An exclusive chat with Drew Fortune, whose book No Encore! has some of the world’s top music acts spilling the beans on their craziest gigs
Drew Fortune is one of the goodfellas in music journalism, bolstered by a career that’s evolved so immensely in his two decades of writing at the professional level and entirely based on his own merits.
This native son of Omaha, Nebraska, whose byline can be found at such esteemed publications as Vanity Fair, Vulture, Esquire and more, is one of the only guys out there actively living the life of a traveling correspondent of rock journalism–finding himself in such wild predicaments as hanging out on the set of a porn film with actress Stormy Daniels, deep sea fishing with Dean Ween and snorkeling in Costa Rica for SPIN.
However, for his first proper book No Encore! Musicians Reveal Their Weirdest, Wildest, Most Embarrassing Gigs, Fortune turned his reflections outward to deliver a tome focusing on the subject of our favorite music acts’ worst gigs ever—a concept long overdue for creation, no doubt. And there’s nobody better than Drew Fortune who has netting to catch this wide of a swath of musicians, artists and actors playing musicians and artists, getting them all to reveal the kinds of road tales I’m sure record labels paid good money to keep “hush hush” back in the day.
And the funny thing is, now Fortune himself has been on tour in support of No Encore!, driving around the country holding book readings at some of the great independent bookstores across the map. So much so, in fact, that he’s already amassed a couple of war stories of his own, which is where this exclusive chat with the rising author begins…
So you mentioned something about your first trip for a book reading…
Yeah, I did that first reading in Barrington, IL, and I drove there. But I wound up breaking down in John Mellencamp’s hometown in Indiana on the way back. So here I was in Bumblefuck, IN, and my air compressor blew out. The car started back up finally, but now I don’t have A/C in the car. So these days I’m driving around in a black heat box, essentially.
It’s interesting how in these times of overt political correctness, people still love to read about debauchery, don’t you think?
It’s funny, Consequence of Sound ran the Dave Navarro chapter in July, and it’s one of my favorites. What that one’s about is—and he’s certainly not celebrating it and admits to being a coke-addled heroin monster at the time—was he snuck into Fiona Apple’s dressing room at the KROQ Acoustic Christmas in 1997. He then shot up in her dressing room and left her a note that said, ‘Hi Fiona, hope you have a great show. Love, Dave,’ written in heroin syringe blood on the mirror. When he told me that story, I was like, ‘Holy shit, Dave, that’s gnarly.’
Do you think there’s an element of danger these days to rock ‘n’ roll?
I don’t feel like there’s that element of danger anymore, especially in live music. I remember when I was working at the Echoplex in Los Angeles—I did security there between the years 2011 and 2015. It was at the end of that West Coast garage rock scene that was Fidlar, Nobunny, JEFF The Brotherhood and groups like that, and these guys were really killing themselves onstage. And that was sorta just before we were able to instantly stream stuff onto social media like we can now. When that all changed, it was like dude, your career will be over if you fuck up onstage or something.
VIDEO: Nobunny perform “Bye Bye Roxie” at the Echoplex 11/01/13
Certainly there are plenty of horror stories of such instances in these times, right?
Oh yeah. In fact, I talked to Nathan Williams from Wavves for the book, and he was one of those bands from that Echoplex scene. And he told me about his thing that happened at Primavera Sound ten years ago. He said he didn’t even remember performing, but he had shoes thrown at him. He said, ‘I was so fucked up on Xanax, coke, heroin, maybe booze. But I woke up the next morning, and saw Pitchfork was all over it, and my career was over before it could really started.’ Artists have to live with that fear nowadays.
Also in the aspect of the #MeToo Movement, as well, I’m sure…
It’s not as though I would’ve liked to have been around for the whole Motley Crue/Sunset Strip era with how they treated women, but it could never ever exist anymore. Like for instance, in my book, there are literally no sex stories. I didn’t want to celebrate that, and all those stories have been told already by those artists who chose to tell them. And that’s a telling thing in 2019 when you have a book about the craziest rock stories and there’s absolutely no sex. It’s where we’ve come to, you know? It’s a largely sexless society these days.
However, you do have a great balance of men and women represented in this book. Debbie Gibson’s chapter was especially enjoyable…
That was one where I didn’t know her background that well, but figured what the hell, let’s roll the dice anyway. I like that she had to sneak into drag clubs and really seedy afterhours places just to get out there and play. She was pretty punk rock regardless of her association with The Circle Jerks.
What was the story that surprised you the most out of all the ones you received for No Encore?
There’s a good one from Al Jourgensen of Ministry. I’m not really a big Ministry diehard, but the more I read about him the more I realized he’s like this crazed, gothic Hunter S. Thompson. He’s just so out there. He gave me one story that I don’t think has been literally published anywhere else. It’s not in his memoir, and he never shared it with the press. It was Lollapalooza 1992, and he shared the story of when he overdosed backstage in St. Louis, MO, and they couldn’t revive him. So the manager had to somehow score crack, smoke it, and then blow it into Al’s mouth to try and revive him. When that wasn’t working, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ tech guy was sort of standing over Al asking, ‘What do we do now?’ And the guy looked just like Al—he had long dreadlocks and knew all of the Ministry songs. So they wound up putting Al’s cowboy hat on this guy and had him perform the first three songs as Al from Ministry. When Al came to, the tech guy walked to the side of the stage and they swapped positions. They never announced it, and he didn’t think anyone would notice. It was pretty wild.
Was there an artist that turned down the book you were most particularly bummed about?
I was pretty exicted to include Albert Hammond Jr. from The Strokes. I know he had this sordid drug history. I think Ryan Adams got him hooked on crack or something. But one thing I learned quick in this process was that some artists would talk about technical malfunctions or something mundane like that, which didn’t make for a compelling story. And that was Albert’s thing, talking about how the power cut out for 30 minutes in Brazil and it came back on. So I asked him for another one, and he got really guarded. I had just read Meet Me In The Bathroom, and I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that because he clammed up real quick. I asked him if The Strokes had any kind of crazy Replacements-style drunken nights, and he responded with ‘Who are The Replacements?’ From then on he just started fucking with me, so I was like see ya dude. The publicist called me after to say how Al was bummed at the way the interview went and if we could not use it, and I was like don’t worry about that! (laughs)
Overall, however, you captured such an incredible spectrum of artists with No Encore! There’s nowhere to go but up from here, it seems, right?
Some have asked why I’m putting the spotlight on all of this drug use and death for the book. I don’t know man, I just have to say that I’m still enthralled by these kinds of stories. All I really wanted to do with this book was do something in the vein of VH-1’s Behind The Music, which has since been cancelled but left a hole in the market for these stories. I loved Behind The Music, the more salacious the better in my book as well. We are actually in the process of turning No Encore! into an animated series with filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig who directed The Devil and Daniel Johnston, so stay tuned!
AUDIO: The Mike Wagner Show with author of No Encore Drew Fortune! 7-11-19