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Heretic Pride

Title: Heretic Pride 1 2
Released: 2008
Label: 4AD

Liner notes

As part of the Heretic Pride press kit, John wrote about every song in a three page comic which was illustrated by musician and comics artist Jeffrey Lewis. It is referenced extensively in the text below and is available in full on Lewis's website (mirror).

Heretic Pride has two extras which were released with some versions of the album, Last Man on Earth and Toolshed. In addition, demos exist of Last Man on Earth, Toolshed, and Michael Myers Resplendent, which are discussed more with the individual songs. These demos are often collectively referred to as Songs for Vamsidasa Babaji,3 4 5 as they are all tagged as coming from that supposed album.

Table of contents

  1. Sax Rohmer #1
  2. San Bernardino
  3. Heretic Pride
  4. Autoclave
  5. New Zion
  6. So Desperate
  7. In The Craters On The Moon
  8. Lovecraft In Brooklyn
  9. Tianchi Lake
  10. How To Embrace a Swamp Creature
  11. Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident
  12. Sept 15 1983
  13. Michael Myers Resplendent

Sax Rohmer #1 6 7 8

Fog lifts from the harbor
Dawn goes down today 9
An agent crests the shadows of a nearby alleyway

Piles of broken bricks
Signposts on the path
Every moment points towards the aftermath
Yeah

Sailors straggle back
From their nights out on the town
Hopeless urchins from the city
Gather around

Spies from Imperial China 10
Wash in on the tide
Every battle tends towards
Surrender on both sides

And I am coming home to you
With my own blood in my mouth
And I am coming home to you
If it's the last thing that I do

Bells ring in the tower
Wolves howl in the hills
Chalk marks show up
On a few high windowsills

And a rabbit gives up somewhere
And a dozen hawks descend
Every moment leads towards its own sad end
Yeah

Ships loosed from their moorings
Capsize and then are gone
Sailors without captains watch a while and then move on

And an agent crests the shadow
And I head in her direction
All roads lead towards
The same blocked intersection

I am coming home to you
With my own blood in my mouth
And I am coming home to you
If it's the last thing that I do

San Bernardino 11 12 13

We got in your car and we hit the highway 14
Eastern sun was rising over the mountains
Yellow and blood-red bits
Like a kaleidoscope

And flaming swords may guard the Garden of Eden 15
But we consulted maps from earlier days
Dead languages on our tongues
Holding on to our last hope
And the day was bright and fine
And the highway sign
Said, "San Bernardino welcomes you"

I checked us into our hotel and filled the bathtub
And you got in the warm warm water
I pulled petals from my pocket
I loved you so much just then

And it was hard but you were brave, you are splendid
And we will never be alone in this world
No matter what they say
We're gonna be O.K.

We were safe inside
And our new son cried
"San Bernardino welcomes you"

Heretic Pride 16

Well they come and pull me from my house
And they drag my body through the streets
And the sun so hot I think I'll catch fire and burn up
In the summer air so moist and sweet

And the people all come out to cheer
Rocks in the pathway break my skin
And there's honeysuckle on the faint breeze today
With every breath I'm drawing in

I wanna cry out
But I don't scream and I don't shout
And I feel so proud to be alive
And I feel so proud when the reckoning arrives

The crowds grow denser by the second
As we near the center of the town
And they dig a trench in the main square right there
And they pick me up and throw me down

And I start laughing like a child
And I mark their faces one by one
Transfiguration's gonna come for me at last
And I will burn hotter than the sun

I waited so long
And now I taste jasmine on my tongue
And I feel so proud to be alive
And I feel so proud when the reckoning arrives

Autoclave 17

Lend me your hand
Let me look in your eyes
As my last chance to feel human
Begins to vaporize
Maybe it's the heat in here
Maybe it's the pressure 18
You oughtta head for the exits
The sooner the better

I am this great mass of blood and foam
And no one in her right mind
Would make my home her home
My heart's an autoclave
My heart's an autoclave

When I try to open up to you
I get completely lost
Houses swallowed by the earth
Windows thick with frost
And I reach deep down within
But the pathways twist and turn
And there's no light anywhere
And nothing left to burn

And I am this great unstable mass of blood and foam
And no emotion that's worth having
Could call my heart its home
My heart's an autoclave
My heart's an autoclave

