Artist Interview: Mickey Avalon
by Tom “Wonderboy” Roth
USD Radio got a chance to speak with LA artist, Mickey Avalon before his Portland stop. Read on for Mickey’s thoughts on strip clubs, record labels, and his new album, On the Ave.
USD RADIO: How are things going in the studio?
MICKEY AVALON: Good. I’m actually lying on the floor in a towel because it’s so hot in here. I got a bunch of records already done. There’s just all the politics of getting my masters back and stuff but I’m working on finishing up another album… so we’re on a little tour right now, just a mini one, but we have two days off so we’re home to take care of some business and record and then tomorrow, we go to Portland for two days in a row at Dante’s, and then Seattle for the Showbox and then Boise. So that’s what we’re doing.
USDR: You used to live in Portland. Will coming back to Portland allow you any time to check out some of your old hangouts?
MA: I’m from here in LA, but I lived there for a few years. When I was young, I got married and had a kid and we thought that that was a good place to raise her. I don’t have many friends there and if I did, they’re probably not alive anymore, but there is a place I like to hang out called the Magic Gardens which is my favorite strip club in the whole world and I’m sure I will go there because we’re gonna be there for two days. We have the second day to hang out all day and after the show. Its walking distance from Dante’s so we usually walk over there. It’s kinda cool because now when I go there, all the strippers know me and they’ll dance to my songs when I walk in. I was also friends with the dancers when I lived there but I had no money or anything and there was a $2.50 minimum because you had to buy one beer, and scrounging up that $2.50 was always really difficult so it’s cool to go back there in better times.
USDR: You have few people on stage with you in your live performances. Who’s who and how do you know them or how do your recruit them?
MA: The thing with rap music – for the most part – a live show isn’t so good all the time because there’s no band but then adding a band doesn’t always solve the problem. Actually, a lot of times, it makes a whole bunch of other problems… I mean, there are a few people who pull it off. So, right off the bat I knew from being a fan of other people we had to do something different to be entertaining and fun. So we would do different types of stuff like on my first show, I had this big, black bodybuilder just lifting weights the whole time. I’ve had trannies do weird stuff and then we just started doing dancers. I met a few different ones so, basically, the crew I have right now is… I got three dancers. For big shows, we use all three. We usually use two, and on the road, usually we take one more just for budget reasons. Stephanie and Hannah are like the two main ones and they’re kinda like bookends to me. They look real similar. They’re skinny with, like, olive colored skin and short hair. Then Jillian is this white girl with a big, fat ass. It’s not so much like dancing dancing. It’s like live-performance art and it just kinda fills up the stage and they work good with me. Then there’s the DJ, who’s Mikey Clark, and he sets the music. There’s a lot of girls at the shows so I think it’s nice to have girls on stage because for the guys at the shows, it’s nice to have something to look at and I also think it makes me look better if there are hot chicks around me. I like to look at them on stage too. Sometimes, I’ll just be zoning off for a second then I’ll just look over and it wakes me up. They’re pretty scantily clad especially for the 21 and over shows where they might be barely wearing anything, just pasties and some garter belts so it’s pretty hot. I like it.
USDR: You had a few stops in Australia. Was the reception there different than the reception in the States?
MA: Oh its way crazier out there. They riot, basically. We’ve been going out there every year for the last five years and I think I actually have a bigger fan base in Australia than here and they’re way nuts. It’s funny you ask about that because we’re working on a song right now with this guy, Kid Mac, who’s from out there. He’s super dope and we’re doing this song for his record right now that we’re recording and I dunno if you’ve heard of the Brah Boys but they did a documentary on them. It’s these guys from Arubra, these surfers, and he’s from that crew and, yeah, we’re writing this song right now, it’s called “Lunatic”.
USDR: Another recent stop was at the Roxy in LA. Those home shows must be different from all the rest.
MA: Oh yeah. For me, all the other shows kinda get in a blur but I always remember those shows because it’s nice to be home and I love the Roxy and that was the first place I ever played and, you know, we just put a lot into it. So for that show, we had all three of the dancers and it was just fun. It was sold out and got pretty crazy. I try to give it my all at all the shows but for home, its home so you can’t really compare anything to that.
USDR: You said the Roxy was your first show. Was that the show where Rod Stewart was in attendance?
MA: No, that was my second show and that was at the Hard Rock Café. That’s when the Hard Rock was still there, it’s not even there anymore… the Hard Rock at the Beverly Center that had the ’59 Cadillac up in it. So yeah, he was there. That was flattering. I do a lot of work with this one guy who produces a lot of my songs and he was dating his (Rod Stewart’s) daughter at the time, Kimberly, so I think that’s what brought him to the show.
