Written By: David Carr Photos: Used By Permission/Smith Prasirtpun
Mickey Avalon may be one of the most colorful, enigmatic performers in any genre of music. The glam/hip-hop artist has referred to himself as the Ron Jeremy of Rap, and at first glance, I even dubbed him the Billy Squier of hip-hop. Avalon could be both of these things and neither of them. What he truly is however, is a survivor. Avalon has a checkered past to put it mildly and the fact that he has come this far and is preparing to release a new disc is nothing short of a miracle.
What follows is a conversation Avalon and I had over the course of two days. This conversation is neither a celebration of Avalon's past nor a judgment on it. What it is, is a reflection of one individual's journey in the hope of being seen as -- normal. That's right, Avalon may want hit records and big tours but he also wants to be seen as normal and that may be the toughest part of his career at this juncture.
DC: Mickey you recently wrapped up a tour this summer. How did the Blazed and Confused Tour (Snoop Dogg, Slightly Stoopid, Stephen Marley and Mickey Avalon) treat you?
Mickey Avalon: It was great! I had a great time! I met a lot of people; I got to play on some big stages! I even got to do some new material from my new disc. I also had a chance to hang out with Snoop Dogg and Kurupt! What could be better?!!?
DC: Word on the street is Travis Barker is producing your upcoming disc. Is this true?
MA: Travis did one song on the disc. The producer I worked with was a guy by the name of Dr. Luke. He mainly works with pop-oriented females, so this was a bit of a stretch for both him and me.
DC: What makes this disc you are about to drop different than your debut? What's the main difference?
MA: The difference is I really had never toured before making the first record. I really had not done that many shows. More of that aesthetic, more of that live feel is a part of the new disc. I was constantly asking myself, what is this going to sound like live? How will this translate on stage? That aspect became part of the writing process. My life has also changed dramatically. I am not talking about the same things anymore. The first record was very autobiographical. It was about the stuff I don't do anymore -- stuff I'm not involved in anymore.
DC: Much has been made about your life that you have written about on your first disc. Let's separate fact from fiction to set the record straight. Where should we begin?
MA: Hmm -- OK well, I got into a tagging/graffiti crew in LA when I first lived here. I am still a part of the crew, I just don't go to the meetings anymore (laughs). I got married at an early age and my wife and I moved to Portland. Before I moved there, I was living with my mom and we were struggling to make ends meet -- things were bad for us in LA. My mom taught me how to sell weed to make money when I was young -- it was a means to an end. She didn't mean to get me involved in a certain lifestyle -- my dad was not with us and this was what we had to do to survive. I moved to Portland with my wife and quickly felt like a bit of an outsider.
DC: Was it this feeling of being an outsider that got you into selling drugs in Portland?
MA: I sold drugs in Portland to make money for my family! I had a daughter and things were not happening -- things were not going well. I needed to make money -- I started doing drugs and selling dope, mostly weed. I sold weed and then I started robbing people -- nothing crazy but yeah, I just needed to support my family -- I was unable to hold down a job because of the drugs and after a while my wife was done with me. She left me and she took our daughter with her.
DC: What did you end up doing as a result of your wife leaving you?
MA: I had a nice house in the hood, in Portland. I had some money but not a lot. I kept selling dope and robbing people -- my sister taught me how to rob people -- it was petty stuff -- I would take the tip jar from a Starbucks -- I used a knife and I was fast but I was never violent with anyone. I got thrown in jail and met a young kid there. He was all into the rave scene in Portland. He needed a place to live and he said he would be willing to pay me to live in my place. He said he would pay me in dope.
DC: Is he the one that go you into the lifestyle of hustling?
MA: Yeah, I wanted to know how he was going to get money to buy drugs -- he told me he turned tricks for men. I was intrigued by it all! He said he wasn't gay or bi-sexual. I was fascinated and I wanted to know how he did it -- I didn't want to see the act but I did want to see how he found the people who were down for that -- I wanted to know where he went, what he looked for and how he would make the connection.
