Ranting and Raving With Mike Edison

History is written by the winners. That’s why the hippies at High Times are crying into their bongs while Mike Edison is lording around town with a copy of his recently published memoir under his arm. Or at least that’s the lede that the former High Times publisher, Main Event editor (The #1 Magazine For Mat Fans Today!), Penthouse letters writer, GG Allin and Raunch Hands drummer, successor to Al Goldstein at Screw magazine, and author of no less that 28 pornographic novels (including the venerable His Black Boyfriend) suggested for his intro. Regardless Edison’s tell-all memoir, I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World, published earlier this spring by Faber & Faber (and companion weirdo beatnik bop punk rock boogaloo CD produced by Jon Spencer) is filthy and hilarious and names names— often with little to no regard for any repercussions professional or otherwise. Rock Against Reagan, the “Counter-Cultural Industrial Complex” of High Times and Heeb magazines, Texas wrestling leagues — none of them at all glamorous once the curtain is pulled back.

Be sure to check out the second half of this interview in issue 2 of Humanbeing Lawnmower where we go deep into the squared circle on all things wrestling.

TB: So do you feel vindicated?
Mike: Vindicated?!?

TB: Like your counter has been set back to zero?
Mike: Yeah. Obviously I have a scorched Earth policy so in some respects I can work with impunity now. Let it all hang out. I can run for president and they’ll never find anything on me, at least nothing new. I got nothing to hide.

TB: Now that you’ve written a memoir are you afraid of people coming back and refuting your stories. You know like calling bullshit the way they did James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces?
Mike: James Frey can gargle my balls and play tongue darts with my ass. I’d like to break him into a million little pieces. I don’t have to make up my story it’s all true, every fucking word, I lived it. In fact I had to tone some of it down because I didn’t think people would believe me.

TB: Anything in particular that you left out that you’d want to relate here that you couldn’t tell in the book? Or is it still too soon to talk about some of that stuff?
Mike: I had a mule team of lawyers look at this thing and they were very specific about certain places that I should not go. I honed about as close to the risk of litigation as I possibly could without my publisher pulling the plug on me. I’m still waiting for the postman to show up and ask me to sign for the letter if you know what I mean. Just as a warning to any would-be litigants: I have a motherfucking pit bull of a Jew lawyer and this guy wins cases for Exxon and General Dynamics. He’s not afraid of corporate hippies or punk rockers who have had their precious feelings hurt.

TB: Have you started to see any fallout by anyone you attacked in the book? You were pretty rough on the High Times staff for instance as well as other people that run in some of your same social circles.
Mike: I’m waiting. My lawyer is on DEFCON 4 at all times.

TB: What do you expect to be the worst?
Mike: I expect the most heat from the place where it’s least expected. Maybe my parents will sue me. There’s something disquieting about my father sitting in his Barcalounger reading about my recreational drug habits. The poor guy has no way to even parse an experience like that. I’m not even sure he can spell “LSD.”

TB: Speaking of recreational drug habits, you were probably the only person to ever paint a picture of Dave Insurgent (from Reagan Youth) and GG Allin as well-spoken thoughtful and intelligent people.
Mike: Well unfortunately not a lot has been written about Dave. Dave was incredibly intelligent, very, very funny guy. When I met him in the early 80’s when we were both NYU students, he was the first guy who had truly achieved Spinal Tap-irony. He got it when no one else did. He’d coming running down the hall with Focus’ 'Double Live'. We’d listen to “Hocus Pocus” which was sides 2, 3, and 4. He was very funny, very smart guy. Very well read on the counterculture. Very literate: his message with Reagan Youth was cogent and well thought out…and also absurd and ridiculous. It’s just a shame that no one knows his story so I’m really proud I got to talk about the Reagan Youth experience.

And GG of course …you know he could be a charmer when he felt like it. Towards the end he started believing his own press clips and that always sucks. A bunch of sniveling punk rock anarchists swinging off his dick and telling him he was god. But when he was with me we drank and would listen to Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis — he knew that those were two guys whose shoes he wasn’t fit to shine. He was a lot more philosophical about being GG Allin than you’d expect. Despite all the negative shit you might hear he really got off on being himself and not a cartoon version of it. He came over to my house and we talked about the Chuck Berry autobiography that had come out and I remember he really liked it. At the same time he was really upset about the John Waters movie that had just come out, Hairspray. He confessed that he liked it but it wasn’t what you went to a John Waters movie to see. He thought [Waters] had sold out.

