There are few jobs quite so absurd as rockstar
The climb up is absurd but the descent is hilarious
Things have been a little grim around here lately and also always so I thought I’d run something a little more lighthearted today. If you’ve spent any time on Twitter in the last year or so you’ve likely either been charmed or irritated or both by the posting stylings of one Max Collins aka “the Eve 6 Guy.” Over the summer he and I and another friend of mine, Dave Wedge, the co-author of multiple NYT best-selling books like the recent Last Days of John Lennon, Hunting Whitey, and numerous others, started fucking around with a book based on Max’s rise and fall in the music business and his second life as a shit-poster. (If you want to publish it let me know!) I’m gonna share a bit of that project here today. It’s not overtly Hell World-y but it does deal a lot with alcoholism and mental health struggles so it technically counts.
“Soon it ceased being a luxury and it became a necessity for me to be able to perform,” Max says of his drinking. “It got to the point where I needed it so badly that I would panic if I ran out or was running short. I would steal alcohol from other bands before shows.”
Also he talks about Staind a lot and that is very much up my alley as a Massachusetts shitbag even though he is very rude to Mr. Staind imo.
If you don’t want to read that this week I’ve also been posting chapter excerpts from my most recent book Lockdown in Hell World that relate directly to shit going on of late.
This piece here was written right around the time of the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting which is in the news again because of the absolutely cursed trial being conducted by a complete pig clown of a judge.
And to think all this time all of our other mass shooters could have just been doing shit like this and gotten a pass. They might have gone out and only killed two or three “Antifa thugs” at a go and they could have become right-wing celebrities overnight. Probably a bad precedent to set here! I wonder if any other potential vigilantes out there will consider the approval of Rittenhouse from the president and vast swaths of the right and think about trying something themselves?
This one I posted on the anniversary of Biden being declared the winner last year.
I nonetheless will be happy to see Trump finally and utterly and officially lose. Although “Joe Biden is president now” will feel so much less good than “Donald Trump is president again” would have felt bad if you follow me there. It’s like the emotional ceiling of a Biden win is a modest ranch home and the emotional basement of a Trump win is the cursed tunnel from Annihilation.
It’s also all pretty funny though. Biden is not going to improve many of our lives in any material way but watching Donald Trump the worst man we have produced in decades speed-running through the stages of grief and trapped in a constant state of having just lost and always being just about to lose is delightful.
And I was reminded of this one because of a story I read about a — you guessed it — new bank branch opening in Harvard Square.
A neighborhood’s soul is lost then rebuilt then lost again and it goes on and on but there is I think a potential end point where the predictions of a neighborhood’s demise can finally be fulfilled and maybe that’s here for Boston and for similar cities. Places with an abundance of soul can drag out the process for a long time but there are only so many blows they can take. My beloved Harvard Square has continued to be a cultural destination for all these years of loss simply because there was so much to lose in the first place. Now every other storefront is a bank branch.
When a room slowly starts to fill with water you can continue to float upward and breathe until the very end when you’re left scraping at the last pocket of oxygen. Things used to be better in this sunken room you think and then you go under.
Ok here’s the Eve 6 story. Thanks for being here.
The climb up is absurd but the descent is hilarious
Jon Siebels and I heard that our song, “Inside Out,” was going to be played for the first time on the radio on a small alt-rock station in Ventura County.
Ventura was an hour’s drive from La Crescenta, the small L.A. suburb where we lived and started our band. I was 19 and Jon was 18. I wrote the original version of the song two years earlier while we were both students at Crescenta Valley High School, but we reworked it with our producer, Don Gilmore, who had been an engineer on Pearl Jam’s “Ten.”
Don helped us refine the song, recommended a bridge and stretching out the chorus. We took his recommendations and our label, RCA, made “Inside Out” our first single. Good call.
It was 1998 and the music scene was all over the map. Backstreet Boys, Madonna, Boyz II Men, the Beastie Boys and Montell Jordan all had records high on the charts, but there were some rock bands making noise too, including Third Eye Blind. Like us, they were from Southern California, but we weren’t sure whether we would fit in anywhere. We were three teenagers from a small town near Glendale. MTV’s Total Request Live was the end all, be all, and we didn’t see many kids on there that looked and sounded like us.
We started the band when I was 17 and Jon was 16. Most of the songs on our first album were written about a girl I dated. “Inside Out” was one of those songs. It wasn’t a hit yet but it was being added to specialty stations around the country, like the one in Ventura.
