Eels “If you’re going to boo somebody, you better know who you’re booing, bitch.”

E from Eels is notorious for his attitude and distance during interviews, so it wasn't a big surprise when my friend suggested that I "duck and cover." But is he that closed off? After all, E writes some of the saddest, most heart-on-sleeve songs today and even authored a sometimes painful-to-read autobiography, Things The Grandchildren Should Know, which details the rollercoaster ride that is his life. From the strained relationship he had with his father (who came up with the theory of multiple-universes) and his sister's suicide, to being labeled crude by Bush-era White House and his run-ins with John Legend, it's hard to imagine E being anything but forthcoming.

As it turned out, E talked openly about Hombre Lobo (his first album in four years), the comfort of writing songs from a character's point of view, and John Legend.

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[Hombre Lobo is your first studio record since 2005, and in between you've done a live album, a best-of, and a soundtrack for a feature film [Yes Man]. I was wondering how long the sessions were for Hombre Lobo and how did you narrow it down to the 12 songs that appear on the album, and how long did it take to make the record?

It was about three or four weeks, and most of the songs were actually written during the three or four weeks of recording, with a few exceptions. And what was unusual about it this was time is that it was only these 12 songs. I didn't whittle it down to these 12 songs. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted each song to sound like and be about, and I kept track of the sequence as it was going along and filled in the spaces as I went along. Once I was done with 12 songs, I knew I was done.

Did you have any ambitions to make it a double album like Blinking Lights and Other Revelations?

No. After doing a 33-track double album, I didn't have a burning desire to do a double album -- not to say that won't happen again someday. Who knows. You know, maybe I could have gone for a triple. [Laughs]

I noticed on the record that there is loud-soft-loud-soft sound structure for the most part. Was that intentional?

Yeah. I wanted to have sort of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Werewolf thing about it, where Dr. Jekyll handles more of the tender moments and the werewolf comes out and things get a little bit more terrifying -- when the passions come to a head.

This is a continuation of the character The Dog Faced Boy from Souljacker, right?

Yeah. I figured it's been several years down the line, and he's older now, and, what's he like now?

So this is a character you still feel attached to? Or is this a way for you to write more autobiographical songs and kind of mask yourself behind it?

I think it's a really valuable thing to put a mask on and tell yourself you're writing songs in a character, because it really takes the burden off of you where, you know, you feel less personally vulnerable. I think it's a really great way to get down to the truth and the heart of the matter.

So it's easier to write the songs in this character and just see what happens and see how people take them?

Yeah, it makes it easier to say stuff you might be afraid to say. "This is me saying this," you know.

Since you've embarked on many [non-music related] projects since Blinking Lights, did you ever think any of those other paths was a better way than music?

I like all the other ways there are to make music. I don't think any of them are better or worse than each other; it just depends on what you're in the mood for at that time.

So right now it's music?

Right now it's music? Oh, you mean all the other projects I've done that were other than making a record?

Yeah. Such as your autobiography and "Nova."

Everytime I do something like that, I think it's going be a release or something, and I always learn that everything else is harder for me than making music and music is really low. But music is the thing I love the most. There are times when you feel like taking a break and trying something else, but I gotta say writing my book was so hard -- the hardest project I've ever worked on -- and I can't say that I enjoyed writing it, but I did enjoy finishing it. I'm glad I did it and wrote my book, made a documentary about my father, and put together the best-of and rarities collections, and all that, but it's no fun living in the past all the time. But it was worth it, because it gave me this great feeling of closure on the past, and it's nice to be back in the future now.

How long did it take you to write the book?

About a year -- a year of painstaking, constant work.

Had you kept a journal throughout your life and is that how you were able to recall these things?

No, I never kept any type of journal or diary. I had my hands full just living my life. I didn't have any desire to write it down at the end of each day, but luckily I remembered it all. Now I can forget it. Opened up a lot of space now for new memories.

I know in your autobiography you tackle some very personal subjects. What made you want to bring all those personal moments into the public spectrum?

