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- Posted on Apr 9th 2010 5:00PM by James Sullivan
If Mark Everett lives in a parallel universe, it's not surprising: His father invented the concept. Dr. Hugh Everett III wrote the mind-boggling Many Worlds Theory, which describes the potential existence of alternate worlds. A quantum physicist recognized as "one of the most important scientists of the 20th century," Dr. Everett was, before he reached adulthood, exchanging letters with Albert Einstein.
The physicist's son, Mark Everett, answers to the nickname "E" -- as in "equals mc squared." Best known for forming the band called Eels, E's whole recording career has been the output of a kind of squared-off MC. Though he denies his involvement, one of his many projects was a quirky hip-hop persona called MC Honky, whose lone album was called 'I Am the Messiah.'
After years making home demos while working menial jobs in Los Angeles, E signed to Polydor Records and released two well-received solo albums in the early '90s, earning an opening spot on tour with Tori Amos despite having virtually no experience with live performance. His third album, 'Beautiful Freak,' was the first released under the band name Eels. Featuring the alt-rock No. 1 'Novocaine for the Soul,' the album set the tone for a career defined by black humor and unapologetic Debby Downer-ism. He's had more than his share of sad and disturbing events in his life to justify it.
Hugh Everett may have been a genius, but he was also apparently an alcoholic and a difficult father who died when his son was entering adulthood. (E was the one who discovered the body.) The younger Everett's search for meaning in his father's theories and their troubled relationship was the subject of a documentary, 'Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives,' that aired on the BBC and on PBS.
E's mother died of cancer in 1998, inspiring songs such as 'I Need a Mother' and appearing in a ghostly image from her childhood with a pet Dalmatian on the cover of Eels' 2005 double album, 'Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.' E's only sibling struggled with schizophrenia before taking her own life in 1996. On Sept. 11 2001, his cousin and her husband, both airline employees, were in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
Bad news just won't leave this guy alone, but he's managed to make some beautiful (and plenty more deliberately homely, but no less affecting) music from the anguish. He once wrote a song about a serial killer on a roll of toilet paper while taking part in a meditation retreat. Eels' most self-consciously upbeat album, 'Daisies of the Galaxy,' was once described by legendary music producer Lenny Waronker as "a nice walk in the park, where you're occasionally bitten by a snake." Most recently, a divorce in his own life inspired E to write the songs for the ominously titled album 'End Times.'
For Mark Oliver Everett, whose fertile career is fast approaching its 20th year, success is always relative. "Just living another day," he once said, "has always felt like some kind of success to me."