Dr. Hugh Everett III, Ph.D., was what Scientific American magazine calls "one
of the most important scientists of the 20th century." A quantum physicist
who authored The Many Worlds Theory, Everett inspired countless science fiction
books, movies and Star Trek episodes with the concept of parallel universes.
As a young teenager he exchanged letters with Albert Einstein, debating whether
it was something random or unifying that held the universe together.
Until the age of eight, Hugh Everett lived in Washington, DC with his mother,
Katharine Kennedy, a troubled poet and author, and his father, Col. Hugh
Everett, Jr., US Army. As an adult, Dr. Everett settled in nearby Virginia, with
his wife Nancy. They had a daughter, Elizabeth Ann, and a son, Mark Oliver.
Mark Oliver Everett showed no talent for physics, or even mathematics. He was
much more interested in the records his sister was playing in the house.
Everyday after school one year, Elizabeth played Neil Young's AFTER THE GOLD
RUSH album over and over. Mark listened. He never would have dreamt that one
day he would record an album (DAISIES OF THE GALAXY) playing the same upright
piano that Neil Young played on AFTER THE GOLD RUSH.
At the age of six, Mark found himself at the next door neighbor's garage sale
where he saw the toy drum set that would change his life. He begged his
parents for the $15 it cost to buy the set, and they relented. Most children
that get a drum set play it for a week and then leave it in the closet until their parents have a garage sale. Unfortunately for the Everett family, Mark played those drums everyday for the next 10 years.
As a young teenager, after a period of trouble with the law, being arrested
and thrown out of school, Mark started to pay attention to the acoustic guitar
gathering dust in his sister's closet. He had already been making up little
songs on the family's upright piano for years.
Mark had several friends that were coincidentally named Mark. To avoid
confusion, they would refer to each other by their initials. Throughout his
teens Mark Everett was "M.E." Gradually it was shortened to the even easier "E".
By the time he was 20, E was obsessed with writing songs and recording them
on his secondhand 4 track cassette recorder. He wrote and recorded virtually
every day of the next seven years.
At the age of 24, feeling stifled by the lack of inspiration and creative
community in his Virginia neighborhood, E packed up everything he owned into a
car and drove 3,000 miles across the country to Los Angeles, where he knew not
He eventually moved into a tiny apartment above a garage in Atwater Village,
on the East side of Los Angeles, and resumed his antisocial routine of waking
up, writing and recording 4 track cassettes, going to one of many shitty jobs
that he hated, coming home, writing and recording more, and going to sleep.
As time went on, from the time he started his obsessive song writing, the
quality of the songs and production of his tapes slowly improved. Eventually
someone heard some of his songs and asked him to record for a record label.
In 1991 E signed a contract to record two albums for Polydor Records. This
was a great relief for him, as it meant he could now devote all his obsessive
energy to writing and recording. The first record, A MAN CALLED E, came out in
1992, and yielded the top ten alternative rock hit "Hello Cruel World." Having
never performed live as the front man of a band, E went out to open for Tori
Amos on her first American tour, to much acclaim. In 1993, Polydor followed up
A MAN CALLED E by releasing E's second album, BROKEN TOY SHOP.
From 1993 to 1995 E recorded most of what became the BEAUTIFUL FREAK album.
The single "Novocaine for the Soul," having been recorded and mixed in 1993,
was eventually a number one alternative rock hit in 1996.
In 1995 E decided to work under a different name. Having grown more
adventurous musically and lyrically, and tired of the logistical nightmares of
going by one letter, he added a few letters and formed EELS, an ever-changing project for his songs, with a live band to present them in concert. With E playing electric guitar and a Wurlitzer electric piano through a guitar amp, drummer Butch (aka Jonathan Norton) and bassist Tommy Walters joined to help play E's BEAUTIFUL FREAK songs live.
With the release of BEAUTIFUL FREAK (DreamWorks Records) in 1996, the EELS
live band toured throughout America and Europe. The striking "Novocaine for the
Soul" video clip of the band seemingly flying through their day was nominated
for several MTV awards. They had a second top ten international hit with the
song "Susan's House."
They continued to tour, concluding with a stint on the 1997 Lollapalooza
tour. After collecting a Brit Award, presented to EELS by Spinal Tap, (the award
was soon turned into a cymbal stand to illustrate that it was actually worth
something), and giving director Wim Wenders the song "Bad News" for the
soundtrack to his film "The End of Violence," E experienced a period of great
At 19, E found his father dead. His troubled sister, Elizabeth, committed
suicide in 1996. And now his mother was terminally ill with lung cancer. That
was his entire family. He ultimately decided he could not ignore these things
artistically, feeling that anything else would be an act. So he set about the
writing and recording of an album that was inspired by, and that would deal with
the tragedies in his life, but only if it could offer a new point of view, and
a positive resolution.
