The COVID-19 pandemic has turned most of the world on its head, but The Airborne Toxic Event's Mikel Jollett admits that it hasn't had such a profound effect on him.
Mikel is more familiar with strange times than most. He was born into the Church of Synanon, one of the most dangerous and violent cults in American history. He escaped the cult with his mother and spent his teen years in abject poverty, while also building himself up into a high school track star and promising writer.
He chronicles his surreal early life in music on the new Airborne Toxic Event album, Hollywood Park, and in words in the memoir of the same name, both of which are available now.
Mikel's writing career paved the road to his life as a musician. He tells Q104.3's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke that when he mixed journalism with music he loved, it made him "a terrible music journalist," who couldn't help but use his access to talk shop with his heroes.
"I was always like, 'So how'd you write the bridge and why did you change the key here?'" he admits. "...It's just like getting a master's degree in rock."
He recalled being surprised by Bowie's generous demeanor when he interviewed Major Tom around 2003 for his Reality album. Their interview eventually jumped from music to a broader conversation about philosophy. Mikel opened up about his childhood.
"...I had told him about the cult I was in and how my parents were hippies and we witnessed violence and the whole thing had fallen apart," Mikel recalled. "He looked at me and he said, 'Is it hard for your generation for you to feel like you can believe in anything?' It was this weirdly paternal moment between David Bowie and I."
Mikel replied to Bowie's quiery: "I was like, 'Yeah... it feels like you tried everything, it didn't work and now we're just like living in the wreckage. And so we're stuck with all these crazy contradictions.' And he went, 'Yeah, the contractions really fucks you all up, doesn't it?'...And he said, 'Well, write about the contradiction then.'"
Watch the full interview in the video player above.
Here's the official music video for "Come On Out" from Hollywood Park: