1: To whom did you write a letter inviting her to your Royal Festival Hall gig in 2008?
“Queen Elizabeth II. I’m already winning!”
“Point one! They replied with a letter from her lady-in-waiting that respectfully declined, but then we hired a Queen lookalike and she came out and sat in the Queen’s Box and we blasted ‘God Save the Queen’ and put the spotlight on her. It was great.”
Does the invitation extend to the whole of the Royal Family – would you like Harry and Meghan to turn at an Eels gig in the future?
“For sure! Just because Harry and Meghan stole my son’s name Archie, I don’t have any hard feelings. They are always invited. But they have to bring Archie!”
2: Who was once convinced that you were Batman?
“(Laughs) Perry Farrell once seemed very convinced that I was Batman when we were playing Lollapalooza. It was 1997 and it was during the day and he had a bottle of wine in his hand. He was right there in the front row standing beneath me and between every song, he was shouting (Imitates Perry’s accent) ‘I know you’re Batman! I know you’re Batman!’”
CORRECT. Do you think you’d make a good Batman?
Any other memories of Lollapalooza?
“We were on the second stage at the same time as Snoop Dogg was on the main stage and we weren’t allowed to be as loud as Snoop, so I had a little telephone onstage and I would occasionally call and ask Snoop to turn it down a notch.”
Lollapalooza is famed for its eclectic mix of bands. What’s the most unusual bill you’ve been on?
“We’ve gone out of our way to always try and ensure we’re on a strange bill. We did one tour where we got a different novelty act in every city to open for us – like a guy who had a sparking spinning wheel. Another tour we enlisted a different local ventriloquist in every city. Some of them were terrible – but the surprise was some of them were really great!”
3: Eels won the International Breakthrough Act award at the 1998 Brits. Can you name any two of the acts you were up against?
“No. (Laughs) I guess it’s official – rock ‘n’ roll kills brain cells!”
“Really? Wow! I wouldn’t have picked us to win – I’d have picked Hanson or Daft Punk.”
You requested that Spinal Tap present you with the award in a pre-taped skit…
“It was fascinating because their wigs showed up before they got there in hat boxes with their character names – like ‘Derek Smalls’ – on them, so that was exciting. As soon as they put their wigs on, they were always in character. They always had the accents. They never broke character once. We filmed the acceptance speech many times and every time they did it differently so it was really entertaining. After having Spinal Tap present the Brit to us as a statement that we think it’s all fake, we stopped being given awards (Laughs).”
4: Which British rocker was once interested in signing you?
“It was very exciting at the time but I have to tell you, about 20 years later, I ran into him and we were talking and it became clear that he had no recollection of it! (Laughs)”
What do you think he would have been like as your boss?
“I’ve never spoken to anyone that he’s signed but I bet he would be great as he’s such a music fan. I can only imagine him being enthusiastic.”
Any chance of your book ‘Things The Grandchildren Should Know’ being turned into a ‘Rocketman-style biopic?
“There’s been interest in it and it’s something I’ve considered but I haven’t found the right fit yet. (Deadpan) Obviously I want to be played by Jon Hamm.”
5: Which two animals are made into balloons during the ‘My Beloved Monster’ scene in Shrek?
“Oh, that’s a good one! One of them’s a frog, right? I don’t know what the other one was. A fish?”
WRONG. It’s a frog and a snake.
“Gah! Right! I have a two-year-old boy who’s just starting to see stuff like that now and I try to explain to him: ‘That’s da-da singing’, but he doesn’t give a shit. He’s more a fan of ‘Baby Shark’ which every kid loves.”
Talking about kids, how did it feel when George W Bush singled out your 2000 ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’ album during a censorship row as “being directly marketed for children,” commenting “The CD features cartoon children on the front cover, but contains songs such as ‘It’s a MotherF@#%’ [sic] and lyrics like, ‘When I grow up, I’ll be an angry little whore’.”?
“The whole thing was surreal because we were being discussed on the front page of The Washington Post and mentioned in the same sentence as the president. Our management at the time was very concerned that it was a negative story, but were excited and felt the opposite – we felt like heroes.”
6: In 2010, what did police mistake you for in London’s Hyde Park?
“A terrorist (Laughs).”