We just had to hear it come over the airwaves. That would make it all real to us. So we hopped in the car and started the drive west on the 101 toward Thousand Oaks. We were getting fairly close but weren’t quite within listening range of the station when we heard the DJ introducing us.
The signal was fluctuating between the rock station and mariachi music.
“Shit!” I said. “Are we going to be able to hear it?”
We hit the gas and sped faster. Just as the song’s opening chord from Jon’s guitar sounded, the station came in clear. My vocals kicked in. We cranked it up, laughing and speeding along the highway.
We couldn’t believe it. It was beyond surreal, to hear our little song on the radio. As I sit here, almost 25 years later, I can say it was one of those “mountaintop” moments for me, a disaffected kid from the Valley who expected to work at a Circle K until I could become a librarian or get a desk job with benefits.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about that whole era, and my career in this wild industry, but that, definitely, was a moment I’ll always cherish.
A month later, we were on stage at the massive Music Midtown festival, a three-day event in downtown Atlanta. The festival drew 300,000 people over three days. The lineup was crazy: David Byrne, Destiny’s Child, Foo Fighters, Indigo Girls, Goodie Mob, Violent Femmes and Etta James. There was also a good sampling of new post-grunge rock bands with current hits, like us: Fuel, Semisonic, Cracker, Sister Hazel and Fastball.
We had been playing small clubs, but were selling them out as “Inside Out” quickly took off and landed in heavy rotation on MTV and alt-rock radio. The song was a smash and our album was surging up the Billboard charts.
I was about a year out of high school and was about to take the stage before 80,000 people in downtown Atlanta. It was 85 degrees but for some reason, I was wearing a navy blue thermal shirt. It was still the 90s after all. I was sweating profusely from my armpits, not only from the oppressive southern heat, but also because I was so fucking terrified.
I walked out onto the stage with Jon and our drummer, Tony Fagenson, and I had these very visible, massive O-rings of sweat under the armpits of my shirt. I don’t remember much of the show at all, other than feeling insecure about my sweat stains. It was just a surplus of adrenaline. I do remember looking out at that sea of people seeing them as almost dehumanized. A crowd that big just becomes something else – like a massive swirl of faceless static.
I hid my fear by affecting some stage cockiness and bluster to make myself feel deserving of the place that I was occupying, even though fundamentally I didn’t feel like I belonged there that day. It wasn’t an altogether negative experience. There was just this wild exhilaration mingled with terror.
I thought about my parents, who were cautiously supportive of my rock career choice, even before there were any signs that they had reason to be. My mom and dad gave me the standard admonishments.
“You need to have a Plan B,” they would tell me.
I was a teenager and just signed a record deal and was playing to 80,000 people. Coming out of high school, which is the ultimate authoritarian regime, I was constantly bucking back against it anyway. All teenagers do. But this whole thing gave me some extra cockiness. I was ready for it. Or so I hoped.
“We’re fucking doing it,” I thought as I took that Atlanta stage.
The chances of making it in rock were so fucking slim, but we were doing it.
It was egoistic stuff but it was also vindication. Vindication against the kids at Crescenta Valley High School who didn’t take me seriously or thought I was weird. Vindication against those girls I liked who didn’t like me back.
“Look at me now,” I thought.
Before that first festival show in Atlanta, we were at a motel eating Indian food. We were still a young band and were touring cheaply in a van. It was a Red Roof Inn, which was all we could afford.
Taking the stage, I thought about the juxtaposition of this massive festival, the fame that was within my reach, and that shitty motel. I hated that solitary feeling one has staying in a motel room. It’s so fucking lonely. I was with my bandmates, but I was separated from my family and friends in this weird little tour bubble. I vacillated between being the center of attention and having all eyes on me to being alone in a sparsely furnished room.
After our set, we had a meet-and-greet. There were all these girls clamoring to get photos with us and autographs. It was quite the ego boost. Until one pretty girl decided to knock me down a peg.
“You’re too skinny,” she told me.
That moment stuck in my head. I was like, “Oh shit maybe I am too skinny.”
I was a teenager so I was self-conscious anyway but that simple, awkward moment made me physically self-conscious about myself in a new way. I felt like I was partially failing in my job as a rock star because I didn’t look right to one of my fans.
Maybe I should do steroids? Wonder if I could work out with Danzig?