I dreamt that I was perched atop
A throne of human skulls
On a cliff above the ocean
Howling wind and shrieking seagulls
And the dream went on forever
One single static frame
Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name 19

And I am this great unstable mass of blood and foam
And no one in her right mind
Would make my home her home
My heart's an autoclave
My heart's an autoclave

New Zion 20 21 22

There were signs up in the sky
When we gathered by the garden wall
Everybody on his best behavior
Listening for the altar call

High priest of Salem in his robes 23
Ranting at the coming of the day
Ravens at the gates
Frightening all the visitors away

I laid down by the water
Dreamed a dream of where I come from
Old things made new 24
Waiting for you

There were wooden wind chimes rustling
In the trees above the anthills on the dunes
On the high winds we could hear them
Old familiar tunes

The little bit of faith we had once
Like the memory of a movie
They got burned up in the great fire
Reassembling itself slowly but surely

I laid down by the water
Dreamed a dream of where I come from
Old things made new
Waiting for you

So Desperate 25

We were parked in your car
In our neutral meeting place
The Episcopalian 26 churchyard
Ahaha

I had things I'd been meaning to say
But in the dazzling winter sun that late
I could feel them melt away
And through the warm radio static
I couldn't hear my stage directions
And the fog on the windshield
Obscured our sad reflections
Ahhaha

I felt so desperate in your arms
I felt so desperate in your arms

We were parked near some trees
And the moonlight soaked the branched
In ever deepening degrees
Had my hand in your hair
Trying to keep my cool
Til it became to much to bear

When we cracked the windows open
Well the air was just so sweet
We could hear the cars ten feet away
Out there on the street

I felt so desperate in your arms
I felt so desperate in your arms
I felt so desperate in your arms

In the Craters on the Moon 27

If the strain proves too much
Give up right away
If the light hurts your eyes
Stay in your room all day
When the room fills with smoke
Lie down on the floor
In the declining years
Of the long war 28

Well the blood's in the water
And the shark's gonna come
And we swim in the dark
Until our bodies are numb
Blind desert rats in the moonlight
Too far from shore
In the declining years
Of the long war

Empty room with a lightbulb
Where the phone starts to ring
Everybody gets nervous
Nobody says anything
Next day someone's initials
Show up on the door
I think I'm gonna crack
Can't live like this anymore
Ugly things in the darkness
Worse things in store
In the declining years
Of the long war

Lovecraft in Brooklyn 29 30

It's gonna be too hot to breathe today
When everybody's out here on the streets
Somebody's opened up a fire hydrant
Cold water rushing out in sheets

Some kid in a Marcus Allen jersey 31
Asked me for a cigarette
Companionship is where you find it
So I take what I can get

Hubcaps on the cars like funhouse mirrors
Stick to the shadows when I can
Lovecraft in Brooklyn

When the sun goes down the armies of the voiceless
Several hundred thousand strong
Come out without their bandages
Their voices raised in song

When the streetlights sputter out
They make this awful sizzling sound
I cast my face towards the pavement
Too many bloodstains on the ground

Rhode Island drops into the ocean
No place to call home anymore 32
Lovecraft in Brooklyn

Head outside most every day
To try to keep the wolves away
Imagine nice things I might say
If company should come

Woke up afraid of my own shadow
Like genuinely afraid
Headed for the pawnshop
To buy myself a switchblade
Someday something's coming
From way out beyond the stars
To kill us while we stand here
It'll store our brains in Mason jars

And then the girl behind the counter
She asks me how I feel today
I feel like Lovecraft in Brooklyn
Yeah

Tianchi Lake 33 34

Children by the water banks
Laughing long and loud
Changbai's high fine western peaks 35
Just beneath the clouds
Currents in the water
Churning in their course
Body of a sea lion
Head just like a horse

Preacher in the soft brown sand
Begins to speak his piece
High winds in the treetops
Low flying winter geese
No one taking pictures
Everybody's still
And then the water sought its course again
The way that waters will

No one at the lakeside now
Moon up in the sky
Night birds in the dragon spruce
Moaning long and high
Back stroking on the surface
Moonlight on its face
Floats the Tianchi monster
Staring into space

Out around the temple now
Narcissus in bloom
Censers packed with sandalwood
Send smoke into the room
Children in the sand outside
On their hands and knees
Sketching pictures all day long
Of stranger things than these

