Mojo Nixon resides just below the threshold of household-name status, but if his dedicated cult following were to suddenly multiply, the world would probably be better for it. The 42-year-old singer-songwriter's milestones ("Elvis Is Everywhere," "Don Henley Must Die," "Get Out Of My Way") exemplify his unstable-redneck shtick, but they don't really illustrate that Nixon can also be an erudite political philosopher and suitably sarcastic leftist/anarchist social critic. Celebrities are frequent targets: "Don Henley Must Die," "Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child," and "Bring Me The Head Of David Geffen" are some of his best-known broadsides. Nixon's newest album, The Real ¡Sock Ray Blue! Texas Prison Field Recordings Vol. 3, is no exception, having fun with such easy targets as Princess Diana ("Drunk Divorced Floozie"), O.J. Simpson ("Orenthal James (Was A Mighty Bad Man)"), and corporate media ("Disney Is The Enemy"). ¡Sock Ray Blue! represents Nixon at maximum strength, with his raw rock band The Toadliquors giving him a sturdy soapbox on which to stand. In recent months, Nixon has been moonlighting as a talk-radio host in Cincinnati, insinuating himself into the station's fairly conservative format while lending his humor to the morning show. In a recent interview with The Onion, he railed against Scientology, Pat Buchanan, Morrissey, HMOs, and much more.
The Onion: Weren't you in a band called Zebra 123?
Mojo Nixon: The infamous Zebra 123, visited by the Secret Service.
O: What was that all about?
MN: Well, we were a bad-boy punk band when there were a lot of new-wave skinny-tie bands, and no one would let us play because fistfights would break out. So we had this thing, the assassination ball, on the anniversary of Kennedy getting his head blown off. And we had this picture of Reagan and Carter with their heads exploding. Then the Secret Service came and told us that was a bad idea. They thought we were raising money to shoot the president, and they took a very dim view. We were a little punk-rock combo, three chords and a cloud of dust.
O: When did this happen?
MN: That was in '80 or '81. I graduated from college in Ohio and bummed around for a while, and then I joined VISTA, which was a domestic Peace Corps kind of thing, and they sent me to Colorado.
O: What was your degree in?
MN: Political science and history.
O: Where are you living now?
MN: I just moved to Ohio. I got a job on the radio here. They originally brought me here to do AM talk radio, but then they found out I was a Communist, and that kinda put an ixnay on the thing. But it's fun. This morning we talked to Kiss.
O: Did Kiss have any integrity left?
MN: Ah, no. Gene Simmons struck me as how he always struck me—he's like a Broadway show-tune guy! He's all about the spectacle. He has more in common with Starlight Express than he does with Chuck Berry. I think if rock 'n' roll hadn't been around, he would have been a sideshow carnival barker.
O: You're doing the morning show. How do you like waking up at 5 a.m.?
MN: I get up at 4:30, actually. I can actually get up at any time. My internal clock has been completely destroyed. I can fall asleep at any time and wake up at any time. The show starts at 5:30, and at about 8:30 I start getting a little tired. But if I drink a couple Mountain Dews, I'm usually okay. I don't have to carry the show, by any means. I'm just the new sidekick. They just brought me in to spice it up.
O: Your cover of "Girlfriend In A Coma" was a nice way of taking a jab at Morrissey.
MN: That song lends itself to Mojoness very well. Morrissey is pathetic. He doesn't eat meat, he doesn't get laid, and he's crying all the time. He's like an 8-year-old kid whose dog gets run over every day at 4:30. He's kind of an easy target.
O: Then there's "Bring Me The Head Of David Geffen." Did he really threaten to sue you if you released the track, or was that just you trying to get attention?
MN: It totally sounds like the kind of scam I'd run, though I didn't. I would have put the song on the album, but my producer and manager started freaking out, crapping in their pants. I mean, not even David Geffen's lawyer, or a friend of David Geffen's lawyer, but, like, David Geffen's lawyer's maid called somebody in New York and scared the hell out of the people distributing the record. The guys had to wear Depends for a week. And since we were making the record on my manager's girlfriend's credit cards, I couldn't say much about it. I was really in no position to bankrupt her.
O: And your song about Don Henley ("Don Henley Must Die") was fairly scathing, but later you became friends.
