The Airborne Toxic Event's Mikel Jollett Recounts His Astonishing Life Story


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It's a journey that begins with McKell has a very young child growing up in sin on. It's a drug, Rehab Facility turn occult he's separated from his parents and it's a journey that in the end is about what it means to be a family. My conversation with Michaela. took place live on the NPR Music Youtube. Channel back in mid July. So joining me from the eastwest studios in Hollywood California is Miquel juillet. Area good. So good to see you. For You Know I've had this a little while. That's big bird's feather by the way. Very Horn section VIBE, there's there's a saxophone by happened in somewhere now need to play. Cal I WANNA start with giving folks who haven't read the book yet a flavor of. What's in store in this book if you'd actually read. A small section of the book from the top. From the opening chapter of Hollywood Park we've been living in sin and on, which is a drug rehabilitation. Facility that my dad went to when he got out of prison on to get clean off heroin and he met my mother there who was a free-speech activists from Berkeley may met they got married and then you know was very utopian vision of society that spiraled out of control I into madness and one of those one of the pieces of the madness in addition to the violence that happened in the. Sort of say psychological violence that happened where the children one of the more difficult things to write about how all the children were put into an orphanage. So I was I was raised there until nearly four and my brother until he was nearly seven. And we didn't know our parents because in the Colt, you weren't allowed to have parents So the book is written from my perspective as a small child and then of course, as I get older my perspective as grade school student and that eventually as a rebellious preteen and then adult trying to make sense of everything And I yeah. So this is the day my mom shows up We don't really know what it means to have a mom or dad, hug we did know because of the call was becoming violent she came to the rescue us to bust us out. So this is from the end of that chapter. and. My brother's name is Tom and he's there as well. I look at Tony's face for clues but he's got his chin pressed against the door frame holding the paper bag with his stuff in it. My head feels woozy is my eyes fall on the buttons of Debbie's blue overalls. She's Nice but she's new I miss clubby because he used to be with us at night and would hold me when I had a bad dream and Kami. Thon. To Tom we were safe here all of us here in centered on living together a great big family tribe of humans who love each other and love the world and loved little babies most of all. Debbie whispers something to mom Tony. Mad I'm told is my brother. Seem on the playground, but he never plays with the other kids he sits by himself. I sit by sometimes but I don't think he likes me because he pushes me and tells me to leave him alone. He's three years older than twice my size people say look like each other but I don't see. MOM picks this up. She seems so much like a giant bird like she swooped down from the sky and got us I wanNA tell her not to worry that I can fly to I'm strong enough, and sometimes when I'm dreaming my ears get big big enough to be like wings and I can fly anywhere I want. I. Just flat them and sore way up into the sky. Tell myself remember. You have to remember this when you wake up. You can fly. And I'm remembering now because I just woke up and I wanNA tell her but there's no time she beats her wings and we take flight over the school the playground, the yard, the field, the buildings the entire Senate on compound will be played games and eight and saying and slept where we heard the adult screaming through the speakers of the wire the in house radio with its crackle and his leading us hear the sounds of people laughing. People crying people yelling people dancing a jazz band playing music the punk squad the mean teenagers with their cursing and cuff jeans getting punched in the face. If they talk back every week, one of them runs away and everybody gets so mad. Son of the old man, the leader talking about things we don't understand. He says he loves us, but he's always angry. And the bird. Were told to call her mom. flapping furiously her eyes locked in some faraway point as she clutches her chicks and we fly up over Tamales Bay with its streams draining into the Pacific, ocean the giant redwoods on the hillside, the big waves crashing against the rocks on the coast slowly breaking them into tiny pieces, fracturing them pulling them apart. Till. They're soft to the touch portable and broken easy to walk on. The. Place into a small plastic bag for tourist visiting with Sunburn ankles from some ancient city to the east. I just want one thing. In a chatroom people might know this is a memoir. This is not a book of fiction. So all we talk about today is about your life to make that clear at the top what would the consequences of leaving? It's not like you just walk out yeah they were. They were threatening to murder people who left they had stockpiled about a thousand rifles There was a goon squad called the Imperial Marines that Chuck Diederik, who's the leader of Sinn, and on had recruited and doing drills in the field, and this is you understand this is a place that started as a non violent society violence wasn't allowed at all and in devolved as called Stewart devolved. and so we were risking. Getting beat up we were risking getting found one did leave. We were always told there was just this refrain. The bad men are coming. You gotTA hide. We weren't. We weren't allowed outside that first year at all when we went to hide in Oakland and Berkeley we stayed inside because it was we were worried that the the bad men were gonNA come. So we we live we essentially lived on the run. For about a year year and a half before we eventually. You know went to Oregon which was sort of like our sanctuary was like Salem Oregon in the rain. Like nineteen eighty, one, the feeling was like the hippies lost. and. I wasn't hip. The kid I didn't know I was just trying to piece together and so is my brother. You know. But I think the feeling was Reagan as president and here's Reagan. who was like my mom's arch nemesis from those free speech movement at Berkeley because he was governor California and he's president now and it was like they lost then whole generation it all the high minded. Just there were still I think we forget how much in the Eighties The ghosts of Vietnam was still with us that there were still. So like early eighties, you still had so many vets walking around the streets and so many people were at for the horrors of that war were still very fresh and they were still very fresh in the American consciousness as well. So I, think there was just this feeling of defeat. And like it just didn't, it didn't work out all these high minded ideal sort of devolved into madness and now it was we were hiding away and. The bad men. Did come and you witness such a horrible thing sitting on your porch in the driveway with Phil Toss about Phil and yeah. Sorry Okay. Sorry about this Yeah it was. It was tough we. We moved to a house in Berkeley and we we weren't allowed outside And