As Yet Untitled

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Resonance - Eels

From the upcoming issue number 49:

Cigars and Guitars
The Mr. E of Whiskey, Cards, and Smokes

The illustrious Mark Oliver Everett--better known as E, frontman for the Eels--has released nearly a dozen albums documenting his strange love/hate relationship with the world. Rather than let him wallow, we decided to ask Mr. E about the very thing that makes life worth living: vice.

(More Inside)


At 2:02 PM, Blogger Tyson said...

It's been said that you are a cigar smoker.

In my old age, I've picked up a few vices. I used to live pretty clean, and didn't really have much in the vice category. But since then, I smoke cigars, I like to drink whiskey, and I like to gamble, but that became such a problem that I'm not allowed to gamble anymore.

Do you mean you don't allow it, or other people don't?

Well, I made a deal with God, even though I don't believe in him, and I figured I ought to stick to it. There was one night on our 2000 tour, on the bus, an ugly gambling incident happened in one of our card games, and I ended up almost having to pay $26,000. [laughs]

You were betting with band mates?

Band mates, crew members, opening acts, whoever was around. We were playing the game called High-Low, sometimes also known as Acey-Deucey, and there's one thing--and it's been so long, almost six years now, so I don't even remember how to play it anymore--but there's this weird thing that happens where the pot automatically doubles when two cards are the same, or something unusual happens. It happened to me like 13 times in a row, so what was previously a pretty harmless little family fun card game became $26,000. It was horrible. I think the girl that was our opening act was on the bus for the first time that night and she was crying at the drama. It turned from fun to this insane thing, but in the end I got it down to $1000 and I've never been so happy at losing a $1000 in my life.

And after that, no more gambling for you?

Well, when it hit $26,000, I had a little conversation in my head with God. You know, "please get me out of this. I won't do it anymore, just get me out of this."

You don't believe in God. Do you believe in damnation, in Hell?

No. I don't see how that can be true. I'm already in Hell. That's not true, but sometimes I feel like it is. You know, on the subject of smoking, I like the idea, I like when things happen in life that make you question what's good for you and what's bad for you. Yesterday, coming back from New York, I was watching this film about--I'm such an idiot, I'm on a plane and I'm watching a film about a plane crash--about a plane that went into the Potomac river back in the '80s, I guess it was. There was 73 people on board, and five survived, and the reason the five survived is because they sat in the back of the plane because they wanted to smoke. They had smoking sections on the plane back then. And they're interviewing one of these guys, and he says "I've got to give smoking its due. It saved my life.' And he's still alive 20 years later. You never know. My father probably died because of it [smoking] and my mother probably died from breathing his second-hand smoke, yet these five people on this plane all lived because they smoked. You just never know if what you're doing is right for yourself.

Do you use that as a reason to smoke?

If they had cigar sections on planes, I probably would.

What kind of cigars do you smoke?

I smoke really cheap cigars and drink really cheap whiskey. I'm not a snob about this kind of thing at all. I hate food snobs and cigar snobs. I can be a music snob sometimes, I understand that, or a film snob, but there's nothing more dreadful than sitting around listening to people talk about fine cigars.

How did you get started smoking cigars?

It's something I used to do a little bit as a teenager. I used to drive around, smoke cigars, and listen to music. And then it dropped off at some point, after I left Virginia. I just forgot about it. Then a couple years ago, I think I was in a store and I saw one and I thought "you know, that looks like fun." I think it was really the result of so many years of working too hard and not letting myself have enough enjoyment. It's one of those things where I'm getting older now, and it's time to relax. I found that it's a nice, meditative kind of thing to do. You have to stop and sit there and smoke it. I like to sit out in my backyard, we have a little guest house, kind of a cabin, in the backyard, and I like to sit out there and play old records and smoke. It's fun.

Are you an exclusive cigar smoker? Do you ever sneak smokes?

I've never been a cigarette smoker. I think I had enough of that from breathing in my father's three packs a day. I think getting asthma was enough for me. That asthma high.

What's the attraction with cigars?

It's a nice, old thing to do. To sit out in my old, my "guest house of blues" I call it, this little tin shack, and I sit out there and play 78s, and get away from the internet and just relax.

Do you subscribe to the cigar smoking lifestyle with humidors and cigar clubs?

I sometimes go to cigar pubs, but I'll whip out the cheap cigars. I have a couple of humidors, but that's about the extent of my snobbery.

Did touring temper your smoking habits?

This last tour is the first tour I've been on since my cigar phase began. Actually, it was the cigar that was the whole inspiration for the tour. I was sitting out in my backyard one evening, and looking up at the smoke I was puffing up into the night sky, and all of a sudden--I didn't even think I was going to tour last year--I started picturing an Eels concert I'd never been to before: where there was a cigar on stage, and that was the beginning of the whole idea. I started to see the string quartet behind me, I'm wearing a suit, there's a guy playing the musical saw, and the whole thing came together very quickly in a puff of cigar smoke.

Do you smoke more or less out on the road?

I think I did smoke more on the tour, because it was part of the show. It was used as a theatrical device, which made it slightly less enjoyable because it had to be choreographed. Ok, I have a moment here to puff, then I've got to put the guitar on, and then turn over here and play the pump organ, another puff here, sing here. It was fun, but it wasn't as enjoyable as sitting down and doing nothing but smoke. That was the only time I was smoking on tour. I wasn't smoking after the show because I'd had enough during the show.

Does touring lend itself to greater debauchery, or just better debauchery?

You know the older I get, the more debauchery seems to be a young man's game. There was actually very little debauchery because we had an all-female string quartet, so we had a tour bus full of ladies knitting sweaters, and musicals on the DVD player. Not very Rock and Roll at all.

Or it's extremely rock and roll. There's a workaholic's vibe about you--all Eels, all the time. Do you consider your music a vice?

I don't know if you call it a vice, because vice is something that you do for pleasure. Music is much more encompassing than that, the whole work thing for me. In my case, I didn't really have a choice because it saved my life. It serves me on so many levels. But of all the choices, that was the best one for me. Better than crack, probably.

Do you have any habits that others think of as a vice, even though you don't think of it as a vice at all?

Hmmm. I don't really have time for much more between all the gambling, corruption, and cigar smoking.

Let's say God asks you which vice he should permanently remove from our reality. Which vice do you erase forever?

Let me see, what are my choices? Drugs, alcohol, smoking. What are all the vices? Gambling. Well, you know, I'm not really big on horse tranquilizers. If that went away, I'd be fine.

Horse tranquilizers?

I thought that was the thing with the kids.

Maybe I'm just running with the wrong crowd. Any last thoughts on vice?

Don't do drugs. Try sex. It's much better. Mostly I'm just happy to have an opportunity to impart my wisdom about smoking and drinking and gambling to the kids. I hope they learn from my example, and what a fine example I am.


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