It was a challenge that E rose to on the critically acclaimed ELECTRO-SHOCK
BLUES album, recorded 1997-1998 and released in 1998. Although a glance at the
track list on the back of the CD jewel box can often make people assume the
album is "depressing," E called it "probably the most positive record I will
ever make." The album, now considered a late 90s rock classic, can at first
prove to be a difficult listen, but soon reveals a life-affirming heart. Guests on the album included E's neighbors and friends, Mike Simpson of the Dust Brothers, Mickey Petralia, Grant Lee Phillips of Grant Lee Buffalo, Lisa Germano, Jon Brion, and T-Bone Burnett.
After making more MTV-nominated videos for "Last Stop: This Town" and "Cancer
for the Cure," the new 3 piece EELS live band found E trading in his
Wurlitzer electric piano for a Hammond organ and bassist/guitarist Adam Siegal
joining the line up to hit the road for a 4 month theater tour of Europe and America.
Soon after returning home and contributing "Cancer For The Cure" to the film
"American Beauty," E went down to his basement to write and record the next
album. Less than 6 months after the release of ELECTRO-SHOCK BLUES, DAISIES OF
THE GALAXY was finished.
Not released until February 2000, DAISIES OF THE GALAXY picked up where
ELECTRO-SHOCK BLUES left off. "The challenge was to figure out where one can go
from ELECTRO-SHOCK BLUES, and I wanted to go up," says E. Legendary producer
Lenny Waronker likened the album to "A nice walk in the park, where you're
occasionally bitten by a snake." NME Called the album "A masterpiece in almost
R.E.M.'s Peter Buck guests on the album, and co-wrote the track, "Estate
Sale." The first single, "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" was a hidden track on the
album, yet a substantial international hit. The video for the second single
"Flyswatter" featured drummer Butch as a clown on a police stakeout in front of
Shortly before the release of DAISIES OF THE GALAXY, the robust Butch ate a
large pizza before he went to bed. That night he dreamt of a concert where he
was playing timpani with "The EELS Orchestra." There were strings and horns and
they even played an overture of EELS songs. The next morning Butch called E
and told him about his dream. They agreed that they had to make this dream a
Starting in January, The EELS Orchestra 2000 toured throughout Europe,
America and Australia. The six piece band featured saxophone, trombone, trumpet,
banjo, guitar, violin, upright bass, piano, melodica, clarinet, flute, and, yes,
timpani. Each band member, including multi-instrumentalist/recording artist Lisa Germano, who previously opened many of the 1998 EELS concerts with her own
set of songs, had to play an average of 3-4 instruments each night. And they
played the EELS Overture, just like in Butch's dream, (an idea that the
legendary Brian Wilson emulated, much to Butch's chagrin, for his late summer
2000 Pet Sounds tour). It was a vast change from the 3 piece rock band they were a few years ago. In the spring, E also toured solo with Fiona Apple in the US,
winding up the tour with an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Upon returning home, EELS contributed the song "Christmas Is Going To The
Dogs" to the film "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." In December, 2000 EELS
released the limited edition OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING live CD, culled from
the EELS Orchestra and E solo 2000 tours.
Recorded in bits and pieces, some dating back to 1998, the bulk of the
SOULJACKER album was recorded in the early part of 2001 and co-written and
co-produced by E and John Parish, whom E met while EELS were appearing on the
same 1998 taping of the British TV show, "Top Of The Pops," that PJ Harvey, the band Parish is often a member of, was also appearing on. E & Parish hit it off
immediately, bonding over a mutual love of croquet and rock music.
The album's inspiration came when E was taking a break from the recording of
ELECTRO-SHOCK BLUES at a meditation retreat, deep in the woods of central
California. While thinking about a story he had recently heard about a
California serial killer called the Soul Jacker, who claimed to take not only the lives of his victims, but the souls as well, E broke the retreat's rules of not reading, writing or speaking by writing the song "Souljacker Part II" on a roll of toilet paper.
The SOULJACKER album was released internationally in September of 2001. In an
unfortunate case of timing, E's new short hair and long beard made a lot of
people at the airports EELS were frequenting at the time of the September 11
tragedy nervous. The US release of the album was delayed until March, 2002.
Legendary German director Wim Wenders shot the video for "Souljacker Part I" in
an abandoned East Berlin prison. TIME magazine crowned SOULJACKER one of the
best records of the year, while NME called it "downright brilliant" and
London's SUNDAY TIMES deemed it Album Of The Year, saying that "The conventional
wisdom that Electro-shock Blues was E's masterpiece will have to be reassessed:
it was clearly just one of his masterpieces."