TB: One thing you touched on is that people like Dave Insurgent and some of the other guys you hung around with in the punk and hardcore scene in the early 80’s thought that all these prog rock records were really “hard” — and all these bands that were supposedly “hard” were actually real pussy shit.
Mike: Well the worst thing that ever happened too punk rock is when it became OK to admit that you like Pink Floyd. At what point did that happen? Or that it was OK to like the Beatles…what the fuck?? It goes both ways because I would always get yelled at by some so-called anarchist punk rockers who couldn’t understand why I liked Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra or Little Richard or country music, which they all thought was shit because everything had to be hardcore punk 24/7. The Sex Pistols and the Ramones were about as far back as these people’s calendars ran. Dave liked prog rock but he liked it because it was goofy. He liked Emerson, Lake, and Palmer because he knew it was bloated excess and something we could make fun of. But he also liked Summer of Love bands like the Jefferson Airplane because he knew that they would have been the punk rockers of today. He was very much into the contemporary political protest movement. We were very involved in Rock Against Reagan, we drew a lot of inspiration from people like Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies. But there are people out there now who play “punk rock” who actually like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer for the music! And that’s fucked up.

TB: You were on the Rock Against Reagan tour doing a severely offensive stand-up comedy shtick between bands.
Mike: Yeah I wouldn’t really call that comedy. Somewhere between Borscht Belt and performance art is where that lived. Shock comedy. The whole point of that was to incite a riot and I think I was pretty successful on a number of occasions. Just get out there with my madras jacket and slick my hair back, chomping on a big cigar. Everything these so-called fucking punk rockers hated. You know these left wing reactionaries… I’d start talking about deforesting Brazil as a solution to ecological problems. It got them a little upset. Then I’d move into my apartheid line of patter which was basically to make all black people slaves as a solution to economic problems… and that’s when people would get really pissed off. A few jokes about Nicaragua, which was a real sore spot for these people. Obviously we need to walk into San Salvador and just take the fucking place over; build a McDonalds in the town square. It was innocent enough, it was a total put on, right? But man, I’d get my life threatened, people would throw bottles. And this was in front of like 10,000 people. The Dead Kennedys would be headlining in San Francisco at a political protest—these people had no sense of humor. Then again the Dead Kennedys didn’t really have much of a sense of humor either when you think about it. Great band though.

TB: I saw Jello do a similar act MC-ing at some Rock Against Bush thing when he was up for re-election. His whole thing was pretty much taken from David Cross bits and an Al Franken book.
Mike: Jello is a guy who has no sense of irony whatsoever. He’s not a guy who will ever be known for his subtlety or brevity or for his ability to make a concise and well-focused statement. There’s a lot of good to be said about Jello, but he’s been hammering away at that same tired riff for a long time.

TB: Do you think looking back at the Rock Against Reagan tour and now the whole thing repeating itself with the current administration…is it the whole thing rehashed or a lot of empty posturing?
Mike: America’s youth is in a comatose state. Rock and roll is dead. It has been dead for a long time. It was dead the day they invented television. When the message of rock and roll got co-opted by the people who sold the televisions so they could put a family friendly message in people’s living rooms. Just think about who could affored to buy televisions — Little Richard was the hot thing but no one was ever going to accept a screaming nigger faggot in their tidy Christian homes. So they hired Pat Boone to do those songs and that’s what they sold. The same thing happened when somebody realized you could sell Pepsi Cola with Hip Hop. It wasn’t Public Enemy that they were putting out there…it was Vanilla Ice. Right now you have people that that’s what they’ve grown up with. You have this pabulum, this baby food, this watered down version of pretty much anything that’s exciting. Everything gets co-opted. They play Slayer at the Super Bowl now and the Ramones at the World Series. Everything…the edges have been sanded off and they made everything safer than milk. In terms of protest movements now I haven’t seen a goddamn thing. It’s the same hippies and anarchist punks who have always been completely ineffectual at getting their message across to the mainstream. Barack Obama is a better protester than anyone coming out of the counterculture, and that’s pretty sad.

