Breakfast Without Meat - Summer 1990

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Mark Eitzel
Publication: Breakfast Without Meat (#14)
Author: Greg Turkington
Date: Summer 1990

What follows is the result of several interviews with Mark Eitzel. We had to do several because we were having a little domestic problem with Stinky, our tape recorder. Little Stinky must have been feeling jealous of Mark, who is everything that Stinky is not. He is the singer and songwriter for the band American Music Club, and as if that weren’t enough to intimidate Stinky, Mark is also playing solo acoustic shows and recording with the Toiling Midgets. Stinky is only too painfully aware that his entire life consists of simply recording other people’s music and what other people say, and sometimes when he’s feeling really ‘down on himself’ he’ll be infuriated when we give other people more attention than he gets. His little plan backfired, though, as the more interviews we did with Mark the more fond we became of him, which only made Stinky more jealous. At one point during an interview he even went so far as to jump off the table, cracking his little handle. Well, we knew enough of psychology to know that this was a definite cry for help, and that things could get serious. We didn’t want to be stuck saying, “Oh we thought he was just trying to get attention” after it was too late. Now Stinky, (unlike Mark, of course) has always suffered from drastic mood swings between grandiosity and self-deprecation, but lately he’d gotten a bit worse. You see, he’s recently suffered a great disappointment when we allowed him to drive up to Seattle with a friend, so that on the way he could visit San Bruno, the town where we bought him when he was just a baby and had just been shipped to this country. (Like Mark, his parents aren’t around anymore.) Sure, San Bruno, California is not much of a sight-seeing spot, but it meant a lot to Stinky. Well, to make a long story short, not only did the ‘friend’ not even BOTHER to stop by San Bruno, but he actually broke Stinky’s door off, and instead of saving the door so it could be reattached and Stinky could continue to live a full life, he just threw the door away, and mailed Stinky back to us. So now Stinky has a real problem with dust building up on his head, but he also feels really vulnerable most of the time, what with all of his machinery exposed. Now it seemed that Mark was being courteous and fairly sympathetic to him, feeling much the same way himself, but maybe there was some sort of mutual jealously-tension type thing that we weren’t picking up on because Stinky just would not respond to Mark. So we lost crucial chunks of the interview, including the parts where Mark described what he thinks about people who say that his songs are too depressing and dark. Also not making it into the text were some of the major milestones of Mark’s life, one of which was in Disneyland in 1963 when he learned the expression ‘none of your beeswax’, rode the Matterhorn and had his silhouette drawn. He says he was terrified of the people in the stupid costumes and remains so to this day. So we ask you to bear with us and our personal problems that affected this interview, and to bear with Mark, who probably hasn’t had it much easier than Stinky.

Eitzel: So what have you guys been doing here (San Francisco)?

BWM: Mostly sitting in cars behind other cars. Sometimes we honk.

Eitzel: That kind of breaks it up.

BWM: When you were little did contact lenses seem as big as giant salad bowls?

Eitzel: No. They were always mysterious, like clouds at night, or bird’s ears. It took me years to realize that birds didn’t have ears like cats. It’s true.

BWM: Does the devil write your songs?

Eitzel: No. Do you worry about stuff like that? Actually I’m a real snob when it comes to books and stuff like that. But I’ve decided I can’t be anymore because I’m really not smart enough to be a snob. I got this Alan Watts book. He lived in Sausalito for a while, and he was like an English mystic, a Zen Buddhist mystic and he wrote lots of books and gave lots of lectures. And I had to sit there and think, is this the right thing or not? Is this evil, is this the good face of evil? I do think about those things, actually. I don’t want to be part of that scene. I read this thing, it’s in Poetry Flash, last issue, and this woman said something like “Anger is revealed by repetition.” Which is a real cool thing to say, but I heard this other saying a long time ago that was “Repetition is the language of God.” I thought that was beautiful. And to just try to combine those two, sort of made me think that the devil is misrepresented. It’s almost like you see the devil in a steel beam because of the steel beam’s strength. And its strength is absolutely demon-like, because it’s so incredible, it’s so beyond understanding. And it’s almost as if the whole world is composed of leftovers that were cast off, and those are what we call the devil, those leftovers that seem to have no entry into our reasonable morality. Did the devil write my songs? If I were on the witness stand of course I’d say yes.

BWM: Do you have a favorite cigarette advertising campaign?

Eitzel: I do. It’s new. It’s one of those Japanese new age ones. I already forgot it. But it was something about Kool. It was just like this huge thing of Tundra, or like a big ice field. And there was a jet stream across the sky. And that was it. And there was some word on it, like the name of the cigarette. Anyway, it was so beautiful. I really liked it.

BWM: Would you be willing to drink a 50/50 mixture of Coke and Pepsi?

Eitzel: Sure.

BWM: Great – maybe we can work that out, go and get some.

Eitzel: Yeah, let’s do it. I’d do it. I’d even do Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi.

BWM: Whoa!!

Eitzel: I would do that, yes!

BWM: How many grams in an ounce?

Eitzel: (laughter) I don’t know, ten!

