Darius Mendoza - The Running Mouse Fundraiser
FEATURING ELECTRIC EMPIRE & SPECIAL GUESTS
Red Bennies discusses the dynamic life of Darius Mendoza - writer, poet, lyricist.
How old were you when you started touring the bars of Melbourne with your father, Noel?
In one sentence, how would your Father describe you?
The black sheep
What did you want to do as a child when you grew up?
Fly the Millennium Falcon with Chewie and Han
What it was like growing up in such a musical family?
Tedious and fabulous.
You were dyslexic in your youth. How did you move from here to writing a novel?
I couldn’t really read or write up until my early twenties. It wasn’t until after landing a main role on a TV show that I really had to deal with it.
So after that I took it on board to teach myself how to read. I started off with Vertigo comic books, cause the writing was minimal and there were pictures to aid the words and the stories were great and kept me interested. Instead of starting off with “the cat on the mat,” I read about killers and renegades.
After that I moved onto poems, because they too were small self contained stories that I could take my time and work though, I really got into Charles Bukowski because he was a prose writer and you didn’t have to be a scholar to understand what the man was saying. He put things simply and had an uncompromising voice and style, Bukowski is a dead mentor of mine along with John Fante, Salinger and Hemingway.
When did you realize this is what you wanted to do?
I suppose I discovered that in the process of it all. In Singapore after my gigs I’d find it very hard to sleep after bashing out 4 hours of swing-jazz and soul. Being completely buzzed I need something to settle me, so writing was the thing I did to bring me back again. After a while I started looking forward to the writing more than the singing. I love the simplicity of it too, I don’t need a band or a studio to write my words. All I need is some paper, a pen, a pack of softs, scotch and me. I guess you live and die by that. Cause if you write something that sucks you only have yourself to blame.
You are a seasoned “crooner”, a lyricist, a writer, a poet.. What did you start out doing? What do you enjoy doing the most?
It’s a tough question, one that can’t really be answered. It’s like food, sometimes you want 4 courses at some fancy pants joint, which take time and needs to be considered, somewhat like a novel. Then sometimes all you want is that cheeseburger at 3am in the morning kind of like writing a dirty poem after lots of drinking and fooling around.
In short I enjoy it all, singing and all types of writing, it’s more about what feels right at the time.
Can you give us a quick account of what ‘The Running Mouse’ is about?
The book is centered around a protagonist who has one small encounter that begins a much bigger journey of finding out who he is, what he wants and what he has been missing out on. From the very first page of the book we realize that the protagonist, Leon Jackson, has awoken to this truth. After Leon Jackson has his epiphany, it gives him an edge, an overwhelming sense of honesty and freedom in life that inspires many entertaining and unusual events. With this new mind-set Leon learns how to react, to use his gut feeling, his instinct and does it with absolutely no apologies, though living life in its extremity can be a blessing and burden. Leon is either on top of the world or stuck underneath it, one moment he’s living in his car, sick and drunk with no money, the next he’s wondering around a mansion entertaining the rich with his nonchalance.
What does this book mean to you?
It’s something that I finished, that I did off my own back, something that I created. So I’m proud of it and the way it all happened, thinking I’d never be able to read and then going on to write 265 pages of my own words.
Can you give us some further insight into “Leon Jackson” – your alter-ego?
It’s all a very effortless thing for Leon Jackson, as he pretty much does whatever he feels like doing in the moment, without too much contemplation of it’s effects on himself or on others. For Leon it’s not about learning, enlightenment or becoming a better person, it’s about the experience. He is often doing what is considered to be wrong and scamming his way in and out of trouble, but in saying that more times than not, you can’t help but feel empathy towards him and his cause. His great fear of becoming just another number is what fuels his many attempts at being more than just an average man. He wants more out of life and love but doesn’t really come up with any kind of plan on how to achieve this. So we see him fumble about, often conversing with his conscience, or drifting away into his vivid imagination or embellishing an alternate far-fetched out come. I like to think of Leon Jackson as the ultimate pessimistic-optimist.
What are your ultimate desires for the future of your book?
The Pulitzer Prize.
What do you view as the future of Electric Empire? What is your involvement going to be?
I don’t really know.. I know they deserve to be acknowledged in a global way because of their sound, their voice and obviously their/my lyrics. But until the world turns down David Guetta and Kylie Minogue and starts to really soul search for “the real” then I don’t know.
Christ, commercial music used to be, The Beatles, Stevie wonder, Billy Joel, Queen
Popular music has turned to shit! I’m not always looking for the obscure, I like a hotdog as much as the next guy but I refuse to eat a turd and call it a meal.
I write lyrics for some of their songs, I guess sometimes I’m a bouncing board for ideas but mostly I just get drunk and they laugh at me. I’ve just finished writing some lyrics for their new album. It’s a track Jason sings it’s fucking awesome and I’m working on another for my brother.
Why must people attend the Running Mouse Fundraiser at Red Bennies?
Because it’s unheard of, having all these different talents in one room, Jazz guys, rockers, soul singers… and me!
In all seriousness though, I like the cross pollination of art, whether it be from excerpts from the novel or hearing my brothers 70’s soul band (Electric Empire) or my sister singing beautiful Jazz or the old man banging out a George Shearing number. It’s my family, my crew and great friends like Juno Roxas and Phil Ceberano that are gonna kick you in the pants and say, this is life!
It’s exciting, it’s where people should gather on a Wednesday night if they’re looking for answers.
What are your plans for 2012?
Are you planning on writing more novels?