The way I first found out about Brian Alan Ellis is the way I first found out about Scott McClanahan: he sent me his book. Which isn’t a humble brag. Or maybe it is. Who cares. Brian started House of Vlad Productions in 2003 as a way of publishing his poetry/zines/broadsides (in a similar way to how Scott started Holler Presents). Since then he’s published a lot more of his own writing, as well as books by Bud Smith and most recently, Sam Pink. Like me (and some other super-chill badass motherfuckers), Brian does not have an MFA or even a BA. He grew up in Florida where my father lived and where I spent a few days every summer so I feel like I ‘get’ Brian. LOL. Or maybe we’re just both full of shit. IDK. Who cares. One thing I do now know, Brian Alan Ellis is not Brian Allen Carr, as will be revealed shortly. Thank you.
First things first, so you’re not Brian Allen Carr?
I’m not. I don’t write about fucking mutant sharks, sadly.
Did you consider how hard it would be for me to not accidentally email him when meaning to email you and vice versa when you decided to use your middle name as a writer?
E-mail is hard, I know. Honestly, though, my name fucking sucks. *immediately changes author name to “Angry Dark One”*
So your book – A Series of Pained Facial Expressions Made While Shredding Air Guitar – is categorized, by you, I assume, as ‘humor/non-fiction/memoir.’ Why did you decide on those labels (aside from an obvious desire to be shelved somewhere near David Sedaris and Mindy Kaling in a bookstore), and, so, it’s safe to assume everything in here is true? meaning, you really owned a pair of imitation alligator-skin slip-on shoes that you lost in a swamp while high on coke, and also, lived with your parents in an apartment until you were twenty-two and they moved to Georgia (seemingly as a way to not have to kick you out)?
I try to disarm the sadness of life by calling it “humor,” but it never works. I wanted some of that Chelsea Handler/Dave Barry fire. I wanted to be among the greats, like Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts and those collections of Chuck Norris facts. Everything is true. The book is pretty much a diary of someone’s lazy midlife crisis. And yes, I did lose a beloved pair of imitation alligator-skin slip-on shoes after falling into a swamp following an all-night coke bender, and yes, I’ve moved around a lot. All legit. All stupid.
Did you ever consider turning the one page story/poem, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Blah Blah Blah ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ 666: A Memoir,” into an actual memoir? Cuz I’d definitely be down to read it. (By the way, it made my eyes hurt trying to count the number of Z’s in that title so I hope I got it right: 15?) (Also, I wrote ‘humble brag!’ on this page in your book cuz I think any time a writer talks about living in a trailer from ages 7 – 18 and sharing a bedroom w his grandma, it’s obviously a humble brag!) (Also also does ‘white trash area of Fort Lauderdale’ seems a tad …idk…redundant, to you? I ask as someone who spring breaks in Ft. Lauderdale w her daughter every other spring.)
I have considered it, but then I’d actually have to write a zillion-page memoir with footnotes instead of just a bunch of crappy tweets about bullshit, so therein lies the problem. Also, there are some rich areas in south Florida. Like, the high school I went to—the district was geographically split down the middle, so both poor people and well-to-do people attended. I lived on the trailer park side. Sharing a bedroom with my grandma for several years while living in a trailer separates me from all the real artists, which sort of makes me proud. Real artists had their own bedrooms and probably went to college. Real artists write memoirs that are a zillion pages long (with footnotes). I loved my grandma and we had a very brother/sister-like closeness; we’d go see Vin Diesel movies at the $1 theater a lot. Real artists, I assume, don’t love their grandmas like I loved my grandma; they love their MFA degrees. Real artists spit on Vin Diesel, which is a shame.
Speaking of (spring breaks), what did the movie Spring Breakers mean for you, a person who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida?