After contributing the song "My Beloved Monster" to the film "Shrek," EELS
were ready for the road once again, with new live band members John Parish on
guitar and Koool G Murder on bass and synthesizer, joining E and drummer Butch
for an extensive world tour, dubbed the Bus Driving, Band Rocking Tour, that
took them to Europe, Australia and their first trip to Japan. Guitarist Joe Gore
filled in for the baby-making John Parish on the 2002 US leg of the tour.
In the summer of 2002 E contributed music to the film "Levity," and the
second limited edition live EELS CD, ELECTRO-SHOCK BLUES SHOW, recorded during a
1998 concert supporting Pulp, was released. While continuing to develop songs
that would eventually become the BLINKING LIGHTS AND OTHER REVELATIONS album, E
took a break from the arduous process to make what would become the next EELS
album to be released, SHOOTENANNY!, essentially the document of the 4 piece
band from the spring, 2002 US tour playing live in the studio during a ten day
stretch in November.
The spring of 2003 was a busy time in EELS history, with many EELS-related
releases coming out in the period of 2 months. I AM THE MESSIAH, a record made
in the summer of 2000 by the EELS' favorite Silver Lake DJ, MC HONKY was
finally released (after being released in Australia in 2002). E, Koool G Murder,
Joey Waronker and others helped out on the disc. The "Levity" film score album,
released in April, featured 2 tracks billed to EELS as well as score billed to
Mark Oliver Everett, and two more songs, "Eyes Down" and "Mighty Fine Blues"
were contributed to the film "Holes."
On top of all that, June 3rd saw the release of the EELS 5th studio album,
SHOOTENANNY!. The 80 city EELS Tour Of Duty, which found E flanked by a band
outfitted in red polyester suits once worn by Elvis Presley's backing band on
his 1968 comeback TV special, began in June and ended in November, circling the
globe at least twice with Koool G Murder on bass, Golden Boy on guitar and
Puddin' on drums. Guitar legend Chet replaced the baby-making Golden Boy on the
2nd US leg of the tour. ROLLING STONE gave the album 4 stars, praising its "Zen-like self-realization," while judges Tom Waits and Cameron Crowe nominated
SHOOTENANNY! for the 2003 Short List Music Prize.
The bulk of the recording of an epic EELS album that began some years earlier
is done in 2004, as the EELS lay low for the year, toiling away on the
record, only surfacing from the basement studio to contribute the song "I Need
Some Sleep" to the film "Shrek 2" and a new studio version of longtime EELS concert favorite "Living Life," by Daniel Johnston for the DISCOVERED COVERED: THE LATE GREAT DANIEL JOHNSTON tribute album. DreamWorks Records is sold to
Universal, which already distributed the EELS records, and EELS move to the
Universal-owned Vagrant label.
April 26 sees the worldwide release of the 33 track double album, BLINKING LIGHTS AND OTHER REVELATIONS. Guests include E's hound dog, Bobby, Jr., new friends Tom Waits and The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian, as well as returning friend Peter Buck from R.E.M. The album is heralded by the press as perhaps E's finest work to date. E directs the video for Hey Man (Now You're Really Living) himself, while Jesse Dylan mans the camera for the Trouble With Dreams video.
In May "EELS with strings" is formed and goes on the road. The line up of E backed by a string quartet and two multi-instrumentalists, The Chet (formerly Chet) and Big Al, play critically acclaimed concerts throughout Europe, the U.S., Australia, and concludes October 23rd in Auckland, New Zealand. Along the way they film and record a show at New York City's legendary Town Hall, perform on Late Night with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Last Call with Carson Daly, The Late Late Show with Craig Furgeson, Later With Jools Holland, and in London alone they play at Royal Albert Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall (as part of Patti Smith's Meltdown Festival) and Royal Festival Hall.
Also in May, the SIXTEEN TONS (TEN SONGS) CD culled from the EELS 2003 KCRW live session is released for sale exclusively at the EELS with strings shows and the EELS website, and EELS contribute a cover of "Jelly Dancers" to DIMENSION MIX, a tribute to electronic music pioneer Bruce Haack.
After appearing at the Joni Mitchell tribute concert at Carnegie Hall and releasing the EELS with Strings LIVE AT TOWN HALL live album CD and concert film DVD in February, EELS announced that they would be touring again. "BLINKING LIGHTS is a double album so it deserves at least two tours in its honor," E said when announcing the tour that started May 25th in Los Angeles, circled the globe, and ended back in Los Angles August 26th. In contrast to the EELS WITH STRINGS tour of 2005, the EELS -- LIVE AND IN PERSON -- NO STRINGS ATTACHED tour saw E, The Chet, Knuckles and Krazy Al in a barely recognizable form from the previous year, rocking with a fervor and abandon beyond any EELS tour to date. Stops included Lollapalooza, The Montreux Jazz Festival, The O2 festival in Leeds and London's Hyde Park, and a free outdoor show in New York City as a thank you to the New York City fans who helped make the Town Hall show of 2005 such a memorable evening.