I went out with him one night. I watched him, watched what he did -- he got into a car and 45 minutes later he came back with some dope. I let him live with me. He scored me dope for a while and it was cool until he fell in love with me! When that happened he had to go -- I mean I told him I was not into him -- I like women! (Laughs) I think I even told him, I can let you stay here but could you please not be in love with me? (Laughs)
DC: Once he left what did you do?
MA: He moved out and I had no money. I wanted/needed money and dope. I was an addict and I just figured I could do what he did -- I could hustle guys to get dope and money so that's what I did. I never had sex with anyone and no one abused me, but I definitely put myself in situations that most people would never want to be in -- I got the money and ran -- some things happened and went down but it was all about scoring the money and dope.
DC: How did you get yourself out of this precarious lifestyle?
MA: I really was trying to get my shit together...probably not as hard as I should have. I was living with two drug dealers at my place and out of the blue my mom called me -- she had found me. She told me that if I were to come home and help her restore a house she had bought I could live there rent-free. It would be mine. I literally showed up the next day! I was back in L.A. and the house I had to restore was next to hers. I was back with my mom and I quickly got into AA. During that period my mom also found my sister. She had been living on the streets -- we were both finally back home.
DC: How long did you stay in AA? Did you get a serious counselor to help you deal with the issues you had gotten into thanks to your addiction to drugs and alcohol?
MA: I have done six months of AA meetings. I have done AA off and on -- I am not in it now but I have made some friends and met some good people who have helped me and who continue to help me.
DC: I'm curious about the tie in between your past and your music. I love the genre of hip-hop but it can be very misogynistic and homophobic. How are you able to cope with that and still able to wax poetic about this facet of your life?
MA: Well the other part about rap is, it's about bragging -- it's about I'm better than you or I'm tougher than you. When I decided to make my first album about my life I figured I could do it with the same type of braggadocio that other rappers have. I mean hell, I've been to jail, and I've seen the underbelly -- I just figured my story would be way over the top!!
I mean yeah, I get the question -- on paper the deck was stacked against me, with me being a white, Jewish rapper and wanting to talk about this stuff in my music, but so far, it's been working. Besides, now I'm not talking about that stuff. I have moved on -- to be honest everything that I have been through nowadays feels like a dream to me -- feels like it wasn't real.
DC: How is your relationship with your mother? Have you reconciled with her? Do you feel she was partly responsible for you slipping into your dangerous lifestyle?
MA: It's better -- things are better between us -- yeah I get it. On the one hand she is the one who taught me how to roll and sell weed but again she had no idea what that was going to do to me -- we were desperate...at the time we thought that was the only choice we had. She was also the one who saved me. She got me to come home. She made me take computer classes. She put a roof over my head and she is the one that gave me the coping mechanisms to deal with what I was going through.
DC: As you prepare to drop your new disc will you be doing some shows to promote the forthcoming release?
MA: Yeah, I will be playing at the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana in September. I will also be playing some shows in Vegas -- I have a three-week tour booked.
DC: Mickey, a lot has been written about your life, some true, some false. What is one thing you would like people to know about you? What's one thing you want folks to understand?
MA: Hmm -- I guess I kinda want people to not be so stupid when it comes to talking about me -- I don't know -- I mean people make up a lot of stuff based on what I have been through. I guess I want people to know that even though I'm in the entertainment business/music business and I live in Hollywood, I'm really trying to be normal -- I am striving to live a normal life. If I try and go way over the top, above what I have already done, I would land myself in prison and I do not want to go there!!! I have already done the alternative thing so yeah -- I just want people to know I am trying to be normal.
DC: Mickey, thanks for taking time out to chat with me and thank you for your honesty.
MA: Thank you, this was really cool!
I am thankful that Mickey Avalon was willing to be so candid with me. I also hope Avalon will truly get the counseling he needs to deal with the aftermath and scars that can be left after dealing with the effects of drugs, alcohol and different forms of abuse. If you or someone close to
you has been the victim of abuse or is/are abusing drugs and alcohol please talk to a counselor, teacher, loved one or friend to get the help you or your friend might need. Mickey Avalon states now he is on a quest to be seen as normal. I do hope his dream for normalcy comes true. With the right help, normalcy can indeed be Mickey Avalon's reality - D.C.
Meet Mickey Avalon: A Soul Survivor
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