“I was doing press all week at a hotel as one does. I had a break between interviews and went outside to Hyde Park – this all happened right in front of Harry and Meghan’s house, as a matter of fact. Some lady called the police and reported a suspicious-looking character she thought was a terrorist and said I was peering into the embassies and looking over the walls to the hotel I was staying in. A bunch of police with guns arrived – which was startling to see at the time in London. I was genuinely scared and thought I was going to go to jail and lose my freedom. It was a terrible feeling that I’ve never felt before. The way I finally got out of it was I showed them my keys to my hotel room and said: ‘Does it make sense that I would be peering over the wall looking at the hotel that I finally got to leave?’ They let me go but they had me on a watchlist. When the plane took off to take me home, I was so relieved.”
Ever been mistaken for anyone else?
“No, I’m not like one of those actors who look a bit like other actors, so they’ll get mistaken. Just terrorists!”
7: On your 2000 performance on The National Lottery Draws of ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’, what is the saxophonist wearing?
“(Laughs) That’s a tough one! Alright, let me think hard. So it was money-themed right? So I had the gold suit and the rest of the band had T-shirts with the pound sign on it? He was wearing something different? How did that happen?! What was it?”
WRONG. The saxophonist was wearing a Santa suit.
“Are you sure that’s not on a different show? I thought that was on CD:UK where I was dressed as a devil and we were all wearing goofy costumes* but I guess Santa can be part of the money show though – that makes sense! Christmas etc! I remember being very excited to meet [the host] Lulu – she was a sweetheart.”
When you performed on Later…with Jools Holland one time, John Legend lost it at you for lighting up a cigarette. Any other memorable TV moments?
“When our song ‘Your Lucky Day in Hell’ came out, we were scheduled to perform it on Top of the Pops. We went there and filmed it and the next day, Princess Diana died and music was cancelled – everything except classical music and ‘Candle in the Wind’. So it would have been upsetting to hear ‘Your Lucky Day in Hell!’.
*The Santa suit was also sported in their CD:UK performance…
8: In 2014, you were awarded the Freedom of the City of London. Name two other musicians to receive the honour.
“Luciano Pavarotti and Bob Geldof?”
“And E from the Eels! I am now allowed to bring my flock of sheep across London Bridge and if I commit a crime that’s punishable by hanging, I have the option to choose to be hanged by a silk noose. That’s probably going to come in handy!”
Boris Johnson was Mayor of London during that period – and is now our Prime Minister. What do you make of him?
“(Laughs) Yeah, I better stop making jokes or I will get hanged! I don’t know a lot about him but he sure looks like Donald Trump – that’s not a good sign.”
9: What is the name of the World Cup song you joked to NME that you were writing last year?
“Ugh! Something like – oh I know what it is! – it’s ‘Your Team Lost, Boo-Hoo’ (Laughs).”
CORRECT. Close enough – it was ‘Boo-Hoo Your Team Lost’. We haven’t been doing too well at Eurovision. Any chance you can come up with a winning song for us?
“I’m not an expert on Eurovision to be honest so I don’t know what would win, but I would like someone to cover my hit song ‘Boo-Hoo Your Team Lost’. I think Harry and Meghan’s son Archie should do it. Come on, that’s got to win!”
With any artists backing him or just Archie solo on a Fisher Price xylophone?
“Well he’s the artist – that’s his preference!”
10: Who hosted the episode of Top of the Pops you performed ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ on with toy instruments in 1997?
“Hmmmn….that’s a long time ago. I have no idea.”
WRONG. It was Peter Andre.
“Well, that’s an unfair question because it was our first trip to the UK and I just thought he was the regular host of Top of The Pops. It was fun but we had no reference point for what Top of the Pops was or what it meant. We asked to have toy instruments and we didn’t tell anyone that we were going to smash them until after the cameras rolled. I was just happy that we pulled it off.”
What’s the most surreal offer you’ve turned down?
“There was an offer for half a million dollars to use one of our songs in a commercial for antidepressants in America, and I couldn’t do it because the joke would have been: ‘Yeah, you’ll need them when you listen to the new Eels album!’ (Laughs)”
The verdict: 6/10
“Does that mean brain cells still alive or dead? I feel pretty good about that score.”
Eels latest album, ‘The Deconstruction’, is out now.