A beautiful oblivion

Swimming with the Eve 6 Guy

Good morning. Valentine’s Day isn’t real and it can’t hurt you. But if you want it to here you go.

Today’s Hell World feature is an interview with Max Collins of the band Eve 6. Yes the “heart in a blender” song guy. Over the past month or two Collins has gotten a lot of attention for his posting habits with articles in Vulture and the Washington Post and Spin and Radio.com and Billboard and Stereogum and everywhere else largely because of his willingness to poke fun at himself and a coterie of turn of the millenium bands his act were associated with. The “Third Eye Blind Guy” has taken a particular beating. The whole thing is kind of weird to be honest! As we talk about there’s a certain retro feel to it all perhaps born out of a post-Trump desire for something silly and stupid to focus on on Twitter. We’re not “back at brunch” to be clear but we’re maybe back to posting sometimes about dumb shit and letting ourselves have a modicum of fun I guess (?)

More importantly for my purposes Max has been nice enough to shout me and Hell World out in a few of his interviews including relating an anecdote about the time we randomly bumped into each other sharing a pool lane at the YMCA in Boston I used to go to that he was visiting while on tour.

We talk about some stories from his band’s heyday including an almost dangerous encounter with Staind and a few other silly bits but mostly with me being me I managed to turn a piece about a guy’s funny Twitter account into a discussion on back pain and alcoholism and the meditative qualities of swimming.

You may have missed this paid-subscriber-only Hell World from the other day. It featured an essay by my Discontents newsletter comrade Felipe De La Hoz on where things stand with “kids in cages.”

“As of right now, asylum and immigration remain for practical purposes banned in the U.S., and everyone has just moved on,” he writes.

No one who’s been paying attention can say they didn’t see this coming. This is the Obama band back together again, and they will jump into the sea before they’ll make a decision that could anger the gods of bipartisanship. From the second the electoral college votes were in I knew a couple things: Trump would not go gently into that good night, and would probably try some kind of coup, and President Biden would convene the best and brightest think tank types to discover the exact level of pro-immigration policy that would make Jake Tapper feel warm and fuzzy and not a single step further. Whether they want to admit it or not, these are people who wake up every morning terrified that David Frum or whoever is going to call them open borders America-haters, a thing that is absolutely going to happen no matter what they do, but which grips them in fear nonetheless. More fundamentally, they are people who view immigration through the lens of a problem to be solved, a wedge issue for which their role is to mitigate the damage, not to try to do anything good. This might be most clearly reflected in the administration’s strategy of “addressing the root causes of migration” from Central America. “Root causes.” As if the humanitarian migration was a) some kind of cancer or heart disease and b) the root causes weren’t basically U.S. foreign policy.

Please subscribe then go here to read the rest. I would appreciate your help so I can continue to pay great outside contributors like Felipe.

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Real quick before we get started though:

I would love for someone to get Nancy or Joe to explain what exactly it is they mean when they say shit like this. We all know why they want formidable opponents it’s because then they have an excuse not to do the progressive things they claim to want to do. But what would a public expression of what this sentiment means to them actually sound like?

As for the impeachment decision yesterday almost instantly the main narrative coming out on cable news and in the major newspapers was all about the Republicans who voted guilty and McConnell’s after the fact criticism of Trump. Just like that Democrats managed to make heroes out of Republicans and as always Democrat fans eat that shit up. They love a noble Republican.

All things considered it was just an amazing own goal.

Democrat fans and the centrist media absolutely love it when a Republican does something half decent because Republicans are always considered the de facto adults in the room and the true protagonists of politics.

Ah who fucking cares. Maybe they'll get Trump on Impeachment III in 2026.

At the very least people later on after we’re dead might be mad about it and that’s reassuring for some reason I’m told.

Elsewhere check out this shit if you want to ruin your day.

Jesselyn Cook writes in the Huffington Post:

“She wasn’t always like this,” Sam said. “It just keeps getting worse.”