one day. Phil who you know I wouldn't say it was like a father figure but there weren't any man around and we had a single mom because our parents had split but he was this really nice man he was he was a anti nuclear weapon activists and he still like big activists these days who's trying to shut down the Diablo Canyon. A reactor and he m he lived with us and he was a friend they were friends and he was friends with us in his daughter was friends with us and who's nice man and I I'd always come out when he when he got home, you know and one of the days my brother finally warm. My mom down was allowed to play outside because we weren't generally to do that, and so he was across the street and my brother wasn't you know came home and His is orange VW bus like any good hippie. He had an orange VW bus and he parked the bus in the driveway and he got out in these two men walked and I didn't know what at the time what it was, but they had this flesh mass like you see in movies like bank robbers where I soon they were nylons or something, and they were holding these short batons. They weren't quite baseball about someone they might have been pipes I don't know they were black. And he got out, he smiled at me and they just walked up behind him started beating him and he fell on the ground. Then he started screaming our is lopped And They beat him into. A coma. And was, yeah, I, was on the Portuguese five feet in front of me my brother watch from across the street. And then once they were done one of them sort of straighten up and said worse Tony and mccown. And he didn't seem exhaust hiding behind a part of the porch and look across the street, and then my brother was with a group of kids and you know. They they didn't know his name so the and they didn't know my name 'cause our never allowed to play with it because browse locked in the in the inside unable to play. So then you know the neighbor lady came out and started screaming and everyone was just terrified in and then ambulance came in I mean demand left and then the ambulance came in and that's when we realized we had to we had to leave California I and sort of go somewhere else and we we ended up in Salem. Oregon. One of the striking things the goes throughout the book is your relationship with your mom and you had this way about you. From very young they. Try to please all all the time. Yeah I think the kids respond to stressful situations. In, different ways and so much of the book I try to write about this from the perspective of the child is trying to figure it out. I was trying to I realized about halfway through writing the book what I was really doing giving his childhood voice this child that never had us because no one ever asked us how we felt no one ever said, hey, maybe we should get these kids some therapy they left an orphanage they witnessed crazy violence they're terrified the traumatize. There was just we were treated sort of his accessories to all this and so in giving that voice. I realized how much I very early understood that that was sort of my role different kids take on different roles and families sometimes because of alcoholism sometimes it's you know it could be cancer poverty itself. Why kid becomes the super at one kid becomes the scapegoat one could becomes what's called the mascot and these things sort of predictable take on my brother was very much the the rebel scapegoat child that was just like he was there to cause trouble and very early on you. Not, just you. Spend on how to out. I'll told us about two years of my life in a headlock. Added up. But I think I was like Abu The supermarket aisle I'll try to rise above this. I'll take care of everyone would get up before dawn on make breakfast go spend three hours doing chores we raise rabbits for meat because we didn't have you know we lived on food stamps and government cheese and all that kind of stuff and we raise festivals and stuff so. I would get up when it was cold and the rabbit balls froze over whatever and be like eight years old out there for three hours, replacing all the water and then go to school and then come home and shop. The would because we've never heater we just had a stove a like a like a woodstove and and try to make sure my mom's okay and be sort of her her caretaker. She was severely depressed. She dealt dealt was crippling depression her whole life, and then try to keep my brother at bay, and of course, when I was writing the. Book and I was giving voice to my brother I. I had I kinda came to have a different understanding of 'cause at the time I would have set out. He was just kind of being a jerk and then he's so mad and just all grown up you so mad, he was always calling him out. He's like this is bullshit he would say that he was like ten years old. This is bullshit. What are we doing? We rabbits I mean hamburger meat and ice cream, and what is this? Why are we running from this and now I can go play. And you know at the time I think I resented it, and now now when I when I wrote it, I look back like this kid speaking truth this this is the one. This is the one kid that sees it clearly like and it really gave me a lot more. You know his his response probably was in some ways emotionally more healthy than than mine which was to try to pretend I was you know could could outrun it or outlasted or something. Your mom who you're always trying to please. Her sense of reality was. Well, I mean she had her own issues and dealt with her own sense of reality. You'd say to her hey, I'm hungry and she says, no, you're not you earlier you know and and. All this want to. Lead to run away. We're talking now age wise. Start around four Senate on. We're now what about age eleven? Ten Eleven. Yeah. My first step dad had left or died. We weren't sure which he was a good man but a severe alcoholic but just put a nice guy. He always take us fishing down by the Willamette. River those guerrilla and then the my second Stepdad you know there's this thing in memoir writing where you're always supposed to look for the good and care n people. You're writing and I tried to do that a lot with my brother and my mom or you know my dad or whatever where you if someone's presented to you that you have decoration with, you try to see what they're struggling with and right about that. You have to write from a place of love and I think the one person in my whole life it I don't feel any need to do about. Is My second step that right now was clear. What the literary of I don't know how you put it in literature that someone was just a jerk but is was the I wouldn't say he was like some monstrous violent persons much as he was a lot of time intimidating me and then one night know stand over me and he beat my dog and he threatened me in that and then one night of blew over he comics some names and then I called my mother some. Names, and then he got in the face and got my face and pin me down and he you know being and I got up and white my tears in got on my bike and I ran away it was late at night I was maybe ten years old and I went to the West Salem Bridge, which is where I. would spend with my step dad who was this warm he was a drunk he was great drunk. Kind drunk it was a fuzzy drunk. He was like, yeah. Okay. Trouble hold on a job but he was a good day. You know we watch cartoons and and he was also just a place of warmth