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Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus describes his latest project as 'fearless,' 'arduous' and 'kooky'

Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus
Patrick Stickles of Titus AndronicusMPR photo/Nate Ryan
  Play Now [30:15]

by Jim McGuinn and Titus Andronicus

October 09, 2015

Titus Andronicus - Dimed Out (live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR
Titus Andronicus - Come On, Siobhan (live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR
Titus Andronicus - Stable Boy (live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR

A rock opera is no small undertaking, but Titus Andronicus's front man Patrick Stickles was inspired by something deeply personal.

In town to play a sold-out show at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis, Titus Andronicus stopped by The Current's studio to play a few songs from their latest album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, a 93-minute, 29-track rock opera.

In a visit with The Current's Jim McGuinn, Patrick Stickles ostensibly spoke about the new album, but at the heart of what Stickles describes are bold, powerful statements about mental health. Here are highlights from the interview with Stickles:

On the meaning of The Most Lamentable Tragedy:

"It's an allegory for my own personal struggles. I'm a manic depressive — I'll just come right out and say it, that's part of my whole vibe. People don't always want to talk about it, but as the artist, I have an opportunity to articulate my experiences, because I know that I'm not unique in my experiences; people around the world feel the way I do, and I know it's so because they come up and tell me so. That's basically what [the album] is about.

"As far as the whole 29-track, 93-minute rock-opera thing, that's just the kind of thing that you might do if you were a fearless artist with an agenda. A lot of the things we're trying to get across just aren't appropriate for a little three-minute pop jingle, but if you string a number of these pop jingles together, ideally you can communicate something beyond the whole 'Oh, baby, baby' kind of thing, even though we do that, too."

On the inspiration for the project:

"I came up with the notion to do a rock opera about this whole thing in the midst of a major depressive episode that I was having in the year 2012 — a very apocalyptic year for me, even though here we are standing on the other side of it. At that time, I said, 'This experience that I'm going through would be good fodder for a rock opera, and even though I'm lacking the will to create at this moment, if I ever get the will to create back, a rock opera about this whole thing would be the way to go.'

"As 2013 came around and I started to feel a little more juiced up again — as will happen — I was like, 'What about that whole rock opera thing I was gonna do? Now that I'm full of beans, let's get going on that.' … It was a long and arduous process, but it was a very logical, calculated thing even though it's a seemingly very kooky product."

On the task of revisiting his past feelings while writing the album:

"I try not to guard myself too much from these feelings. When you put these feelings off in the dark corner in the closet somewhere, this is where they gather their power, this is where they become stronger and more toxic. You pull these things out into the light, their power dissipates and withers away. So that's my whole intention here, just kind of a purging thing, perhaps … it's good, you've got to live with these things rather than making am escapist piece of art that says everything is dandy. Maybe [escapism] is superficially, temporally satisfying, but that's just borrowing from the future: You're going to have to face this stuff sooner or later, so may as well just face it in the most outlandish, extreme way that you can — in this case, a triple-LP rock opera."

Listen to the complete interview to hear more about how Titus Andronicus perform songs from the album in a live setting, and about how Stickles sees Titus Andronicus's place in the larger New Jersey music scene, whether related to Bruce Springsteen or to post-hardcore.

Songs Performed

"Dimed Out"
"Come On, Siobhán"
"Stable Boy"
All songs from Titus Andronicus's album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, out now on Merge Records.

Hosted by Jim McGuinn
Produced by Derrick Stevens
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Web feature by Luke Taylor