How to Embrace a Swamp Creature 36 37

Got out of bed
Could not remember my own name
Condemned to walk the soil
Amongst all creatures wild and tame

Go where I go
Do what I must
Crawl starving on my belly
Licking up the dry dust 38

I see the light in your window
Ride the elevator to the sixth floor
Stand with my arms at my sides
As you open up the door

But I'm out of my element
I can't breathe
I'm out of my element
I can't breathe

Alone with your bathroom mirror
Try to get my head straight
Breathe on the glass and wait for it to clear
Clean slate

Meet up with you in the kitchen
Where the air is hot and dry
Open up all the faucets
Be fruitful and multiply 39

I stand where the flashing swords gleam 40
And I try to shake my head clear of the dream

But I'm out of my element
I can't breathe
I'm out of my element
I can't breathe

I start to sweat I can't cool down
I'm scared of all the strangers in this town
I try to tell you just why I've come
It's like I've got molasses on my tongue

I made it through town somehow
But who's gonna save me now

I'm out of my element
I can't breathe
I'm out of my element
I can't breathe

Marduk T-shirt Men's Room Incident 41 42

Slumped up against the sink
Hair plastered to her cheeks
Marduk t-shirt sticking to her skin
Refugee from a disco in old East Berlin 43

Weightless
Formless
Blameless
Nameless

Stray syllables were gurgling
From her throat one at a time
Face hidden from my view
I let myself imagine she was you

Only weightless
Formless
Blameless
Nameless

And when I washed my hands
I ran the water hotter than I could stand

Half rising to a crouch
Sinking back down to the floor
In your walking keep your head low
Try to leave no traces when you go

Stay weightless
Formless
Blameless
Nameless

Sept 15 1983 44 45

Long dinner with some friends
Way out way out in Portmore 46
Servants of the pharaoh
Slip in through an open door

All business
Bearing knives and zip guns
So get on the floor now
Every last one
Every last one

The heat drifts
Across the land
If I forget you Israel
Let me forget my right hand 47

And on the floor Michael James Williams 48
Feels his fingers start to freeze
And the whole scene's like a movie
Paramedics on their knees

Try, try your whole life
To be righteous and be good
Wind up on your own floor
Choking on blood

The heat drifts
Across the land
If I forget you Israel
Let me forget my right hand

And the house stills smells like onions
When the ambulance arrives
Gabriel in postal blue
Loads up the car and drives
To Spanish Town 49

About three miles away
Where will the wicked run to
On that last day
On that last day

The heat drifts
Across the land
If I forget you Israel
Let me forget my right hand

Michael Myers Resplendent 50 51 52

I am ready for my closeup today
Too long I've let my self respect stand in my way
Well the prom queen's
Caught in the high beams
And the string's keen
It's a big scene

But when the house goes up in flames 53
No one emerges triumphantly from it
When the scum begins to circle the drain
Everybody loves a winner

I spent eight hours in my makeup chair
Waxed my chest and shaved off all my hair
Well the fire's bright
And the the frame's tight
Try to get right
Well we've still got life

But when the house goes up in flames
No one emerges triumphantly from it
When the scum begins to circle the drain
Everybody loves a winner

But when the house goes up in flames
When the scum begins to circle the drain

Last Man on Earth 54 55

Just when the last of the smoke subsides you'll see my fingers
Hoisting my body up atop the charred debris
Who is that creature with the crazed look in his eyes
Don't even question your senses, you can be sure that's me

When all the pretenders to your hand
Lie dead across the land
I'll be the last man on earth
I'll be the last man on earth
I'll be the last man on earth
Crawling around
Down on the ground

When the Hail Marys 56 you've been saying lose their savor
Just when your dungeon walls feel like they're closing in
Whose are those bloody knuckles reaching down to grab you
Just as the last of the light overhead is growing dim

It was their love you wanted, not mine
But when they deny your name three times 57
I'll be the last man on earth
I'll be the last man on earth
I'll be the last man on earth
Crawling around
Down on the ground

And I will throw you across my shoulder
And I will bleed and I will drool
And the cameras will slow-pan across my face
And I will try to say something cool

Just as the hordes of thirsting demons close around us
Raising their axes, howling like monkeys in the sun
Who will that guy be holding you so high above them
You know and I know, everyone knows it, I'm the one

