We’ve heard a similar story like this one before. It was portrayed on the big screen in 2002 with Marshall Mathers better known as Eminem. The movie was titled 8 Mile. Only this time the story and person in question is a different kind of rapper with a voice that has more rock appeal like Kid Rock.
His name is Mickey Avalon and he is the Jewish rapper hailing from Hollywood, California. Avalon’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors from World War 2 that experienced life lasting injuries. Imagine growing up in a household with a now deceased drug-addicted father and a mother who was a pot dealer. Also imagine what it would be like to lose your sister who you were trying to get your life back on track with. These are all things and more that Avalon has gone through.
Avalon is also the father of a daughter like Eminem. He says the closest turning point he can pin point for him was after the deaths of his father and sister helped him move to the path of his current success. Avalon in the coming years would be rewarded for his efforts after playing many free shows and doing everything he could to get the word out about his unique rap/rock sound. In 2005, he signed the first ever Interscope/MySpace record deal. So far he’s opened for artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Travis Baker.
His songs referencing Jane Fonda [He says the veteran actress liked it.] and Lindsay Lohan have brought him forward into the pop culture universe. One can wonder how someone in such circumstances with two family deaths and battling his own demons along the way would be able to find the strength to keep moving on in that kind of environment growing up. Avalon represents the triumph over tragedy story or as he says, maybe he’s one of the most unlucky people in the world.
Listen to the Mickey Avalon interview:
Chris Yandek: I look at your life, and I see it as one of those stories that’s truly full of tragedy that ended with success for yourself. Did you ever think you’d get to be a popular music artist and have a record contract?
Mickey Avalon: “No. I never really thought about that. I didn’t. I’m kind of, I guess the dichotomy of my life is that on one hand, I guess you could say I’m one of the unluckiest people, but then on the other half, I’m like the luckiest. It kind of balances itself out.”
CY: Is the success therapeutic? Is it something that has made your life a little bit more positive being in front of fans every night?
MA: “I think the poetic answer is to say that if you could do anything again, you wouldn’t change anything, but I don’t think that’s very true. I don’t know. I’d like probably to have – I have a daughter. I’d like to spend more time with her and probably be a better dad. I’d like to be healthier. I don’t know. There’s decisions that I’ve made that I’ve risen from, but I still probably would’ve rather not made the decisions to begin with.”
CY: I’ve listened to many of your tracks and it’s unlike anything I’ve heard recently. It feels like a combination of rock and rap. Your latest track Stroke Me is a great example. It begs the question for the general public, who are you and where do you get your inspiration from?
MA: “Well, musically my father collected records when I was a kid like blues, rock, Cajun music, just a bunch of 50s and 60s rock and roll. So I grew up on that. That was the kind of music I liked. I wasn’t really, the music of the time I wasn’t really so inspired by and then rap music. Like I was a little too young for punk rock music. The remnants of that had kind of rubbed off. Like I said, it wasn’t my age group.
It was more like our older brothers and sisters and stuff. So that really wasn’t my thing. Then rap music came out when I was 10, 11 whatever. So that’s when I got into that. Then I would always, like writing stories for school and stuff. I started writing raps like in my head, but never thinking that, I don’t know. I just didn’t really know how to get into that industry or anything. But it wasn’t that I thought I could or couldn’t do it.
I didn’t really know how you would approach something like that. So I kinda just did that in my head and then I got married, had a kid. That kind of took up most of my life. I really wasn’t thinking about what I was going to do for a career. I just sold weed when I was younger and then I worked in like a bagel store or pizza shops, stuff like that. And then I kinda came across people who had like recording studios in their house because in the last ten years or something with the invent of Pro Tools and stuff it’s easier to record stuff at home.
So I just recorded some stuff for fun. Then other friends were like handing it out and then it caught on and then I started playing shows. So once it started happening, it took on – like I went in a particular order and it seems like it makes a lot of sense in hindsight, but while it was happening, I didn’t really realize it was happening. It kinda just happened.”
