Jimmy Eat Hell World

It's like the defining point where the rest of my musical career was kind of determined from that choice

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It’s too early to remember things right now but I’m trying. I woke up at 5:41 this morning which is what happens when I don’t drink the night before and go to bed early and read a book for a while then lay there remembering that I have to die some day which is one of the main reasons why I drink in the first place so that I can forget that. When I do drink it makes me wake up and feel like I want to die which is also bad but at least it gives me something to fight back against out of spite.

I’ve adopted a one night on / one night off approach the past couple weeks and it’s been a nice change of pace. It’s like when Robert Deniro or whoever talks about film projects in interviews “one for them one for me.” The one for them I guess in this analogy is me not turning into a cruel piece of shit on Twitter so people get a night off from that so you’re welcome.

I miss not knowing how basically every hour of every day is going to transpire before it even starts all the days are broadened and flattened out now like what happens to a nose when you punch it in.

What I was trying to remember just now was what the last time I “went out” was and I guess it was February 20 as I just learned from looking up this old Hell World from that day. It was the last Emo Night Boston party we threw before the what have you and maybe the last one ever (?) and I was particularly excited for the show going on in the other room that night which was Spanish Love Songs and Free Throw and Pool Kids and The Wonder Years and mostly what I remember from that night was playing phone tag with Dan Campbell and becoming agitated by it because it was very important for me to get him a copy of my book at that time for reasons that no longer seem all that important in the grand scheme of things. A good problem to have relatively speaking from the vantage point of six months into a pandemic.

Regarding which my publisher wants me to do another book focused on the virus and I guess I will probably do that but part of me is like well it’s barely even started never mind over so it seems a little strange to try to write about it in any definitive way it would be like jumping off some rocks into a swimming hole below and then halfway down someone yells out hey how’s the water man before you’ve even hit it and you’re like whaaa

I would love to be back at Emo Night right now though man I would love to be anywhere with virtually anyone. The only time I’ve been around large groups of people in the past few months has been to march around yelling in the cops’ faces which is fun sure but a little more stressful than dancing around yelling Saosin lyrics into your friends’ faces.

Oh right. The reason I was trying to remember things and the reason I had Emo Night on my mind was because today I’m running an excerpt from the forthcoming book Anthology of Emo: Volume 2 by my dude Tom Mullen who you may know as the guy behind the Washed Up Emo podcast and site. Since 2007 Tom has been cataloging the history of the genre and conducting interviews with people both famous and obscure who made the scene what it was then and is today. The second installment of the book series which is out this September and you can pre-order here includes interviews with Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World some of which you can read here below as well as Chris Conley of Saves the Day and Bob Nanna of Braid and Travis Schettel of Piebald and others.

It also includes a foreword written by none other than Luke O’Neil the famous elderly emo dipshit. It starts like this:

I heard my first emo record, U.S. Songs by Elliot, in 1998. I think. I saw my first emo show which would have either been Karate circa The Bed Is in the Ocean right around that time or maybe it was The Get Up Kids with The Anniversary in Worcester at the Palladium but I can’t remember what year either show was anymore because after a certain distance everything starts to blend together unless you kept notes or ask other people who were there with you which is what I guess this book is. 

Earlier this year I saw the Wonder Years and Tigers Jaw at the Palladium and the venue has changed in twenty plus years I guess but I don’t recognize how. The city and most cities too for that matter have changed a lot but they also all haven’t in a lot of ways. Some things don’t change. 

But then this morning as I was reading through Tom’s interview with Jim I realized I was wrong about the first emo record I ever heard it was actually Static Prevails which I guess came out in 1996 and which I learned about because the song “Call It In the Air” which is probably still my favorite of theirs was on a compilation I got from Urban Outfitters I am pretty sure. I can’t remember! I watched two movies this week and in one of them Andy Samberg has been caught in a Groundhog Day-style time loop for so long that he can’t remember what he did for work before it started and in the other Charlize Theron is an immortal warrior who’s been alive so long she can’t remember what her family looked like and in both cases you’re meant to be like fuuuck that is tragic and brutal but to be honest that shit happens in like a regular ass length life too. You forget so so many things.

Either way thank you to Urban Outfitters for the especially influential to me compilation CD and for all of the irreverent hats and hilarious t-shirts and $15 candles and so on.

If you’re here for the primo emo content today I should point out that while this newsletter is usually about politics and my deteriorating mental health it occasionally delves into music as well and so you might enjoy a couple of these previous pieces:

In this one I did my own interview with Travis of Piebald with some help from the likes of Jeff Rosenstock and Christian Holden of The Hotelier and others who contributed questions. You may also want to read my top 118 emo-ish songs of the decade or this one about YouTube comments being the last sincere place online or this one where I talked to a bunch of punk and emo favorites like Every Time I Die and The Wonder Years and Thursday about the lowest moments in their careers.