for us in in a world that we didn't have a lot of that and so I went looking for him. That was yeah that's that's that night and then I assume we're we're introducing the song here is. I'd I'd love. Feuds Kanawha how I would park, which is the soundtrack We're GONNA play We're going to bring a Mimi from the airborne toxic event over as well, and she's going to sit with me and we're GONNA play the song coming out which is based on. That night everyone made me per se the wonderful talented Mimi Pichet shreds. and we're GONNA play a bit of a role. We can play all coming out which is the story of of that night. No to suited. The front. Tune Rah. Was Loan Rod you. Think of me. Runaway. On away this is Matt. To. Cease it come on. Come on oh come on. Come on. Now. On. A Now Come. Law. On hard nine. Have Beer on should turn out live from the front door. I'll be tuning. Guy Got. Twenty Bucks. Pocket. Mustache not afraid out show would. Just shadow of shadows It's. Mung. with. With. on In the Night Settles Watch. So you stand on stage. As a fee and She's Run suits and. Just the. Face Nah I Does urine so My US break. Break. Please break. Break. Off. With. Come come. On. Now. Now. Long. Gone. Monitor. I. I've had some questions in the chat room sort of about beginning just to think about like why right this? And You know and and how do you begin to do that? How do you? Think about your life and and the detail. Blew my mind talk about that. Is a good question. You my father died. About five years ago in my whole world fell apart and I was I became very depressed I hardly left the house for about nine months and everyone knows grief is sad I didn't understand how confusing grief could be I was baffled by it was like the laws of physics changed and I remember thinking like I don't understand a world that doesn't have my dad in it and so I initially I had read between the world to me on he coaches book, which is sort of the conceit of the book is that it's a letter to his son and I just thought here's a really. Powerful way to think about writing a as the as an or as it you're writing for an audience of a person I think that's the book I initially set out to write like a maybe like kind of like a letter, my father, and then as I got into it, I realized I wanted to write something else because I everytime I. got early. I tried to explain to myself why my father's death hit me so hard I had had led to new questions while he was the first person I ever trust that's why he missed. Okay. Well, why was he the first person? You just well see Osborne inordinate. Well. Okay. So then often was inside a coal. Okay. But also, and it was like he was his whole world that I I had to wrestle with. So I decided I was going to write from the perspective of my I starting at the place of my earliest memory, which is the debut left sin. And a lot of the early detail. A lot of what I did was I did a lot of world building. So members like the string like you start to pull it, and then you get more and more and more the more time you spend on a in some Tony Morrison as this wonderful idea that memories it's called remem remember he lives in places. If you go to a place, the memory is still there in the place where it happened. So I don't know if you've ever had the experience of going to like your childhood home absolutely have to, and then your awash and suddenly things you hadn't thought about twenty eight all your friends there and and. You can smell the food you can smell the you know the carpet you can it's, and then you remember not just that but entire things that happen in your life entire attitudes that you no longer have because you've groner because you've changed so I would do that I would go to different places that the book took place and I would just write down or you know memorialize into my a tape tape-recorded like everything I remembered, and then I'd go home and right around that until I had. A good you know usually was between twenty and forty pages per place. So there's like you know Salem Oregon and the house they're they're sending on there's Plato, raid the apartment there the house in Westchester various parts of my life and I would just go to these places and then write about them and then I would call contemporaries that were there as well and particularly an compare notes you know you WanNa make sure you're not the only member am I remembering this right how do you remember this? Try to make sure and sometimes people would like. Yeah. It's exactly how remembrance and things like No. That's not what happened what I I'm sure if you asked your mom. I mean the way you both looked at the world was so different that she would remember things very different than yes. Of course So I compared notes with people and then the what synthesizing particularly the early stuffing of the first couple chapters are written from the perspective of we and I got a lot of detail from those those few chapters mostly from my brother. He was a lot older than I was at that point. So between all those different events, it was like once I had the places then I could just in this was about six months before I put any apply wrote a single word of the book. I spent six months doing this and then. when I got into it then I could just right. I could think about the story I can think about how things are being said I can think about how I was bringing new people in new characters and so I didn't have to think so much about our what I remember about this guy had already done all that footwork and I could just say, Oh, this is taking place at the house embrace avenue. Let's open that document and then okay, that's the world. All right go. and that helped a lot. because. A lot of this book is it does a lot of things you know memoirs aren't supposed to do. I. Guess There's magical realism in the book there's an unreliable narrator say things that are patently untrue because I believe them when I was six years old I believe some of the lies I had been told an N. I wanted the reader to go on this journey with. Me and my feeling was that these things are usually considered kind of the province of fiction. But I felt that wasn't it wasn't necessary that we construct our identity around magical realism. That's why we have you know mythology. That's why we have religion. It's why we have all kinds of different ways in which we think about our lives in these in these ways we we are oftentimes. Unreliable narrators of our own experience. So I thought you know, why can't I put these memoir? Why can't I I'm used these ideas to probe how I came to understand what had happened and who I was and and to let the reader on this journey with me because that's what it was. It was a journey of discovering what was real and what wasn't when I. Had started from a place where I had been told a lot of things that just turned out to not be true and I later realized this is what happens to a lot of traumatised children that they start in a place where no one's really listening to them and they're being told lies in half the slowly you know figure out on the things that are that are true. There was A. Moment euro or a runner your Your family comes to watch you in a race. That you win. A but your motivation. Is. Not Be like you're father. Yeah. You talk about this empty chair. And not only his failures are your motivation to