Artist: EELS Video: "Peach Blossom" Highlight: "It's kind of the perfect…
- Posted on Aug 25th 2010 9:30AM by Benjy Eisen
Matt Kent, WireImage
Shortly after the book came out, Eels released the trilogy of 'Hombre Lobo,' 'End Times' and 'Tomorrow Morning,' within a 13-month span. In a candid interview with Spinner, E lifts the curtain just a little bit higher on the man behind the Wizard of Eels, endearing us to him all the more, as he explains about the trilogy, discusses being mistaken for a terrorist in London and touches upon subjects that, literally, hit home.
Did you know from the start of 'Hombre Lobo' that you were making a trilogy, or did it just sort of become that as you went along?
That was the idea from the start. But I didn't want to announce it as such because I didn't want to paint myself into a corner in case I changed my mind along the way, because I knew it was going to take a while to actually do it, and I often change my mind. But now that I actually saw the plan through, I can actually say it.
Did you plot it out, or did you just have in your mind the vague concepts?
I conceptually had the idea for these three albums, with a theme for each one. And then, amazingly, things were happening in my life that coincided with the themes of each album as I was writing them, so that came in handy.
Was that, perhaps, a self-fulfilling prophesy? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Well that's a very good question -- it's always possible that I was self-sabotaging my life to fit in with the albums. But I don't think so. Not that I'm aware of, anyway.
You've described 'Hombre Lobo' as "the before," then 'End Times' as "the after." And 'Tomorrow Morning' you've called "the redemption." Can you break that down and describe what each one represents in the trilogy?
Well, to me 'Hombre Lobo' was the spark that ignites everything, even on like a physical level, planting the seed or the need to plant the seed. Then 'End Times' is kind of the opposite of all of that, in dealing with the loss. And then, for me, the most fun part is what comes next, hopefully: a new beginning. So the whole thing ends with a beginning and the end is in the middle. Which, by following the title 'End Times' with the title 'Tomorrow Morning' -- that changes the meaning of the title 'End Times.' How can it be the end if there's a morning coming tomorrow?
So, I think it's important, not only to know that you can go through these terrible times in your life and it can feel like the end, but there's always another chance coming, if you want it.
In listening to all three albums, they change musically as well as thematically. How does the musical aspect of each album reflect that particular album's concept?
Well, for 'Hombre Lobo,' the idea of desire and lust equaled the electric guitar. And for 'End Times,' for loss, I thought it should be more of a traditional singer-songwriter, alone in his basement with an acoustic guitar approach. And then, with 'Tomorrow Morning,' originally, my idea was I wanted to do a very warm album, a celebration of the things I like about life and the world. I also had always wanted to make an album that was pretty electronic, but I always thought that would be a colder kind of album because of the nature of the sound -- the kind of music that is normally made with those instruments. And then one day it occurred to me: What if I combine these two ideas? The electronic idea and the warm, celebration idea. And then I got excited because then it kinda becomes its own thing.
Are you positive that this is just a trilogy? No more sequels, or future installments?
That's a good question because I can't say I'm positive. I hope that's the end of it, but, yeah, you never know. I think that what you call -- what do you call a four-parter?
A quadrilogy? A saga? A quartet? Was there any pressure -- commercially, rather than personally -- to not release all three of these albums so close to each other?
Well, I'm sure a record company would probably more likely than not discourage the idea of putting out an album every six months or so. They don't like you to do that. They want you to approach it like it's a big event that happens at the most every two years; the longer the better, as far as they're concerned. That puts too much pressure on it to be a commercial success, and they want it to be packed with hit singles and that sort of thing, and I'm just not interested in any of that. I just want to make the best record that I can make and put it out.
I thought it would be an interesting experiment, too, to see what it would be like to put these out at the pace that people were putting albums out in the '60s. From what I've learned, it's an enormous amount of time and energy, and I figured out why the Beatles stopped putting out two albums a year as soon as they stopped taking speed and switched to marijuana. Back then, everybody was on speed and they didn't know how bad it was for you, and that made it possible to put out two albums a year and tour the world. I think this is something I'm going to try for one year. I know speed's not good for you, so I'm not going to take it; I'm trying to do this without speed.
While doing press last year in London, you were mistaken for a terrorist and detained by police. They released you when they realized that you're not actually a terrorist -- you're just a musician. Did you feel mistreated during that incident? Did the ordeal make you angry? Was it something that you were able to laugh about?
Well, I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was actually a very unpleasant experience. It was one of the weirdest things to ever happen to me, which I guess is saying something. It's a bad feeling to feel like you're being judged as your book's cover. It's interesting to get a small taste of what that feels like. And it was scary! At first I laughed, but they had guns and they weren't laughing. They were taking it very seriously, as ridiculous as it seems. And it sort of occurred to me that my freedom might be at stake and I started to get really worried.
I'm sure it was a harrowing experience. On paper, there's a certain humor to it, though, when you think about your image and your beard. It's, like, something you would read in The Onion, in the form of a satire.
There's been comics drawn about me. I remember there was one when 'Souljacker' came out, someone drew a comic of me being chased down the street by a bunch of people saying, "Get him! It's Bin Laden!" And then someone says, "No, it's just the singer from Eels!"
As Ozzy Osbourne has demonstrated, television reaches a much bigger audience than rock music. Have people recognized you as the subject of a TV documentary but not as E from Eels?
Yeah -- to a much smaller degree than Ozzy, because this was just a one-time thing on PBS, but yeah. It's brought in a whole new audience of physics geeks as well.
There's a great line on 'Hombre Lobo' where you sing, "I'm so bored, I want to get in trouble." Both of your parents are gone. That means that, in a way, you can't get into any real trouble because no matter what, your parents will never find out. You have no pressure of parental disapproval. Have you experienced that emotion, and is that something that you've felt artistically, with your music?
I think that's true. There is something to that. Once your parents are gone there is a certain feeling. When I made 'Electro-Shock Blues,' my mom was dying and I kept it from her. I didn't want her to hear it because I thought it would be too much for her to deal with. And since then, I suppose, there were probably times when I've written a song that she probably would disapprove of because of the language or something like that. You don't have to worry about that anymore. That's pretty much the only bright side.
With everything that's happened to you, and all the deaths in your family that you've lived through, are you scared of dying alone?
Yeah -- I think like most people I probably have a fear of dying alone, but it all depends on how you die, too. If I died in my sleep, I wouldn't have a problem with dying alone so much, you know? I spend so much time alone during periods of my life that I'm always afraid that, like, I'm going to slip in the shower or something and slowly die and have the phone just out of reach where I can't call 911. Then my dog has to eat me for food because I can't feed him.
This last question might seem random at first, but do you eat sushi at all?
No, I'm not a big sushi guy.
Oh, OK. I wanted to see if you ever eat unagi, which, of course, is eel.
Well, you know, that's why I'm not into eating sushi. Eating eels would be like cannibalism for me; I can't do that.