Sam moved back into his mom’s Michigan home last March when his college campus shut down. His dad, who’d been divorced from his mother for many years, had recently died, and it was nice to be back around family. But Sam quickly noticed his mom was spending almost all of her time online. For hours into the night she’d be on Facebook and, later, Parler, obsessing over articles from obscure, ultraconservative websites that traffic in fake news. She’d send posts to Sam pushing political claims that were risibly false, and they’d get into furious arguments over dinner as he tried to debunk them.

As his mom grew increasingly irritable and combative, Sam spent more time hiding out in his bedroom. It was disturbing to hear his mother rattling off such brazen and hateful falsehoods, unwilling to listen to reason. She seemed angry all the time and was suddenly gravely concerned about things like pedophilia. So a few months ago, Sam decided to look into #SaveTheChildren, a hashtag she’d been using a lot on social media. It led him straight to QAnon. And at once, things started to make sense.

Of course there was this piece of mine on a similar phenomenon with Fox News tearing families apart from 2019 before many of us took Q Anon seriously.

Ok here’s me and The Eve 6 Guy.

You’re in California?

I pretty much grew up here. Moved here when I was eleven from Florida. I’m in the Valley, like North Hollywood area.

What’s the deal with Covid there right now?

Still getting hammered. Last I heard we were still one of the worst in cases. Restaurants have opened back up for indoor dining but schools are still closed. My older daughter we have her in a pod with three other girls in her class. We pooled together to basically hire a substitute to kind of oversee. But last year I was doing all of the homeschooling so my ex could work. That was trying.

Were you a good student yourself?

I was a good student until about the sixth grade! In Florida I went to a public magnet school. It was a second language school, mainly for Cuban expats kids, so they could retain the language. So we had an hour and a half of Spanish language in the morning, and social studies in Spanish. And a shit load of homework. When we moved out here I was like is this a fucking joke? It was such a breeze and there wasn’t any work really. So I incrementally stopped caring so much over time. And of course my strange story is our band got a record deal when I was a junior in high school. At that point it was so absurd. We got work credit for school because we got pay stubs from RCA records, so that counted as like vocational work, and we got to skip a period for that. I was, well, a kid with a record deal, and no foresight whatsoever. I basically stopped going, but only graduated because my mom tearfully implored my guidance counselor, you know, he’s a good kid, he’s creative and talented, etc., and I got a pass.

She probably was smart in thinking the rock star thing doesn’t usually work out.

Yeah. I was just so dumb. I would scoff at the notion of a plan B. I also just didn’t generally have a whole lot of ambition. I don’t know if any high school kid does. But even with the band our aspirations were, like… the bands we listened to were bands on independent labels who maybe could eek out a living. But that was a very romantic notion to me as a kid. I thought if I work in a coffee shop and I play in this band that sounds good to me.

I’ve known you a little bit for a while, and it’s been fun to watch the Twitter thing, but there’s something kind of weird about the fact that you having a funny Twitter has become a story. It feels real 2012 doesn’t it? There’s something retro about it. What do you attribute that to? Is it just a post-Trump era thing and we’re looking for a frivolous distraction?

Yeah totally. I think there’s a couple layers of warm and fuzzy nostalgia at play here, and one is more recent in a maybe unlikely and less obvious way. I think it’s people wanting to harken back to a time maybe when things were more playful or something. I completely agree with you. The bit that I was doing in the beginning… I was talking to a friend about it and she said you realize you’re going to get the cringe AV Club and Stereogum etc. write ups on your Twitter? And I was like you’re probably right. And I’d wait for them then do a tweet like “I can’t wait for the cringe Stereogum piece about my Twitter” then reply and link to it. And of course they completely get it wrong. The headline is always like “The Guy From Eve 6 Wants to Know If People Like the Heart in a Blender Song.” I don’t fucking care if people like the song, I’m just trying to, like, I don’t know, point out I guess the absurdity in myself, my career, the industry in general. Basically just take an approach that...I have nothing to lose.

I did start doing the Twitter with a little bit of an agenda, but it was just that we’ve had this EP recorded, and I thought, oh, I should probably wake up a couple of the diehards and let them know we’re active. We haven’t put anything out in ten years. Of course it went nuts after that “virgin” tweet.