success, but you can't you can't tell them. Something deeply striking about that. Yeah. there. There was a there was a time when we didn't really know our dad very well I. Remember he came to see me my six birthday in those. That's like when I really remember my relationship with him starting we'd seen each other before that seem centered on stuff but. and he was this mythological figure to us. He was like you know Clint Eastwood Meets, James Dean he was just this. We saw him. You know he'd pick your I mean what? What he looked like how he dressed he had. This big Jim Croce Mustache in a wife Roe. And you know he he only made it to like eighth grade before he started. You know what he calls you know basic mischief. But what was really like he got he was involved in a life of crime until he was about twenty, five, twenty six and you know they would steal cars and run bad credit card. Numbers and sell drugs and stuff, and and whenever any tell us about it. He was never like shy about telling us about his time in prisoners time as a professional criminal and we'd be like Dad, was it Kinda like organized crime was just like Gordon me like? This organized. We were too high to be organized. And that's how he was he was warm and he was funny and he and he was clean by the way to unlike most people who had that experts, he actually did clean up and he turned it around in my entire life. He never got so much as a parking ticket. So this is all just kind of something we knew about his past nothing we experienced, but we experienced was this wise man who'd seen everything? But you're literally running from that past of his got older. So as a child I worshipped I, it was just like that's the province children. My Dad can beat up your dad, my doctor ask your dad or whatever. You Know My dad at the coolest life ever, and then by high school I decided I was very important for me to go to college I wanted to get out I, want it to be the. Get to the next level in my life. I was a standout athlete and it was very dedicated student in it was an and that world suddenly switched and then I kind of an in the sat prep world. In the you know a AP class world I resented he couldn't help me with my homework and the fact that he had gone to prison my all the kids in my classes are their their parents were engineers and doctors and lawyers and my dad it felt like this mark of shame. That my dad had been to prison. My Dad couldn't help me with these things and I and I started to feel ashamed of it and so when I ran I would always have this image as a distance runner and a lot of what you do is you have to fight the fatigue and the pain and push through it and there's a lot of toughness with distance runners in my way of doing that was I would picture my dad and my brother and my brother was also a big rebel sitting in two chairs and then there'd be this third chair was empty net chose for me and it was like in jail cell and that's where I was going to end up. And it would literally drive me to the point. I was so angry where I just I want I don't WanNa be like you don't WanNa be like you which, of course then was also complicated by the fact that he was a lovely man and you know I I i. he was a kind warmhearted everyone. Love my dad everyone I the kids on the street. Loved my dad the family is funny and so I had a lot of mixed feelings about it because he was the place of warmth for my brother and I and affection and kindness and wisdom, and the time is I wanted to sort of blaze my own path and I felt like I was trapped by his his choices. You WanNa bring me back in you. WanNa 'cause. Tells about all at once. Well, we set up I'll wants is a song about the world changing all all of a sudden and sometimes that can be the death of personally important to you, and sometimes it could be let's just say a massive pandemic. And you're suddenly living in a new world that you didn't think that he would be living. We were. With time. Nameless in the. House of a mother. Father Anka. In the word wait for US thousand years in the crush of. Fearless and A Nothing. Then we. To. In the. Red Become. something. We never be. We were surprised. By the ninth. inning come. Mass. They just stood all that time. Then it comes. In In the. would. Someone. Ban. Show. So the Maybe Shows. Hope it'll be okay. We. Are. Just. Be Some. Looking down. On the day we. To each other. And? We'll take a quick break be right back. I'm talking with Mikhail Joe layabout his memoir Hollywood Park. There's also an album by his band the airborne toxic event also called Hollywood park, and we're return a minute and you're listening to all songs considered from NPR music. This message comes from NPR sponsor better help better help offers licensed professional counselors who specialize in issues such as isolation, depression, stress, anxiety, and more connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. When you need professional help get help at your own time and your own pace schedule, secure video or sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist. VISIT BETTER HELP DOT com slash songs to learn more and get ten percent off your first month. It's all songs considered I'm Bob Boylan I'm talking with Mikhail. Joe layabout his book Hollywood Park. It's a memoir also followed up by an album and a quick note that you can watch this whole performance and conversation online. There's a link at the all songs considered site. Tell someone our youtube channel, the NPR Music Youtube Channel. So. Let's talk about Jake. Jake. And, your your discovery of Robert Smith Your discovery of Music So I, there was a new kid from Nebraska that came to our class when I was in fifth grade and you ask them where. Nebraska, our side. And he walked into the class and first of all, he was eleven years old. At six foot three already. So he was this giant you know we were all these normal sized little kids and he was already sixty and he was sitting in this desk and behind me reading a Hardy Boys Book and my teacher asked me to take him under my wing comes to be you know. So I I, you know I struck up a conversation. We started chatting as you guys kids do. So you hear what you do and you know and and then out of nowhere he's like he swore in Farley he said, you know I don't know man we do a lot of bullshit and I was like, Oh, this test. result. Oh so swell could swear and I was like, yeah man there's a lot of bullshit around here. Like, calligraphy and fractious bullshit other bullshit like that. So we went to his house and he he was living in a similar situation government cheese and food stamps and whatnot and had some struggles with his own parents and so he brought he brings me upstairs in east like I got to play something for you we to his room and he puts his record on and it sounds like these guitars that are under water and there's this warble of voice and I didn't know you know what it was. And it turned out to be the head on the door by the cure and I I liked it i. he made I think he made me some mix tapes and cure mix tapes from all the different records and. I didn't understand how these songs could simultaneously feel so happy and so sad and it felt so different from you know. So much of the music that was popular pop music at the time was about winning. It was about how hard Kenya party you know how bad Asir you if it's you know