Oh, I liked it. I thought it was ridiculous, in the best way. Though I felt Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was better captured in that movie Bully, the one about the kids who murder their friend and then leave his body out in the everglades to get eaten by gators, which is a very south Florida thing to do. Like, I think I took night classes at the same high school they all went to, and I recognized a lot of the places they hung out at. Lots of strip malls, humidity, kids being allowed to eat dinner with their family while not wearing a shirt, etc. etc.
You and Tao Lin both grew up in Florida. Do you think that means Tao’s a ‘redneck’?
Florida seems to have a lot of transplants, and I don’t mean members of the Tim Armstrong band Transplants, but like people who move to Florida from somewhere else. My mom and grandma relocated us to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from Long Island, New York, when I was six or seven, and I’ve pretty much been stuck here. Also, Tao would probably do great on Redneck Island, that Stone Cold Steve Austin competition show where contestants drive four-wheelers through obstacle courses. We all would, come to think.
I can’t remember, do you have an undergrad degree? Did you get an MFA? Your writing seems heavily influenced by Sam Pink’s. Would you say he’s your major (literary?) influence? Or is that more a ‘my problem, not yours’? Who or what else has influenced you as a writer/person?
I don’t have anything. I have a high school diploma somewhere—oh, and a KISS Army membership card. I could see the Sam Pink influence, sure. He’s probably my favorite contemporary author (besides Elizabeth Ellen *wink*). I instantly connected to his stuff, which is why I co-published his latest book. His nihilism is very infectious. I’m influenced by lots of things. I do a lot of writing via the Internet, like on Twitter. My attention span is pretty much garbage right now. I like those short bursts of screaming one does into the Internet void. Melissa Broder and Mira Gonzalez seem to be the best at it. I generally don’t give a fuck about short stories or poems or novels anymore. I’m into, like, narcissistic cries for help that are punched up by humor and desperation. Clever whining—that’s my preferred artistic outlet these days, so party.
In your professional opinion, do you think Scott McClanahan jumped the shark when he got sober or when he married Juliet (Escoria)? What can the rest of us infer from Scott’s mistakes?
Everyone pretty much jumps the shark once they get married/sober. Married/sober just means that your best days are behind you. Sad. Maybe Scott is a martyr. Seems legit. Dunno. Check back.
Speaking of (Geminis), you’re not one (Gemini), right?
I’m a Virgo. I’m also an INFJ personality type. The Internet taught me all of these things, which I appreciate. The Internet is like the shitty father I never had.
What’s the deal with this Bud Smith guy? I have a theory Bud Smith and Brian Alan Ellis are the same person. Can you prove otherwise?
Not so much. Actually, he goes to more literary readings than I do; I try to avoid those as much as possible. What else? I own more black clothing than he does, which probably makes me more goth, though he definitely appreciates Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell album more than I do, so there’s that. Also, Bud Smith is a great human being, a great writer, and I’m kind of just like whatever about stuff.
What do you think the best AC/DC song to fuck to on a kitchen floor in high school is?
“Girls Got Rhythm” is really dope, or maybe “Shoot to Thrill.” There’s no wrong answer, really. (I’ve never fucked on a kitchen floor while in high school; was more of a hand job in the backseat of a car while sobbing to a Sunny Day Real Estate album kind of teenager.)
Do you miss HTML GIANT? Do you think it was the last of ‘(mostly) straight white males not giving a shit’ we’ll see for a while?
HTML GIANT published a review I wrote for Robert Vaughan’s Addicts & Basements, a book I’d read while my girlfriend and I were in a shitty laundromat. I think that was probably the exact moment when HTML GIANT jumped the shark. They published my review and then Scott got sober and married Juliet, and they were like, “Fuck this, we out!” Good for them.
What does ‘selling out’ mean to you? But also, how hard are you willing to ‘hustle’?
“Selling out” is such a ’90s concept. Like, selling out was when your band signed to Lookout Records after 1998, or something. I’ve hustled pretty hard in the last few years, I think. You interviewing me for Hobart is pretty much the peak of my hustle. Maybe this is me selling out. Maybe this is growing up.
