Mickey Avalon: I Don't Just Do What I Think People Might Want
Mickey Avalon is constantly loaded.
He's loaded with clever rhymes and catchy hooks, played by DJs to writhing Hollywood club kids who don't understand that half of the dark memories Mickey shares are actual experiences. When he started out around 2004, he was loaded with the burden of family members dying; of drugs and that all-too familiar feeling of being lost. In 2012's Loaded, he brought us a soundtrack to live out our most debauched rock 'n' roll fantasies, dripping in hedonistic energy and comical admissions. And during our interview, he's loaded with "whatevas" and "I don't knows" as he rambles on about his new EP I Get Even that will be released on October 1.
Anyone who is a Mickey Avalon fan--or foe--knows about the electro-influenced Hollywood glam-rapper's past. Some would say it's drenched in decadence, but to me it's the opposite. Even now with his success, he seems to relish the gritty, back-alley way of doing things. Sometimes it seems to relate more to rock music than rap, so maybe that's where his broad appeal comes into play. 30 years after Iggy Pop described himself as "a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm" on the Stooges' 1973 hit "Search and Destroy," Mickey Avalon has brought that same stance to the stage--as well as Iggy's tradition of upholding an underground following early in his career with a somehow sickly sweet yet forbidden lyrical imagery.
But Avalon has paid his dues times 10. You can read just about every other article about Avalon out there and hear about it--raised in Hollywood, sold pot as a kid, became addicted to heroin, lost his family to drugs and alcohol, married young, had a daughter--not necessarily in that order. It would be a cop-out to touch on those subjects once again with Mickey. Almost two years ago to the date, we had our first interview, and he was much more pensive.
I Get Even brings five tracks as the usual outlet for Avalon to peel back the curtain on his desperate yet beloved lifestyle. He's still selling out clubs all over the country with his legendary live show and the raw honesty that helps him turn tragedy into triumph through music. And this Friday, September 13, he's playing at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix.
Up On The Sun talked with Avalon about his oil paintings, his favorite lyrics, his love for country music, and having a 16-year-old daughter.
Last time we talked it was right before the release of On The Ave in 2012. Your album names include your I'm Loaded, On The Ave, and now I Get Even. What is the significance of the title "I Get Even?" Honestly, it's just one of the names of the songs on the record. And with the photo for the cover I thought that song went best with it. No significance connected with all the other ones.
So with the song "I Get Even" there was no significance behind it? Maybe, I guess I had to be mad at something... I mean, I guess I had a falling out with some people and it's not better yet, but I would be okay if it was.
I wasn't sure if it was pertaining to the industry, past haters, former dealers.... like, "look bitches, now we're even!" Oh no, no no... [Laughs]
Tell me a bit about the song "Hollywood," which you've called an anthem for the hometown you love. After hearing Jay Z and Alicia Keys' song about New York, I knew I wanted to write one about Hollywood. I could've done a song about Los Angeles, since that's where I was born and raised, but Hollywood is a loaded word, that has a lot more meaning than just a town. As a kid, me and my dad would walk up and down Hollywood Blvd.
And now I'm a part of the industry here. I hit up my boy Paul Oakenfold to produce the song, and he nailed the beat. Then I wrote up as much imagery as possible about Hollywood.
When it comes to music, you're talented at making lyrics and vocals that people love. Then you team up with people to make the beats. Can you describe the process behind "I Get Even?" With my writing process, I don't really know where the words come from--it's just my subconscious. Half the times the titles don't have to do with what I'm currently feeling, I guess.
A lot of it is just, once we have the beat, I match up some stuff I've written, and we match what works best for my style.
Did you feel like you did anything different with this EP? I feel like...I've heard some people that, like, really pay attention to what works and what doesn't work, and then write it down for future use. They'll try to relate their new albums to their old ones, like they'll say, I don't know, 'I drank this exact amount of booze or smoked this many joints,' and then they'll go back to that place to see if they can get to that same place to write. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
Obviously you want it to work. I just try to let go as much as I can and see what I come up with. Quality is more important than quantity, but sometimes you have to make quantity to dig out the quality, if that makes sense.
Absolutely. So is there a certain track that you are most excited for people to hear? I love them all. I'm just happy to get something out... it's just five songs, since it's an EP, but I like the more obscure ones. I like "Rodeo" and "Oh Baby." And I've been playing some of them live to test them out--I mean, they aren't out yet, but even if someone put it on YouTube it's not going to be good quality or anything, so I'm not too worried about it getting leaked out. I just want to see how people like the songs.
How did the collaboration between you and Scott Russo come about on "Girlfriend?" I met him... I've worked a lot with Cisco Adler, pretty much from the beginning of my career, like with "Jane Fonda" and "Mr. Right." I mean, like, I'd say that he and I do the best work together.
I've worked with a lot of producers, but he and I are so comfortable together. I Met Scott at his house, and that was it. We actually worked on quite a few things together, a bunch of songs, and not many of them came out. After we met through Cisco we kept in touch and thought this song was a good fit for a collaboration.
What would be your dream rock and roll collaboration? I like a lot of country. Probably Lucinda Williams. With rap music, you can pretty much put anything into the hook, like the verses can be me and then anyone could be on the hook, so, probably like uh, Lucinda Williams would be cool.