whatever and nobody was writing songs well, losers and we were losers and I don't I don't mean to say we were like total losers at like were screw ups right? We we had. Something you could identify with wasn't in the the everyday culture because right? Yeah and it felt like it made it okay to feel messed up because we felt messed up a lot of the time and it was okay and it was like a relief and it was also incidentally this gateway as. It was like a door we walk through we're just these white trash kids and rainy. Salem Oregon, and here's these people and they're they're from this place. England and they're making this amazing music. That's about how sad they are and how screwed up they feel angry they can be in there's anguish and I think it was the smiths and it was you know the Cure and David Bowie and things like that and and it was like it was artistic. It was clever and it was sarcasm and it just made the pop music or the heavy metal or the everything just kind of sound like we were no longer interested in we. It was an it felt like finding like minded souls. I guess it was like we were felt like. A relief. There was a relief to it. All to being in felt like being seen like this is our music. This is who were always on everywhere we went. We get up one of those like cassettes dual. Kazakhs. Twenty batteries will walk through the woods you know playing loud bomb. You're the one. That was ruined. And just we like feeling. UNLOVABLE And you're about how old is was yeah like. preteens let's say eleven to thirteen or so like this this is what we in. This is what we did constantly jake everywhere we went we just and we assessed with David Bowie. We are obsessed with Morrissey in our minds more segalla girls. More. At that age as important. But I talked about picking up the guitar for the first time we're how what's the distance between finding the cure so to speak and and then picking up that guitar from your another two years went by, and at that point I I'd moved to Los Angeles and I had a friend who had acoustic guitar. My friend drew in Westchester Los Angeles California Westchester kind of the suburb and we went from living with my mom which was very difficult to living with my dad and my mom Bonnie which she's my step. Mom. But we don't use the S. Word and my family is you know she was also my caretaker in cinema. which is a whole thing that would I talk about a lot in the book but she's she's essentially been a mom to me since I was six months old so I just Karma So and they were they were great parents and there was finally some room to breathe air was finally some sense like, okay. People care people we have. We can just be the kids that we wanted there's food to eat. There's not this constant crisis happening So my friend Andrew had a guitar. It was like an Acoustic Guitar and what's that Smith's line? You know I thought if you had an exclusive Qatar you were protesting. I think of the topic. The first time I saw a guitar like, what is he a cowboy? Electric Guitars enroll, you know see like a Jaguar or something, but then you hear a song from a cure, your cords. And it takes you to play. Yeah and he played a few I think he played a Smith Song and then he played at Bowie song and the life on Mars and then and now the songs in the room. It was this conjuring. There's something magical about where it was like he play and suddenly we weren't. You know just two guys sitting around in a room and some sleepy suburb we were with these big ideas. You know suddenly we were part of this world, and so it felt like this conjuring in from that moment on I wanted to conjure things too and I wanted to learn to play guitar wanted to learn to write songs I I was never one of these. Guys that learned all the licks you know those guys that can just Wale in the closet and player I just didn't care. I learned songs from artists that I like and then I wrote my own songs from almost from the jump. I knew that this was an instrument. That's what his purpose was was to help me you know right about. How screwed up by. The time. But. To also then participate in that same world that David. Bowie and Robert Smith and Morrissey and people like that. They were in the room with us they know and. And the weirdest part I think well. You became a music journalist. A very bad one well, I. I wish your editor. For a short time which is how we met about seventeen eighteen years ago. You did a couple of Jesus for all things considered I was the director of the show back then. You are in a bad music journalist. How will thank you? CARE. What music journalist because I didn't care about the journalism I would interview my heroes and ask them how they wrote songs, and then I tried to figure out a way to like turn it into an article I. Knew I had to write. But. All. They really cared about was like meeting different and different people and ask them how they how they wrote the songs that I loved and got a lot of rape. I had a great conversation with Tom Waits. With Lou. Reed with Stephen Malcolm S with You know also Robert Smith and and David Bowie got to meet, which is I mean just think about that I mean. I do the. Things that we all can't imagine that can happen to us in our lives. Right, you're this kid who finds the cure starts strumming a guitar and that not so many years later you're in a room with David, Bowie and Robertson talk about the advice. Let's say Robert Smith given then with David Bowie. Of Things have they told Robert Smith was Um querulous. Strange, in every every bit as Robert Smith as you at hope, he would be you know. Almost worried with someone like Robert. Smith that if you meet him, he's just GonNa. Be like. How are you and just like? Damnit, he's normal and. Allow. It sorta strange and wonderful in and really bright and we're in this hotel room. We had like a it was one of these horrible industry listening parties where like the label is there and different journalists and and he's discovered gotta worse things. were. Journalists. Don't listen to the music. They're they talk. It's. Everyone's talking over the record in Robert Smith is standing there stiff as a board in the corner while everyone just kind of his in this high in cocktail party talking I was like this is a weird So he and I was mad about it. So we got drunk together and it was like I mean come on a my like my heart Mike your loving heart to to have this three hour I the three hour conversation in a hotel room with Robert Smith, what we just drank a bunch of beer talked about our lives and. Eventually, we got I told him I wanted to write songs, and that this is all our isn't I opened up about like you know I'm just trying to learn and. The biggest piece of advice. He gave me a few pieces of advice but the big piece of advice as he's like don't be normal don't worry what you're writing. Sounds strange don't try to write with other people feel don't try to write which you think other people are feeling right about precisely the contradictions that you are going through right about if you feel messed up the very specific flavor of what that is in your own mind as you personally understand it and don't worry about army norm I think the way he said it was normal is everything I hate about life which you know he's sort of like he lives that idea. The idea of writing about your contradictions can you give