Having virtually disappeared in 2007, surfacing only to contribute the new track "Royal Pain" to the Shrek The Third film in May, EELS leader E was actually hard at work finishing his book THINGS THE GRANDCHILDREN SHOULD KNOW, preparing EELS best of and rarities collections and filming a documentary about his father, Hugh Everett III for the BBC, titled PARALLEL WORLDS, PARALLEL LIVES which premiered November 26th on BBC and October 21st, 2008 on PBS' acclaimed NOVA series in the U.S. The film goes on to win multiple BAFTA, Royal Television Society, Grierson, and Athena Awards.
January 15th, 2008 sees the US release of the EELS CD+DVD best of collection MEET THE EELS: ESSENTIAL EELS VOL. 1, and CD+DVD rarities collection EELS USELESS TRINKETS. E's book comes out via Little, Brown January 17th in the UK. That night E performs solo at St. James Church in London. Pete Townshend joins him to read from E's book. The US edition comes out via St. Martin's Press October 14, 2008. On February 18th the 2008 EELS tour, An Evening with EELS, featuring a band composed solely of E and The Chet, begins in Paris, rolling through Europe, the UK, America, and concludes 50 shows later in Sydney, Australia, April 27th. December 9th sees the release of the Yes Man soundtrack featuring a new EELS track, "Man Up," along with several EELS classics.
June 2nd: Release of HOMBRE LOBO, the seventh EELS studio album and first new EELS album in four years. The album is the highest-charting album in EELS history and is accompanied by a thirty minute documentary, "TREMENDOUS DYNAMITE: MAKING HOMBRE LOBO." HOMBRE LOBO becomes a New York Times Critic's Choice that Uncut Magazine calls "excellent" and Mojo Magazine calls "lean and timeless" in their four star reviews. Several videos are made for songs from the album as well as live television appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live. In August EELS release the vinyl only "Transmissions" LP of the EELS MySpace Transmissions live performance.
2010 turns out to be perhaps EELS' busiest year to date, starting with the January 19th release of END TIMES, the eighth EELS studio album, released barely half a year after HOMBRE LOBO. The New York TImes Critic's Choice album is heralded as "EELS' best record yet" by Uncut Magazine, "Easily one of EELS' finest achievements" by Alternative Press, "Brilliant" by Q Magazine and garners many four and five star reviews from the press. In May EELS announce the release of their ninth studio album, TOMORROW MORNING, the completion of a trilogy started with HOMBRE LOBO, to be released August 24th, as well as a world tour commencing August 3rd, featuring a 3 guitar lineup (E, The Chet and newcomer P-Boo) joined by EELS veterans Koool G Murder on bass and Knuckles on drums.
TOMORROW MORNING is praised by the press as "Uncharacteristically hopeful, and euphorically in love (New York Times) and "Unfailingly fascinating... So exciting and vibrant, one can only marvel at the cleverness of its creator" (Washington Post). The 50 date world tour is heralded for its surprising sense of celebration, finding EELS thrilling audiences in Japan, Australia, Europe, Canada and the United States for the first time since the release of HOMBRE LOBO, END TIMES and TOMORROW MORNING.
Following the first tour since the release of the album trilogy (HOMBRE LOBO, END TIMES, TOMORROW MORNING) in 2010, EELS surprise fans by launching a 2011 world tour. After a warm-up show in Santa Ana, CA June 1, the TREMENDOUS DYNAMITE IN 2011 tour officially starts with the first ever EELS performances in Beijing and Shanghai, China, June 5 & 6, then rolls through Europe, including their first appearance at the Glastonbury Festival, June 26 and onto North America, starting in Austin, TX, July 20 and ending in Los Angeles, CA, August 12. To celebrate the announcement of the tour EELS offer a free download of three tracks -- one from each of the EELS album trilogy: HOMBRE LOBO, END TIMES and TOMORROW MORNING.
After virtually disappearing for all of 2012, EELS release their tenth studio album, WONDERFUL, GLORIOUS February 5th, 2013 and embark on a world tour February 14th.
There may be many things to come from Mark Oliver Everett and company in the future. Some of it may surprise you. Some of it may delight you. Some of it may sicken you. But know that they are having a wonderful time making things up in the attic.
Learn more in EELS leader Mark Oliver Everett's acclaimed book THINGS THE GRANDCHILDREN SHOULD KNOW HERE.