He revisits that teenage year for our latest Sweet 16 column
I was in what is really the suburbs of New York City, in a town called Mount Kisco, about a 45-minute drive north. We had two record stores, one which was a particularly great used record store called Exile on Main Street, after the Stones album. And Kimya [Dawson], my Moldy Peaches partner, worked there. The first time I met her there was an arts centre in the town and there was an open mic – this is probably when I was around 13 years old – and I went there when they were having a poetry open mic with my guitar, and Kimya was there reading her poetry. When I then went into the store and she was working there, she was like, ‘oh, aren’t you that kid from the open mic?’, and I’d take my guitar to the store and we’d try to write songs.
What’s funny about me at 16 is that the Moldy Peaches is my high school band, which I’m guessing is different to other people when they do their reminiscing. I swear, I’m a particularly unchanging person: I’ve always been this guy – always worn the same clothes, I never change my mind about what I like and don’t like; it’s horrible.
I was an outgoing kid with an impulse to be curious, but I was definitely not always confident, and I was inexperienced and awkward. Fortunately, I had someone like Kimya as a guide, but unfortunately at that point Kimya was a raging alcoholic. She’s been sober since the late ’90s, but the Kimya that I grew up with was a bit reckless, so my memories of her are like, ‘oh wow, she was really, really wasted’. Like, 16 was when I lost my virginity, and I have a memory of Kimya pounding on my bedroom door when I’m in there with my girlfriend, and I’m completely not confident in what I’m doing, and I’m freaked out, and Kimya is pounding on the door calling my girlfriend a slut. I have all these memories of Kimya behaving like a dysfunctional parent – passed out in the car – but also these great memories of making all this music with her in my basement, because I had a little 4-track studio down there, and a drum kit set up, and this little shrangri la of instruments.
When Kimya came to town – which was only ever really in the summers – everything was different. Everything was exciting and we did the Moldy Peaches, and she had a car so we’d drive around and do all this stuff. And then she’d go away and be in Washington State or somewhere and I’d just wait for a call from her. That was ok because I had other things going on. Like, at that time, I was really getting into smoking a lot of weed. And taking other psychedelics like mushrooms and LSD, but mostly a lot of weed. And that drug reacts with me very powerfully – I can’t really talk to anyone while I’m on it; I go into another dimension. But I started a noise band called Neep with two of my friends, and we’d smoke weed and go into this coat closet without any windows, and we’d make a noise album in the dark. It sounded like a bunch of little kids having a wank, but it was cool.
By the time I was 16 I’d weathered the storm of bullies, who’d call me a faggot and push me down the stairs, and I was allowed to be myself. I was dying to get out of the school and I graduated early, but one of the projects I did do in high school was I self-published the first Moldy Peaches 7-inch. Some of the songs on the Moldy Peaches album are on that first 7-inch, like ‘Little Bunny Foo Foo’ and ‘On Top’. There’s probably under a hundred copies in existence – a lot got flooded in my aunt’s basement. The truth is that more than half of the Moldy Peaches album is already recorded by the time I’m 16.
As told to: Stuart Stubbs
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