On the Stooges’ iconic 1973 hit single “Search and Destroy,” punk progenitor Iggy Pop described himself as a “street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.” Roughly 30 years later, Mickey Avalon, the Hollywood prostitute turned unlikely rap hero upholds Iggy’s wild tradition with bubblegum pop yet macabre material for the break beat generation.
I first encountered Mickey Avalon what seems like a lifetime ago, on a 2007 trip to Pittsburgh for a professional wrestling event. A pudgy, diminutive, seemingly prison-tattooed yet entirely cherubic fellow grappler performing under the moniker of “Adam Ugly” told me that Mickey Avalon was “the dopest rapper out right now,” and was “realer than real.” One listen to hook-driven, vapid Hollywood starlet ode “Jane Fonda” later, I was in. Five years and a lifetime later, he’s set the personal standard for my id, ego and superego. While I’ve never lived his words, his words have lived in me as when I approach making them literal personal realities, I know I’m living too hard and going a bit too far. Almost exactly five years later, here I was at the Rock and Roll Hotel, and dazed, disheveled and in the flesh was easily the most personally iconic figure I never imagined I’d ever meet.
Me: “So a good friend of mine always refers to you as the ‘OG’ of all of this hipster shit.”
Mickey Avalon: [chuckles, then stares at me with a quizzical and serious look] What’s a hipster?
Me: True. It’s a term that gets tossed around a lot these days, so let me rephrase the question. To what do you you owe your longevity and having songs that create a passionate connection with people?
Mickey Avalon: I just try to stay honest and have fun. That’s all I want to do.
In an era where all of the hot young white rappers have multiple tattoos and refreshingly brutal subject matter, somehow, Avalon’s voice still remains unique, and he remains the most absurd yet frighteningly honest rap star in the room. On his 2006, Interscope subsidiary Myspace Records debut, tales of “fistfucking faggots at the Y on gym mats” were tempered by easily one of the most ribald yet catchy one-hit wonders of its generation, “My Dick.” Though his songs are arguably both incredible and undeniable, label politics and possibly being just ahead of a tidal wave leaves us in 2012, and we’re on a tour bus in front of a dingy rock and roll bar. While haphazardly clutching a bottle of tour sponsor Jagermeister’s product between tattered blue jean clad thighs, the man famously with the “dick like Jesus” reveals the harsh realities of being a cult icon and still being one small step away from the top.
“[Former frequent collaborator Simon "Dirt Nasty" Rex] is rich. I’m not. I’m just making music and trying to pay my child support, man.” The news of Avalon’s now eighteen-year old daughter is shocking, but not unexpected. The man has lived a life that has tumbled out in uninhibited, pop aimed and boom bap buoyed storytelling for the past decade. A daughter who now “really likes that indie hipster stuff; I try to take her to festivals when I can,” is a bizarre, yet humanizing story when posited against a latter related tale more in line with his material’s Bacchanalian splendor at the peak of Armageddon vibe. “Wildest night? Oh, [tour opener, friend and rhyme partner] Andre Legacy and I were watching our homie getting fucked by four dudes, while trying to keep the people away, then going off and partying.” The best of pop music ascribes to the notion of being simply transmitted and widely understood. Avalon’s work? Simple rhymes advocating a life that your body wants to know but your mind leads you to believe would corrupt you into literal demise.
Asking Avalon about his creative process is to dive into a polarized mess. More notable than anything is the refreshing levels of honesty here, as given that he’s a professional with very human responsibilities, the “bad ass rock star” veneer leaves, and reveals dichotomous thoughts: Sobering realities from a man who often raps about living life in a drug-addled haze.
On his tattoos: “Well everybody has them now, don’t they. It used to be a sign of being a rebel, which is what I wanted to be. I mean, being Jewish and having them is definitely rebellious. But now, I guess they don’t stand out so much anymore, [however] they still represent a very real part of who I am.”
On his debut album: “Well, Interscope Records paid $500,000 for an album that I made for free in my friend’s [Simon "Dirt Nasty" Rex] basement. The Myspace connection never really worked, and things started to fall apart.”
On the producer of much of arguably his best material, Shwayze mastermind Cisco Adler: “Cisco’s actually a really talented guy. He’d be better off if he wasn’t trying to be a big rock star.”
On his favorite lyric: “I knew I was doing the right then when I came up with this one… *pauses to think* (recites the hook from debut album track “Friends and Lovers”) “The filthy rich and the dirt-dirt poor / Are all the same when they can’t take no more / ‘Cause all my friends and all my lovers are…dead.”
The most inspiring moments with Avalon? When you play connect the dots with three seemingly unrelated, yet poignant answers, and feel at peace with the core of who Avalon is as both artist and man.
“Wow! That molly just kicked in. *pause* Yeah. Best place to perform? All cities are the same. There’s the rich part and the poor part, the check cashing stores and the liquor stores. So no city’s any different than any other. As far as places though? Red Rocks. I don’t know about anybody else, but man…when that sun goes down and you’re staring out over the mountains? That’s amazing.”
(a few questions later)
Me: Name me one song that’s not your own that somebody should listen to in order to really get a feel for who you are as an artist?
Mickey Avalon: Kris Kristofferson, “The Winner”: “He’s had a whole lot of fights, and he always come out the winner.”
Me: *pleasantly surprised* You like outlaw country? I’m a fan of it too!
Mickey Avalon: Cool! *high five*