USDR: After the tour ends in Austin at the end of July, what do you have planned?
MA: Well… I don’t talk much about it because I’m a fan of music and I know I don’t really like hearing artists talk about all the politics and record label stuff but I’m really just trying to get my masters so I can get my record out. Once I get my record out, these are all just kinda make-shift little tours that are like, places that will have me back and that I sell out really easily and stuff, and I can’t really do a real tour until I get my record out. I mean, once I get my record out, then I can tour the whole country and go to all the cities that people write on Facebook, like “Why don’t you come here?”. Its like, “I can’t. No promoters will really have me out there until I get my record out”. It’s been way over due and I’m not holding back because I’m making a Chinese Democracy record or anything… it’s ready to go and if it takes much longer we’ll just have to jump to the third record which doesn’t have any politics around that because that was done after I left Interscope. So I just think, you know, you’re a writer and in telling a story, if you’re writing a book, you kinda want the second chapter to come out before the third chapter. But if it really gets to be too much of a pain in the ass… then I’ll just have to leak the second record and put out the third record legally. That’s kinda all I’m dealing with. So what’s next, I guess, is just getting this damn record out and then doing everything I gotta do to promote it. I do have a good team behind me now that I just kinda put together in order to do all this. I got a new lawyer, a new manager, and they should hopefully prove worthy and get all this stuff done sooner rather than later. The record’s called On the Ave.
USDR: How is On the Ave going to be different than your first record? On your first album, you dealt with a lot of personal hardship via humorous lyrics. How is On the Ave going to change from that?
MA: Well, this one’s a lot more similar to the first one than the [forthcoming] third one. Same producer, similar sound, same cast of characters as the first one. I mean, I like to deal with things on the lowest common denominator basis so I think it’s pretty similar. It’s still personal but I’m not trying to go back to a time that’s not relevant anymore. I’m talking more about other people than myself but there are a few with me in the song. There’s one called “Mickey’s Girl” which is kinda like a New York tale and I’m in the middle of that and then there’s even some that were written at the same time as the first record and just didn’t make the first record. Not that they weren’t good enough, they just didn’t fit in that group of songs whereas this time around, they fit.
I think it’s very similar to the first record. It’s kind of a segue between the first and the third record so, again, in a perfect world, I’d like to put them out in order because I think that leads into the third record better than the third record coming after the first. That’d be a big jump with a big void in the middle.
I think there’s the same kind of humor. The difference is some of the songs are more… When I wrote my first record, I hadn’t performed live yet so now when I write a song, I kinda think about how it would be taken by the crowd and now, I’ve even had a chance to play the songs on the [third] record in my shows so I get to see which songs people like and how they react to them. So I’ve already tested a lot of the songs and they’ve worked. People always say, “it’s just like the first album, but bigger and better” but I really think it is like that which is a little more… you know some of the songs could really rock an arena just as well as a little club. I’m proud of it and I’ve been listening to it for almost a year now and I think it was ahead of its time before so now it’s just getting ready to be relevant now.
USDR: You had a hand in Ke$ha’s early exposure. Does seeing her current fame and success give you more of the proud-father feeling or the that-should-be-me feeling?
MA: No, neither. Definitely not the latter and as far as the former, I didn’t really do anything for her. I knew that that was about to happen because of the people that were involved in putting her out. There is a so-called “button” that can be pushed by the right people if those people are behind you and I knew that that was about to happen. She just needed to get her feet wet and get some practice. I was working with those people and kind of had a falling out so if I was involved with those people, I would be there. I was willing to jump through the hoops, it just didn’t really work out and if something doesn’t fit, then you can’t do it and to me it just didn’t fit. I tried to write certain songs in a kind of way and they just didn’t sound good and I didn’t like them. It wasn’t like a surprise that when the tour was over that she got huge. They were already doing all this stuff behind the scenes so when she came on tour, her song was already out but no one could really put a face with the name. No one really knew her at the shows even though a handful of people knew the song but then once the tour was over and they were really ready to push the button, then they did that and she got huge.I could lie and say that I had a hand in it, but I didn’t so that why there’s not really a proud-father thing and then as far as the jealousy thing, that’s not there because we just have different lives.
