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:: Spotlight :: The Eels - Interview with Mark "E" Everett

By: Saeed Saeed

Mark Oliver Everett, also known as ‘E’, has had a more tumultuous life than most. His father, famed quantum physicist Hugh Everett III, passed away when he was young. His sister Elizabeth committed suicide in 1996 and his mother Nancy succumbed to cancer in 1998. By the turn of the century the family that he grew up with was gone and by his confession the only thing kept E sane was his music. Throughout his career, both as a solo artist and leader of The Eels, E has covered the subjects of death and despair. But with his latest opus, ‘Blinking Lights And Other Revelations’, not only does E revisit the trauma of the past but there is also a sense of resolution and optimism for the future. It is an album that he describes as a ‘love letter to life itself, in all its beautiful, horrible glory”.

On the eve of his Australian tour, a tired E chats with Mediasearch about songs from his latest album, the fans, critics' misconceptions about his music, and of course his beloved dog Bobby Junior, who is probably the only animal that has his very own Myspace page.

Where is Bobby Jr now, and does he like his Myspace page?

Yeah, apparently. Well he is back home in Los Angeles and he is a little bitter. He is always bitter when I don’t take him out with me.

I read in a review that described your music as being fearlessly autobiographical. But is that true? Is it scary for you write music of such personal nature and share it with the world?

Yeah, but it’s not always autobiographical. But when it is it can make you feel kind of like ‘what am I doing?’

You described your latest album as a way for you to hang on to the remaining shreds of sanity. When did you first realise that music to you was just more than a fun thing to do, but it was in fact a survival mechanism?

Hmmm….I was pretty young when that started to occur to me. I just realised that I had a thing for it.

When talking about the song ‘Rail Road Man’, you said that you could identify yourself with the old men who still worked on those trains. You said that you also felt their sense of displacement regarding your music career. With the success of ‘Blinking Lights’, do you feel you found where you in the stood in the scheme of things?

I feel like I am in a pretty good place after all these years. I feel like I can pretty much do what I want to do and I keep doing what I want to do. So I guess something’s working.

You have been labeled as a trouble maker and difficult to work with by people in the music business because of your strong vision regarding making your records. ‘Blinking Lights…’ is your most personal record and it was put out by a new label. Did the label give you any hassle before realising this record and what was their reaction when they first heard it?

They liked it, that’s the weird part. I was in a good position because I made the album independently on my own and I just said ‘Here, if you want to put out my record this is it or just don’t put it out!’

It seems that with the exception of your fans, many people misunderstand you and think that you lack a sense of humour. But through out the ‘Soul Jacker Tour’ you played your own version of Missy Elliot’s ‘Get Your Freak On’…

Well actually you are a little off base here. The thing about ‘Get Your Freak On’ was that it wasn’t supposed to be funny. I just love that song! It was kind of upsetting to me when people thought it was a joke or something but it wasn’t a joke. I was excited and liked the song and I wanted to do my own version of it.

Does it upset you that people often tend to pigeon hole your music as being mopey and that you are someone that is terminally depressed?

Yeah, that can be annoying. But you know being pigeon holed for anything can be annoying.

In the song “Checkout Blues” there are the lyrics “Things won’t get much better/ Until they get much worse/ I am stronger than the curse”. With all the events that happened to you, did you ever feel that you were in fact cursed and questioned how unfair life can be?

No, I never think that because I had some hard times in my life but I also had some really amazing things happened to me. I am one of the lucky few people in the world that can do what they want to do and can make a living out of it. That kind of thing stops me from being too bitter.

‘Blinking Lights’ was recorded over an eight-year period and it wasn’t meant to be a double album. When did you realise that you should keep these songs and release it the way it is now?

Well, it just wasn’t working as a single disc and I started to realise that what I was trying to do needed a certain kind of pacing that could only work if I spread it out over two discs.

Europe and Australia were really the first places that were more receptive to you, while America lagged behind. How has the American reaction being to this record?

Yeah, well they like it I guess. Well as far as I know anyway. They are starting to catch up to every body else (laughs).

It’s one thing to write about family tragedy in songs, but how is it when you are doing interviews and continuously talking about it. How difficult is that for you?

Yeah, it is weird but it is can also oddly be therapeutic for me.

To me, ‘Blinking Lights…’ is about embracing the happiness and the disillusionment that happens in life…

That’s what the song ‘Hey man, now you are really living’ is about.

Do you feel that you reached that realisation during the eight years it took for you to make this record?

Well, the tragic irony is that making this record was so difficult that it made me more cynical in the process of making it! (laughs)

You can see The Eels on the following dates:

Thursday, July 20 - The Tivoli, Brisbane
Friday, July 21 - Metro Theatre, Sydney
Sunday, July 23 - Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne
Monday, July 24 - Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne

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