Real talk, I have been looking forward to this book for a long time. Drew Fortune is a friend of a friend, who’s writing I have been following since discovering his many hilarious and in-depth interviews with Mickey Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween. As a fair-weather musician and performer, this book appealed to me not just as a writer, but as someone thirsting for an unusual look behind that golden curtain of success and commitment to the craft. With 61 different artists, there’s a colorfully woven tapestry of tales. Some stories certainly involve enough drugs to down an elephant (though probably less than you’d think), but it might be the more innocuous ones that really brought a smile to my face. The Debbie Gibson chapter is a nice oasis between Zakk Wylde and James Williamson (The Stooges). There are also chapters that stand out, like Mark Mothersbaugh hanging out at Studio 54 with Andy Warhol and Michael Jackson– then accidentally smoking PCP. Jethro Tull was a big surprise to me, both as a featured chapter and the hilarious stories. There are touching moments too, as tragedy and loss seem tied to several perspectives. Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) shares both wild and happy memories, as well as poignant reflections on the loss of childhood friend and bandmate Chester Bennington. No Encore! Musicians Reveal Their Weirdest, Wildest, Most Embarrassing Gigs covers a lot of ground, and I have had a blast traversing the various topographies. I got to chat with Drew about the project, and I’m really grateful for his time.
BW- First of all, congratulations! I know this has been a long time coming and the culmination of a lot of your own personal hard work. How good does it feel to finally have these stories out there?
DF- That’s a great question. Everyone starts with, “When did you start?” Dude, honestly, it feels f—–g great. I all I ever wanted as a kid, or the only thing I was ever told I was talented at, was writing. And it sounds like a pipe dream, in college or certainly as a young adult. Sure you can do it, but it’s very tricky to make a living. I’m not saying I’m making a living doing it– or I’m not rich by any means, so having a book baby is everything to me. I’d don’t think I’m ever gonna have kids– I like kids– but, I’m not married. (Laughs) But it’s like my little contribution to the world that will be around forever, so it feels amazing.
One of the things that immediately struck me was just the diversity within the chapter list. You cover a ton of genres with this scope of interviews. Was that always part of your plan– to touch on as many different types and eras of music as possible?
Yeah, I sort of wanted it to be like a mixtape, almost? If you don’t like a song you can skip to another and, yeah, I definitely wanted to celebrate diversity. I could’ve done a book with just a bunch of white indie-rock dudes, you know? But no, I wanted to span genres, I wanted to span decades… There are things that I wish had worked out better. For some reason, it was just really hard to get hip-hop artists involved.
That was another question, it might be a long list, but was there anybody that you really wanted, that you really had your heart set-on, but it just didn’t work out?
I mean, I thought Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips would be a no-brainer, just ‘cause I’ve interviewed Wayne three times in my career. But for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen. I’m sure some people passed because they weren’t interested, sometimes it was tour cycles, sometimes they were just laying low and not doing press. A lot of it came down to getting people who were interested in the idea, were actively doing press, or I just caught at a good time.
For instance, Wayne Kramer from MC5. I hit him up and, in an hour, he got back to me and said, “Are you ready to go right now? Let’s do it.” Sometimes it came super easy, like him, sometimes it came really difficult, like Insane Clown Posse, who I really had my heart set on from the beginning. Not that I’m a real big fan, but I knew they would have crazy s–t.
(Laughs) For sure.
So about a year ago, I reached out to some dude at Psychopathic Records and it was just a flat out “no.” So that bummed me out, but right as I was about to submit the finished manuscript they suddenly became available… And they are the last chapter in the book. A lot of this book was either happy accidents or relationships that I have cultivated over the years. But I mean, of course, I wanted Lady Gaga, I would’ve loved Madonna or Bono! But you know… I certainly tried. Willie Nelson would have been really fun, but he was on a down press. So there were a lot of ones. Long story short, hopefully, a book two.
So, there is the possibility of a No Encore! 2?
Oh yeah, sure.
That’s awesome. It’s obvious early on in the book that there aren’t really any holds barred as far what the reader can expect. I mean, starting with Alice Cooper– who’s a shock rock legend– was there anything that didn’t or wasn’t able to make the cut? Anything too crazy for whatever reason?
Yes! Or were you able to include everything?