be and everyone just a little about what that means to you and I don't know if there's any songs that that fits into the people with no I know we wanna play a graveyard near the house. I don't know if it leads can lead. US, why don't I lead into graveyard and we'll talk about that. So the graveyard near the house is a really good example of a song I started to. Write about the idea of true love from this of knowing you know you're GonNa die someday also knowing that as you get older are the relationship gets older. You know love often fades and people fade buys face a what. What is love look like if you're really being honest and I I was really interested in not shirking from the challenges of that idea and of course, for me I've been in therapy and I'd seen a therapist about having been born in. Raised in an orphanage in what you what you end up with his descrip- alling fear of closeness at the same time as you have this incredibly strong need for it. So both those things kind of simultaneously exist inside you when you've been let's say abandoned at an early age how I think the kids from senator non experienced it and and you know we thought I think for me I thought I emerged unscathed because I was always so I'm going to be Upbeat I'm GonNa try and achieve things, and then what where it kind of came to a head for me was I had a real hard time with relationships for a lot. A lot of years because because of that, and so I wanted to write about that Robert Smith's words were just always echoing my head of just write about the contradictions you understand right about your personal emotional experience and don't just give me like all you need is love unless that's how you feel. But. That isn't how I feel at all like this huge number of complex things about about it. So when Mimi and on, we're going to give you a little bit of A. Or Olive the graveyard the graveyard near the house. The other day when we were welcomed by the graveyard near the house, you asked me if I. Leave. And if life in love both fades. predictively, we've made us ourselves kind the Dick. and. So I pictured us like corpses lying side-by-side visas in some dock only. Rebecca. We looked so silly de decomposed have turned the. In tattered clothes probably look just By by. This dog innocence I can't pretend. What is going to happen next? You know. About. Do you. Left me you wonder if people ever know each. Just stumble around like strangers in the. Casino Times seem so strange to me I must seem strange to you like to actors. Did you memorize your lines because I did his the by where I get so mad today you. Can't forget you. And you get so quiet now and you seem. Like a last. Shot. Moment. dog-eared it isn't. Going to happen next. You have no idea about me. Yeah no I dea bow. This something time and. To the ground moment passed. then. It seems a little less. were. Oh. Oh. I'm just trying to write it. down. Sons and you write letters we toddler to insert as. Talk in read and lavish sleep bed nine to get. You. Sometimes. See the thoughts blasts across you is they said Thailand, will you be kind? Will you be a good man stay behind? It. All. In the letters, all pass through my head with the worst said I was told. About the fading flesh of life and love failures. Can List. It's crippling fear like I'm reading from. All. The fireworks love still. I will carry you with me every year. If you die before I die odd name out of the sky. Fall, asleep. and. Dream. Way. Some say it's better to move on and let life just carry on and maybe. Instill, still, try. Whether. Loser. It's better A. View. Our. Love Our love you to. Ta. So, good together. Yeah. She's the one is lots. Lots of applause in the chat room. Thank you for everybody in Chat Room. Today. To different brains, it seemed to me. are needed to. Write the words you put into this beautiful book, and then another complete other brain that. Only, a few of us in life have is the one to be a right songs. Be Able to connect with people with your songwriting. Top at the relationship between the songs for the album. Hollywood park. And the book. So obviously book started I I would imagine yeah, I. Was Writing The book after my father died and. I was just so in this world emotionally that I was writing from in childhood world, some of the songs are written from the perspective of myself as a young child. You know the anger that I felt of living on the run or the fear felt from running away or all the different times Senate on people had tried to escape in the way that children have been ignored and. a lot about my father's life before I was born as well because I spent a lot of time thinking about that once he died as people do and I guess if I'm being totally honest there was there was a return to something. As a band, we'd had a lot of time on the road when when when you become a professional musician, I hate that term because we're not very professional about anything. You know but there's always pressure on you and people want you to follow these arcane rules of songwriting or whatever. There's always like some asshole. Going, like right hit get. Any like Wang Yang Nineteen eighty-one. Can you write me one of those hits I want the title Song to be downbeat of the first course. GimMe. A minor key and then you know an out zero you know and I think if I'm being honest I think a lot of that was in my head for years because I felt I don't know maybe like is there something intoxicating about it something intoxicating but having success particularly music because you go on tour and people clap and blushing it's the way you make your living. While my dad I suddenly just needed music again, the way I had when I was a kid or the way I had when was. First starting out. So there was a return to something. There was this sense I don't give a shit. About you know we'd been dropped by our record label and I knew Anna was leaving the band and I just didn't give a shit about any of that anymore and I just wanted to write from the heart I wanted to write the songs were weird and they didn't have courses or if there wasn't any hoax because I just probably know hoax and if there wasn't, you know I didn't catch wanted to capture with us going through I wanted there to be a record of what what was going through. Eh. Scott. Fitzgerald has this thing that the the living a scholastic life and artistic life is different than leading. You know life that isn't in the arts You just leave a record you know or if you're musician, you make and and that's really where I was coming from I wanted to capture this moment and I've met with the band and we talked about it and we were just like all right. There's just kind of the four of US versus the world it's Adrian and Stephen Darren and it was like You know. Let's just go make something. We love you know for all the reasons we love music. Let's not make a record for anyone but ourselves let's not make a record for anything that's based on anything but you know the ways in which we live rock and roll and was the sense of like we didn't know was going to happen we. Didn't have a deal with an avenue. I don't know we just kind of locked ourselves in rooms in and did it and it felt like it was giving life to these stories to some extent I think all the all new my dad too, and there was a sense of honoring him. I'm just wind this thing