Some of them are for paid-subscribers only so sort that out here and you’ll get access to a couple hundred past Hell Worlds.

Before the excerpt from the emo book some of my typical shit.

A while back in here I wrote this

read a story about a cop in Honolulu admitting that he forced a homeless man to lick a urinal if he wanted to avoid getting arrested. The man is an addict who has been in and out of jail for years his family told the news and he was in a documentary one time where he was checking himself into rehab saying he was going to turn things around this time and things like that the things you say and you hope are true when you say them but I guess it didn’t work out. The news said he would go to that particular bathroom a lot to clean up and that a person who had the keys to it would let him in to do so perhaps wanting to provide him with some measure of dignity. I thought for some reason for a minute that it was weird that the cops in Hawaii do the same shit they do everywhere else and that is obviously naive because cops are the same everywhere. I don’t know anything at all about Hawaii to be honest I’ve never seen it and I probably never will.

…and I guess there’s a “happy” ending to the story because the cop in question John Rabago has been sentenced to four years in prison. Love for there to always be more prisoners.

I don’t really feel like talking about “cancel culture” and “illiberalism” and the “censoriousness of the new orthodoxies” or whatever at the moment — I am going to but I don’t want to — but I just saw this post below and found it interesting. This shit isn’t new. We’ve heard all this shit before and what we are using our voices and our speech rights to say to the people saying it today as if it were the first time is very simply: shut the fuck up.

My superiors and betters can keep arguing about what the polite and intellectually curious way to engage in the free exchange of ideas is but if it’s alright with everyone I'm going to go ahead and continue to despise and dismiss out of hand my ideological foes who use their power to prevent better things from ever being possible.

This from Lili Loufbourow in Slate on the matter was good and reminded me of what I've talked about before where after enough time posting your brain goes into Matrix bullet time mode where you can see every logic trap coming in very stupid slow motion so you skip head to saying suck my dick and get on with your life.

I understand that’s frustrating, especially to those who wish to freely debate difficult questions with smart adversaries and can’t find any takers. You could call that refusal to debate “illiberalism,” I suppose, or you could recognize that there’s a history here. And if you want to know why people aren’t bothering to engage seriously or at length (or shout at you when you try), that history is worth trying to understand. For one thing, social media platforms got flooded by devil’s advocates who wasted the time and sapped the energy of people who were actually invested—sometimes cruelly, and for sport. That tends to weed out good-faith engagement. Add to this that most arguments worth having have been had and witnessed thousands of times already on these platforms, in multiple permutations. Those of us who’ve been here for a while know their tired choreographies, the moves and countermoves. If I see someone bring up “black-on-black crime” in response to an article about racist policing, I know how almost every step of the interaction will go should I choose to engage. Rather than learn from these exchanges, people of all persuasions on Twitter mostly enjoy the style of whichever “dunk” we happen to agree with. This isn’t universal, of course. One can try to engage in good faith, and some people do. But given that the reward for all that effort is likely to be mockery or contempt, one learns not to bother. “Black-on-black crime” becomes a cue to sign off.

The most infuriating part of this entire stupid argument is that if we’re being honest there can be no such thing as polite disagreement in political debate. Politics is making decisions about the allocation of resources which is another way of saying deciding who lives and who dies who thrives and who suffers. It is a lot easier to be polite when you aren’t ever numbered among those with their necks on the chopping block.

The reasonability fetish cult would say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing an article that suggests for example a family struggling to put even hamburger-less hamburger helper on the dinner table should get only $300 instead of $600 in benefits payments during a pandemic because the latter is more than they would make if they were still working — it’s not fair! — and I’m supposed to calmly rebut something like that? You can’t logic-cast empathy into an amoral person’s brain.

One party or both parties to be honest are always arguing for nationwide policy level acts of massive violence — either the active or passive kind — against innocent struggling people but personality disorder guys like me with a medium sized audience of other personality disorder guys having the temerity to tell them to go die in a perverted jet ski accident on Twitter is somehow more offensive than that? One behavior results in actual harm the other makes a person temporarily annoyed.

These very influential and untouched goblins think that if they argue for austerity and draconian criminal justice measures politely and within traditional debating standards that they aren't actually arguing for real visceral violence against swaths of human bodies. It’s a despicable sleight of hand. Just asking questions about how many poor people should die today is a violent act. I won’t accept it. No. No. Eat shit and shut the fuck up forever.