I may have failed you once before
But this right here, this means war
I'll be the last man on earth
I'll be the last man on earth
I'll be the last man on earth
Crawling around
Down on the ground

Toolshed 58 59 60

Out by the tracks, where the sunflowers grow high and fine
Three sets of tracks, Steve and Rochelle's, and the last one's mine
Guy with a hat down in the weeds in a cardboard box
Secrets to keep, records to seal up, kittens weighed down with rocks

There was a little toolshed
Where he made us suffer 60

Back at the school, everyone looks like the enemy
And we couldn't sleep, and I had the voices inside of me
Steve and Rochelle and me down the well all semester long
Back to the tracks to try and make peace but the box was gone, was gone

There was a little toolshed
Where the sad man 61 made us suffer

Credits

Thanks to Caliclimber, from whose excellent Flickr page I used the album art.

  1. Heretic Pride, Nall, retrieved May 6, 2013.

Footnotes

  1. "I didn't know that I had ripped it off… I'm not trying to get away with anything. But, I wrote it in a notebook at some point, where I was storing titles… And I was like, 'That's just too good a phrase, you can't have made that up.' And I started combing through all my stuff to figure it out… Aura Noir is this sort of black-slash-thrash band, and they had this phrase, 'heretic pride', in one of their lyrics, and I had unconsciously lifted it and made what I took from it the subject of my song." — WNYC session, March 11, 2008

    The Aura Noir line which John references above is from Black Deluge Night: "Bereft of air the earth trembles wide / Cracks all mountains high / Soaring demons now swarm the skies / In awe and heretic pride."

    The album was originally going to be titled The Vision As It Appeared to the Serpent or Great Sterile Transparent Jellies. — Sam Means Interviews John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (2008). Largehearted Boy, accessed May 6, 2013.

    See also the notes to the title track.

  2. "[Heretic Pride] was the first one-song-at-a-time no-theme record I'd done in forever. Felt so good. I was just indulging all these old obsessions, interests, fetishes of mine - kind of like, you know, when you spend a night on eBay looking at stuff and thinking 'I'm gonna buy all that stuff — old leather football helmets, stained-glass beer mirrors, really old loteria sets': really for me, in spirit, this album felt like when I was writing the songs that became Hot Garden Stomp - every little minor obsession of mine just blowing up and possessing me for a day. So, no, I didn't conceive it as a thing I was going to do, but I've done sort of 'let the machine assemble itself' records before and I have a lot of faith in that process." — Sam Means Interviews John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (2008). Largehearted Boy, accessed May 6, 2013.

    John has emphatically stated that this is not a political record. See the March 11, 2008 WNYC session.

  3. John has clarified that this was not a real album title (although I've still included it in the Song for … series), but that the tagging was part of his organization process:

    I feel like I addressed this at one point, maybe with a different title, but: back in the old days, when every time I'd write a song it'd go on a tape, the tapes had their own titles. Occasionally these titles would go on to title a release ("Beautiful Rat Sunset" was one of them) but more often they were just spur-of-the-moment/whimsical/inside-joke titles. Now that demos are stored on a hard drive instead of on tapes, the playlists have titles like that. That's all. There is no "Songs for Vamsidasa Babaji," but there are a bunch of demos whose tags claim that they come from such an album The more you know!

    tap-tap no followup questions lawl

    Mountain Goats forums. songs for vamsidasa babaji. December 18, 2007. Retrieved April 8, 2014.

  4. Vamsidasa Babaji was a Vaishnava (meaning Vishnu-worshipping Hindu) sadhu from Bengal, born in 1859 and living until 1944.

    Bhakti Vikāsa Swami (2010). Sri Vamsidasa Babaji. India: Bhakti Vikas Trust.

  5. Songs for Vamsidasa Babaji is part of the Song for … series.

  6. "Written in my cave-like office in Durham[.] Sax Rohmer wrote pulp spy novels, and there's lots about them that's pretty objectionable; the character Fu Manchu is his best-known invention. But there's a feeling of menace and threat in his stories that's kind of addictive. And the tight-frame atmosphere he crafts has a real appeal to it, especially if you're working in a room with concrete floors and without any natural light." — Heretic Pride press kit

    John discusses Lovecraft and Sax Rohmer both extensively in his interview on WNYC, March 11, 2008, particularly explaining that their experience of alienation and generation of vivid imagery interested him while he repudiated the xenophobia that motivated them.

