Reflecting on Daniel Johnston

G: Let me get this straight. Did you first hear of Daniel Johnston through The Devil and Daniel Johnston?

C: No. I first heard Daniel Johnston through Nirvana interviews and stuff. ’03 to ’05. I remember distinctly reading about him in Heavier Than Heaven. The first time I heard his music was in the movie Kids in the scene where the character Casper and several other kids beat the shit out of another kid in Washington Square Park. Even then, the music didn’t register to me. Between the Nirvana influence and it being in the Kids sound track, I asked you to burn a mix for me with “Casper The Friendly Ghost.” It really stood out to me for the first time on a mix. I never heard anything like that before. Didn’t have any means of comparison. That doesn’t happen much anymore.

G: So after “Casper,” where’d you go from there?

C: I would Wikipedia or YouTube him. I bought “Hi How Are You” and “Continued Story” and “Fun” after that. I rented The Devil and Daniel Johnston, we watched it.

G: Did we watch in your bedroom?

C: Maybe. I remember the next day I went to UMASS Lowell on a tour. I was on a bus thinking about Daniel Johnston. Not the college.

From there, it is a little more static. The history. Daniel Johnston was monumental for establishing a standard of how odd music could be. Yes, there’s the great pop song beneath the music. But for me, it was an introduction to the whole idea of that odd. So different from what you would call music. You show him to the average music fan, maybe some of the songs they will like. You show “Casper” to the average music fan and they would think it is non-sense. It was a different way of writing or making music. Similarly, the first time I heard The Stooges it gave me a headache. I had heard heavier music, but I remember listening and being like woah what the fuck. Same with Black Lips. Those first experiences were so special.

G: Were you interested in Daniel beyond just the music?

C: He was fascinating. You can’t fake how it was. He had some serious mental issues. I didn’t get too wrapped up by that. More fascinated by the music.

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