By Elford Alley
Mark Oliver Everett, known as “E” to friends and enemies alike, is the singer/songwriter behind the band Eels. A mainstay since their debut in 1996 with the hit single "Novocain for the Soul," the band continues to release music that ruminates on life, death, mental illness, and dog-faced boys.
In case you’re unfamiliar with E, here are ten things you should know about him:
10. He’s a One Man Band
E spent years experimenting with sounds and instruments on a four track in his basement. Eventually he released his debut in 1992, A Man Called E and its 1993 follow up Broken Toy Shop. Using everything from guitars to toy piano, he carved out a distinct sound for himself.
9. Has a Hip-Hop Alter Ego
In 2003, a middle-aged DJ and former pottery enthusiast from Silverlake known as MC Honky, released an album called I Am the Messiah. Although he constantly denies it, and despite their bitter internet feud, it’s well known that E and MC Honky are the same person.
8. He Recorded Two Albums as a “Break” From Recording a Double Album
E’s magnum opus is the 33 track 2005 release Blinking Lights (And Other Revelations). It took him years to complete, but every now and then he would take a break, which led to 2001’s Souljacker and 2003’s Shootenanny! E recorded two albums, which are solid from start to finish, as a distraction from recording a double album. This is because he’s a wizard. Or so my sources in the field tell me…
7. Father was a Brilliant Physicist
E’s father, Hugh Everett III, came up with the many-worlds theory of quantum physics and is known as one of the 20th century's great physicists. The many-worlds theory and E’s complicated relationship with his father were the basis of the 2008 BBC documentaryParallel Worlds, Parallel Lives.
6. Toured With an Orchestra
To promote his 2005 album, Blinking Lights (And Other Revelations), E toured with an orchestra, offering a unique interpretation of his most famous songs, which led to the critically acclaimed release of the 2006 live album Eels With Strings: Live at Town Hall.
5. Had a Feud with a President
Many artists have been ridiculed by out of touch politicians looking to score points in the culture wars. In 2000, E drew the ire of the George W. Bush presidential campaign with his album Daises of the Galaxy. The cover, reminiscent of a children’s book, led to the accusation that E was marketing the album to kids, which featured songs like “It’s a Motherfucker.” This wasn’t true, but it did lead E to offer his songs to many kids' movies, including Holes and Shrek.
4. Was Accused of Being a Terrorist
While recording the song “Dog Faced Boy” for the album Souljacker, E grew what can only be described as an epic beard. Of course, said beard immediately made dealing with the TSA a nightmare and led to him being questioned as a suspected terrorist in London for a show. He responded to the accusations by saying, “Not every guy with short hair and a beard is a terrorist. Some of us just want to rock.”
3. He’s Prolific
You’ve just been through a very bitter divorce/breakup. What do you do? For most of us it’s wallow in misery and indulge in self-destructive eating habits. But when E’s marriage fell apart, he got to work and released three albums in the span of a year. Hombre Lobo deals with the false bravado people take on after a relationship fails and they hit the rebound. End Times covers that period when we try to figure out what went wrong and wonder if we'll find happiness again. Finally, Tomorrow Morning deals with finding happiness again.
2. He Wrote an Autobiography
In 2008, E released his autobiography Things the Grandchildren Should Know. A haunting, touching memoir, it talks about his difficult relationship with his father, his close relationship to his sister Elizabeth, and the difficulty of losing his entire family.
1. He’s Suffered for His Art
E is very familiar with loss. His father died while he was in high school; E found him dressed in a suit, lying on his bed. Then after the release of his debut album, E’s mother succumbed to cancer and his sister Elizabeth committed suicide. Add to that the loss of his cousin Jennifer Lewis who was a flight attendant on the plane that struck the Pentagon on 9/11, and you have Electro-Shock Blues, which includes songs based on diary entries and memories of those he lost. These themes would surface again on his sprawling 2005 double album Blinking Lights (And Other Revelations).
(Elford Alley has written plays, sketch comedy, and short stories. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and daughter. Follow Elford on Twitter.)