Bruce Springsteen doesn’t mince words when discussing his artistic drive. In a lengthy, tantalizing profile in The New Yorker, Springsteen said his ambitions have been driven by three separate but connected emotions — “pure fear and self-loathing and self-hatred.”

Rather than having a polarizing effect on his creativity, Springsteen’s emotional headaches forced him to the stage, he told the magazine.

Said Springsteen, “With all artists, because of the undertow of history and self-loathing, there is a tremendous push toward self-obliteration that occurs onstage. It’s both things: There’s a tremendous finding of the self while also an abandonment of the self at the same time. You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone. Just gone.”

Things got so bad, said Springsteen’s biographer and friend Dave Marsh, that the artist in 1982 even contemplated suicide. “The depression wasn’t shocking, per se. He was on a rocket ride, from nothing to something,” Marsh said.