BRIAN ALAN ELLIS
Troy James Weaver wanted to interview me for something but it just turned into a back and forth conversation about all kinds of dumb, wild shit. If you’re unfamiliar with my boy Weaver, well, he works as a florist in Kansas, owns two Chihuahuas, drinks Bud Lite, and has written some of the best, grittiest books I’ve ever read, with a new novel forthcoming from Disorder Press. He’s basically pretty fly for a white guy.
TROY JAMES WEAVER: First off, I love your shit-bag characters. They remind me of a lot of people I’ve known and am bound to know in the future, people to love. How much of your fictional world is indeed a non-fictional nexus? Nexus? I don’t even know think I know what that means. Hopefully you do.
BRIAN ALAN ELLIS: Isn’t Nexus a Henry Miller book? My stuff is about 84% reality/47% fiction. Does that add up right? Suck at math.
TJW: Sounds about right to me. I flunked all the maths. Also: Nexus, Plexus, and something else, right? The “Rosy Crucifixion” trilogy?
BAE: Me too. I had to go to night school for geometry. I also had to take the math portion of the HSCT several times. I read one of those Henry Miller books. Can’t remember which.
TJW: I only ever read the Tropic books. I thought there would be more (some/any) beaches.
BAE: Yeah, very little beach stuff. Mostly they’re about people fucking and not having any money.
TJW: I can relate to one of those.
BAE: I haven’t read Henry Miller in a long time. At this point It’d be like reconnecting with a crazy uncle who I maybe thought was amazing when I was younger but now know how insane and full of shit he always was.
TJW: Yup, feel you there. All the stuff I loved back when is just kind of cringy and awful.
BAE: I think some stuff might hold up nicely for me. As for all that existential French and Russian lit I read in my twenties, who the hell knows? I think it’s good to look back on things you once loved with a bit of regret. Means you’re growing as a person who will one day regret the shit they’re into now. Life is one long cycle of cringe.
TJW: Totally. I still like a few things/think they hold up, but I’m just like whatever about most of it. I’m lazy like that. Plus, I love a lot of new stuff, so why go backwards, you know?
BAE: Don’t look back, you can never look back. Don Henley. But yeah, I agree. I read mainly new stuff also. Even that can be a challenge, though.
TJW: Yeah, like, I’m not all about just saying I dig shit just to say it. I’d say 50% is dog shit. 10 to 15% gold. 1% perfect. The other % is just whatever. And I’m mostly talking small press/indie stuff or whatever, which is what I tend to read a lot of. Anyway, you just put out two books. Are you working on something else? Taking a break? I don’t even know what a break is regarding writing, but I see people saying that shit.
BAE: I have just been lazy. I have two manuscripts in the works, one is a poetry collection called Road Warrior Hawk, and the other is a “humorous” writing guide type of thing, which is called Ha-Ha! Sad Laughter. No idea what I’m going to do with them. A few publishers asked me to show them. I’m also publishing books by Noah Cicero and the woman who is narrating my novel for Talking Book, Mary Moore, so those are taking up some of my time.
TJW: Nice! Sounds like you’re a busy boy.
BAE: I’m not. I work in extended spurts. I can get a lot done in a certain window of time but generally it’s just me scrolling social media or working my job or drinking too much at the bar. Both the story collection and the novel that I put out this year were accidents pretty much. I threw together Failure Pie in a Sadness Face because Bud Smith convinced me to enter the Civil Coping Mechanisms Mainline contest, so I put it together in one night and it ended up becoming a finalist so I thought, Shit, maybe I’ll just put this out. Can’t buy that low-stakes prestige. The novel was going to come out on my friend Allie’s press. She asked for a novel, so I put together this thing that was just a bunch of old stories linked into one long narrative. Then her press went bust, I guess, I still don’t know, so I sat on the book for a while and then decided to change the entire thing up and rebuild it from there. Truth is, I never even wanted to write a novel. Novels are generally for teenyboppers, academics, and housewives. Very few hold my interest. Your novels are definitely the exception. Your shit just pops off. You write anti-novels, which are the best kind. All the novels I like I assume lots of people question the validity of them even being novels, which is healthy. Tropic of Cancer, for example. Like, what even is that book? It’s not quite a memoir, but it’s not quite a novel. It just breathes. Sam Pink, Scott McClanahan, and Elizabeth Ellen also write these kinds of novels. I dig shit that doesn’t give a fuck. You do, too.