CY: While you were in Portland Oregon, you had a family, you had a wife, you had two tragedies with your father and your sister passing away. Then you decided to move back to Los Angeles. Was that the turning point for you?
MA: “Pretty close. The thing is my father passed away before I moved to Portland and then I moved to Portland and I was separated from my wife and daughter, my ex-wife and that’s when things got as low as they could and my sister was still alive and she was – things got bad too. I moved back home then to try to get it together and then my sister moved in with me so we were getting our shit together, together and that’s when she passed away. I came home in order for it to really not go there and then it kinda went there. There was turning point before that, but then that kind of made things a little bit trickier. I can’t say that, that just made everything – you know you would think sometimes tragedies might make you really change your life and never do anything bad again, but unfortunately it doesn’t really happen that way. I can’t say that like I’ve never picked up ever since my sister passed away or anything you know.”
CY: When I think of your story, all I can think about, there are other examples, but all I can think about is 8 Mile, Eminem and that’s the first one that comes to mind. Can you see the relatability there? Your story could be a movie. It could be a book. It could be a television show, the things you’ve gone through.
MA: “Yeah. I mean, for me, I think, cause it’s always weird to kinda read your own story. I can back up and look at it from an outside perspective, but with me a lot of it before I was even born. I think it’s pretty interesting, just more my family and stuff like that. I guess definitely the chapters I’ve added are definitely interesting. I don’t think it’s anywhere near being finished.
Where with Eminem, it’s not like he’s finished either, but in that movie, he kinda had the triumph. He’s been on top of the world and all that. I’d say whereas my life is obviously better than it was and I’m able to pay my bills and stuff. I still think there is a lot of growth to do and I’m trying to get to as many people as I can and don’t think I’ve really reached that goal yet. So that’ll be the only thing I would kinda have against maybe trying to do a movie now or something like that.”
CY: Your dad went through some stuff [Mickey’s dad was a heroin addict]. Your mom went through some stuff [Mickey’s mom was a pot dealer]. A good amount of people growing up in those circumstances would’ve probably not believed in the life that you have right now. What do you think was the biggest thing that helped you?
MA: “I mean, I guess, it’s always sounds corny, but I mean I guess when you get to a certain- I mean really, having my daughter is what gave me the desire I guess not to quit. I think I could probably quit if it was just me and just get frustrated. I needed to take care of her and knew I couldn’t do it just working at Noah’s Bagels cause it’s just you don’t make enough money. Then if you go and start doing crimes to make money, that’s probably, you’re going to eventually end up in jail and then you can’t really help them from there. I think just kind of once I started quitting was never really an option. I really had nowhere to go but trying to do something different than I was doing.
I’ve seen in the time that I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen other people that I thought were just as talented if not more talented than me and could have gone further or anything and just kind of just quit and not give it everything they had. I’ve never canceled a show or no matter how sick I was. I just didn’t really think there was any option but giving it everything I had. Even when I was a kid and I went to school, I got in a bunch of trouble and stuff, but I didn’t know like you were allowed to play hookie.
All the other kids did, but I just didn’t think, I thought that was something like you had to go and you didn’t really have a choice. Like once you went there you could cause trouble, but you had to go. Then when I was older, I saw like I really didn’t have to. Like there’s nothing they can really do to you if you don’t go, but I just thought you had to. All of my first shows, you have to play for free and you do all this stuff. I know other people like, ‘I’m not gonna play for free.’ And now they’re done whereas I just didn’t think you had an option so I did all those things and then it started to pay off because then there was fans and was actually someone to play for.”
CY: How would you describe your lifestyle today? Are many of your demons earlier in your life behind you?
MA: “I try to keep them behind me. Those kinds of things are usually never too far. I’ve seen that when you start to think that they’re further than they are it gets a little bit more dangerous. You see the people that are in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, they talk about one day at a time, which means even if they have 10 years they’re still focused on that day because you see when people think oh I haven’t done this for ten years or five years and they think they may be immune to it and then it just sneaks up and bites them in the ass.