Well, it wasn't like I signed a book deal and then set out to write my book. I did it just as an experiment with myself. I just thought, "Well, let me see if I can make something out of this," and I didn't know when I started it that I was going to finish, let alone put it out. But when I finished, or almost finished it, I started to see the storyline could maybe be inspirational for some people if they read it. And I thought about my younger self and wished I could read something like this when I was younger. It could have given me some hope as a clueless young kid to see another clueless kid who went through some terrible stuff and came out okay. So, at that point, I realized I needed to finish it and put it out.

When it came out, I was actually working at a bookstore and picked it up and read it, and if I could get anyone off Twilight and read your book – I tried my best.

[Laughs] Yeah, what is Twilight? Isn't that subversively supposed to be encouraging kids not to have sex?

Basically.

Well, my book might accomplish the same thing when they see all the crazy sex I had. [Laughs] They might want to avoid it, too.

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"I think it's a really valuable thing to put a mask on and tell yourself you're writing songs in a character."

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Should have added some vampires then. It could have been huge.

Well, I've got the next best thing: werewolves.

Getting around to controversy: in March of 08, you mailed a letter to President Bush about attending a concert you did in D.C. Did you ever hear back about that?

Yeah. We got a phone message from the White House, which we played at the concert in Washington D.C. that night. It's pretty funny. I guess if anybody calls the White House and invites the president to something, they have to reply. [Laughs] It said "Sorry, but the president and first lady are already booked with something that night, but thank you for the invitation." Very polite.

Have you or are you going to extended the same courtesy to President Obama?

Well, you know, I had a grudge to settle with President Bush, which is why I was doing it. I don't have a grudge with President Obama – he might actually show up too, so I better make sure I'm ready for him if I invite him.

Was it strange to be targeted as crude entertainment for children when you released Daisies of the Galaxy? Did you get the impression that the people who were condemning you had never even listened to the album?

It was awesome. I mean, it was one of the funnest things that ever happened to us. You know, it couldn't have been more ridiculous. It was a little depressing but the same reason why we were all depressed for eight years having Bush in the White House, because of such ridiculous stuff like that. Like, really?

Back to nowadays, what are the musical plans for the future? Are you going to be touring in support of Hombre Lobo?

Well, we just finished the album. It's really brand spanking new, and we're just trying to get it out now. That's the next thing we've got to figure out: what we're going to do next.

The session players on the record had you played with them before, or is this a new group of guys?

No, it's just me and two guys that are often Eels members – Koool G Murder (bass) and Knuckles (drums). There's no flashy special guests this time.

Do they have an input in the sound of the record, or is it mostly your vision of what the listener will hear?

Well, Koool G Murder, in particular, definitely. We wrote a lot of the songs together, and he plays a lot of the guitar and bass parts, so he's definitely a big part of it.

Just for my own personal amusement, I was wondering if you ever had more run-ins with John Legend?

[Laughs] No, and I've been sleeping with one eye open ever since my book came out. I keep wondering when that's going to happen. I've been fortunate enough to not have been in the same room with him since. I know that day might be coming.

Is that something you were worried about when the book came out?

It could get ugly -- I don't know what to expect. But, you know, if you're going to boo me on national TV, you've got to expect some retribution.

I guess he didn't know he was messing with a guy that was going to write an autobiography.

That's the thing. If you're going to boo somebody, you better know who you're booing, bitch.

Has anyone taken you aside about certain things you wrote about and said, ‘You know, I don't really remember it happening that way.'

No, nobody has, and I'm willing to hear that argument, but I haven't heard it yet. I just thought it was great that, at the same, an actual legend, Van Morrison was there, and he was cool and quite cordial to me. And he is someone who is known for not being friendly and cordial. Whatever. Real legends don't have to name themselves "Legend."

Are there any bands now that influence how your music comes out?

I'm really behind on all that, because I've just been making this. You spend so much time working on music all day and night, so when you have a spare moment, you don't really want to hear any music. You want to give your ears a rest. One thing that I have noticed over the years is something that seems to be sorely lacking in indie rock, in general -- as far as I can tell -- is the element of sex and danger. And isn't that where the term rock ‘n' roll came from in the first place? So I thought it was time to bring a little bit of that into the mix.

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