What is the best 90s Aerosmith video to make out to while beer-drunk in a trailer? Is it one of the ones that weirdly starred the lead singer’s teen daughter?
“Crazy” is a good beer-drunk in a trailer make-out video. It’s very empowering. It’s also pretty much an exact remake of the movie Thelma & Louise, if you added stripping and Steven Tyler to the fray. It’s a hell of a piece of work, to be honest.
Best Harmony Korine film?
Gummo. Hands down. *sheds tear while reaching over to turn up Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”*
Best Pink Floyd album?
LOL WUT? LOL IDK.
Marry, Fuck, Kill, Cuddle: me, Mira Gonzalez, Chelsea Martin, Juliet Escoria
Feels icky. IDK. How about I compare each of them to an original member of the band KISS? Juliet Escoria is Paul Stanley, Mira Gonzalez is Ace Frehley, Chelsea Martin is Peter Criss, and you are Gene Simmons.
Marry, Fuck, Kill, Cuddle: Sam Pink, Scott McClanahan, Tao Lin, Blake Butler
Still feels icky, but I’ll compare each of them to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Tao Lin is Leonardo, Sam Pink is Raphael, Scott McClanahan is Michelangelo, and Blake Butler is Donatello—also: Noah Cicero is Splinter, and Bud Smith and I are Bebop and Rocksteady, respectively.
Are you aware there’s a sequel to Saturday Night Fever called Staying Alive? Have you seen it? If you’ve seen it do you realize the best quote from that movie is, “Everybody uses everybody!” as said by the main actress who was also on General Hospital to John Travolta? Do you think that's true, Brian, that everybody uses everybody?
I am aware but I haven’t seen it. Isn’t Frank Stallone in it? What a talent! I think there is truth to that. The black heart nihilist in me seems to think so, but it's okay - we all need one another in various ways. It's just being human. It doesn't necessarily have to be a sociopathic sentiment. It's all just about stayin' alive, you know?
Mute or Unfollow?
What is something memoir-ish about growing up in Florida you left out of the book you would like to share with us now?
I’m trying to write this story about the time my mom, who isn’t a drinker, got drunk off a bottle of tequila she inexplicably kept in her underwear drawer and she made me drive her to the bowling alley where my step dad worked nights as a fry cook ’cause she wanted to spy on him, to see if he was hooking up with one or more of the bowling alley waitresses, and it was like a really pathetic episode of Cheaters ’cause we just sat in the car trying to look in through the front entrance, and this was an isolated incident and nothing was ever confirmed, but check back.
Finally, when a guy writes a song in which his main thought is, ‘I don’t give a fuck about you (or anything that you do),’ is it possible he truly doesn’t give a fuck? Or is it painfully obvious you’re all he thinks about? Similarly, when a woman writes a song in which the chorus is ‘they don’t love you like I love you,’ hasn’t she, to some extent, already lost the fight? Like, the second you’re pointing out that you love him more than anyone else, you know something’s terribly wrong and it ain’t gonna be right for a while, if ever, right? You’ve moved into stalker territory or into controlling boyfriend territory. IDK. I’ve been blowing my nose for forty-eight hours straight, Brian. I’m, as Anne Carson once said, ‘running out of me.’ LOLOL
Never heard of Anne Carson. Is she chill? Also, I’m pretty sure the “They don’t love you like I love you” lyric is from a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song pertaining to maps/distance/travel, which is weird ’cause Karen O is the one in the hot band that tours all the time so, like, it seems she’s being real hypocritical, unless it’s a No Doubt situation where her bandmate is pressuring her to be on the road all the time ’cause he wants to be a rock star while she prefers to just chill at home making zines or whatever, so IDK. Also, I’m surprised you didn’t ask me any questions about Kid Rock.
I think we’ve done enough shit-talking for one day, Brian. <3