TJW: Sorry, at work trying to sneak text. I’ll hit you back when the boss isn’t looking, but yeah, I like the anti-novel form because it is formless, just like life, and doesn’t play pretty with reader expectations.
BAE: You’re all good. I’m waiting for my friend to wake up from her Xanax coma so she can help me move into my new place.
TJW: New place! Fuck yeah, you excited?
BAE: No. I mean, yeah, this is an actual place that doesn’t have mold or termites. I’ve been living in garbage for about nine months. I don’t have much stuff. It will honestly take one, maybe two trips. All I pretty much have are a few boxes of books, a few garbage bags of clothes, a Mr. Coffee, a shitty TV from the ’90s, and my cat. When my last relationship ended, I just got rid of all my stuff. I feel better not having things. The hardest thing to part with was the majority of my books and also my VHS collection.
TROY JAMES WEAVER: Who is your favorite wrestler?
BRIAN ALAN ELLIS: Oh, I don’t know. I was Sting for Halloween when I was nine or ten. I’ve always enjoyed wrestling as a whole. I was into both heels and baby faces, even as a kid. I also leaned towards the big, fat guys who could move well and wrestle their ass off, like Big Boss Man, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Vader. I see that in a few of today’s guys, like Kevin Owens. Right now I dig all the women wrestlers: Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, Bayley, and Asuka. AJ Styles I’ve also been a fan of for years. He’s kind of a dumbass redneck from Georgia who wrestles real good. There’s actual footage of me hugging him on an old TNA DVD, after he jumped into the crowd to celebrate a win.
TJW: Favorite book? Movie? Food? Mode of transportation? Beer? Seinfeld episode? I can go on and on and on. The world deserves to know.
BAE: It’s hard to pick favorites, which is what we discussed earlier. We keep changing as people so it’s hard for things to have the same impact throughout the years as they did when you first discovered them, but hell, I’ll try.
TJW: I know, I just did that thing. I hate that thing. Asking about favorites. You have permission to punch me in the face.
BAE: My favorite beer is probably Rolling Rock. Transportation? I don’t have a car so I ride a shitty bicycle around town. Only one of the brakes work. I prefer walking. Favorite food? Breakfast cereal. Favorite movie? That definitely changes. Right now it’s probably that movie Airheads. I’ve watched it, like, 4 or 5 times in the past couple of months. Instead of finding a new movie to watch, I just keep hitting play on the DVD player that Airheads is currently stuck in (lazy) and I fall in love all over again. I never really watched Seinfeld. Also, my favorite book so far this year is probably (shocker) The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan. Chelsea Martin’s forthcoming essay collection is really fucking dope as well.
TJW: How are you lucky enough to read that? Also, Airheads is better than most Bergman films. Definitely better than fucking Mulholland Drive.
BAE: Scott and Chelsea sent me advanced copies. Mulholland Drive is pretty cool, though.
TJW: Yeah, I was just fucking around. I got Scott’s, but not Chelsea’s.
BAE: I asked her if she could send me one, said I wanted to interview her for CLASH Media. I also had her novel, Mickey, on my best-of-the year list for The Collapsar, so that probably helped. I think she’s really great.
TJW: She’s awesome. You had Marigold on there, too. You’re a sweetie.
BAE: Oh definitely. Those were my two favorite books of last year, for sure. Tell me about your upcoming books. Novel and stories?