Without articulating it to myself at the time I was like, ok, I’m gonna keep going and just kind of do this rigorous honesty exercise. Center myself in the critiques, but also go after some bigger fish. Kind of a Dudley Moore in Crazy People approach. I realize it isn’t that novel. Brands are trying to do a similar thing but I’d argue it’s way more fucking cynical and a lot less, I don’t know, joyul entertainment. I do feel like there’s a psychedelic effect to this. If only because other bands, at least in my milieu and more successful, are very reluctant to paint themselves in a way that’s not fake or self aggrandizing.

There’s a couple of things at work here that are kind of contradictory to me. There is something just inherently funny for some reason about bands that pop into the general consciousness for a few years then we forget about them. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. You even poke at that with a lot of the bands you talk about. There’s this sort of “lol 90s band” element to a lot of the bands you joke about. But then personally, as a musician who never made it anywhere near that level, I kind of get mad at that in a way too. I always respect any band that could make it happen and build a large audience. Do you understand that contradiction I’m feeling?

I totally do. I did a tweet maybe like a week ago where I said that much. I said something like “just to be clear I really do have respect, reverence, for anyone who’s been able to turn their dream into a reality. Any band that’s done that, good or bad, with maybe the exception of Trapt.” But I completely agree. Bands of my ilk are fucking working class. It’s not like we’re rolling in money. We have to go and do the grind, and a lot of the bands I’m making fun of have to do that too. I feel like I’m ok with that as long as I’m not going after anyone that’s had less commercial success I guess. That’s where I guess I’ve landed with it. But this is all so new to me. I’m sure there are hypocrisies in this that I’m not even aware of, and more will be revealed.

Yeah I wasn’t criticizing you so much, but, and maybe this is a bad example I always use, but I hate Nickelback jokes. I don’t care if anyone likes them or not, but that’s a massively popular band that obviously resonates with a lot of people. I wonder if I back myself into a corner with that sort of thing. I’m not trying to say it’s not ok to goof on bands…

No. I’ve had this exact conversation about Nickelback with people and I agree. I think it’s really lazy. Any time there’s a pile-on of that magnitude, and I’m not crying for Nickelback, but it definitely should raise suspicion. I think that guy, as a craftsman, is fucking incredible. Listen to those songs and divorce them from the image and, no pun intended, photographs, and they are meticulously crafted. I think the reason why there’s so much antipathy toward them is because what they do is so effective. You almost can’t listen to a Nickelback song without it working on you in some way. I think that’s what really makes people bristle.

I guess a better example for me would be Staind since I really happen to like a lot of Staind’s music. They’re a punchline too. Although there has been a bit of a nu-metal resurgence on Twitter and elsewhere lately.

I love takes like that Luke. Look, I think we’re both Irishman who seek maybe the polemic and less popular opinion, but I remember getting into an argument when we were doing this festival tour that Finger Eleven were on. They’re massive TOOL fans, and I was explaining to him why Skid Row is better than TOOL, in particular the first Skid Row record. He got angry to the point of wanting to fight me.

lol. I love that record too. You mentioned putting in the work and all that. I think part of the reason why I could never make it happen, aside from talent, is the idea of slugging it out day after day for years and years, on either side of a rise and fall. Even when you’re popular. It just seems miserable to me. Did you like it or was it a slog?

No, it was a slog. Obviously that’s reductive and there were many mountaintop moments that were a lot of fun. But at the height of the Eve 6 heyday, right before we were about to embark on another three month run, I was twenty one or so, and I was with a friend, still one of my best friends, and I was just in tears. I was like I hate this. I don’t want to do it. I want to work at the hardware store. The guys at the hardware store are so fucking cool. They seem happy. They listen to Black Sabbath. I don’t know anything about tools, but… That sounds good and this...is not. I’ve struggled with, well all of us have I feel like if you’re creative in any way, mental health stuff, and of course alcoholism. I was at my absolute most insane and miserable at the height of my commercial success.

What point did you quit drinking?