This is related. For example when you argue against Medicare For All you can do so in a way that sounds very measured but here’s what you are using your voice for:

When you argue that health insurance should remain tied to employment even as millions are losing their jobs in a pandemic what is it you are actually arguing for? Death and suffering.

Michelle is very afraid right now of going back to teach in a month where she and then I will almost certainly get sick. But she cannot leave the job because then we will lose our health insurance making getting sick financially devastating. More so than it already is even with insurance I mean.

Here are some very good questions!

Ok here’s Tom Mullen and Jim Adkins in conversation.

Tom Mullen: What got you into music?

Jim Adkins: My dad played guitar. Very early on, that was my first exposure to music in general. And then my parents made me take piano lessons, which I think every little kid should probably take piano lessons just to kind of see if they have an aptitude for it. That and also I think maybe the early days of MTV, like seeing a Quiet Riot video. Theatrical metal — I mean, come on, that just looks badass. Seeing the airplane hanger set with the Thunderdome kind of like set up with the Scorpions playing. You've got fire, explosions, dudes with swords. Just the whole theatrical metal thing was influential to me as a kid.

Mullen: From that, learning about new bands, did it start with metal? And then kind of leaned to punk and then into hardcore? Did it kind of go that route?

Adkins: I mean the metal stuff was kind of what made me gravitate toward wanting to play guitar, but at the same time, I was also like buddies with people who had cool older brothers and sisters. I'm the oldest of my siblings, so I didn't have an older brother to turn me onto cool stuff, but I hung out with a lot of other kids who did, and that's how I found out about people like Violent Femmes and The Jesus and Mary Chain and skate rock. I think skateboard culture kind of took me from metal into hardcore.

Mullen: Yeah. I feel like that sort of progression has been really similar with a lot of people in this time frame. It's just interesting that it's so many people kinda had that same progression. I'm sure it happens to a lot of different people, but specifically to this timeframe, it's very interesting to hear that.

Adkins: Yeah. I think any guy, especially around my age, probably has like a secret metal phase from which most other music tastes spawn.

Mullen: Do you remember the first time that you sang live in front of someone?

Adkins: In fifth grade I had a Violent Femmes influenced band. We didn't really perform anywhere, but we made recordings and that was probably the first time that I experimented with singing, playing, writing. Me and one of the guys in the "band," we did call up a girl who he wanted to ask to go with him and sang her song and it was successful. So, I guess we did have one audience member.

Mullen: From the early stuff, was there a first record that you owned, was there any kind of special moment or time or do you remember going to the record store or someone handing it to you?

Adkins: Yeah. My parents would let me buy a cassette every week, which was pretty cool. When I started kind of showing my parents that I wanted to really learn guitar instead of continuing with piano, I would go to lessons and on those days it'd be in a different part of town and there'd be a music store and I would buy a cassette a week. And I remember one week where — I might have told this story before, but it's pretty pivotal — in one hand I had Def Leppard's Pyromania and in other hand I had Nena's “99 Luftballons,” and I think if I had gone with Nena, my life would've been much different today. It's like the defining point where the rest of my musical career was kind of determined from that choice.

Adkins: My first records were cassettes. Like Def Leppard's Pyromania and High 'n' Dry, Quiet Riot's Mental Health, Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry, like those kinds of things. Basically stuff that was popular, guitar-based rock. Not super on the heavy side yet, but guitar-based rock.

Mullen: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean the first record for me, or band, was Helmet. I was like, this isn't really metal, but it's heavy, but it's not. It's kind of both.

Adkins: Oh yeah, Helmet blew my mind when that first album came out.

Mullen: You remember the first show or first kind of actual kind of show that you went to and felt like, wow, this is amazing. Please tell me it's Def Leppard because then that completes the circle.

Adkins: I think my mom didn't want to go out and my dad really wanted to go see Paul Simon play. That was my first concert. But I think, more in mind with what you're asking, I was probably going to see 7 Seconds play. I think they'd just gotten back together and they were touring again. And I'm not sure if my parents even knew I went because it was a scummy part of town.

Mullen: I think that those kind of first shows, those kind of pivotal moments, it's going to see those shows and feeling something. Obviously now everything's coming back around again, reunions are happening, bands are back touring. Why now?

