The first album recorded and released by The Mars Volta, a progressive electronic group, was entitled De-Loused in the Comatorium, with lyrics by JM Ward. It was a concept album, a series of songs and compositions that formed an artistic whole by having a narrative structure.
The story told on this recording concerned a central figure given the name of Cerpin Taxt. This character takes an overdose of morphine and finds himself conscious in a disembodied form in the nightmarish dream world of a coma. After much tribulation and suffering he found a way to bring himself out of the coma he had fallen into, and is able to regain consciousness. Unfortunately, his experiences unhinged his mind and he committed suicide.
The concept that the album’s story is based on has a foundation in fact – the true story of a Texas artist, writer and musician named Julio Venegas. The Mars Volta was formed from the ashes of another Texas band named At the Drive-In, including the appropriately-progressively named Cedric Bixler Zavala. Cedric was a close friend and fellow artist with a young man who made quite a splash on the El Paso underground scene. Julio Venegas was an avant-garde writer, a visual artist working in pen and ink and paints, and a guitarist and musician as well. He and Cedric were in bands together, and Cedric has said that Julio was an instrumental influence on his own style of performing, approach to composing and writing, and in his general attitude towards life.
Venegas’ life ended tragically, similarly to Cerpin Taxt’s in the album’s story. He had experimentally injected himself with the physical effect of scarring and disfigurement. He tried using drugs to surmount the pain, and gave himself an overdose that immediately threw him into a comatose state. He was in a coma for over a year, but recovered sufficiently to continue his former activities. In 1996, he committed suicide, but in a novel and gruesome way. He launched himself into rush-hour traffic by jumping from a bridge over Interstate 10 in El Paso, and died from his traumatic injuries. His artistic but tragic life and death inspired JM Ward and The Mars Volta, and ultimately formed the basis for their critically-praised debut album.
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