TJW: Was stories, now just a novel that came out of one of the stories. Joey (Grantham, from Disorder Press) was like, “That could be a novel,” so it’s becoming a novel. It is about fucked up kids and adults (go figure), but all the little sections are told through different characters point of views.
BAE: Hell yeah. Ambitious.
TJW: It’s another anti-novel. I’m still fucking around with it quite a bit.
TJW: Temporal. Just because whatever. I’m not good with titles and Temporal feels ambiguous and shit.
BAE: Sick. My titles are generally way too long.
TJW: Your titles are gold, man.
BAE: Bud [Smith] tried to get me to change the title for Something to Do with Self-Hate to just Self-Hate. I was like, “But Something to Do with Self-Hate is such a cute title!” Going to title my next book Dust Bunny Shitty and dedicate it to Bud. “How about shortening it to just Dust?”—Bud Smith.
TROY JAMES WEAVER: Just picked up dinner.
BRIAN ALAN ELLIS: Fuck yes. I just had some Sonny’s BBQ. On point. That’s a solid dinner, too. I generally smoke Pall Malls, though. And I’m more of a Miller Lite drinker.
TJW: I like a Pall Mall every now and again. I switched to Camels to quit. Didn’t work out. Bud Lite is a Kansas thing, I think. Dunno. It’s what I started with as a teenager.
BAE: You switched cigarette brands in hopes of quitting? That’s hilarious.
TJW: Yeah, ’cause I thought I’d hate them. I did, but you get used to anything after a while.
BAE: I know, it’s a nightmare, right?
TJW: Like sleep paralysis.
BAE: I used to get sleep paralysis really bad. I’d get it a lot in my twenties but not so much in my thirties. No clue why that is. I’m a BRIentist, not a scientist.
TJW: You ever see that movie The Nightmare?
BAE: I started watching it but never finished it. Seemed kind of silly. I thought it was a comedy.
TJW: Yeah, I think it’s hilarious when I hear people talk about it being scary.
BAE: I mean, it’s not fun, but people need to relax about it. It’s not the worst thing. People think it’s like aliens coming for them and shit. Aliens don’t give a fuck about you.
TJW: Aliens exist. Cue blink-182.
BAE: Oh man, that’s a whole other thing. Whatever, I still really like Dude Ranch.
TJW: My wife loves that stuff. Over the years it’s kind of rubbed off on me.
BAE: I listened to a lot of pop-punk and ska when I was a teenager, and also emo and hardcore stuff, so I feel that.
TJW: Same here, not so much ska though. Maybe a little ska. I saw Reel Big Fish in concert when I was 13 or 14.
BAE: Hell yeah. I used to see them a lot. I saw them open for Blondie. My friend and I interviewed Reel Big Fish for the local newspaper, I think. Or it may have even been for our zine. We hung out with them on their big-ass tour bus that I guarantee they no longer have.
TJW: That’s cool. Were they nice fellas?
BAE: Everyone was cool except the singer. He was being shy or was maybe a dickhead and didn’t want any part of the interview. He just walked past us. I don’t blame him, really. I would have been like, “Fuck these teenagers.”
TJW: Rivers Cuomo of Weezer did that to me. So I just talked to the guitarist, Brian Bell, for a while. I mean, I ignore folks all the time, just being a regular dude, so I get it.
BAE: I saw the Get Up Kids open for Weezer. My girlfriend at the time was friends with GUK so we got in for free and hung out with them a bit backstage, but I don’t remember meeting anyone from Weezer.
TJW: My wife saw blink-182 once. Cyprus Hill opened. She was like 14, with her dad and little sister and everyone in the place was blazing. She was a good catholic school girl. Dad was like, “Is this the reefer I smell? Who is smoking these darned reefers?”
BAE: Oh man! What kind of stuff did you listen to as a teenager?
