I got Mishka Shubaly who is an addict, alcoholic, ultra-runner, musician & bestselling Kindle Singles author. He is marginally less self-aggrandizing than this bio may suggest. He has just put out a new book “Beat The Devil”.
1) How much does it suck to be a dual artist? Do you ever wish nature or a Higher Power made you an accountant instead of a writer and musician?
I took a swipe at accountants in “The Long Run,” using accounting as an example of The Most Boring Profession Ever. My stepbrother told me once that he had enjoyed playing with Excel when he was a kid because he liked how the numbers added up in the columns and I thought that was fucking insane.
It’s a little frustrating being a writer and a musician because, although people have no problem accepting into their reality a tiny little box you use to talk to other people all around the globe, a box that tells you where you are and tells other people where you are, a box people use to send pictures of parts of their anatomy to other people, people refuse to believe that you can be both a writer and a musician without some kind of primacy applied to one of those hopeless, time-wasting vocations.
And, also, you know, Darfur, Syria, Somalia, North Korea, Sudan… there are worse problems in the world. Trying to succeed as a writer and a musician has been an interesting hell, but an interesting hell beats a boring hell every time.
2) I knew you first as a musician, hearing you a play a set. My favorite song is the one about smoking crack. When I was 15 I wanted to try crack but the dealer sold me pot instead. Do you think drug dealers can be guardian angels?
More like guardian a-holes. Actually, I don’t know, I’m conflicted about drug dealers. Obviously, they serve a role in our society otherwise they wouldn’t exist. And I have loved a dealer or two in my time. And, hell, they’re just trying to make a buck, as are we all. And “just trying to make a buck” has been used as justification for some fucking horrible, dehumanizing shit. But there’s gradations—if you sell weed or pot, you have to live with the responsibility that you may be responsible for men growing breasts, for adults playing more video games than children, and for people listening to some truly atrocious music. If you sell meth, crack or heroin, you have to live with the knowledge that you may be responsible for lives unraveling, for people losing their humanity, for people dying. But I guess the same goes for bartenders, right?
A friend of mine overdosed this summer. He was in his early 30s. He started fucking around with hardcore opiates the same time I did. He ran sound for my band one night and I gave him something at soundcheck that had him so fucked up for our set that he totally blew it. Was it a pot brownie? Or was it these incredible painkillers I had and did that lead him to heroin? I can’t remember. I will worry about that shit for the rest of my life.
3) There are two ways I see writers finding an audience: write one or two epic literary novels that get pimped by traditional routes or write a lot of short books that people like. You pump the shit out of Kindle Singles, and people dig it, what made you go this route?
You make it sound like I make careful, well-thought-out decisions and that is not the case. In early 2011, David Blum (who had been my editor at NYPress) took me out to breakfast. I’d been sober for two years and had effectively given up writing. He said “Amazon’s going to start publishing these shorts for Kindle. You should do it, you could make a lot of money.”
I said “Dave, this is the worst idea I’ve ever heard. It’ll never work. I don’t know anyone with one of those lame nerd-pads. There’s so much free content, no one’s going to pay for anything. If people pay for anything, they won’t pay for my stuff. Besides, I’m sober now, I don’t have any more stories.”
“You don’t have one more story?” Dave said.
“Well… there was that one time I got shipwrecked.”
Dave literally smacked himself in forehead.
“Mishka, you asshole. That’s perfect.”
So I did it and it’s been great. I have no idea what I’m doing… but at least I know I have no idea what I’m doing.
4) In the book ‘The Long Run’ you meet an “Australian asshole”. What is your favorite Crocodile Dundee movie?
Man, it’s hard to pick one, there are so many good ones! I like that one set in a futuristic LA where he’s a retired cop who’s forced to go out and hunt down a last bunch of replicants. I particularly enjoyed the one where he’s a physicist/ brain surgeon/ rock star/ pilot and he has to kill all the Red Lectoids from Planet 10. But the best one would have to be that one set in a futuristic Detroit where he’s a cop who effectively dies and then comes back as this crazy, kick-ass cyborg. RoboCroc, I think it’s called.
5) You got to play with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Everyone goes crazy for Karen O, but I have a man crush on their drummer, if I could have an older brother I’d want him. Is he a cool dude?
I like every person in that band. They’ve all shown me kindness at one time or another but Brian is an absolute prince. They played a “secret” show at Luxx in 2003 that was pretty disastrous and I felt horrible about it. Then, in ’06 or ’07, I ran into Brian again because he was interested in subletting some time at our practice space. When he came to check it out, he made a point to wear the Luxx T-shirt I’d given him years ago. Very intelligent, talented and thoughtful guy.
6) I related a lot to your new book; I really loved it. What is it about rock n roll that just keeps us coming back? Why is it more addictive than crack?
There was a study done years ago that postulated that cocaine didn’t make people actually feel pleasure, and instead made them feel like they were about to feel pleasure. I think that’s the same with dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom, there’s similar feelings of anticipation and expectation: something amazing is about to happen. 99 times out of 100, nothing happens. More than writing about my alcoholism or my failures to find love, writing “Beat The Devil” depressed the fucking shit out of me.
7) Do you ever think about writing a musical and if you did what would it be about?
Man, I love musicals. Whenever anything happens, it precipitates a song. The pickle jar is empty? Cue that rousing song-and-dance number “Who Ate The Last Pickle?”
Sadly, I lack the musical chops to write all that music. But if I could, it would probably be a cross between “Jesus’ Son” by Denis Johnson, “Young, Loud and Snotty” by the Dead Boys, and the musical Annie. Triangulate that one, motherfuckers!
8) Tougher question: Top 5 favorite musicians and top 5 writers?
Why you gotta be so goddamn hierarchical, Christoph? People’s feelings will get hurt.
You should be reading Zachary Lipez. More than any other writer of our age, Zack manages to put his finger right on what’s bothering you, and then he leaves it there till you squirm.
You should be listening to Shilpa Ray. That she’ll hate me for all the shit I talk about her in Beat the Devil doesn’t change the fact that she is the best unknown songwriter alive. This song is a fuck-you she wrote about me and my drug dealer.
You should be looking at comics by Jed Collins. He writes hilarious personal slice-of-life strips about being a weed delivery boy and his girlfriend farting in the bathtub.
9) Even more tough of a question: what kind of books and music do just hate, go ahead be hater? I’m encouraging it, you can blame me?
I generally try to save my hatred for myself but since you’re baiting me… I hate James Frey and Tucker Max and I would leap at the opportunity to fight either one of them. Any time, any place, any how, you wussy shitheads. I hate those books that are printed on paper. I really like that once book that happens on my computer, what’s it called again? Oh yeah, Facebook.
I hate music, it’s got too many notes.
10) Last question, you just put out a new book, are you in pimp mode or are you already working on something new?
I fucking hate promoting my stuff so I’m working on something new. My next project will be called Tomb Raider and I am hard at work, writing it on my Xbox. Seriously, fuck writing, why did nobody tell me about this Xbox crap? I feel like I’m discovering some band everyone is already over, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Anyhoo, back to work.
Buy his book so he can support his habit of not doing drugs and relapsing on rock n’ roll.
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