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NOVOCAINE FOR THE SOUL: Q&A w/ E. From The Eels

 

BY JONATHAN VALANIA It’s hard to believe there’s been 10 albums since 1996′s Beautiful Freak and the song “Novocaine For The Soul” — a three minute and eight second fever dream for the ears — that started it all. (Key line: “Life is white and I am black/Jesus and his lawyer are coming back”) And yet here we are. For the uninitiated, Eels is essentially Mark Everett’s one-man band of joy. Comfort and joy. And Beefheart-ian electro-shock pop. Think of it as mental dance music for the heavily medicated and Mark Everett is the white-suited John Travolta of the soul. What does that even mean? Who knows. But if you have to ask you’ll never know. More importantly, The Eels are coming to World Cafe Live on Saturday March 2nd in support of the just-released and aptly-titled Wonderful, Glorious. Recently we got Everett, aka E., on the horn to talk about, among other things, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Kurt Vonnegut, being black in 20th Century America and the untimely death of his entire family. For real.

PHAWKER: So, I really like the new record.

MARK EVERETT: Thank you.

PHAWKER: There’s a picture of an airplane on the cover dropping a bomb, please explain why.

MARK EVERETT: Well, that’s a good question. The album is called Wonderful, Glorious and then there’s a bomber dropping bombs on everyone. You know, we all have our difficult daily battles, aka bombs dropping around us all day and you’re trying to dodge the bombs, but occasionally you get hit by one and what you might not know is that that’s going to lead to you getting to a much better place. That’s kind of what the album is about. It starts with bombs dropping on a guy and it ends with the guy getting to a great new place he never imagined he’d get to.

PHAWKER: It’s kind of like you’re in a fox hole and you don’t have any food or water left and a bomb blows you into another fox hole where there is food and water, and maybe a beautiful girl?

MARK EVERETT: That’s an excellent analogy. [laughs]

PHAWKER: Alright, here’s a hypothetical. You wake up in the middle of the night and your house is on fire, and you only have time to grab one album, which is it?

MARK EVERETT: That’s such a tough question, I don’t know. Is it The White Album, is it Blonde On Blonde is it…[groans] I just go down with the ship. I just let the house burn me and all the albums up, I think.

PHAWKER: [laughing] I want to ask you some othe record collection questions, if you don’t mind. What’s your go-to record for a lazy Sunday afternoon?

MARK EVERETT: I really like Bob Dylan’s New Morning record for that kind of mood.

PHAWKER: Album that you put on when you’re completely bummed?

MARK EVERETT: Um, [laughing], Electro-Shock Blues by The Eels.

PHAWKER: Album that you put on when you’re super-stoked?

MARK EVERETT: Wonderful, Glorious by The Eels.

PHAWKER: Alright, and last one of these is album that you put on when you are getting “romantic”?

MARK EVERETT: Also Wonderful, Glorious by The Eels. That’s– if you want to seal the deal, you just drop the needle onto track one and by track four, the deal has been sealed.

PHAWKER: The webpage for your autobiography, Things The Grandchildren Should Know asks ‘How does a young man survive the deaths of his entire family and manage to make something worthwhile of his life?’ and that is my question for you.

MARK EVERETT: The answer is that whole book.

PHAWKER: Are you going to recite it from beginning to end for me right now?

MARK EVERETT: No, it’s not that long of a book, but it’s long for an interview answer.

PHAWKER: Fair enough. Rolling Stone called you ‘The Kurt Vonnegut of Rock,’ true or false?

MARK EVERETT: Absolutely true. [laughing] No, I can’t say that about myself.

PHAWKER: Are you a reader? Do you like Kurt Vonnegut? Do you have a favorite Kurt Vonnegut book if so?

MARK EVERETT: I have, but it’s been a long time. You know, most of my fiction reading was done in like, four good years, and I don’t do a lot of it today. Too busy making music.

PHAWKER: Was there a very important book from back then, a very influential book?

MARK EVERETT: There was one book that we read when I was very young — probably like, 14 or 15 — and it was Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, I think it had a big impact on me.

PHAWKER: A book about being black in America in mid-20th century, early-20th century?

MARK EVERETT: Yeah, for some reason it really struck a chord with me even though I was a white kid in the Virginia suburbs.

PHAWKER: Another record related question I wanted to ask you was what was the first record that you bought with your own money when you were a kid?

MARK EVERETT: I don’t remember which one I bought, but the first record I remember having, I think it was technically my sister’s, was the 45 of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and I was four-years-old and would just play it over and over and over again. I just loved it. I have to say I had good taste as a four-year old-because if I had to pick  the single greatest recording ever made I’d still say it was that song.

PHAWKER: “Strawberry Fields”? You’ve heard the demo version of that, right, with the trippy Hawaiian guitar?

MARK EVERETT: Oh yeah, amazing.

PHAWKER: Any thoughts on the new My Bloody Valentine album?

MARK EVERETT: I have not heard it, have you heard it?

PHAWKER: I have.

MARK EVERETT: Is it good?

PHAWKER: It doesn’t have to be. It’s a new My Bloody Valentine album. That’s enough.

MARK EVERETT: I’ll have to check it out.

PHAWKER: If you could join any band in the history of– if you could join any band in the history of rock, who would it be and why?

MARK EVERETT: Um, can’t really answer The Beatles on that one because I’d just totally fuck The Beatles up, you know. If you’re not John, Paul, George, and Ringo, you’re just not allowed to be in The Beatles. I think being a member of Sly and the Family Stone would have been pretty amazing. To be able to play that music every night, that would be a great experience.

PHAWKER: And what would you like to do in that band, what instrument would you like to play?

MARK EVERETT: I think maybe being the organist because that was Sly’s job so– but that’s just maybe because it was Sly and he was so good at it, it just looked like so much fun. Maybe Sly could just get up and sing some songs and he can let me play the organ for a couple.

PHAWKER: Exactly, take some of the workload off of him.

MARK EVERETT: Yeah, he deserves a break.

PHAWKER: Last question, if you could go back in time and change anything what would it be?

MARK EVERETT: So many things, let me tell you, but if I had to boil it down to one thing I’d these brown shoes that I bought last week, I clearly should have gone with the black.

PHAWKER: That’s very Zen. Thanks for your time and keep on rockin’ in the free world.

THE EELS PLAY WORLD CAFE LIVE ON SATURDAY MARCH 2nd

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