TJW: All over the place: Korn, Deftones, Nirvana, No Doubt, Fugazi, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Primus, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, My Bloody Valentine, Hole, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate, Drive Like Jehu, The Melvins, Mudvayne, Tori Amos, Ramones, Pigface.
BAE: Rad. I listened/still listen to most of that stuff. So no dark skeletons? You seem like you weren’t that cool all the time. You had a goth older brother though, so maybe. I had to do a lot of trial and error listening.
TJW: Not really. I’m the youngest of five, so… I once bought a Thursday record. Oh, maybe AFI. I had an AFI record. Further Seems Forever. That seems embarrassing. Though I’m not really embarrassed about any of it.
BAE: Thursday was a little late for me, and AFI sounded like Pennywise when I was a teenager, like they hadn’t done the goth thing yet. I kind of knew a few of the Further Seems Forever guys. I was in the same circle as them and New Found Glory and Shai Halud and all those south Florida bands. It was a small scene that blew up a bit. I used to watch Chris Carrabba play guitar at my friend’s mom’s house, and my friend’s mom was pissed.
TJW: Really, aren’t they like a Christian band? They did a cover of Bjork’s “Pagan Poetry.”
BAE: They were definitely Christian. I knew a lot of Christian punk kids. I was a total scenester who booked shows and did zines and had distros, so I worked with a lot of these people. I haven’t stayed in touch with most of them, though. I’ve lived in a lot of different cities over the years. It’s sad but whatever. Friendships aren’t meant for (Further Seems) forever. See what I did there?
TJW: That’s just what happens. I don’t really talk to that many folks from back in the day.
BAE: I used to have a lot of zine pen pals, too. Like, we’d write letters back and forth and trade zines but I lost touch with those people, too. Internet makes that stuff easier. I feel I’m doing the same thing now, just with people who publish books.
TJW: Oh, for sure! It’s the same thing. Oh, what about Rancid? I liked them. Now I just realize they wanted to be the Clash.
BAE: And Out Come the Wolves might be one of the greatest rock and roll records ever made. It’s better than most of the Clash albums. It’s definitely better than London Calling, maybe not the self-titled one.
London Calling has too much filler. And Out Come… is like non-stop greatness.
TJW: I don’t know if I fully agree here, but I agree on the filler statement. I think Combat Rock is way underrated.
BAE: It’s a personal thing. Rock critics and historians will always disagree. Doesn’t matter.
TJW: What about the Distillers? You like that shit. I loved the first two albums.
BAE: Hellcat Records sent me their album for me to review in my zine but I remember being a little whatever about it. It was pretty good. I do remember that one hit song they had a few years later. “All my friends are murdered” was a great line from it. Is that even the line?
TJW: Yeah, I dug that Coral Fang album a lot. I had a crush on the singer.
BAE: I got really jaded after a while ’cause I used to get so many free CDs and most of them sucked, or at least I thought most of them sucked ’cause I was so bombarded with new shit. It’s the main reason I stopped wanting to be a music journalist. I didn’t want to be a dickhead critic. I wanted to make art, not rag on other people’s stuff.
TJW: You ever feel that way with books? I do.
BAE: Oh yeah, for sure. That’s why I’d only review books I liked when I used to do book reviews. That gets exhausting too, though. Books are harder to review because more time is invested in them. Like, you can still invest a lot of time in albums but the delivery is more immediate, and it can change over time, but you can be quicker to notice those changes, whereas it’s harder to read books over and over again. Reviews are pretty stock, it seems. There aren’t many Chuck Klostermans or Jessica Hoppers reviewing them, it seems. Lots of lazy, run-of-the-mill shit.
TJW: Agreed. I was supposed to review [Jeff Jackson’s] Novi Sad. I loved it. But I also didn’t know what to say about it. I’ve read it four times. Still don’t know how to review it. I don’t want to do the cheap review shit.
BAE: Exactly. [Jackson’s] Mira Corpora was totally unreviewable. That book is so out there.
