Recently I’ve been able to interview a lot of people I respect for no money and little recognition on The Rumpus. The list so far has included Andrew W.K., TristanTaormino, Mary Roach, T Cooper, Parry Gipp, and the lesbian hip-hop duo God-des & She. I’ve also been able to interview a bunch of non-famous people for this blog. I really, really enjoy asking people questions, and if there was a job as an interrogator that didn’t actually involve becoming a cop or having to carry a firearm, I’d want it. (I don’t have good enough hair to be one of those interrogators on CSIS or Law & Order K-9 Narcotics or whatever the show is called.)
The beauty of interviewing people with a degree of fame is that you can get a ton of really wild stories out of them, and they’re generally very good at just taking the reins and speaking for a while. What makes interviewing “regular” people so much more fun is that they often have even better, uncensored, unpracticed stories, and that they’re usually pretty thrilled to be talking about themselves. I’m currently trying to solicit more artists to write about for The Rumpus, and more quirky normies to perform an inquisition on for Jerk Ethic. I’m waiting on a few responses from business owners and freelancers who I think will add extra insight to the work/life strife. That said, I’m going to take the opportunity to share with you the project that is my dream, but that I can’t quite get off the ground. If you have an extraordinary amount of funding, or a book deal, or just are wildly connected, let me know. If you are particularly jazzed about this idea and do your own version and become phenomenally successful, I will find you and move in with you. Trust me, if you’ve ever been around teenagers, living with me is like that, only with a slightly larger vocabulary and more books. Just ask Simon.
I want to write a series of interviews that are my 90s, revisited. See, when I turned twelve years old, things got a little weird. I started listening to more aggressive music, watching Beavis and Butthead , and dying my hair green with Manic Panic hair-dye. I traded my drab dresses that never made me look feminine anyway for plaid kilts, torn fishnets, and a Tool shirt. I convinced my dad, wracked with guilt over the impending divorce, to shave part of my head into an undercut. I dreamed of piercing every part of my body and getting more tattoos than I had skin. There were acute, vocal, and embarrassing obsessions with Trent Reznor, safety pins, the bass guitar, and learning about every kind of music that incorporated guttural screams and the word “fuck.”
Some of the people who inspired me back then have met bad ends. Layne Staley overdosed. Ben McMillan of Gruntruck died from a rare blood disorder. Courtney Love…well, you know. Some, like Trent, thrived and honed their art, becoming producers, or, in Maynard James Keenan’s case, vineyard owners. Personally, I got the starter-kit for some crows’ feet and a nauseating amount of disillusionment with the blurring of lines between popular music and heavy metal. I also got all of those tattoos and piercings that I had wanted, opting to cover them up for years with business attire. (Another perk of working freelance is the dress code. Sweatpants and tank tops are standard.)
I wonder where my heroes from those influential years have gone. Riki Rachtman is apparently hosting a NASCAR show, Marilyn Manson was rumored to be painting in France, Metallica is batshit crazy, the Cure got fat. I want to know what led them from where they were to where they are now. Because the same way I want to hold onto the idea that I’m still that whippersnapper, headbanging, hardcore kid, I’m sure they want to remain the rock gods and bastions of badassery that they were back then. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they just want to raise their family in peace and teach guitar lessons. I don’t know. But I want to find out.
Part of this has to do with momentum. I wonder if I’ll spend forever just wanting to be a writer, and trying to feed myself as a writer, and having a few people read my stuff and say, “Yeah, that’s great, thanks, we’ll be in touch.” But where will I be in fifteen years? With stretch marks and twins? Or at the top of the digital masthead?
I have questions I’d like to ask them, too, about fandom then versus fandom now, and burnout, and what that era was like for adults. What their motivation was to rock so hard, to mess with gender roles like L7 and Paul Plagens from the band Greta did, to write lyrics about rape and Bela Lugosi. In truth, I just want to hear tales from the good old days and pretend they aren’t that old at all.
Swap stories about mosh pits with me: AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com. And thank you to everyone who donates. Or should I say, rock on?
Hire us to open for you. We write hard! [Insert metal sign and headbanging here.]
To donate to the Layne Staley Fund that helps to raise awareness and combat heroin use, click here.
Send donations to the Ben McMillan Memorial Fund
5940 47th Ave SW
Seattle, Washington 98136