MN: That's the weird thing. Me and Don Henley are fast acquaintances now, or something. He actually got on stage and sang with me. To quote my drummer, he must've had balls bigger than church bells to do that. It was in Austin. He has friends there, and there were rumors that he may come out to this little place where we were playing. The thing that really shocked me was that this was a rabid Mojo crowd in this tiny place, and they went from being rabid Mojonites to star-struck within a quarter of a second. He got on stage and he was drunk out of his mind, so I said, "Whaddya want? You wanna fight? You wanna debate?" And he said, "I want to sing the song, especially the part about not getting together with Glenn Frey." And it was great. For once in my life, I had nothing to say. Totally fucking speechless. We played "Already Gone" as he left. And the place was jammed, but nobody had a camera. Not one. It's a mystery event. Maybe it didn't happen or somethin'.
O: But it did.
MN: Oh, yeah, it did. Don Henley, I agree with a lot of his political things… but he was in The Eagles! The fucking country Monkees of the '70s! They're one step above Firefall! How can you take them seriously?
O: But when they reunited, people paid over $100 to see them stand there and play "Hotel California."
MN: And they stand there, too. Joe Walsh can't move. If he moves, he'll fall over. I met Joe Walsh trying to rehabilitate in Memphis years ago. I can't believe he was touring! His brain seemed totally scrambled. I'm talking scrambled scrambled. He could hardly hold a conversation. He's just a big mess. I said, "Whoa, I don't want to end up like that! Not for a couple years, anyway!" The other thing about singing songs about people is that now I'm kind of linked forever with Don Henley in people's minds. I'm having a nightmare that the same thing might happen with Morrissey. I have this vision of myself on Dutch TV doing a duet with Morrissey. And I don't want this to happen!
O: You've taken a few shots at Michael Jackson, as well.
MN: You know what I got to say about that? When Michael Jackson could have had anybody on the planet, and "Billie Jean" was number one, and everybody was calling him a genius and everything, he didn't have beautiful women around him—he had Webster [Emmanuel Lewis] and a fuckin' monkey! He's a nut! Becoming a superstar at age 12 definitely warped him, and not in a Mickey Rooney way, either.
O: Some of the other people on your enemies list—like Debbie Gibson and Rick Astley—have kind of disappeared.
MN: Debbie Gibson is a perfect example. Debbie Gibson, Rick Astley, Tiffany, and Spuds MacKenzie. I could be blamed for their downfall. They're all done! They couldn't draw a fly to a shit-eating contest. And I'm still out there playing. There are hotbeds of Mojonites everywhere.
O: Most shows, you're probably preaching to the converted.
MN: Oh, yeah, but the real crazy fans, the Mojonites, always bring, like, eight of their buddies from work. A lot of those people are totally straight civilians; they have no idea what it's about. But a couple of 'em will latch onto it. There's guys who are, like, "I love Mojo and Bryan Adams! Those are the two greatest things!"
O: Where do you like to perform, if the choice is yours?
MN: In the '30s they used to talk about "the wide-open town." There doesn't seem to be too many of those places left: where the bars are open all night, the whorehouses are well-lit, the laws are lax, and fun is had! I address all that in "Burn Down The Malls." I like the local place. I like Billy Bob Bubba Junior's burger place on the edge of town with the B sanitary rating. Local promoters will ask me where I want to go eat, and I'll say, "I wanna go eat at the place where your drunk uncle goes to, that your mother doesn't like." I don't want to go to Perkins. I don't want to go to any chain. The problem with chains and economies of scale and national advertising is they drive the other guys out of business. No matter how good a product somebody has, you drive 'em out of business. Starbucks is just a perfect example. "Burn Down The Malls" has become "Fuck Starbucks." That's just an example. I hate going into those places!
O: How did you become the honorary captain of the U.S. Olympic luge team?
MN: They were big fans. Gordy Sheer was a big fan. He's been to a couple of my shows; I met him, but I didn't pay any attention to him. Then he wrote me a letter and asked if I would be their honorary team captain. I wrote back and said, "Hell, yeah." They were on their way to Nagano; they went over there for the first time ever and got bronze and silver medals. They couldn't beat these damn Germans, though. It was glorious on my part: The L.A. Times' headline was "U.S. Olympic Team Has Their Mojo Working." I was happy as a motherfucker.
O: Your new song, "Machines Ain't Music," says that all techno music is disco, "and disco sure does suck."
MN: There's been a resurgence. I was at Woodstock a month ago; the radio station sent me up there. The Chemical Brothers and stuff—it's just horrendous! Horrendous.
O: To you, it's as bad as disco in the '70s?
MN: And it could possibly be worse. But it's equally as bad. I mean, if you have shit sandwiches, it's one of 'em. There's no soul; there's no funk. All this—what's it called, techno or somethin'?—is all just noise. I mean, to me, anyway. It's just disco, just bad disco.
