John Darnielle Lived the Teenage Goth Life I Never Did

I was a total grunge kid in high school. This was pre-internet early 90s, so I would desperately soak up alternative culture as much as I could through magazines like Ray Gun, SPIN, and Option, and music videos played on MuchMusic shows like City Limits and, later on, The Wedge. But as much as my peers chose to wear the grunge footwear of choice, Doc Martens, and brandish the same fucking Pearl Jam shirt as everyone else, there weren’t a whole lot of kids that shared the same interests as me.

My school was no different than the ones you see in films like Election, Superbad, Three O’Clock High, or Pump Up The Volume. The cliques were all fairly obvious: jocks, socialites, sci-fi/math nerds, metalheads, stoners, keeners, etc. I didn’t belong to any of them. I guess I was a bit non-committal. If I needed to socialize with any of those groups, I could easily assimilate.

But the group that I related to the most was the goths because they too were into counterculture. The norms in my school often referred to the goths as the “Death Squad” or the “Addams Family” or worse. The goths didn’t seem to care though; they would keep to themselves and deflect the ignorance, and I admired that. They were all a little older than me and I always felt like an outsider looking in, but I guess they were outsiders too. I never quite felt like I was one of them, but they seemed to welcome my curiosity.

It was the music that brought us together. At the time, I was listening to almost anything considered “alternative” that I could get my hands on. I was a fan of the big names like the Cure, Joy Division, the Sisters of Mercy, and the earlier stuff by the Cult. My goth friends were quick to recommend music they thought I’d like, and from them I learned about Bauhaus, Siouxsie & the Banshees, the Birthday Party, and Dead Can Dance. They also opened me up to industrial music. In addition to the Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and KMFDM I was listening to, they taught me about Front 242, Coil, and…

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