I only quit after the band broke up for a time in about 2003. I was essentially pulled off the road. It was put to me, and this sounds almost unbelievably benevolent coming from a manager, but our manager called me on tour. He said it’s come to my attention from other guys in the band and crew that you have a real problem, and I’m going to put this to you: You can either finish the rest of the tour sober or you’re coming home. I said well I’m coming home. This was toward the end of the eighteen month long tour for record one. We canceled that. I came home and agreed to see alcohol counselor to the stars Bob Timmons and go to a couple meetings. But I wasn’t ready. I didn’t stay sober for more than a couple weeks. That carried on. The first record sold almost two million, the second almost a million, the third sold a quarter of a million, and we got dropped from RCA when Clive Davis came in. But we were still on the road. My drinking had progressed to a very unmanageable point, and I was like, I don’t want to do this anymore.

The band broke up and it wasn’t until two or three years later, May 14 2006, that I got sober. Some-fucking-how I have been ever since. I look back and think am I lying to myself? How is that possible? It doesn’t feel like it’s possible. But here I am.

I think another thing we might have in common, which is why we had our famous swimming encounter, is you have some injuries too? Back problems and stuff?

I had a back problem that was really bad in around 2012. It was right as we started a tour for the fourth and worst Eve 6 record that Fearless put out. It was so bad it hurt to walk, let alone sling a bass. As you probably know being injured and on tour makes you feel like the most unforgivable failure because you can’t give the people who paid the ticket price what they want really. Or at least you feel like you can’t. After a break from that run I came home. My sister is a yoga teacher. She gave me a couple yoga lessons and my back pain basically went away and stayed gone. A couple times a year it will come back but not in a way that’s debilitating. I no longer do yoga regularly but I do, as you know, swim, and I feel like that’s just as good for lengthening and strengthening, which is the key for back fitness.

All these articles are like “this guy has a funny Twitter account” and of course I’m the guy who conducts the most depressing interview ever with you.

Thank god! I did a podcast yesterday, with a guy you know, Vince from Uproxx. He’s a nice guy. It was fine, but it’s nice to not just talk about the Twitter.

It’s exhausting to have to be on all the time. I don’t even really like doing podcasts lately. I’ve been doing some of them for the new book, but after an hour of talking about myself I start to feel like… I don’t know. It’s not like an “impostor syndrome” thing. I don’t believe that. I do believe I’m worthy of talking to, for a while, about what I do, just maybe not for an hour.

I hear you. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of those David Foster Wallace interviews where he feels like maybe he misspoke, even though he’s thinking in complete paragraphs and speaking perfectly. He does this wince with his face. You can feel his self-loathing and shame, and like, yeah, after a certain amount of time it starts to feel a little cringy.

I appreciate that you have shouted me out a couple times in those interviews, but something was making me uncomfortable about it. I finally figured out that it was you were telling an anecdote about meeting me as if I was the famous person involved.

Well you were in a way if you think about it. At least contextually. I didn’t tell you I was the Eve 6 Guy. I had by that point had kind of a parasocial relationship with your Twitter and maybe newsletter at that time. I did feel a little bit starstruck. I told people about it. You wouldn’t believe this! It was very weird.

It was kind of strange! Is that what you do on tour? Just find the nearest pool and try to get a workout in?

Yeah I need it. That’s not an overstatement. Without the option of alcohol I gotta get those endorphins and just get the perspective. Being in the water swimming laps really gives me something that no other kind of exercise or whatever does. It’s like this forced mediation. You’re stuck with your thoughts and you have no choice really but to observe them and have some space created there. This probably happens to you too, you’ll be swimming and you realize you’ve just been locked into a thought. Completely fused with this thought. Maybe something you have cause to be stressed out about, or maybe something totally inane, and you have this moment of realization. That’s what I love about swimming. When I'm on tour I try to get in at least three or five days a week.

A big part of it, unlike with other exercising, is that you can’t listen to music underwater, even though they have those things now but I never wanted one. As someone who has a really hard time relaxing or just… being, swimming is like a forced meditation practice in a way. Even though when you get in you don’t think, ok I’m gonna meditate now, but after maybe ten laps it just happens to you subconsciously.