O: What are the kids getting off on, then?
MN: Well, hopefully they're getting laid. And hopefully, they're on something. 'Cause from my perspective, you've gotta be on something to listen to that crap. They had these raves going on. Rave music sounds like an electronic disco version of '30s Universal monster movies. It was all kind of minor-key and ethereal and somewhat ominous in a light way. That's what it sounded like to me. I about went berserk. I firmly believe if you can't take an acoustic instrument and make people from a different culture butt-dance, you aren't doing shit.
O: You've got a pretty impressive catalog of songs by now.
MN: I can only play about 20 songs a night, but there's about 100 total, of which 40 are good. But like any songwriter, I'm really writing just three songs over and over, maybe four. So if I do one, it kind of precludes another one, because in my mind, it's the same song.
O: Looking through your filmography, you've got some impressive roles in there: You've got Rock 'N Roll High School Forever, Car 54 Where Are You?, and Super Mario Bros.
MN: It's just one shitty movie after another. If it's a shitty movie, they're calling me.
O: How do you pick and choose your parts?
MN: I go with whoever can wave the most cash in front of me. I'm not really an actor. No one really wants me unless they want a little flavor. I'm not gonna try to act or anything like that. I can't act. I just did a play in New York, and they hired me to play a snake-handling preacher because they couldn't find an authentic American hillbilly in the East Village.
O: Was it tough to go from years of living in Southern California to Ohio?
MN: People ask me that, but I can live anywhere. I've been everywhere, done damn near everything… though I haven't been to an opium den. I've been to a whorehouse, I've been to a cockfight, I've been to a methamphetamine lab, and I've been to a moonshine still, but I haven't been to an opium den. In fact, there's a song that's been sitting on the back burner called "Searching For The Last Opium Den In America." But I can be anywhere. Anywhere there's ESPN, air conditioning, and a cool place to eat, I'm happy. I don't need a whole lot. And with the radio gig, I get paid every two weeks, and they're letting me go out and tour for 12 weeks out of the year. That way, I don't feel like I've completely given up. If I had a job and was getting up every day at 4:30 and couldn't put out records, then I might be a little more bummed out.
O: You haven't done much touring in the past five years or so. Were you getting burned out?
MN: In the cycle of touring, you start out, you're not nearly as drunk, and you're really excited. It's playing those middle shows on Tuesday night in Ames, Iowa, when no one's there: That's when you've got to keep from getting shit-faced and doing Hendrix tributes and what-not.
O: What were you like as a kid?
MN: The same. One of my friends back in Virginia said, "He's doing the same shit he was doing in high school! It's just louder now!" When I was in high school, I was racing bicycles. I was possessed by bicycle racing, which is a good way to get away from people. But I always had an odd take on things. I actually tried for hours—for weeks at a time—to fit in, and I finally realized there's no hope of that. I'm never going to be a normal civilian. I shouldn't even try. So, I'll just be what I ultimately want to be: Mojo Nixon. And Mojo Nixon is just what Kirby McMillan wishes he could be. And now I am! What a deal!
O: How did the name come to you?
MN: It was just two things that shouldn't go together. Mojo is some disreputable blues musician and Nixon is some bad politics. Voodoo and bad politics. Plus, you've got to have a good name for the encore. You've got to have a good two-syllable name so people can chant it. I hated Nixon. I was calling for Nixon's impeachment in '73. He was the president you loved to hate.
O: Did you talk about any of these issues when you debated Pat Buchanan on CNN?
MN: Not really. The topic was putting warning stickers on records, and I pointed out that what Frank Sinatra suggested was 10 times worse than anything I'd suggested. He was constantly suggesting screwing other people's wives and drinking and driving. But that was good. At the end of the show, I was yelling at Pat Buchanan: "I'm coming back! I'm gonna get you! I'm the ultimate Nixon!" It was like a wrestling match. I was on there with Buchanan and Michael Kinsley and this woman, a state senator from Missouri who essentially wanted to ban every record that wasn't Barney. I just found out about it the afternoon before, so I flew to L.A., did it, and flew home. I was in L.A. and they were in D.C., so it was kind of hard for me to get my two cents in, because I couldn't look at the screen and watch. It was out of sync; the signal was bouncing back and forth between D.C. and Atlanta. It was like a Japanese monster movie.
O: Have folks pointed out that you look like John Travolta on the new record?
