Mickey Avalon’s First Interview

I respect anyone who’d rather be a hustler than a busboy, so when I heard Mickey Avalon rapping the phrase, “I worked nights at hotcock.com, but then I got fired when my mom logged on” I knew something was happening and Avalon was part of it.  Avalon moved on to a different kind of hustle: working with Kev E. Kev at Shoot to Kill records, releasing his debut self-titled album–a funny and gritty depiction of what goes on between junk and hustling.  It’s hard to find an artist equally respected by drag queens, b-boys, Trannies, queers, hipsters, punks, goths, and  indie kids–It’s shit like this that brings people together when nobody has a fucking clue on how to get our generation’s collective shit together.  Taking the attitude of the 70’s New York scene and setting storytelling to rhyme, Avalon’s just getting started.

TC: How long have you been playing music?

MA:  When I was a kid, My mom actually got me piano lessons–like two of them–but I wanted to play Jerry Lee Lewis and he was trying to teach me that Fur Elise, but I’ve been rapping since about fifteen.

TC:  What was your first gig?

MA:  The first gig was about two years ago at the Roxy.  I opened for Andy Dick.  I never really performed–I wasn’t a get-up-on-a-table-and-entertain-everybody kinda guy.  I think it’s accessible to other people who aren’t necessarily into rap or hip-hop or whatever they call it these days.  It wasn’t like an art school project or a conceptual thing, you know?

TC: What or who got you interested in music?

MA:  Music would be my dad.  He used to collect forty-fives.  Rockabilly, TexMex, Swamp music kinda stuff.  As far as rap, I missed punk rock and that age, and rap was around and that’s what I liked.  It came around at a time in my life when the music just stuck.  That was accessible to me and now looking back, it was really the golden time of it.  That’s when I started rapping but I never thought of it as music.  I didn’t know how to play any instruments, I’m white, I didn’t want to sing–storytelling and stuff like that is more my thing.  Someone would make some beat…and since there wasn’t like a band with smart people playing instruments, I didn’t think about trying to make a good song.  If anything, it’s just as hard and qualifies as music.  And now I’m glad because I can say, “Yeah, I rap” instead of “Yeah, I play bass in some emo band.”  It comes 180 degrees, ’cause when I was a kid I probably woulda said the opposite.

TC: So what kinda stuff are you listening to these days?

MA:  I like a lot of country girl singers, actually.  Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris and stuff like that.  A lot of girls with really pretty voices sing simple songs about people drowning or killing their husbands.  Old stuff like the Carter Family, too.  I like Too Short a lot, Danzig, Misfits, Public Enemy.  I don’t listen to that much rap right now.  Especially when I’m recording, I don’t want that coming in.  I feel more affinity with the stories that other people are telling as opposed to the music their making.  I don’t find that many rappers telling that kind of story or talking about the same shit–that’s why I’m listening to words of another time.  Iris Dement, I like her a lot.  She’s got a good voice.  As far as rappers go, it’s been pretty much the big ones–Cool G Rap, EPMD, Public Enemy, Dana Dane, Slick Rick, Too Short, Beastie boys used to be very good, Run DMC…

TC: You started shoot to kill records with Kev E. Kev.  When did you two start working together?

MA:  I’d say about two years.  We have a lot of the same friends–we just never met before.  I’m surprised he’s put up with me for so long.  He gets the brunt of all the shit my girl can’t handle.  It was never some executive decision.  It’s just the way its happened because I trust him and stuff.  I was just making CDs for fun or for places to stay or party favors.  I never thought I could ever make money like this.  But when I made the CDs, usually if someone had a studio, I could stay the night there or whatever and make new songs.  So none of them were really songs with hooks or choruses or anything like that.  They got to the company that Kevin worked with.  I was living in a halfway house when I got a call from them.  I thought it was a joke because I’d been making fun of them.  I realized it was real and went in to meet him.  They gave me some money and then I would just talk to Kev.  I just got an apartment like this week.  I don’t trust too many people and he’s come through in spades with everything he said and then some.  He’d take my phone calls at four in the morning–He’d just be there, you know?  It just seemed like, “This is the move to make.”  We wanted to do it ourselves, we got a solid team.  He’s my Russell Simmons or my Chuck White.  If I call him at eight o’clock in the morning and start ranting, he’ll still take my call.  And other stuff–like being on his couch for long periods of time, having him bail me out of strange situations.  There’s a lot of babysitting, really, keeping me out of strange bathrooms.  But I didn’t come into it thinking I was going to make money, and if I did–this would be a bitch.  I don’t wanna say I got lucky, because I work hard but It’s not like filling out an application, you know?  Maybe you gotta wake up in hostels a bunch, maybe you don’t–it depends on who you are.  Maybe you don’t give a fuck about everybody else except for yourself, maybe you hate yourself more, maybe you love yourself more…  I mean, I gotta pay child support for example, so why would I become a musician?  How could that even be a part of my plan?  So if someone came and thought they would make a million dollars, good luck and I hope you could.  You can manipulate whatever you have to get things, whatever your hustle is.  How you get your party favors, how you get your money, or a place to stay.  I was never encouraged that this could be a hustle, and it is.  And it’s not like a two-bit hustle, you know?  So what would I say to someone who wanted this to be their hustle?  Be true to yourself?  Don’t be true to yourself?  I don’t know… Maybe just “don’t die”.  And if you do, that’s cool too, but that’s game over for that particular thing.