TJW: Mira is bat-shit crazy and amazing. Totally agree. The art speaks for itself. I feel like a review would do it a disservice or something.
BAE: I appreciate when people review my stuff ’cause it gets the book out there. It’s basically an advertisement tool. Like, you have to actually pay most big places to review your shit. When you see stuff covered by the Onion AV or whatever, most people don’t realize there is money behind that. Your stuff isn’t really that great, you just have a good PR person and/or money. Kirkus is a good example.
TJW: True. Anyone can have their book reviewed there for 500 bucks. It’s gross.
BAE: Enough shop talk. Can we go back to shitting on the Clash?
TJW: Shit away. I ain’t a diehard.
BAE: Only kidding. I like the Clash a lot. I shit on stuff I love. I think the Damned is way better than the Clash and Sex Pistols, though. My main gripe is that those bands get way more attention than the Damned. Sex Pistols had more money/better PR. That was it. That’s what it always comes down to.
It comes down to smarts too, not to be completely unfair. The Damned were an unfocused mess when it came to business. Sex Pistols were fortunate to have Malcolm McLaren.
TJW: I like the Germs way more than Sex Pistols and the Clash. Bad Brains, too. As long as we are talking punk. Though I guess they’d be more hardcore. Whatever.
BAE: I have a Germs tattoo.
TJW: No shit?! Where?
BAE: I love the Germs. I have a panther on my arm. It has a question mark over its head. It’s from the Germs song “Manimal”: “I came into this world like a puzzled panther waiting to be caged…” It’s kind of dumb, not gonna lie. I got it almost as a joke, but I do love the Germs, and that song. All my tattoos are pretty lame. They’re mostly homemade. You have any shitty tatts?
TJW: I have three. All done by my brother. All basically shitty. The only one I really like is on my finger. It’s an “E.” My wife’s name is Elizabeth.
BAE: What a romantic. If it ends badly, you can just tell people it stands for your favorite drug: ecstasy.
TJW: I’m a pretty sappy fucker. I have a dog bone on my ribs. Think I’m gonna get the names of my two Chihuahuas tattooed inside it at some point. Valentine and Rocco. Both male. One is black, the other is white. One is from Craigslist, the other from a shelter. Kind of a white trash love story. Do you have cats?
BAE: I have one. Named Kittera. She was a stray my ex and I took in. She’d come to the apartment and we’d be like, “Oh look, the kittera is here again,” so we just kept that name ’cause that’s what we called her. We adopted another cat a year later. Then we split and I got Kittera. The other cat, Sunny, has since passed.
TJW: Aww, RIP Sunny. Any idea how old Kittera is?
BAE: Not really. I took her to get a skin issue treated and I had to guess her age. I believe she is probably 7 or 8.
TJW: Damn. I thought vets could usually give a pretty good guess.
BAE: I was probably close and they left it at that. Vet was cool but they can only care about your stupid-ass pet so much. I would have been like, “Yeah, whatever, maybe your pet is immortal. Maybe your pet was in the band Immortal. Who cares?” Basically I should be kept away from children and pets.
TJW: My vet pisses me off because they always want to do a $75 fecal float to check for parasites.
BAE: Yeah, they were pushing the HIV test, but we’d already done that in the past and my cat is spayed and doesn’t do any fucking. In fact, my cat hates other cats. All my cat does is eat and sleep.
TJW: We should write a book about taking our animals to the vet. I feel like there could be some good material there.
BAE: We should. We’ll call it PetStupid, instead of PetSmart.
TROY JAMES WEAVER lives in Wichita, Kansas. His writing has appeared at Everyday Genius, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, andHobart. He is also the author of Visions (Broken River Books), Witchita Stories (Future Tense Books), Marigold (King Shot Press), and Temporal (Disorder Press).
BRIAN ALAN ELLIS is the author of several books, most recently a story collection, Failure Pie in a Sadness Face, and a novel, Something to Do with Self-Hate. He lives in Florida.