Shortly after the Atlanta show, we were playing another festival when I found myself completely wracked by anxiety. My head was attacking me. That was the first time I found out that booze helped. I got significantly liquored up and walked out onto the stage before 50,000 people. Still, I couldn’t shut off the noise in my head.
Repetitive, irrational thoughts sprinted through my mind. When you suffer from OCD like I do, these wild, racing thoughts can’t be placated, especially when you’re in front of tens of thousands of people. That’s just not the game you can play with OCD.
As I poured sweat and my mind avalanched, we broke into our first song, and just when I was about to sing, a ladybug landed on my microphone. A goddamned ladybug.
At that moment it just felt like a cosmic sign that things were OK and that I was OK. Somehow, that little act of nature made me able to let go and play the set.
Meanwhile I was discovering the wonders and powers of alcohol, but the fact that we had to take turns driving our shitty tour van really limited the amount of consumption in my early drinking days. That all changed when we got a tour bus. Our first big tour in a luxury bus was with Third Eye Blind. Once we got that bus, getting drunk became extremely casual and easy. We had a lot of free time and didn’t have to worry about anything. I loved it. It was freedom.
I come from a long line of Irish alcoholics. My grandmother on my dad’s side was a chronic alcoholic. She was in a crash where someone was killed in Peru. She lived with that guilt her whole life and drank the pain away for much of it. She died with 20 years of sobriety.
Both of my mother’s parents drank excessively. My mother’s mother was lots of fun and lived to be really old. She carried around nips in her bra – which she called “airplane bottles.” My mother’s dad suffered from mental illness and drank to excess as well.
My dad would have a Guinness each day, and maybe some red wine occasionally, but was a pretty normal drinker. My mother never drank at all. She drank when she was young but felt it was starting to become a problem. She thought it made her mean so she quit and never looked back. She threw herself into the Catholic Church instead. I should have followed her blueprint. I was terrible at drinking.
I never drank in high school, but once the whole Eve 6 thing started booze was a natural progression. For one, it was always there and none of the adults around gave a shit that I was underage. For another, I learned quickly that it would help me cope with whatever anxiety or problem I was facing, at least in the short term.
The first time I ever got drunk was after we finished our first record. We mixed it with Don Gilmore and Brian Malouf at the famous Electric Ladyland studio in New York. Brian had worked with Michael Jackson, Queen, Madonna and Pearl Jam and was the A & R guy who signed us to our first major label deal with RCA.
We went to dinner and I had a few glasses of wine at the table. I remember standing at the urinal in the overpriced bathroom of an overpriced restaurant. I had just finished mixing my major label debut album. I was drunk in a fancy restaurant in New York. It was a rock star moment. I had never felt that good in my life. I proceeded to swill wine and whatever else came my way and got completely bombed. I threw up the next morning in the hotel room, but I even enjoyed that too. I felt like I was living.
From that moment on, alcohol and me were partners. I started keeping a bottle of Malibu rum on our tour bus. I poured myself rum after shows and it quickly became something I did before shows. Soon it ceased being a luxury and it became a necessity for me to be able to perform. It got to the point where I needed it so badly that I would panic if I ran out or was running short. I would steal alcohol from other bands before shows.
I distinctly recall swiping bottles of booze from Collective Soul’s green room on an early tour. Sorry guys.
I wasn’t even old enough to legally drink and I was already stealing it to survive. I had come a long way from being that happy teenager who drove up to Ventura just to hear my song on the radio.
“I need chicks with big tits onstage for the encore,” Stephan Jenkins said to his tour manager.
It was the first day of our opening slot on the Third Eye Blind tour in Binghamton, New York. We had just been introduced to him and he had spent the first day completely ignoring us. I remember marking that moment and thinking to myself that when it was our turn to headline I was gonna make sure to exude the opposite of this guy’s energy to our openers.
I was 20 years old and this was our first big tour and I was already chafing at what seemed to be the expectations of the job. The music I’d grown up on and naturally gravitated toward when I was young, or younger I guess I should say, since 20 seems a ridiculously young age to me now, always made a mockery of the jock figure. I related to Jawbreaker and The Meices and The Mr. T Experience, and even Nirvana because I could see myself in them. They turned the cliche rockstar persona on its head and made it cool to not be the asshole. But as a terrified 20 year old, and a burgeoning alcoholic clearly in over my head, my first real life interaction with rock stardom would expose that notion as naïveté…
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