TC:  So.  How long were you a hustler?

MA: OK, all that kinda stuff was for, uh, specific needs.  We’re talking about me YOUNG, 18, 17, 19, you know?  I don’t do that stuff anymore because I don’t need to, and I’m a bit older.  But any particular day depended on how much energy do I had–how strong I was, how sick I was, how good looking I was.  My first choice was not to do it.  I mean, A trust fund woulda been cool, but that didn’t happen.  Obviously the more money or more substances or more energy, I could go out and get in a situation.  I would get into a situation and know that I have enough strength and be fit enough to just pretend something was about to go down, get some guys wallet and get out of there.  Obviously, if you’re sick or in a situation and you know there’s no way to get out–being younger and quicker and prettier, for the most part…  I got to call the shots, let’s just say that.  I’m amazed at some of the things I can do in moderation when on paper, it shouldn’t be.  But I do think you should go balls out.  You’d be surprised through years of practice that didn’t kill me.

TC:  Do you remember your first trick?

MA:  I was in Portland.  Drugs led to more crime on a different kind of side in Los Angeles.  So I spent the night in Portland Jail for getting something on a stupid fucking sting operation.  Me and this other kid got out at about the same time and I didn’t really cop on the street for some reason.  He was telling me how he was a hustler and he was kind of amusing, you know?  So I let him stay at my hotel–250 dollars the whole month with a shower in the hall.  You got your own toilet which was cool.  So I let him stay at the crib for the night.  He left for like forty, forty-five minutes and he came back with two bags of coke and a whole bag of candy and a shitload of dope and I thought, “I’m in the wrong business.” I wasn’t thinking about me going out and doing it, I just figured I’d just let him stay.  I guess it was some form of pimpery and that would have been fine.  That would have been perfect.  He coulda just moved in forever, you know?  Then I was like, “Yeah, I wanna kinda see” so I’d watch from the corner and he came back with a bag of candy and shitload of drugs back then.  But then he fell in love with me.  I don’t care what other people do, I don’t have much of a judgment factor on other people.  I just wanted to be like “We’ve got a good thing going here.  You’ve got a place to live and I got this, so why not forget about it?”  But he wasn’t down with that.

TC:  So what’s the most fucked up thing that’s happened to you doing a job.

MA:  I actually don’t remember the first few times, but after awhile it was just straight robbery.  No guns or anything stupid, and I mean these guys are chumps.  There’s nothing to it.  You know, you play with your eyebrows and all that stuff.  And once their wallets are out and their pants are down, you bolt.  Most of the bad shit that happened was usually something I had to do.  Again, it’s easy to justify doing something to a pig.  The farmer doesn’t feel bad when he has to kill a pig.  I had to do stuff that maybe I didn’t wanna do, maybe something that was halfway gross and I did stuff that I don’t necessarily want my kid to know about and definitely stuff that society frowns upon.  I don’t know if it’s selective memory or a defense mechanism, but I only remember stuff other people did.  I dated–well you don’t really date when you’re in situations like that–but when I let people live with me or I’ve lived with them, girl prostitutes–I can remember more their stories that I was a part of.  I remember this one chick had to beat this dude up–but he wanted a dude there too.  So I remember going there and beating him up.  He got off on it and actually came.  We’re beating him and kicking him in the face or like pulling up with the car and having her jumping out of windows.  It’s a lot like asking what happened at a seven-eleven on Monday as opposed to Wednesday.  A lot of running and a lot of acting.  I’ve never been hurt.  I’ve been chased but no one’s ever gotten the best of me.

TC: So what’s the hottest sex you’ve ever had?

MA:  With my current girlfriend every night!  Since memory, whatever happened last.  If they come and I come, we’re good. There’s so many years when I didn’t come from medication, and I get off on my own performance.

TC:  So where do you want to go from here?

MA:  I wanna get something to eat.  I like staying at a safe place and work in the studio as much as possible, making new songs and I hope that some of them are good and people like listening to them.  If it keeps going the way it’s going, I’m happy.  People are getting it.  People call from rehab, people I never thought I had anything in common with.  I’m starting to find out I do.  So….I guess I want a have a good time, create a scenery for that.  I want to just drag it back by the hair and not being a dick about it.  If I can support myself and my family, then I guess I win, right?

TC: Absolutely.  So what do you want to accomplish with your music?

MA: I want to be surrounded by my friends at all times and I’m not looking for any new ones.  I’m hanging around with people who have my best intentions in mind and I like to keep it that way.  It’s been done before where you could go to some place and you’d have a b-boy in one corner, a fag in another, a Goth in another and we don’t have that anymore.  I want to get rid of the segregation between all these different groups.  I wouldn’t want to sign a major label to get away from that.  It’d be “okay, now we’re ready for your guns but we’re going to use our bullets.”  Why would anyone want to throw away stupid amounts of money– which is the only money I would take–can’t be a fluke.  We’re okay for a minute and we’d only go major if we could do more of what we’re doing for more people without diluting it. and I don’t  want some broad who wants all my check stubs.

TC: They’re usually a lot more fun and a lot cheaper on dates.

MA: Exactly.

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