  7. Sax Rohmer was born Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward in 1883 and died in 1959 after writing over 50 novels.

    His first book written under his own name, and also the first book in the Fu Manchu series, was The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu.

  8. Sax Rohmer #1 is one of the few Mountain Goats songs which has a music video. Directed by Ace Norton, it features the band playing in a dark building with the lyrics written on the walls and band members.

  9. This line could easily be borrowed from the Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay:

    Nature's first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf's a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.

    Nothing Gold Can Stay, Robert Frost, 1923. Accessed May 6, 2013.

  10. China was structured as an empire roughly from unification during the Qin dynasty in 221 BC until the formation of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1912.

  11. "This is a song about a young unmarried couple giving birth in a cheap motel off the 10 Freeway out towards the high desert in California." — Heretic Pride press kit

    "Here, however, the story is pretty clear, or I hope it is, and the song gave me a pretty good punch in the face as soon as we were done recording it, because I just lost my mind for about five minutes. Gone. Slumped over a piano a few feet from the microphone I'd been singing into, Erik Friedlander sitting in his chair where he'd been playing. (I did my vocal live with one of the cello parts, sitting facing Erik as he played.) I was thinking again about people who others talk down to: young mothers and fathers who have no prospects, no money, nothing going on.

    "The two kids here give birth in a cheap motel somewhere in San Bernardino, probably right off the freeway, and the young man tries to express his love for the girl who's about to give birth. Which she does, and they feel at home in the world, even though the world isn't giving them its best yet. I feel hope for them, because they love each other. I know that that is a corny thing to say, so for people who have corn allergies I apologize. But these two, they're going to be the future, so it'd be awesome if we could give them enough leeway to become who they're gonna become, and encourage them when we can. I have a fondness for them though I barely know them. Their feeling for one another inspires me, is what it is." — February 15, 2008, My Five Favorite Mountain Goats Characters, eMusic Magazine, archived by the Internet Archive (mirror), accessed April 16, 2013

    "Having now been in a labor and delivery room, like, the idea of, like, a really tranquil, like, rose petal scene and everybody's all, 'Oh, here's the lovely little baby' — and in a Motel 6, that ain't happening. That motel has blood on the walls. Cops are coming, 'Why are people screaming for eight consecutive hours in that room? Oh, because a very large thing is trying to push itself through a very small space.'" — Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2011

  12. San Bernardino is part of the informal series of Biblical references.

  13. San Bernardino is a city located in the Inland Empire area of Southern California, near where John began playing music.

  14. As mentioned in the above footnote, the highway most likely refers to the 10 Freeway, an interstate freeway which runs through the southern part of San Bernardino. It is also referenced in Short Song for the 10 Freeway.

  15. "He drove man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life." — Genesis 3:24, Holman Christian Standard Bible, accessed May 6, 2013.

  16. "Title unconsciously cribbed from some Aura Noir lyrics — I am always happy to learn that black metal phrasings have burrowed their way into my subconscious. You could call this song a persecution fantasy, but really, who can even say the word 'fantasy' without flinching? Not me, and I have a stronger stomach than most. Spoiler alert: the main character here will not live long after he gets done lauding his imminent demise." — Heretic Pride press kit

    "But that song, the title track, that's about a guy really getting into how he's about to suffer a really painful death. When people talk about 'living life to the fullest' they often mean they're gonna have a bitchin' weekend or whatever, or an intense relationship, but to me, you know who lived life to the fullest? Martyrs. People who got thrown to lions and had to listen to tens of thousand of people applauding while the lions ate them alive. Those are guys who are really drinking life to the lees, right? So that's what heretic pride is - really enthusiastic role acceptance." — Sam Means Interviews John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (2008). Largehearted Boy, accessed May 6, 2013.

    Also see the notes for the album title. John has emphatically stated that this is not a political song — see the March 11, 2008 WNYC session.

  17. "I was in Alaska when I read about the discovery of a life-form that can not only survive an autoclave (the instrument used for sterilizing surgical instruments; it's supposed to kill any and all bacteria on the tools), but which seems to really enjoy the whole autoclave scene: at temperatures fatal to all other life forms, this bacteria would begin to breed. Naturally, this got me to thinking aobut people whose hearts involuntarily pulverize any good feelings that come within a city block of them." — Heretic Pride press kit

    The organism that John refers to could be any of a variety of hyperthermophiles, but I would guess either Methanopyrus kandleri or Geogemma barossii.

