Q: When people speak about your poems and when you read them, it can seem like they contain a certain portion of depression, paranoia, pessimism. But you seem to have decided to be happy over the years. Is that true?
A: I don’t know what happened. I wish I could tell you. It just got to feel better after a while. But I think that what we call seriousness is sometimes confused with depression. So much of this popular culture is devoted to pretending that nobody has any deep feelings and nobody sweats and nobody is in trouble. And the truth is that we’re all in trouble. Every single person is in trouble, with themselves, with their loves, with their work. So I think it’s a great privilege to be serious. I think it’s a great gift to be serious sometimes, and to be deeply serious about ourselves, about our lives, about our friends. That seriousness is often confused with depression. But to tell you the truth I’ve often felt bad. I was depressed, I wasn’t just serious.
Q: When did you last have a breakdown?
A: I tend to break down when I make a record. And I think you have to. If you’re going to destroy the versions of yourself that provide too easy a solution. So you know, someone comes along in yourself and he has a slogan, he has a view on love, he has a position on the world. Those kinds of persons that arise make very boring songs, so you have to annihilate them. You have to murder them. And to murder all those false persons that arise and try to tell you what the song is, to get to that place where you can defend every word, that takes a slaughter. And you really gotta break down.
Q: You write to murder. Or you murder by writing?
A: I write to murder the selves that whisper untruths to me.
— Interview with Leonard Cohen