right and I think some of the. Songs, I was writing. I was writing because I knew he would like them. It's a little more classify and other records are records go maybe from postponed a forward but we've never really been like in this record I think almost there's almost a sense of classic rock and parts of it and I think it's partially 'cause my dad loved Classic Rock. I. was trying to just write these things that I knew that would conjure his spirit and would be good and great for the reasons he loved music and and it was it was. So like I it was too big to care about outcomes if that makes any sense. Yeah both writing the book and writing the music, help you as a human understand your. Your faults and You have a successful bluff and. Ran Away, from so many and so many. Ran. Away from you and I mean, it was sort of a full circle moment that happened when so my brother and I while I was becoming a musician after I stopped being music journalists in started the band, which by the way, a Bob told me to do I. Can you explain that to? Me I'd done some pieces format NPR and he I said Bob I want to read I am thinking of starting a band but I'm not sure because my writing crews going pretty well any in Bob said, you can always right go to her. That's fine. Writing later I didn't remember that at all. Before tiny desk and all the ways that Bob is gone onto, put his imprint on the entire music world in we were just kind of two guys that love music and we were talking about and is like I don't know what to do. Scared to go take this big leap and Bob was go take the leap man. You're a good writer you couch right you'll come back to it. If you need to go take the leap, who's Great Advice Bob Thank you, I'm proud of you. So. While I was doing that my brother had a sort of deep into addiction and eventually found himself after years of drinking on. And then eventually to heroin and. I was very scared when he when he finally disclosed his sort of full addiction to me and we we took him to to rehab any dried out. You know I don't want to give too much away from the book but his story is so incredible deed and I would go to these AA meetings and those you know anything about program I'm not a program person. Really? I also watch my brother share and some of the best storytellers in the world they're not doing ted talks they're not on. Public Radio there at an AA meeting, you don't tell the story they know how to do a beginning a middle and then they ought to tell a joke these people are story toes. by the way, ca is the best stories but anyways And I remember just watching my brother had the sort of peace of mind and had come come to terms with a lot of sort of his demons and I and here I am having finally some big success in my life feeling. So lost in. Know, the basics of love can't have relationship. I'm not good at it and I didn't know why and so You know there's this idea that rock and roll conceive you. You know there's this there's this peripatetic sense you go on the road and you know you're just GonNa live out your dreams on this bus and be married to the road and I made that decision for this May I this is what I do and you know and then I sort of realize it was just kind of a cover for the fact that US out scared to face you know what was maybe not. What was broken myself and it was hard to write about this too because you know it it as a person who always wants to come off as larger than life it's it's hard to admit you know struggling us that's struggling there for Awhile Babo, some dark dark stuff in in in I. It's hard to feel like he can't change I had tried to change so many different ways you know you you call a friend and you try to work it out. You still still can't change you. You use whispered into a quiet here at dawn in in you still can't change and you write a song about it. You steep it in like metaphor irony, you your volume of your voice at some ungodly levelness thousands of people that are now and you're still stuck as the same person in your head and in your personal life. and. You can't change. So the day came. When I'd had enough and I walked into the therapist office is a sunny little day I think culver city and. I walked into this really warm sort of British man with these red cheeks sitting across from me and he said, why are you here already wanted seek therapy and I said? Without missing a beat I said I WANNA be able to fall in love. I. And I know I have to change? And that was hard. It was hard to admit that that like you WanNa feel like a victim because we were victims as children we were victims we were we were abused beaten ignored and neglected and put in an orphanage and. Man, there was Holloway's and when you when you have that perspective about yourself, you think I above it and I ended up with a scholarship to Stanford like I. I like really kind of felt saw myself as like I transgressed all of this, I got out. And then you realize no, you didn't get out and then now you're responsible for your own changing your own self and to admit that I had shortcomings in that I was bad at released. That was that was hard but I really wanted to follow and I wanted to get married and I wanted to do all those sorts of things and so five years on the couch on a twice a week for five years Bob I. I did and I write. About this in the book about learning the landscape your mind it's hard. It's painful is uncomfortable. You don't have to look at parts yourself. You don't WanNa look at you have to sit with sadness or grief for shame or these uncomfortable things that you don't want to sit with, and after a while you start to get to know yourself and you start to make new decisions and then eventually in my case I think I felt like I was ready to fall that. And my wife and you have and and infecting I point out that there's a hand-drawn NPR logo. Above your book tell us about that. My son made that might three year olds on a new. The daddy was going to be doing a big NPR thing today. So you had a little help from, but those those that was his contribution and boy I you know we have two kids. Now I've three year old and a five month old and it's a just you know becoming a father just It was like I spent so many years like I was on the outside looking in either in this kind of lake near do well, you know married to the road conway or just as this kind of orphan kid that was always looking at families wondering if. I was ever going to have that and just have a son was just so much blinding Choi. Now my daughter smile and look at me, and it just brings this blinding piece enjoying this feeling of of warmth in to know what that requires of me is you know that I continue to to stay aware of my shortcomings and be able to be a good husband and a good father, a good friend and a good son and a good brother that you learn those lessons and a lot of those lessons I learned in therapy and some of them were sitting there right out in the open that I learned from my dad. from from Bonnie's well I'm Bonnie and so. I'd say that like by the time he had died I was ready and We he was very sick for awhile and towards the end of his life, it was kind of funny situations we knew he was going to go as sometimes happens with people who are very sick in the modern world you kind of know make within the week. So. We've all gone to the hospital where at Cedars Sinai and