  18. Autoclaves sterilize equipment using high temperature, high pressure steam.

  19. This is a line from Where Everybody Knows Your Name, the theme song to the 1980s sitcom Cheers, featuring a group of friends in a Boston bar:

    Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name
    And they're always glad you came
    You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same
    You wanna be where everybody knows your name

    It was written by Gary Portnoy in 1982.

  20. "How come we never hear about religious cults anymore? The high hollering days of cultmania that made my childhood such a thrill: what was the real risk that I'd talk to some robed fellow on the street one day and find myself instantly, involuntarily converted to some bizarre creed? Really, the cults were secondonly to Santa Claus in their mysterious powers. 'New Zion' is only about an imaginary cult but I hope someone starts it up real soon[.]" — Heretic Pride press kit

  21. New Zion is part of the informal series of Biblical references.

  22. Zion is frequently a synonym for Jerusalem, used in the context of Jerusalem as a holy city. Given this, New Zion might refer to New Jerusalem, a city prophesied in Ezekiel and Revelations to be created after the Second Coming of Christ.

  23. The High Priest of Salem is Melchizedek, considered in some narratives to be the Old Testament form of Jesus.

    "Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High." — Genesis 14:18, Holman Christian Standard Bible, accessed May 6, 2013.

  24. A reference to 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come." Holman Christian Standard Bible, accessed April 3, 2014.

  25. "A love song about people who're involved with each other when they probably shouldn't be[.] And about how the head and shame of the whole situation is like a snake eating its own tail, except the tail grows faster than he can eat it. Odds are that somebody reading this knows exactly what I mean and feels a little uncomfortable reading about it: 2 – 1[.]" — Heretic Pride press kit

  26. Episcopalianism is a branch of American Protestantism derived from the Anglican Church after the American Revolution.

  27. "It is the natural condition of my characters, when a few of them have gathered together, to find themselves secluded in a near-lightless room waiting for some unspecified disaster. Frankly I suspect that this is the natural condition of a pretty hefty percentage of the general populace. The people in this song have reached a point of comfort with their dread: ready for panic to set in, relishing the moment." — Heretic Pride press kit

    John has emphatically stated that this is not a political song. See the Largehearted Boy interview with Sam Means cited above and the March 11, 2008 WNYC session.

  28. "A couple of people have said there's political stuff in this record, I hadn't really — I mean, I gather 'In the Craters on the Moon' has the word 'war' in it, so people think I'm talking about a specific war, but when I say a 'long war', a 'long war' is not five or ten or fifteen years, a 'long war' is hundreds of years." — WNYC session, March 11, 2008

  29. "American horror icon H. P. Lovecraft moved to Red Hook, Brooklyn to be with the woman he loved. He had never really seen any people who were not white folks from Massachusetts. Immigrants were spilling into Brooklyn from the four corners of the globe. Lovecraft's xenophobia during his time in Brooklyn resulted in some of the weirdest, darkest images in all American literature. One must condemn Lovecraft's ugly racism, of course, but his not-unrelated inclination toward of general suspicion of anything that's alive is pretty fertile ground." — Heretic Pride press kit

    "[This] is the loudest I've ever sung on a record." — WNYC session, March 11, 2008

    John discusses Lovecraft and Sax Rohmer both extensively in his interview on WNYC, March 11, 2008, particularly explaining that their experience of alienation and generation of vivid imagery interested him while he repudiated the xenophobia that motivated them.

  30. H. P. Lovecraft was an American speculative fiction author, famous for practically inventing the genre of cosmic horror. Notable works include the Cthulhu mythos cycle, stories in the fictional city and asylum of Arkham, and stories revolving around the Necronomicon, a grimoire.

  31. Marcus Allen was a National Football League running back for the Kansas City Chiefs and previously the Los Angeles Raiders during the 1980s and 1990s, and was inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He is notable for being the first player to both exceed 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 recieving yards in his career.

  32. Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island.