Like I said in the introduction, I wasn’t kidding, I love gnarly horror movies. The crazier the better, so no. I figured the GG Allen story– I mean the guy literally s–t on stage and threw it at people– would probably be as crazy as it could get. But the Dave Navarro, heroin-blood syringe story I didn’t know existed until he told me. But no, nothing was too gnarly. There were a few stories that just didn’t work out because they weren’t gnarly enough. I really don’t want to say who, because I know it’s a bummer they didn’t get included…
There were some that were a little too tepid– they weren’t uninteresting, they just didn’t end up working with the flow of the book.
The axe fell on the other end of the spectrum, not on the wild and crazy side?
Well, you mentioned you knew what you were getting into a little bit, but were you ever surprised by how personal and open some of the artists were? If I’m not mistaken, the Al Jourgensen chapter really kind of surprised a lot of people.
He’s never told that Lollapalooza story ever, the one about him OD-ing. He had never told that publicly, so I was amazed. His publicist was amazed because I immediately went to her and said, “Is this true?” I Googled it, and nothing comes up. If you Google Lollapalooza, heroin overdose, and Al Jourgensen, there’s nothing. So that was cool and surprising, and I’m glad that for whatever reason, he hadn’t told that story because it’s an exclusive to us.
One that struck me was Robin Wilson, from Gin Blossoms. He’s the lead singer, but one of the guys behind their album New Miserable Experience, “Hey Jealousy”, and those big songs, he died of alcoholism [related suicide] in the early ’90s. Robin told me that he had never, I don’t think, openly told the whole story publicly about Doug’s [Hopkins] death. And you would think, “Gin Blossoms, hey! This’ll be fun and poppy!” But that one’s kind of heavy.
As awful and disastrous, dark, and heavy as some of them are, I personally have found a strange sense of encouragement and inspiration in a lot of them, I wonder if that’s part of what makes these stories so accessible. What do you think it is that makes these worst of the worst kinds of stories so appealing to people?
I think because they survived. There were things that people could have legitimately died from, addiction or some sort of self-destruction. Or you know, John Bell, of Widespread Panic… Colonel Bruce Hampton literally died on stage with him. If someone gave me a chapter that was just like, “f–k everything, this industry sucks, I hate music now,” I wouldn’t have included it. Because they weren’t survivors and they’re bitter. All these people went through their own personal and professional hells and are more-or-less unscathed in the end. I always wanted this book to remain optimistic and for it to be, all-in-all, a fun read for anyone who picks it up.
But I also thought as I was going, like, Our Band Could Be Your Life is a book by Michael Azerrad that I really admire. That’s sort of become a bible to touring bands. He got The Butthole Surfers and Replacements, Black Flag and all that. So, I kind of wanted this– in my lofty idealized version of it– to be the new bible for touring bands. And how to persevere, and hopefully, they can learn something from the horrible embarrassing mistakes of their peers who have come before them. (Laughs)
Do you personally have a favorite chapter– either because of the interview, the artist, or the stories that were revealed?
Is that a loaded question? (Laughs)
No, no, I’m just thinking because I’ve said Dave Navarro in the past. I had never interviewed him. I had heard he could be difficult. I wasn’t expecting him to agree to it, and he came in so fired up. Told the story perfectly, twenty minutes. Bam, boom. Gave me everything I needed. If every interview could have been like that, this process would’ve been so f—–g easy, and I could have been done in like four months. But he surprised me with one of my favorite stories in the book. It’s raw, it’s revealing, and he can look at it from the perspective of modern-day sobriety.
That’s a big part of that story.
Oh yeah. If he was still struggling, it wouldn’t be humorous. Whatever you want to say about Fiona Apple and what he did to her (laughs)… Yes, he wrote a message on her mirror in blood, but the way he tells the story is comical because he was a drug-addled monster at that point. So that’s one I have to cite as being easy, gave me an awesome chapter, and there was no bulls–t with publishers or managers. He’s kind of like the cornerstone of awesome book subjects for No Encore. I love Dave.
This might be too obvious, but do you have a weird, wild, or most embarrassing interview that you’d be willing to share?
Hmm… Okay, this is bad. It was Lollapalooza, maybe 2009? 2010? I had been doing video interviews all weekend and I was really burned out. I went to interview St. Vincent– and I couldn’t remember her name, Annie Clark. I couldn’t remember her artist name, St. Vincent. I was so f—–g unprepared. I had no idea what her album was… (Laughs) It was the height of unprofessionalism. (Laughs) She was awesome! But I f—-d it up.
(Laughs) I guess it could’ve been worse.