Eels are streaming their 10th album ‘Wonderful, Glorious’ in full today and you can listen to it at the end of this article. We chatted to E, aka, Mark Oliver Everett, about the record and what’s been on his mind.
NME: The album sounds quite melodically warm and bright and maybe a continuation from ‘Tomorrow Morning’. Do you see it like that?
Mark Oliver Everett: Yeah, I do. I think ‘Tomorrow Morning’ set me up for it. It probably would have been predictable if I’d done a bummer album after ‘Tomorrow Morning’, which was pretty positive, but a more interesting curveball was going further with the positivity.
How’s the last year been?
Most of the year was really not that great. The one month that we made this record was the high point. And that’s probably why there’s a lot of songs about fighting, battling to get to a positive place.
How do you write melodically positive songs if you’re not feeling great?
Well, then you write a song about trying to be positive, which is what some of these are.
There’s a lot going on musically in this album. Were you interested in experimenting with anything in particular?
It’s very spontaneous, There were a lot of those lucky magical moments when the tape recorders were rolling at the right time. The only rule I had was “let’s try it”. Even if it sounded terrible. I was often proven wrong, which, you know, is great.
What were a couple of the things you tried that worked?
There’s a rain stick on one song. We always had a rain stick in the studio as a joke. This big Brazilian amazon jungle type of thing. It’s for jam bands and hippies. We’re not a jam band and we’re not hippies. So finally a night came when someone finally said “let’s use the rainstick!” and I said “OK, let’s try it”. And it ended up on the record. Also some of these songs are five different songs in one, which was definitely a result of trying anything.
Your dog Bobby, Jr has become a bit of celebrity
Yeah. He just had to have spinal surgery and it cost like $6,000. But you know, it’s not an extravagance when you consider all the videos he’s been in, singing he’s done, and all the t-shirts and panties he’s sold with his image on it. He’s totally a working member of the family. He earned his surgery.
He gives that dog in The Artist a run for its money
He hates that dog.
How do you feel about the internet breaking down boundaries between artist and fan through social networking? Are you interested in it?
I’m not interested to be honest. Some people might consider it old-fashioned, but I’m not. Somebody said to me the other day: if you want to get over a crush just look at her Twitter account. I think that’s really wise and true. A really important part of what I do is to let there be some distance. People don’t need to feel like I’m their friend. They just need to like the music. That’s enough.
What do you make of fan-funding?
I find it offensive to be honest with you. I don’t aspire to do that. I think it’s really kind of grotesque in a way. I wouldn’t want to feel like I owe anybody anything you know. If you wanna come along, come along, if you don’t, fine. And I don’t wanna feel like my fans are my shareholders. But that’s just me. You know its right for some people. It’s just not right for me.
What happened when you played with Ringo Starr a couple of years ago?
Well, it was amazing because I’d never met a Beatle. We played at this festival in Norway and I knew Ringo was going to be there and I was stalking him all day. When I finally met him I totally blew it. Ringo was being so nice to me; he was talking about living in LA. And he said, “you know I’m from England?” and I said “oh, really? I didn’t know that”. And it was just so sweet that a Beatle would be saying some personal facts about himself as if we all don’t know everything about him already.
And he said, “Oh, I think I’m going to talk to another band now” and he blew me off! He’s the reason I started playing drums when I six. I was just crest-fallen all day. But later, during his show, we were on that side of stage watching him and he took a break while someone else was singing the song, and said “would you like to come sing on the last song, it’s called ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’?” and he starts singing this song as if I don’t know it. He’s going, “it goes, do you need anybody” and I stopped him, I said “I know it!” He said “How many are you?” the whole band and the horn section were all there and I said “There’s seven of us!”. He said “bring them all on!” So I didn’t totally blow it.
What’s your favourite song on the new album?
I like ‘Peach Blossom’ and ‘On the Ropes’ a lot. I like them all.
What was the first song that made you a music obsessive?
My sister had the ‘45 of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. I remember loving it when I was four and dancing to it.
Have you confirmed that you’re MC Honky yet?
No, I haven’t because I’m not.
Are you still writing autobiographically?
Sometimes. But this weird thing happens where often I write songs in character and I think it has nothing to do with me and then in a few years I find myself in the exact situation. It’s weird. It’s prophetic or something. I’ve got to start writing songs about situations that I want to be in. I’m working on a new song called ‘Me and the Naked Girls in the Pile of Million Dollars’.
Are you making a point with the album?
A lot of it’s about fighting your way out of a situation. It’s a bright orange album cover but there’s a plane dropping bombs. It starts off where somebody’s
not in a great situation. I guess the point is that you’ve gotta make an effort. You can’t just expect everything to work out.
And were you writing about fighting to get out of a particular place or a particular experience?
I did feel painted into a corner after doing the album trilogy thing in such a short amount of time. It was hard to know where to go afterwards. I think I was subconsciously dealing with that.