MN: People do say that every now and then. This little hairdresser girl was fixing my hair to look like John Travolta or something. But I'm not a Scientologist. Still, I'm interested in Scientology and Mormonism—the creation of native American religions in the last 100 years. Christianity was so long ago, but here's something happening right now. L. Ron Hubbard's son, who changed his name to something like Barry Smith, wrote a song called "Bald Faced Messiah." And man, it tears up old L. Ron. If half of what he says in there is true, there are some mean, controlling freaks there who wouldn't have been out of place in the Third Reich.
O: Do you ever address the topic of organized religion?
MN: Well, people's lives are empty. This is why the traditional religion is not working; this is why the Princess Di thing is such a big deal. This is why the JFK Jr. thing is such a big deal. JFK Jr. just happened to be born the son of a president whose head was blown off, and you know what his chief asset was? He had good hair. He was a hunk. If he was half as ugly as I am, no one would give a shit about his raggedy ass dyin' in an airplane.
O: Can you outline your political platform?
MN: Basically, I'm just saying one basic thing: Take responsibility for your own actions. You make decisions, and you live by 'em. If you were dealt a bad hand, you've still gotta play cards. Or you can fold and get another hand. But you can't sue somebody and get a new hand! People always want to blame somebody or something. It's always somebody else's fault. But it's your own damn fault. The government, the church, the state, the lawyers, the doctors… It's not their fault, it's not your parents' fault, it's your fault. People always want to blame someone else—right-wing talk-show hosts, or rap musicians, rock 'n' roll, or whatever. All this whining and crying and pissing and moaning and suing everyone has gotta stop. You make decisions and you live by 'em. And then you die. Then other people get to make decisions and live by them. It's pretty fuckin' simple! Now, it's who can hire the most lawyers and wear the other person down so they give up and you win. Whoever has the most money can hire the most lawyers and eventually win. Same thing with the election process. The idea is that there's supposed to be a marketplace of ideas and you vote for who you think is best. But that's not true at all. It's whoever can raise the most money, can hire the smartest people, and make the best button-pushing ad to get elected. We have diluted justice and democracy by putting money into it so deep. I've been working on this thing, The Mojo Manifesto. I'm gonna solve all these problems. I'm just having a little trouble figuring it out.
O: Do you vote?
MN: No, I don't vote. I think the last time I voted, I voted for Carter. I don't think it makes a difference. I think the Republicans and the Democrats are just selling us the same bag of shit with different colors on it. They're both battling in the same middle 10 percent of the total spectrum of political ideas. People were so excited—and I, too, was excited—when Clinton was elected, but all Bubba can really do is put a smiley face on things. The giant bureaucratic machine, the defense department, the department of transportation, the IRS… All these things just ride along. They don't even know Bubba's there. And look at Bubba—he can't stop these things. Look how worn-out and beat-up he is. Because of the way the whole system is based, you get the most money, which comes from the most evil people, whether it's cigarette money or HMOs or whoever, and they're going to keep things the way they are. They're going to bamboozle us into making us think we're getting reform when what they're really doing is protecting their asses. In the big picture, the Republicans and the Democrats don't have a clue. They don't have any intention of solving any of our problems. Their only plan is to get re-elected; their only plan is save-ass: "If you give me money and vote for me, I'll try to save any stupid thing you want." It's sound and fury signifying nothing, and I'm calling for a new constitutional convention. If that doesn't work, I'm calling for armed insurrection! I mean, we're totally drifting around in a sea of stupidity and indecision. We agreed 200 years ago to have a constitution and to fight the king. We need to agree on something now besides football and pizza.
O: Are you thinking of joining a militia?
MN: No, I'm not going to blow up people; I'm going to blow up the infrastructure. I'm gonna shoot satellites out of the sky. And I also think that the ideas of doctors and nurses and HMOs are lousy and inefficient. It's all just a big money-grab, hiding behind the veil of, "We want to help you." They don't care about helping people. If you want to make money, there are plenty of ways. Become a lawyer. Become a widget salesman or something. Medicine should be about finding cures and healing people, not about making more money. If people are sick, we should try to make them well, not try to get as much money out of them as possible and keep 'em just alive to milk 'em 'til the end. It's wrong.
O: What's your solution?
MN: We need to reform the whole thing. We need instant voter registration when you turn 18. They're still using paper to register people to vote! You should be able to walk in anywhere with your social-security number, and they can check the computer and see if you've voted already. We need to get rid of the Electoral College; we need to open things up a little bit. That's why I'm calling for a new constitutional convention to unveil Mojo's new 10-point plan. I'm also calling for a billion dollars in research for the male G-spot. If you're gonna waste money, let's waste it for a good reason.
O: Do you know where to start looking?
MN: No, I don't. But it might be near the NASCAR organ.