Nice. That's a bit unexpected. [Laughs] I did some songs with Perry Farrell, which was pretty awesome. That was someone I really wanted to work with. But you know, music licensing is a weird thing. You would thing that you own something you do, but it rarely works that way. Sometimes something comes out on the Internet that you didn't even know was gonna come out, and I guess as long as you're not selling it, it's allright.
I feel like every single thing I've done at some point, if I like it and want people to hear it, it will be heard at some point. I don't want to do stuff so people can't hear it; that's a waste of time, you know?
So, you're daughter is 16 now. Is she into music at all, and if so, would you guys ever collaborate on anything? I mean, she knows how to play guitar, but she's more into art, like painting and drawing. Like, she has a big portfolio now to get into art school. She's already got her GED, so she's done with high school. She likes music a lot, and she can play more than I can on the guitar, but I think her main passion is drawing and painting.
You love to paint too. What type of paintings do you create? Like portraits, figures. Oil paintings.
Mostly oil. I started... sometimes I'll start the painting with spraypaint and end it with oil. But I never work with acrylics. I've done some work with watercolors. My daughter is really good with watercolors. Those are actually harder than oil. She just picked it up herself and is just killing it.
I love working with oils, but I get frustrated because it's such a long process. Yeah! One time I tried with acrylic and it was the opposite feeling--it dried too damn fast.
Can they be seen anywhere? Can fans buy them? I've had a few up before online. Right now I actually have two paintings in a group show out here in Los Angeles.
You've said before that all jobs are forms of prostitution. I think in art especially that can ring true. Well, what you do isn't that. It's just that when money has to be made... I guess in a perfect situation where both people are happy it seems like a lot of times...what you're doing is fun, but figuring out how to make money off of it can be like that.
What I wanna be, I'll be. And in music, what I wanna do I'll do. I don't do what I think people might want or what the radio might want; when I follow that route it doesn't seem to work out. So it's just probably best for me to do what I know. And that's to not go the route I think people want.
What's your favorite lyric you've written? From my first record, I always liked a line from "Friends and Lovers." "The filthy rich and the dirt, dirt poor are all the same when they can't take no more... all my friends and all my lovers are dead." I always liked that.
You've rapped about drugs, prostitution, etc...but nowadays you've said that you've calmed down a bit. Do you think you'll ever rap about being a father, going to therapy, etc.? No. See, that's the problem. I haven't really changed much inside, myself. But you know, life changes around you, and things change, and... and it's not that I think any of that stuff is corny. I think that serious stuff takes more skill--like if I wrote books or something those would be great topics to talk about.
But I think in the framework of my music, let's say, rock 'n roll and rap. In that realm, it's sex drugs rock 'n roll, that kind of thing. There's only a few subjects that I think really work in that framework. I don't like veering off into that weird emo stuff.
I don't mind rapping about heartbreak and death, I suppose, but even that isn't that serious in my framework. I mean, I don't know. Like right now...
I mean, I don't know! It's also tricky when something may have been really easy to write before, and then you find yourself having to think about it more. In the beginning it was me and my friends messing around, and now it's like, however many songs later, I don't know. That's why Cisco and I work well together, he seems to be able to fish stuff out of me to create these songs. And it's those songs that are relevant to our jokes and what I originally started out on with my friends. I think my next record will be more...not so tongue in cheek.
All right. So, if there's something you could tell yourself 15 years ago, do you think it would be more serious or comical? Well, I think it would be something serious, but I don't think I would listen. I mean, that's the thing. I see it with my daughter. There are things you aren't going to listen to... as a grown-up, if you were walking through the forest and someone was five steps ahead of you, you would probably listen if they told you there was a thorn tree up ahead.
You'd probably believe them. And that just makes sense logically. But a kid's brain just doesn't work that way. And it's frustrating, but at the same time that's how it's gotta be for you to become yourself and figure things out for yourself.
There are people who say they wouldn't change anything if they could go back in time, and I don't necessarily think that's true. I think that you are who you are, and you made the decisions you made, but I don't think anyone would generally say they wouldn't go back and make a thing or two easier for themselves. You know what I'm saying?
I'm happy that I'm me, and what's transpired for that to happen. But it's stupid to think I wouldn't have changed anything.
What have you been listening to lately? More country? Pretty much country, but there's not much mainstream country I like. Right now there is something on the radio... "Royals" by Lordes. It's cool. Have you heard it? But I do mainly listen to Sirius. I also like classic rock. I'd like if there was good new stuff, but that's rare.
When Lana Del Ray came out, I thought that was good, and I liked her sound. I guess I just heard one song though so maybe it's the only good one. I'm going to go see her concert soon. I just like good music...whatever that is.
You know, it all depends on moods. Something that's great at one moment can be awful at another, or inappropriate. Like electronic music. I think that's stuff cool at concerts and for the live music experience and all your senses. But I, I don't want to listen to that music in my car or at the house.
Speaking of music that you have to be in a certain mood for, do you have an opinion about the VMAs? Well Miley, I felt uncomfortable for her, or I guess more for myself. It just seemed a little... but then again, she's a kid, so she has to learn. I wasn't thinking so much about her as I was the people around her.
I mean, those kind of people have a lot of 'yes' people around them. But you would also think that someone in the camp would be like, "You know, maybe that outfit doesn't even fit," or, "Your ass doesn't really look good in that," you know what I'm saying? That's the only thing I thought.
Even with 'yes' people around you, you'd hope someone has your back. Then again, if her intention was to get people talking; we're talking about it right now; then I guess that's what you're after.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.