Adkins: Well you have people in my grade getting back together and doing tours and albums, and you have the older kids getting back together and doing albums and stuff. And I don't doubt that we'll see the freshman class coming along soon and getting back together and playing shows. It is sort of cyclical. It's natural to want to celebrate work that you're proud of. You know people dissolve their groups for whatever reason, and I think time heals a lot of that, but then it's just fun, you know what I mean? For a lot of people — especially in the kind of scene that we were involved in — that's when we were kids figuring it all out for the first time. It's kind of a nostalgic period in our lives and it is kind of nice to re-examine that and be able to appreciate it. I mean I do that all the time cause we've never broken up, but in the times where we are working on really old material or we're performing like an entire older album or something like that, you can definitely appreciate the moment more.

Mullen: Does it take you back? Like if you're doing something off Static Prevails that you haven't done in a while.

Adkins: We don't play a whole lot of Static Prevails stuff anymore, but I think it'd be more like "why the hell did write this and put it here?" Like "what the hell were we thinking? And “why were we on a major label again for this kind of record?" We had no business being on Capitol, we had no business being on a major label with the kind of material that we were coming up with and with our market positioning, our rabid fan base of 3000 people who had bought various seven inches that we put out.

Mullen: But from that, would you think that Clarity would have happened out of that? I mean I think those kind of go hand in hand. I sometimes think if that didn't happen, would you guys have had the opportunity? Because Clarity was a pretty big budget, I assume, or at least from the label side.

Adkins: Well, I think we approached making the record like we would never get a chance to make another record in an actual studio again. So we did go kind of nuts and like, “alright, today we're renting timpani.” Like, “I don't know what we're doing, but we're getting tubular bells, woodblocks, timpani, xylophones.” It seems so clean now. I mean there's definitely experimentation — like using production as dynamic enhancers for the song's sake — but it's pretty teeny compared to what a lot of people are doing. Like it was really weird that we put a tambourine on something. Like, “woah, that's not punk.” Oh man, we've really sold out now, we got a tambourine on the song. But that was like us pushing the boundaries of our self perception back then.

Mullen: Yeah, I think having sort of that progression of you guys thinking that you shouldn't have been on Capitol doing this record. Kind of going back to some of the early touring stuff, there's a story that goes around that I think Eric's mentioned that I wanted to kind of corroborate with you if it's true or false: When you guys were early on punk stuff, was seeing Christie Front Drive that sort of pivotal shift. Or was it the Mineral guys? I'd like to kind of hear your story about that kind of turning point. Cause you guys were kind of a pretty rad punk band, first off.

Adkins: Well I think we just got exposed to a whole lot of stuff. I think when you're starting out and you're finding your niche with collaborating with other people in writing music and performing and playing, we were kind of figuring that all out at the same time within our band. What we played was not dissimilar to our record collections at the time, so there was a lot of Propagandhi and Face to Face, but also like Rocket from the Crypt and Superchunk. So it was kind of like guitar-based rock, but the accessible versus challenging ratio was always in question. But it was definitely still faster and definitely more aggressive, kind of over time. Right when I got out of high school — and maybe Eric told you about this — my soon-to-be college roommate decided he wanted to be a record label, so poof he was a record label. Me and two other buddies of mine decided that we would be promoters. So poof, we were promoters. I really feel bad for anyone that we booked, but we got exposed to a whole lot of different stuff, a lot of hardcore, a lot of it just different. And we aren't like angry people, so kind of like the aggression of it all kind of gave way to just trying to explore. I don't know. I think that that's kind of what we had in mind. I mean Christie Front Drive and Sunny Day Real Estate, bands like that, those were people that were in the popular musical samplings that we were around, so of course as music fans, we just assimilate as much as we can with everything that interests us. Some of it got expressed through what we were doing as like exploring melody in slower, more moody kinds of songs. I don't know if that answers your question.

Mullen: No, it totally does because Eric embarrassed you a bunch on the podcast, and I think this is your chance to embarrass Eric. But he spoke about meeting you guys and, you know, talking about your hair and just how different it was. And it really was that time where you were really exposed to so much stuff at that time, and it was coming at you so fast and there wasn't a web search. It was, I saw the band or I read it in the liner notes and I'm going to check out that band because they mentioned them or Sense Field's cool or Braid's cool.

Adkins: Or MRR [Maximumrocknroll] had a column where a dude raved about some band and I gotta go find their seven inch now.

Mullen: Yeah. And it was this search thing. It was this quest. And I'd like to get your kind of take, I mean it took a lot of effort.

Adkins: Oh yeah, a kick ass record store was like a holy pilgrimage. There's a spot in Tucson in Arizona called Toxic Ranch. But there was a venue called Downtown Performance Center, and it was like an all ages, no alcohol kind of spot — it was really cool. And there was a record store next to it that always had, without fail, anything that you were looking for. There were spots all around town in Phoenix too, like Eastside Records and Stinkweeds Records. It was a holy pilgrimage to go to these spots and load up on the things that you couldn't find anywhere else. So that was a big part of that experience. You know, it wasn't easy. It's never been a better time to be a music fan than right now where you can just like click, click, click, click, click, “oh yeah, hmm Pink Floyd discography,” click, “I want to listen to all of it.”

