is about using “fight” transitively instead, so “what will you fight? another day”
it was really lovely