You’re meditating in spite of yourself because you don’t have the options. The whole appeal of swimming to me is that. It’s so goddamn necessary now. Give me some distance from this device and my thoughts. But paradoxically. Because your thoughts are closer but you get the space from forcing yourself to be with them.

I haven’t been able to do it much under Covid. I tried it two times in the new town we live in at a new pool, but there was something too depressing about being there. You have to sign up for a lane, and they can only have so many people, so it would just be like me alone in a giant quiet cold pool. Even though I like the isolation of it that was a bit too much of it. So I’ve been running instead.

I totally know what you mean. Pools can have an anthropomorphic quality. They can feel oppressive in personality sometimes. I’m really lucky out here because there’s one in the city of Burbank that’s completely changed how they do it. You can’t share lanes or shower and you have a limited time, but you can get in.

So you’re running now and that’s been ok for your back?

Well I have to take a couple Advils to do it, but I have no choice. Like you said, I would go crazy if I didn’t get outside for 30-40 minutes. But I’m constantly stretching to be able to do it. Like I stretch for like two hours to be able to run for forty minutes it’s crazy.

Sometimes it’s frustrating to me that exercise even works that well because I want to think of myself as a more complicated creature than that. It’s like, no, just moving my corporeal being can get this profound effect where it changes the relationship between my thoughts and the world. That frustrates me. Why can’t I just will myself there?

Do you listen to music when you workout outside of the pool?

I very rarely do workout outside of the pool and when I do it’s yoga. For a spell there I was running this trail near my old house, but I could only listen to one record and it was the Black Angels. I don’t know why. Even when I tried listening to something else I like I couldn’t do it. So I listened to those songs way too much.

Running on a California trail to a Black Angels soundtrack feels like a nice opening for a noir story where you get murdered.

Totally. Phil Marlow redux.

Have you spent all the arrows in your quiver yet in terms of encounters with bands?

I doubt I have. I keep having things pop into my head. Did you see my Staind anecdote? It was one of those radio festivals, which are just the most grim fucking events. I was fucking wasted, and Staind was headlining a huge outdoor shed. I climbed the stage left PA wing and was like miming him as he was singing. Then all of a sudden I was forcibly ripped down by security. I landed on my back. Got kicked out of the show. The next morning my tour manager woke me up and said there are about eight to twelve guys outside of the bus right now that want to kick the shit out of you. I didn’t know we happened to be on another festival with them the next day. He said you might want to go offer your best apology. So I did. I walked out all bleary eyed and miserable. I said look guys, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it. I was wasted and thought I was being funny. The guitar player was like dude don’t worry about it. The singer was like your fucking better be.

He turned into a major choad, like a MAGA dude.

Big time. I remember doing a show with them a while back, maybe 2012, and he was wearing a shirt or hat that said like Guns God Family or something. I heard his song that sounds exactly like Living on Prayer but half time. A country song. It’s just full country. I don’t know, he somehow pulls that off, whereas the guys from Lit, who are the only band that has gotten kind of pissed off at me, because I do know those guys, they did a pop country record. The singer, who was like affecting Rivers Cuomo voice in 1998, now has a thick southern drawl and he’s singing about trucks and stuff. Whereas the Staind guy just sounds like he’s singing like the Staind guy.

I saw you did a joke about Rivers, but do you have any other Weezer stories?

No not really. I only had the one interaction with him when he was recording maybe the Green Album. A friend of mine, this guy Monty, who’s a fucking character, he started going on the road with bands at like seventeen just doing merch. Letters to Cleo, I want to say Superdrag, Fountains of Wayne, all these great bands.

That was a great era right there.

Dude. Such a great era…. He just has this knack for ending up in the most bizarre circumstances…. So he of course knows Weezer. I don’t remember if he was doing an errand for Rivers or what. Monty never had a car, of course, so I took him there. This was in the time when Rivers was managing Weezer, and when he was he would put on a suit. Literally if he was doing managerial tasks he would put on a suit and sit there on his computer doing phone calls in a suit and tie. So he was sitting there in the office space in whatever studio they were at. He was extremely shy, no eye contact. That was my only contact with Rivers.

