Interview : Eels – Mark Oliver Everett | Stuarts London
WITH HIS NEW STUDIO ALBUM THE CAUTIONARY TALES OF MARK OLIVER EVERETT DRAWING WIDESPREAD NODS OF APPROVAL – AND A STRING OF UK DATES TO COME IN JUNE AND JULY – EELS SONGWRITER-IN-CHIEF MARK OLIVER EVERETT, OR E, TOOK TIME OUT TO TALK RELATIONSHIP BLUES, JIM CAREY AND CINEMA “ASSHOLERY”…
E E L S
Hi E, is your new album: Cautionary Tales, as personal a record as you’ve ever made?
“That’s hard to say, it depends how you look at it. The Electric Shock Blues album was definitely very personal about my family [E’s sister had committed suicide; his mother had been diagnosed with cancer]. This one’s up there though, in terms of me being personal.”
In what way? What parts of your life have you laid out on this record?
“Mostly just being an idiot in relationships. I suppose it’s not easy for anybody, but you know, I figured out a way of making a musical version of that. And I figured it was maybe worth helping people feel less alone, so they could see that it happens to all of us. In my case, it’s maybe more extreme, which is a good way of really learning from something.”
Is it quite a cathartic process for you, writing in this way?
“Yeah, I guess that’s the right word for it – it helps. In the case of this record it really was helpful because I got to lay it all out and look at it and it really helped lead me to see what I was doing. I thought, ‘Oh god, why are you being such an idiot?’ And really, ultimately, it kinda transformed me.”
Is it quite a difficult process to do that?
“Yeah, I prefer not to pay too much attention to this kind of stuff in my day to day life and the only place I get to deal with it sometimes is through music. Sometimes it does help to put a mirror up to the situation.”
Is the album about one person or a series of relationships you’ve had?
“It’s pretty much about one person, as far as I can recall.”
It’s that girl in album track Agatha Chang, isn’t it?
“No, it’s not. I changed the name and hair colour in that song as I do occasionally to protect the innocent. That song is about somebody, and it’s about a very real situation, but her name isn’t Agatha Chang. I did once meet somebody called Agatha Chang, who was a friend of a friend, many years ago and I wrote her name down because I thought, ‘What a great name.’ That was about 20 years ago.”
In terms of the lyrics though, what songs are you most proud of?
“I like Agatha Chang and then Lockdown Hurricane and A Swallow In The Sun are probably my favourites.
What do I like about them in particular?
I don’t know. What is it you like about chocolate? How do you explain?”
Is the person who it’s about going to be pissed off at this record? Relieved? Flattered?
“That’s a good question. I don’t think there’s anything they should be upset about. The only person who should really be upset is me. I’m the one who’s getting embarrassed… Am I expecting a phone call from a particular person? I really don’t think there’s anything to anger anyone. But I’m going to have to go back and listen to it now, with that in mind.”
Is embarrassment the overall emotion then?
“Yeah, so far. I’m in a crash position. I’m prepared to be embarrassed but I think any artist who puts music out has to have that. They have to be in crash position no matter what it is. I just feel it more acutely this time; I do feel like I’ve really put myself on the line with this one.”
What does the record say about you?
“One, I can be a really stupid asshole at times. But, conversely, I can be the kind of stupid asshole who pays attention to his stupid assholery and can change it. Which, I’ve noticed, is not a common trait in the world, so at least I have that going for me. “You go to a movie theatre to see a movie and you’ll be hit in the face with how selfish people are. They live in a bubble where they think their actions don’t affect the people around them. They’re talking and having a great time, but I’m sitting right behind them trying to watch a movie. So I do think it’s a good trait of mine that I’m not that stupid.
“I take stock of my shortcomings and I try to make them better. Not to get too cynical about mankind, but I think that more often than not, people are too selfish.”
One final thing: How come you recorded with Jim Carey recently?
“That wasn’t on an Eels record, but that may happen again at some point. We did a couple of things for fun. It was his idea. He’d written some songs and he’s a really good singer, which you might not expect. Technically, he’s really good. He’s pretty much what you’d expect if you’d seen him onscreen in one of his movies. He’s an explosion of talent all over the place, and as a producer it’s your job to bring the broom in and tidy up a little bit. “The thing we did came out as [parody music video] Cold Dead Hand – it was an anti-gun song and he wrote that and sang all the vocals. He’s a whirlwind in the studio. We had met when I got invited to play poker at his house one night through mutual friends. Of course, he won… a lot. As is usual, the guy who needs the money the least wins it all.”
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