I walk in and there's my dad and he's laying in the bed and he's got you know tubes in his arm and he's got one in his neck because he's very sick and he's so small and so FRA-. And I'd started dating my wife at that point but we're just dating and I said Hey dad and he said I see hey, and he's kind of coming out of conscious because of the morphine and I said I have something i WanNa tell you. He said, what's that I said I'm going to ask her to marry me. Is He really liked my wife for the first time. We met her he said you should marry that. which he was right and he saw that's great and then he kinda paused any any looked up at me. And he said don't. And I was confused for minute I say is he questioning marriages? You questioning my choices it the morphine. Any sort of correct smile and he put his hand, my cheek and he said. Don't fuck it up. And those. Those last words those the last conversation that. We ever had and that's my dad. Know is is exactly. He knows me well enough to know that's what I needed to hear. He sorted joking with me and he's wise and loving all at the same time. That's that's who he was. So you know a lot of my life was spent admiring him running away from him and then eventually wanting very much to have that same warm center, my heart he had. That despite you know all the years that time he got he was in Chino, presenter. He'd he'd gotten out and. He stay at the racetrack, which is what why Hollywood park is named for. We would spend a lot of long afternoons through through the years at Hollywood park. You went there when he got the day he got out of prison he took a greyhound bus and shot dyson the back in one fourteen. Horse all one arse and you take you. And then kid he would take me and then I grew up I learned fractions at Hollywood park and it was kind of our place. That's where our father son bond happened was. We would go to date races him Humid Shady Friends Hey Jimmy teaching them to family business. A. And here are these little toe head kids with our like dad with this cool cafe jacket, his cowboy boots and his like kind of swagger. Double Rim, Romance and I know you brought to the studio? Because we're talking about Hollywood park This is actually a sign that I stole from Hollywood Park Bridge, closed down. Your Alaska they they actually destroyed the grandstand three weeks after my father died it was always a big blazing metaphor. For me on Mike's hiding some of the thing you want to read it to us or. Says when wagering please indicate the track name race number also please check your tickets and money before leaving the window. So this is what you would see if you waited in Hollywood park to to make a bet and so I checked it a keep steak and keep saying this. This was above my desk is I was writing the book. and. Then my wife likes to get these great old brochures They're like old Hollywood park racetrack in. Brochures from back in the day has all its arcane language and all these great little drawings of people horse racing. My Dad loved today the races and. You know there was always a sense that we were safe there and I'll I always knew it would be the title of the Book I was not the Title Record Iowa as the place felt magic in the fact that he went there every Saturday and then when he died, they shut it down and it just it felt like here's this metaphor this placing an aunt exist anymore it was almost like I felt like we invented like it it could only exist with him alive if he's not only I've. used. It why why would it exists and a lot of things feel that way to me now they're like these big intricate structures. In your life that become these big intricate memories and it's not something I think I understood it fifteen that the loss of people. Is So profound that you you. You create entire worlds. Where you can talk to them in your mind and I still talk to my dad almost every single day and so one of the great parts about writing the book and the record was I got to honor him but also got to be with him. I got to hang out with them. I got to ask him a lot of questions about the story I got to here in my head like what what is answer was did you ever get the band? Oh He loved the band. Are you kidding me? He Thought When he saw the last show he went to was at the Greek we played the Greek theater in l. a. and like he wanted me. You want me to bring him onstage. Wearing who's GONNA, Sing. And you know I, wish I had I had to. Come on you know we can't be doing that. You know I'm going to big rock band whatever. I if I could go back and do it again i. Would it's once how would have made his whole life you love and didn't have a good voice he had like a baritone voice and. Beautiful He loved the ban though he I think to some extent, he couldn't quite relate to my very academe side, the party that was like the scam on winner. Yeah. They went to Stanford and had all this sort of academic accolades and stuff. But then when I was like `I, banning all that around the time you and I talk I was like I'm leaving all the NPR stuff in the music journalism in the fiction writing I've been doing I'm going to start a band and everyone thought I was nuts and my dad was like go for it. He loved I think he does love having a son that was going to play rock and Roll I. Wish you could have heard the song when you take us out. Thank you for doing this and. This book I don't cry too much but thinking about this book and your story, it's so beautiful and. I listen to the audio book audiobook person. So I hear you telling me the story. It's a beautiful way to experience it but in any way you for those of you. Who are in the chat room haven't touched this book or maybe just read the first chapter you know store and Go forward and and enjoy it and Mikhail. Thanks for doing this it. This is not just about this book is not just about you think it. Certainly got me thinking about my life and. I think it will do that for many so. I really appreciate you. You have in us here today. Bob and and thank you. Thank you so much for all the good advice and her all. A lot of us that feel really happy for what you've done for the news growth and giving a voice to artists that aren't necessarily wouldn't wouldn't have the platforms they had. So you you've been a good guy for a lot of us for a long time. So thank you for the front. Bring back, Mimi, and close out. Take care of we'll go out on Hollywood, Park Seven. Five A. was known but burned in my. Veins weakness. A. Fourteen Made on. Raffarin. You. Elated on third because he was do. Do. Todd live. Uh. Names. This guy. Watching this. THERALAC I was ready to. Win The. Race. The Fifteen years. Live in a room with my heart on my sleeve and throat dry from even the were. Can Shy. You can. We love US though forces thunder. Had A to Sky Horses. through the. Toward Down, there was a in sound and. Our now she's then. Last. Only. The wreckage. Still on. There goes. The stood. Uh. Where do we go? Voices. Concrete an milking. Staff from. Miles and miles of grace. Still. corna malls, all the cameras were. Yeah wounded is lucky. Or if you just get. The brass, the admission. In fifty news. Dream of this small man firm. Tired. From lifting. From. Around. This time that out. Never claimed. This. Courses that. WOULD BE BACK Stand. y'All so much for joining us.

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