BWM: Ten? Okay… What are the keys on the middle row of the typewriter?

Eitzel: Um… F, G, E, E, P..

BWM: There’s two E’s?

Eitzel: You think I’m stupid if I just say that there’s two E’s. No, there’s one F! I think that’s it. F, P, M, N, F! A, D, S, F… I don’t know.

BWM: Should we tell him? It’s a trick question! (Twins laugh delightedly!) It’s a trick! There’re four rows! There’s no middle row! (Mark looks hurt) It’s not a very good question… Have you ever been to Salt Lake City.

Eitzel: Yes, I have… Is that another trick question?

BWM: No, this is for our readers.

Eitzel: Now I’m all… all sad and deflated.

BWM: (Both) Awwwww… Well, that’s a good way to start. Did you visit the Mormon temple when you were there?

Eitzel: Is that a trick question? Yes, I did.

BWM: And what happened? Did you go on the tour?

Eitzel: No, no, we wandered around by ourselves and then we went down into the special family home night room. It was amazing! There are like two houses, and there was a little kitten in a tree, and the kid’s face opened and it was like a TV screen and he went “Hello!” and he told the story of two families, one family had the family home night, the other one didn’t.

BWM: We saw a Mormon thing in Phoenix where they showed a movie on a guy’s face.

Eitzel: That’s what I’m talking about, yeah!

BWM: He has a blank face and they show the film projected..

Eitzel: It’s from underneath though.

BWM: Oh, it’s from underneath? Wow! Cause I was wondering if we put our hand in front of it…

Eitzel: No, it’s a TV screen and it’s from behind.

BWM: How ‘bout San Diego, what do you think of it?

Eitzel: I’ve never been to San Diego. I’d love to go. I’ve a friend there who used to teach me yoga but he stopped talking to me because 1…because I’m evil. Go ahead.

BWM: Do you have any better questions we could ask?

Eitzel: No, no, go ahead, I just feel so dumb now.

BWM: Would you rather be stuck on a desert island with eight maids a-milking or nine ladies dancing?

Eitzel: Nine ladies dancing..because that’s the kind of guy I am.

BWM: Ever faked drunkenness?

Eitzel: Yes.

BWM: What were the circumstances?

(He answers and then takes the tape recorder and erases his answer.)

BWM: Could you give us a suggested clothing standard?

Eitzel: Yes, I certainly can. Pretty much, I’m not into jeans which are ripped at the knee anymore, I throw them away now. I’m into plain, functional clothes which also carry within them a symbolic meaning beyond themselves. For instance, with what I’m wearing today, this dark red shirt. I don’t know, I tried on different shirts today and I found that this one was probably the one that made me feel the best. I don’t know, it’s a good shirt. If you really want to get into the deep, hidden, symbolic nature of this fabric we could but… the red and the black, the fact that there’s no foreground and no background and that your eye is constantly drawn and reflected… I’m also wearing it open with the T-shirt exposed underneath too, which is sort of me trying to be sexy but… it ain’t.

BWM: You never know… Would you rather have your music released on CD, LP, cassette, or a format that’s not yet available?

Eitzel: I think a format that’s not yet invented. In fact, I know exactly how I want it released. On ‘Star Trek’ you know they had those little, like, pieces of plastic that were like 3” by 1”. They put them in slots. OK, alright, I want the music recorded on those and of course you can put thousands and thousands of songs on. Also I want the music unmixed and put into those so that the people can mix the music digitally and select what they want and don’t want. There’d be a mixed setting and an unmixed setting, and they could play with it.

BWM: Can you write a song with a sour stomach or ringing in your ears?

Eitzel: No. Because I… maybe. It’s a trick question.

BWM: It seems like a lot of these are.

Eitzel: That’s fine, go on. I was just answering as best as I can.

BWM: Would you please say something noteworthy?

Eitzel: Yeah, sure, okay, let’s go. Is there a particular topic?

BWM: We could flip a coin.

Eitzel: Flipping a coin. Chance and fate.

BWM: So one side is chance and the other fate?

Eitzel: No, one lives on a knife edge between a Hegelian future, and a future full of trauma and fear, which is the future of the unknown. And it’s beyond one’s reasoning as to where one is, if one is involved with the fate which is Hegelian or the fate which is unknown… okay, forget it. Is that noteworthy?

BWM: It is.

Eitzel: Gosh, the traumatic “Breakfast Without Meat” interview! All over the country, musicians are saying, “That ‘Breakfast Without Meat’ interview, gosh, it’s so hard”… (Talk turns to MTV and popular bands)… I don’t know, some people are destined to be crotch rockers and others aren’t… It’s not my kind of music, that’s all. Some people are destined to play, like, assaultive style music. And it’s not just like young people need hormones in their music. It’s just like, some people do that in their music, some people don’t.

BWM: I have to listen to that kind of music every day or I just can’t cope with anything.

Eitzel: Really?

BWM: If your toast started screaming before it came out of the toaster would you eat it or set it free?

Eitzel: I would set it free.

BWM: That’s’ nice. What becomes of the will to live after the body vehicle is destroyed?