  33. "Depending on whether you believe or not, this is a true story, sort of: there's a lake monster in China. People see it all the time. The Mountain Goats consider themselves friends to all lake and river monsters everywhere whether they exist or not." — Heretic Pride press kit

  34. Heaven Lake lies on the border of China and North Korea; its transliteration into English sounds roughly like Tianchi. In China, it is in Jilin Province, in North Korea, Ryanggang. The lake is formed inside the caldera of the active volcano Baekdu Mountain.

    Anecdotal sightings of the supposed Lake Tianchi Monster have been occasionally reported for over a century.

  35. Changbai is a mountain range between China and North Korea. Baekdu Mountain, the highest peak in the range at 2,744 meters and the location of Heaven Lake, is sometimes called Changbai Mountain.

  36. "This is a song about sleeping with somebody with whom you've just parted ways and with whom you later tell yourself you had no intention of sleeping on that day when you 'stopped by' to pick up your stuff, or to 'just say hi,' or whatever other excuse you feel like using. It's all good, y'all, you ain't gotta lie to me." — Heretic Pride press kit

  37. How to Embrace a Swamp Creature is part of the informal series of Biblical references.

  38. A direct reference to the banishment of the serpent from the Garden of Eden. "Then the Lord God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life." — Genesis 3:14, Holman Christian Standard Bible, accessed May 6, 2013.

  39. A reference to God's instructions to Noah. "But you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out over the earth and multiply on it." — Genesis 9:7, Holman Christian Standard Bible, accessed May 6, 2013.

  40. Given the other references to Genesis in this song, this is possibly a reference to the flaming swords guarding Eden from Genesis 3:24, also seen in San Bernardino. However, this could also refer to any swordfight.

  41. Marduk is a Swedish black metal band named after the Mesopotamian patron deity of Babylon.

  42. "People talk about songs that develop like visions and usually I am pretty mistrustful of such stories — but this one sort of just jumped up out of nowhere one day." — Heretic Pride press kit

    "This is a song about a guy who goes into the men's room — to use the men's room, and there's a woman in there, who looks like she's completely out of it, and doesn't really even know he's there. It's sad." — Hopscotch, Durham, September 9, 2012

    John has always been adamant that this song is not about any kind of violent encounter, beginning soon after the album's release when the song was misconstrued on the forums as being about rape:

    although I generally don't weigh in on interpretive questions, I'm going to make an exception here. I would not be interested in singing from the perspective of a rapist. some writers might; good luck to them; I wouldn't. richardob is correct in his interpretation. the narrator is moved by the plight of the woman he sees; the details of the plight are obscure to the reader/listener, permanently, since we're only hearing the report of an observer with minimal information. the lyric seems pretty clear and straightforward to me:

    slumped up against the sink, hair plastered to her cheek marduk t-shirt sticking to her skin refugee from a disco in old east berlin

    -- this is the narrator reporting, honestly, on the evidence of his senses. He has thoughts and feelings arising from this information, and he reports the same. we don't know what the deal is with the woman. we're never going to know. that is kind of the point.

    Continuing in a later post, discussing how an artist can't control interpretation after a piece is released:

    as you probably know, I generally agree with you, but again there's some points on which one wishes to say "no, y'all, you seem to have some other writer in mind - I wouldn't write a song trying to humanize a rapist." just providing a general direction, not a final reading! anybody who wants to argue that the song is actually a recipe for borscht will also find I think that there are in truth some general parameters of interpretation that're valid, you dig?

    Mountain Goats forums, (nameless forum thread), (1), (2), March 8, 2008; retrieved October 28, 2014. See also City Arts and Lectures, Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, February 24, 2009; Hopscotch, Durham, September 8, 2012.

  43. East Berlin was the portion of Berlin occupied by Russia after the end of World War II. It was segregated from West Berlin by the Berlin Wall.

  44. "This is about the death of Prince Far I, one of the most unusual and awesome figures to arise from the reggae explosion of the seventies. He was murdered in his home by unknown assailants on the date which gives this song its title. Far I was by all accounts a good guy, and his songs are loving, almost paternal urgings to the listener. Early in his career, he was called 'King Cry Cry' owing to his tendency to burst into tears while singing. I'm not that emo yet but one almost wishes for that kind of sincerity, you know?" — Heretic Pride press kit

  45. Sept 15 1983 is part of the informal series of Biblical references.

  46. Portmore is a Jamaican city.

  47. This is from Psalms 137, Lament of the Exiles. Prince Far I was a Rastafarian and a deeply spiritual man, even making an album devoted to the Psalms titled Psalms for I. "If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill." — Psalms 137:5, Holman Christian Standard Bible, accessed May 6, 2013.