Mullen: It's like, “oh, well that band connects to that band? Oh, okay, I get it.” Well, that took me a month and three shows and two seven inches and then an issue of Metal Maniacs or whatever.

Adkins: I did not break down walls with a sledgehammer and set up a milk crate stage so I could hear Karate for the first time.

Mullen: Karate was the first band I ever interviewed for my two issue zine that I did in high school. Eamonn agreed to do it over email, and they were on tour with Fugazi in Vermont and he did the interview for me. It was like one of things where I'm like, "I don't know why you agreed to this, but thank you. Your band is awesome."

Adkins: I mean that's how I met Eric and the Christie Front Drive dudes. And our really lame production company that we had, he'd send us copies of the record and he sent us a cassette of like Karate demos. Like I wish to God I still had them, it was awesome. There was one song they did called "Dating Is Stupid" that was just awesome. To this day I want to find it. It was like an early version of "Cherry Coke" and like six instrumental songs.

Mullen: I mean back then it was all about the split seven inches, the joint tours and of course the Emo Diaries, too. Did that open doors for you guys being on that? Were there things that kind of came from that? People hearing it?

Adkins: I mean, like Eric was saying, if someone was knocking on your door wanting to put out music for you, I mean, you pretty much just took that because that was an incredible thing, you know? Our loftiest goal in the world when we started the band was to have our music on a seven inch. Then you did something, you made something. Like doing split records and networking with bands, helping them when they came to your town, you know, doing regional things with them when you were in their area, that all was like the main way that you did it. And still to this day, I think that's probably like the best way you can make an impression on somebody is to just go and play it for them. Have their friends evangelize for you on your behalf when you're gone, so that the next time you come to town, there's more people. It's not a passive thing, man. I'm sure that like some of the spots we played, you know, you can't get into a bar and then these places are just kind of wherever they can exist, even fleetingly. We never played one of these shows, but I've heard of other people playing in the post office late at night because they had outlets and it was unlocked. And they would just set up and do a punk show in a mailbox kind of area, and then just bail. I think that might be like a rural Arizona thing. I mean it took a lot of effort to do that, you know, as a music fan even.

Mullen: I think you probably got asked this a million times during Bleed American and stuff, I mean the word emo itself — initial thoughts when you had heard the word, had you any idea, any sort of understanding of it and since is it something that was a blessing in disguise kind of thing?

Adkins: For me, when someone says hardcore, that can mean something really different if you grew up in Long Beach or if you grew up on Long Island. And from my perspective in Arizona, hardcore was always synonymous with like kind of more screamo hardcore. I mean I guess emo was never really used, but the kind of stuff that I would consider hardcore was being called emo in other places. And that specific kind of sound for me were bands like Julia or Mohinder or Policy of 3, Shotmaker, Abolition stuff, Gravity stuff, Clikatat Ikatowi would be one. Like Frail from Philly. You know what I mean? The sort of like performance art bloodletting basically, you know, that's what I think of whenever I would hear the word emo as we kind of got bigger and people were, you know, throwing that word around to mean a haircut. A white belt and a haircut. I never really got that. I mean everyone wants to take credit for breaking the story on the next big thing. And I can understand why people want to give it a name like that. But for me, unless you're talking about bands from that time and that era, it doesn't mean the same thing to me. But then again, you know, you get a room full of people and ask them what punk means, you'll get a room full of different answers. It's sort of a lazy way of describing a scene or a sound — I mean hell, man, Darkness on the Edge of Town is pretty emo when you get down to it, but no one's going to call The Boss an emo act.

Mullen: Yeah, I mean it did turn into sort of a haircut and a style, and that's kind of the inspiration behind the website that I started. And of course now, I dunno if you know, but there's a lot of bands and labels that are sort of talking and sort of referencing bands before that sort of hair era. Count Your Lucky Stars, Topshelf Records, it's been really interesting to see them say, “oh, well, my favorite band is Engine Down,” and you're like, “What? How did you know about that?” But they searched it out, and they figured it out, and they found out about them. I think that's really interesting that they can quickly find out about it faster.

Adkins: Oh yeah. I mean, like I said before, there's never been a better time to be a music fan because you can hunt down these niches of a scene that was no bigger than 50 people in a basement and find something there that you might be into. You know, it's great.

To read the rest pre-order the Anthology of Emo: Volume 2 here.