TB: So after a long run of a career working for magazines—wrestling magazines, drug magazines, porn magazines, High Times, Screw—now that everything is on the internet and immediate do you think your story could have ever happened in any other time?
Mike: No this was the last era that it was even conceivable. Print is dead unfortunately. The people who are still putting out magazines are selling them in supermarkets. The numbers are so large that they wouldn’t possibly want to set up camp with me. I’m too much of a middle finger in the face of America. It’s very expensive now to do a magazine, and the coin of the realm is celebrity and that means you’ve gotta suck a lot of publicist dick — and I’m not willing to do that.

TB: So you also have this record to go with the book that you did with Jon Spencer? What’s up with that? How’d it come together and all?
Mike: Well the whole it started out somebody asked me to read from my book in a bar while I was working on it and I didn’t just want to do a reading because—have you ever been to a reading? They suck. Just because someone can write doesn’t mean they can or should read in public. But because I’ve been on stage most of my life this is where I want my book to live. So I hired a couple of professional beatniks to back me up and play bongo drums while I told these X-Rated tales of strippers and drugs. And it went over really great, so I said to myself, “Fuck these bongo players, I need some real artillery.”. So I built my Arkestra, my psychedelic boogaloo band, and I asked Jon Spencer if he’d be interested in producing the record and really taking it to the next level, and he was way behind it. It’s certainly a throwback to the Last Poets but I also wanted it to sound like "Cloud Nine" by the Temptations. We listened to Funkadelic and some dub records and some African records. Just like unbelievable amounts of soundtracks and soundscapes to get an idea of what we wanted to do. I listened to stuff like Richard Pryor and Tom Waits. Of course Sun Ra. We came up with this badass X-Rated record that’s very funny and also kinda dangerous and provocative.

TB: Another thing from the book I was curious about was the Edison Cure, which is your one-stop cure all for what ever ails you. How has it evolved over the years and what does it currently consist of?
Mike: Well I’m not a doctor. Generally I can’t afford one so I’ve had to write my own Rx for what ails me. And after being on the road for eight weeks in a van listening to nothing but the Misfits and the Ramones and feeding toxic chemicals up my nose and drinking an ocean’s worth of bourbon, I get home and I’ve got to feed my head a little bit. It usually starts with some green vegetables and some New York pizza. Lay off the booze and the white powder for a while. Maybe listen to some Duke Ellington and some John Coltrane, some restorative Howlin’ Wolf records. Spend an afternoon in a museum looking at some modern art. Watching TV in English is always good. Maybe smoke a joint and spend an afternoon at the zoo communicating with the polar bear. The Edison Cure varies—it depends on just how poisoned I am and how much brain damage was actually done. Sometimes you just want to sleep for three days and read Catcher in the Rye.

TB: One thing from the book that keeps coming up this hierarchy you refer to that sounds like it was ripped from the pages of Dr. Zaius.
Mike: Well the caste system in Planet of the Apes is appallingly accurate. We all know who the gorillas in this world are—the functionaries—those people who as Evel Kenieval once said to me live in the gray twilight not knowing victory or defeat because they never had the balls to try either one. These are the knuckleheads and the lunkheads in our society. These are the humps that work in cubicles and think that’s life and that’s all that there is to it. Then there’s the chimpanzees, the professional class, the doctors, the nurses, the writers, the editors—a lot of chimpanzees generally suck—but they’re a little bit more evolved. Then you have the Orangutans. This is Dr. Zaius. These are people who hold secret knowledge, and who understand the way things work. They don’t necessarily tell the chimpanzees, and the gorillas have no clue. But the orangutans get things done. And then you have the Giver of the Law.

TB: In your career in the magazine world you made the jump pretty quickly from chimp to orangutan.
Mike: Well I ain’t no fucking gorilla, pal! I walked in a chimpanzee and I earned orangutan status. The problem is that too much of life is a beauty contest and people get promoted based on looks and not on skill.

TB: So do you see yourself moving on to Giver of the Law at any point?
Mike: I don’t know that I want to be in that position. I’ve very happy as a forward thinking orangutan.

Click to peep some footage of Mike playing/smoking the ChroniCaster


Check out Mike and Edison Rocket Train on the web.

Interview and video footage by Aaron Lefkove.
Pics provided by Mr. Lefkove and borrowed from the Rocket Train site.