  48. The birth name of Prince Far I.

  49. Spanish Town is a city close town to Portmore in Jamaica. It is also Prince Far I's birthplace.

  50. "When I wrote this I didn't know that they were remaking Halloween — I have a real love for slasher films, probably because when they were a new phenomenon I was so terrified just by the newspapers ads that I avoided the hell out of them. As a child I was pretty easily frightened, the world seemed like a place where all sorts of random devilment could just pop out from the woodwork at any second. This song is like Sax Rohmer #1 if the narrator had given up on ever actually getting home; of the present bunch, this was the first song written. It's also the one that I played piano on, which I like to do once each album, since piano was the first instrument I ever learned to play." — Heretic Pride press kit

    John discusses working in stage makeup crews during high school in the Largehearted Boy interview cited above.

  51. A demo for Michael Myers Resplendent exists, released as a Christmas gift in 2006, prior to the release of Heretic Pride. It is part of the Songs for Vamsidasa Babaji collection. John's original post:

    I hope everybody is having a great yule. Did you know that it was once a custom in the north of England to cry out "Yule!" in the streets or in church after the sermon? Do you not wish we observed this custom generally, and loudly, throughout the month of December?

    Moved by the remembered spirit of frozen Mancunians in stovepipe hats crying "Yule!" at one another with increasing fury, we offer this site's second annual present of an unreleased song. Last year it was two, but both of them were old. This one I wrote just last night. If you're a person who'll be bummed out by finding a song you already knew on the next album, then you might wanna leave this one alone, 'cause it's nearly a sure thing that it'll get the studio treatment at some point. There will be a lyric change in the chorus when that happens, but I liked the energy of this just-wrote-it version, so I'm leaving it as-is.

    The title refers not to the trance DJ but to this dude, though it's an elliptical reference so if you wanna argue that the song's actually about a negative epiphany arrived at through the glory of progressive trance, please feel free! This song is part of a series that as yet has no title and, as of this writing, only a vague thematic thread. More on this news as it develops. Meanwhile, here's a new song in your choice of compressed formats. Yule!

    Michael Myers Resplendent (192 kpbs AAC)
    Michael Myers Resplendent (192 kbps MP3)

    Mountain Goats news. Julekage. December 17. 2006. Retrieved April 8, 2014.

  52. Michael Myers is the masked antagonist of the slasher film series Halloween, in which he murders residents of his Illinois town, often with a kitchen knife, on Halloween while his former psychiatrist attempts to stop him.

  53. This may refer to the burning of Myers' house in Halloween: Resurrection, the supposed death of Myers when his hospital burns in Halloween II, or something else altogether.

  54. The studio version of Last Man on Earth is available as an extra track on downloads of Heretic Pride from Amazon. Like Toolshed, a demo for Last Man on Earth was given out with preorders of the album from 4AD. The demo is considered to be part of Songs for Vamsidasa Babaji.

  55. Last Man on Earth is part of the informal series of Biblical references and informal series of demos.

  56. Hail Mary is a traditional Christian prayer associated with the Rosary, in which the petitioner says, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

  57. A reference to the Denial of Peter, told in the Gospels. Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny him three times, which Peter protested against. Subsequently, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times to two different people after Jesus was arrested.

  58. The studio version of Toolshed is available as an extra track on downloads of Heretic Pride from iTunes. Like Last Man on Earth, a demo for Toolshed was given out with preorders of the album from 4AD. The demo is considered to be part of Songs for Vamsidasa Babaji.

  59. Toolshed is part of the informal series of Biblical references and informal series of demos.

  60. The English rock band Led Zeppelin was accused by televangelist Paul Crouch of backmasking Satanic lyrics into their major hit, Stairway to Heaven. According to him, these lines from the middle of the song:

    If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now
    It's just a spring clean for the May Queen
    Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
    There's still time to change the road you're on

    when played backwards, say:

    Oh, here's to my sweet Satan
    The one whose path would make me sad, whose power is Satan
    He'll give those with him 666
    There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan

    The band has ignored or dismissed these claims as being absurd. 2

  61. Given the above context, the sad man is clearly Satan.