I’d be okay with having that kind of success but I can’t know what’s gonna happen until I get this record out so without a record, I can’t really have anything. I tried to get with the big producer and all that stuff and it just wasn’t really a good fit. Not only did I not like it, no one really liked it. It wasn’t like “Oh, I’m not gonna sell out” or “I’m not gonna do this”. I tried. It just, honestly, was garbage. That group of songs? I have no problem leaving them at Interscope. Those aren’t the masters I’m trying to get. It’s all the other stuff that I was recording at the same time and before and after. Not only do I like those songs more, all my friends and fans like those songs more too. I just think it would’ve been a bad move to put that other stuff out when it sucked. It wasn’t even a case of losing my original fans. It would be losing everyone (laughs). My original fans and my new, potential fans. I would’ve just lost everybody. Now I’ve got labels interested in putting this record out, it’s just that we can’t do nothing until I get the masters. I would put out a record illegally and leak it or whatever but no one wants to put a few hundred thousand dollars behind something that isn’t legal so you know, we have to go about it the right way and deal with the legal aspects of it.
I’m proud of her… for her. You know, to go back the the Ke$ha thing. No matter what anyone wants to say about anybody, you know, music or models… people say “Oh, that’s so easy”. Nothing on that big a scale is easy. There’s work that goes along. The travel and all that stuff. The so-called haters find it so easy to talk shit about people but if it’s like, “If it’s so easy, why aren’t you doing it?” I know that these people that say these things who are probably telemarketers or something would trade their right arm to be in that situation so if it’s so easy, why don’t they get up and do it?
There is a fun part. Yes, it is a better job than most jobs. You won’t hear me complaining about my job but it’s definitely a job. The recording part is fun and the performing part is fun but there’s all the in-betweens. Luckily for me, most of my fans are really cool and I don’t have to have a fake image or do any of that stuff so it’s easier. Even like people that interview me, like you, those people are pretty cool. I don’t have people trying to cut me down or something so I get a better version of it but it is a lot of work.
With Ke$ha, it didn’t happen overnight. She did do a few years worth of work and she was writing for other people. I’m proud of her and I’m thankful to her because I think she just said something good about me in People magazine or something big like that and she was willing to take me out on tour but the money wouldn’t have really made sense for me. It wasn’t like “Oh, I’m not gonna go. She just opened for me, I’m not gonna [open for her]”. It wasn’t an ego thing. It would’ve been cool to get some new fans and stuff but when I go out myself I make a lot more money. It probably would’ve ended up costing me to go so it wouldn’t have really made sense.
USDR:You’re right about the full-time job bit. I’m glad that we can include that because it’s something that people don’t realize. The amount of appointments, travel, meetings, and that’s just on top of the recording and performing.
MA: Yeah, and maybe some people like doing that stuff. Even the corniest of corny reality shows… think of someone like Kim Karadashian. She probably goes to, like, a hundred fucking meetings a fucking day and she might like it, but as far as the hours of work, its tons.
USDR: And then where’s your personal time?
MA: They joke that the painter’s house is never painted. Since my job is in clubs, it becomes not so fun to go do that stuff. So whereas when someone’s not working, that would be something they would go and do, I don’t really wanna do that because that’s how I spend my working hours. So I like just kind of staying at home and chilling but we do go to some local bars and stuff like that. Not so much like Hollywood nightclub stuff but just like go to a bar that’s walking distance.
USDR: Or the strip club in Portland.
MA: (Laughs) Portland has the most strip clubs per capita. They’re nude with drinking. We (California) have the worst strip clubs. They’re not even nude. They wear, like, fucking bikinis or something. You can’t drink if it’s nude. That’s even creepier. Just a bunch of fucking horny dudes sitting around looking at fuckin’ pussy without drinking. Being at a bar without drinking is just creepy by itself. So yeah, if we had a strip club like that here I’d probably go every once in a while. There, it’s really nice. The thing that’s awesome about that place is from the looks of the neighborhood and the building and everything, you would think it was some crack-head dancers who are dancing to pay for their crack habits but you go in there, and it’s, like, the hottest chicks and they’re literally putting themselves through college. It’s like the fantasy thing you see in movies that you don’t think really exists. These are healthy girls that don’t do drugs and are just open-minded and… hot. And that’s their job. It’s just this crazy thing what you think is gonna be in there and what’s really in there. It’s kinda cool.
USDR: Last question: Harvard University asks you to speak at commencement. What do you tell the world’s future business and political leaders?
MA: They’ve already gotten through the hard part which is getting through college… especially a college like that. I guess, take the world by the balls and do it your way. Make a change. It can’t get any worse.
Click here to see the all of Mickey’s upcoming shows