Eitzel: It becomes a chick, a bunny and a puppy on a Hallmark card.

BWM: Would you rather live in a warm cave or on a high mountaintop?

Eitzel: Mountain top in a warm cave.

BWM: Do you prefer tablets, capsules or elixir?

Eitzel: You forgot caplets. Actually, elixir, of course.

BWM: Why did Mr. Zing Elzin need paper to make his bed?

Eitzel: Because otherwise he’d sink through it? Is this interview better than the last one?

BWM: When’s the last time you went haywire and why?

Eitzel: I haven’t gone haywire for… Oh, I did go haywire. I rode my bike to the beach and then I went to the I-Beam and saw the Toiling Midgets.

BWM: Which part was the haywire part?

Eitzel: I was at home and I had a fight with my roommates, it has to do with a TV show called “Thirtysomething” which really upset me once because it was a bad episode, it was about cancer. It was for two reasons; A, because my mother died of cancer, and B, because there was a cancer focus group that they were all part of, that the beautiful main character, who of course didn’t lose her hair and stayed beautiful, went to, and she met this person who was like, the worst person in the group, she was wearing the hat, and the one who looked really sick. AT first the main character’s eyes lighted on this sick person and then in horror and disgust flitted away and looked around the rest of the classroom which was full of people like her, young upwardly mobile people with cancer who don’t show it.

BWM: A lot of them around…

Eitzel: So then, the relationship between her and this other woman… the sicker woman was a lot more interesting, and a lot more talented, and a lot more intelligent, and yet she was desperate, and lonely, and ugly. And she didn’t have a family to go home to. Anyway, the way it ended up, I just got so angry because the main character just got her feet wet with cancer, while the really interesting person, the ugly person, was dismissed, because she said too much, and laughed too much and really tried to please her new friend too much. And it really bummed me out. It reminded me a lot of people who are beautiful and “happening”, because they always think, “YOU’RE not the main characters in this world, you’re drifting, you’re blind, you’re not part of it.” It makes me so mad that the people I’m interested in, they don’t have any audience for what they do, because they’re nobody. It bummed me out really bad, and then things happened. I think I was ripe for a good depressive episode anyways.

BWM: What do you mean then when the word “beautiful” pops up all the time in your songs?

Eitzel: It was the first word that I ever learned to spell. It’s got three vowels in a row. I don’t know, I just like beautiful things. A lot of words crop up, the same words. Like “boner”, I have “boner” in my songs all the time. A lot of people say that, “Mark, why do you have ‘boner’ in your songs so much?” I don’t know.

BWM: Do you really care if a thing is beautiful or not?

Eitzel: Yeah, it’s like a natural function of my eyes. It’s why I put on sunglasses today. Because I was looking at the cars and I felt my eyes become dissipated like smoke because of all the cars going by, cause I felt they were getting a little lost. ‘Cause I was looking at everyone else’s eyes. Is that it?

BWM: Have you ever been tempted to evil beyond your will to resist?

Eitzel: No, I’ve always… Actually, yeah. But I think it’s… I’m really answering your questions straight, I’m sorry. I like to hear myself talk. But, yeah. But I think that instead of doing the thing at the moment I sort of do the thing over a period of months. So the evil’s sort of dissipated. But I never have really acted on that evil impulse, because I’ve always twisted it.

BWM: You do it later when it’s no fun anymore.

Eitzel: Yeah, or else you just do it in a different way. Instead of stabbing this person you just don’t talk to anybody for a month. Or you just bury feelings so you can’t write. For me, I just don’t write songs, which is evil because it makes me a lot more closed as a person.

BWM: Do you think there’s something wrong with the water supply?

Eitzel: No, I love it. I drink right out of the tap, always.

BWM: Would you take a pledge to that effect?… Of what do you opt out?

Eitzel: A lot of things. Love, the pursuit of happiness. Helping the homeless. I haven’t gotten my bike fixed and I have to fix it. I haven’t paid my tax accountant yet. There’s a lot of things I haven’t done. Basically my problem is I opt out of large responsibilities. Basically, because I think the world should be taking care of me.

BWM (L): Do you have one older sister?

Eitzel: Yeah.

BWM: Great, I guessed it! Is she over three years older?

Eitzel: She’s four years older.

BWM (G): She guesses these things.

Eitzel: Really? Okay, what does she do?

BWM (L): Well, that I don’t know… I could be way off, of course, but maybe she’s responsible but sometimes seems like she can’t quite handle everything she’s taken on, and is loving towards you but sometimes can’t give her full attention, maybe.

Eitzel: It’s true, it’s true.

BWM (G): I bet when we listen back to that the tape is going to be blank.

BWM (L): Hmmm. It works.

Eitzel: Actually, you’re pretty accurate, she is like that. She does take on more than she can chew. She’s in a position of responsibility…

BWM (L): It’s an unmarketable skill, though, because people want their fortunes told, they don’t want to go to someone and be told about their families. They already know about their families. You could be shitting me, maybe you have three younger brothers and…

Eitzel: No. Do I sound insincere on tape?