I don’t keep that stuff too far, but so it’s kind of like on one hand it could always resurface but then at the other hand, there is plenty of things that my lifestyle is completely different. I feel like certain things even if they were only a few years ago that it was almost like it was a different lifetime because I couldn’t imagine, like I couldn’t even really imagine like living somewhere strange right now.
Like I always have a place to stay and food to eat and stuff like that. It’s not like I have a big bank account or anything, but I don’t have to like beg a few dollars to try to get a pack of smokes or something like that. I could feed myself every day. My daughter, her mom doesn’t have to be on welfare or anything like that. So I’d say I’m pretty calm and my lifestyle is pretty calm. So that’s why those things seem foreign, but then I still – when I go and play that tends to be like a pretty big party atmosphere.
So it balances itself out because one is really over the top and like a lot of people and partying and stuff like that. So then to balance that out, I kinda just like to stay home, relax or go out to eat or just do basic stuff. I’m not like chasing the next party because that pretty much is what my living is.”
CY: One of your songs titled Jane Fonda refers to Jane Fonda, but not her specifically. With that being said, any response from her or her camp on the song or her? What do you think she’d think?
MA: “She actually did hear it and I guess she liked the song so that’s cool. It was a few years ago when it first came out. Her and Lindsay Lohan were like photographed at a club like dancing to the song and she heard about it. So I think she pretty much took it at face value for what it was. There really wasn’t too much to read into it and she didn’t. I’ve had people ask me from like the obvious, ‘Are those sexual positions?’ Which I say is closer to the truth but that’s still not the case to, ‘Are you talking about her political views on life?’ Not at all. That’s way deeper than we thought about that.
It was kind of funny. We wanted to write a dance song when I was a kid. All of our moms did the Jane Fonda workout and the building was kind of near where we lived. It just kind of was something funny. Now they’ll be girls that come to the show like dressed in like 80s aerobic gear. It’s kind of grown to be its own thing. There wasn’t like any deep – her views on Vietnam or anything.”
CY: Your latest track Stroke Me actually refers to Lindsay Lohan. Is there any story there or is it just a reference?
MA: “Again, just like, you know, those people become like archetypes kind of for a specific thing where.”
CY: Eminem uses them too for example.
MA: “Yeah. So I just say it’s – I mean that kind of – if you said, it’s like word players. If you told someone that name, they might come up with like 100 different thoughts where if I said Jenny Johnson or something, that wouldn’t mean anything to anybody.”
CY: Finally, as your celebrity continues to rise and let’s say in a year, two years the public finally catches on, the public that’s not part of the underground music world and they realize who you are and they realize your story, all the things you’ve been through and then there you are, you’re on the level of an Eminem. You’re on the level of a Jay Z. Would anything change? How would you perceive it and what would it feel like if you were getting to that point? How would it feel if you got to that level? You have this unbelievable story of triumph over tragedy and here you are.
MA: “I mean there always I guess it be a survivor’s guilt or something. You try to get like as far as you can, but then you could feel like you get there and there’s always like the things that people lash out at you like oh, you’re a sellout or you’re this or you’re that. I try to stay as true as I can to myself and I try not to like get caught up on that because there is kind of like not a fear of success, but almost like feeling guilty that you made it and maybe like all the people, they’re not around anymore.
I have probably less friends now than I’ve ever had because weird things happen. You try to kind of like involve everybody and then it kind of backfires. It’s like trying to hire your friends and then they don’t do a good job or something and then you have to fire them and you’re like I wish I didn’t try to do that to begin with. I try not to like feel bad about doing good and just know the better I do, the more I can help out people anyhow.
Again, like putting my daughter first so it’s about me feeling guilty that some of my friends dropped off, but I’m still able to feed my kid. I’m gonna have to choose that before like trying to make my friends happy because sometimes people really do want you to fail and that kinda sucks. When you see that you like get pretty bummed that the people that you thought were your friends with all you failed or succeed you know?”
Mickey Avalon’s official website is at http://www.mickeyavalon.com where you can find everything about him.