We are all outsiders, with Eve 6 Guy
Max Collins on his evolution from Y2K alt-rocker to post-Bernie public intellectual, John Hinckley's music, and finding redemption in a culture war
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If you were alive in the late ’90s, chances are there was an entire chapter of your life that was soundtracked by Eve 6’s “Inside Out” — you know, that insanely catchy, angst-filled “heart in a blender” song that, starting in 1998, was ubiquitous on the radio and during Saturday trips to the mall. Nearly 25 years later, the Southern California alt-rock giants are back in the zeitgeist, though for decidedly un-nostalgic reasons: The band’s Twitter went viral in late 2020 (possibly the only good thing to happen that year) when, seemingly out of nowhere, singer and guitarist Max Collins began using it to serve up unfiltered, hilarious cultural and political commentary.
Subsequent offerings have ranged from cold-tweeting politicians to ask them if they “like the heart in a blender song,” to razzing other late-’90s rock stars (looking at you, Stephan Jenkins and Steve Albini), to thoughtful commentary on fair pay for musicians and roasting the centrist Dems.
We’ve been wanting to interview Max for a long time, but recently found the perfect excuse: Emilie and Max both wrote an article about John Hinckley Jr., the sexagenarian singer-songwriter who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s in a bid to impress the actor Jodie Foster. He wounded four people, including the President, and was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity.
On July 15, Hinckley finally became a free man after over four decades of restrictions and court-mandated psychiatric care. Max, who is a big fan of Hinckley’s music, got him on the phone for his first interview after his unconditional release.
Around the same time, Emilie got commissioned to write an essay about the cult fandom around Hinckley and his stripped-down, romantic folk songs, which have garnered him nearly 30,000 subscribers on YouTube. She wanted to examine the fascination with Hinckley’s music in the context of the complicated legacy of “outsider music,” a term popularized by WFMU DJ Irwin Chusid in the early 2000s to describe self-taught musicians with unusual backstories (and sometimes psychological disabilities) creating outside the bounds of the traditional music industry. Think: Daniel Johnston, The Shaggs, and Wesley Willis. It’s basically the music equivalent of the (similarly othering) category of outsider art.
But then a planned series of tour dates Hinckley booked this summer sparked a bunch of controversy online — especially after The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute issued a statement condemning his return to the stage. After the shows got canceled, the piece evolved into an exploration of how the long-running Brooklyn DIY venue Market Hotel, one of the stops on Hinckley’s so-called “Redemption Tour,” became a target for the conservative media outrage machine, exemplifying the Right’s increasing embrace of the very same cancel-culture tactics it loves to accuse the left of using.
What does the controversy around Hinckley’s foray into live music tell us about the state of the discourse? Is there such a thing as forgiveness, and redemption, in the middle of a culture war? And how in the world did Eve 6, a band we all grew up watching on MTV, end up reentering the chat as one of the funniest and most influential voices on left-wing Twitter?
Much like in his column, Max is a generous and thoughtful conversationalist and was kind enough to indulge our extremely long list of questions. Along the way, he also got deep about some of his own experiences with mental health, including navigating a form of OCD, and why perhaps the appeal of so-called “outsider music” is that we all feel like outsiders in a way sometimes.
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Listen to Eve 6’s latest EP, grim value. A little birdie tells us we can expect the first missive from the band’s next release in a couple of months.
Read more by Max
“John Hinckley Jr. speaks: ‘I’m trying to not dwell on the past’” (with Mark Yarm)
Read more by Emilie