Any festivals with Oasis?

Shit I wish. I’m trying to think. In 1998 they put out “Acquiesce” right? I don’t know if they were playing at that time. I remember when we were out with Third Eye Blind they covered that song.

Well they’ve got good taste in Oasis songs at least. Are you actually at odds with that guy or is it just shtick?

No I’m really not. I meant what I said about him, there being almost a generosity of spirit to his level of abject asshole-ishness. It’s entertainment. It’s charming. I think. To me it’s all fun. It’s like ok rock star shit. He’s not hurting anyone, he’s just being this weird asshole blustery guy. I’ll take that any day over like Vertical Horizon.

Why, were they dicks?

No, they’re super nice. Their music is terrible in my opinion.

“Everything You Want” was alright.

They actually had another hit that was pretty sizable too. But they’ve got just really cucked-out material in that Hot AC format, which is the funniest format to me. Eve 6 wasn’t a stranger to it either, but the staples are like Matchbox 20. Basically white pop.

Well ok buddy I think we’re getting near the famous hour length now. This has been great.

Thanks for doing this. I’ve been a big fan for a long time and have definitely gleaned some inspiration and a kind of moxy from you, so hats off.

Thank you man that’s really nice to hear. And I do like the new song a lot. Someone compared it to Dandy Warhols and I do hear that. What do you make of that comparison?

I’m totally down with that. I’m a big Dandies fan. Well, of Come Down and Thirteen Tales…

You ever play with them?

Never played with them. Saw them and they were great. My girlfriend was in that band Big Data, and they did a show with them, and she said he’s a fucking character. Have you seen Dig!? He’s like super into wine and, like, telling you about all the sick wine he has.

Come Down is a perfect record.

Perfect fucking record. And they’re a great example of...You know the trope: it’s all about the song. You just gotta have a good song? Like, no. There are great recordings and bad recordings. Those songs played on an acoustic guitar I don’t think would be interesting at all, but those records are so masterfully done, just the production elements, what’s there and what isn’t. I feel like, by the same token, what you might call a great song done badly is worse than a bad song done badly, because it’s a thing desecrated. So that cliche doesn’t really hold water, and I always cite the Dandy Warhols for that. It’s not a songwriter thing at all.

A lot of those albums are vibes and like a tone more than anything else. But then they’ll come out of nowhere and throw down the slickest pop hooks you’ve ever heard on one or two songs.

Yeah he can write melody big time.

Well that was nice. If you want to read some more about me on swimming here’s a chapter from the first Hell World book from a couple years ago that goes a little like this:

When you think about people running which is something I can’t do anymore due to I broke myself you might typically imagine a young fit person running along so fast and an older person plodding through but that’s not what it’s like in the water it depends on how much time you’ve spent in there over the years. An older person might skitter with practiced finesse like a pond bug and a strong young oaf might sputter along so much slower than the effortlessness he’s used to in every other aspect of his life thinking Jesus Christ this sucks and things of that nature. Sometimes I swim so fast I feel like a leviathan displacing tidal waves with every stroke and sometimes I can’t remember how to breathe right or do anything besides not drown and I swallow gallons of piss and snot which the pool is filled with something I know because I put my own piss and snot in there too.

In the water the things you take for granted everywhere else such as not being on the precipice of dying any second go away and you have to make a conscious effort to think about every stroke forward and ideally it just becomes another part of who you are after enough practice but I’m not there yet I still have to try really hard which is probably good for me because I don’t like to let my mind have a moment of stillness. So I look at the blue line painted on the pool floor that they put there so you know when you’ve just about gone too far and have to turn around before you smash your head on the wall something I’ve done more times than I care to confess or else I turn over on my back and there are flags suspended in the air that serve the same purpose. Time to slow down they say. Someone told me you can get an ipod that goes underwater now so you can listen to podcasts and such when you’re trying not to drown but I’m not gonna listen to a podcast life is too short.