Rapper Mickey Avalon’s party tunes tell stories of addiction, prostitution

Mickey Avalon (with Kid Mac)

When: Friday, 10 p.m.

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Where: Sugar Nightclub

Tickets: $18 at Lyles Place, Ditch Records, Ticketweb.ca

Sex and drug dealing may be common territory for plenty of rappers, but not too many rap about the flipside: Being addicted to heroin and becoming a prostitute yourself.

Enter Mickey Avalon.

The Hollywood rapper’s party tunes cover some dark territory, even when songs like My Dick, Drugs and Waiting to Die make light of those experiences.

“Even the heavy stuff, I try to at least make it funny,” Avalon said in an interview from Vancouver, where he arrived a day early to catch a Canucks game.

Rapping is like telling a story, he said, and it needs characters. It’s not that he gets anything personally out of sharing those stories, it’s just what he knows.

“Maybe those are the only characters I really know about, you know, or decide to give a voice to.”

Avalon seems to know them well. Growing up in Hollywood, his father was addicted to heroin, while his mother sold pot in order to support the family — a trade she passed on to her son along with a “code” to never take advantage of people and to always be honest.

Avalon said that, as a kid, he always wanted to “save” his father, so when he felt depressed in his teens and began shooting heroin himself, he called it “ironic.”

By his early 20s, he had a daughter, a divorce and had turned to prostitution to support his addiction.

While Avalon didn’t identify a specific wake-up call, he began turning things around after his sister died of an overdose. It occurred only a few years after his father also died after he was hit by a drunk driver.

“I think that whole world is a constant low point, I think that’s what the drug is about — getting that relief for however long,” he said.

One day, he called his mom, who told him her husband was rebuilding a house and could use some help.

“She figured she’d hear from me again in another few months, but I just went straight for the Greyhound, got on it, called her the next day and was like, ‘All right, I’m here.’ ” Avalon said.

His mother helped him get enrolled in a program to learn graphic design and he said he got involved with music through friends who had a punk-rock record label that he did web work for.

The origin lore picks up when he met ex-MTV VJ Simon Rex, who helped him pass out demos and connect him with other people in the industry.

Now 37, Avalon continues to rap about his past, even with some distance from it. He said he doesn’t think he could pull off rapping about being a father to his teenaged daughter — and it doesn’t seem to fit with the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll demands of the music industry anyway.

Hollywood isn’t known as a place that encourages sobriety, but Avalon said he manages a good balance these days. While sobriety, for a lot of people, means swearing off all drugs and alcohol, Avalon said he’s reached a point where he can drink without wanting to stick a needle in his arm.

“I drink alcohol; I smoke pot. But I don’t think that would work for too many people and it wouldn’t have worked for me right at the beginning,” he said.

He has trouble taking himself seriously, at one point in the interview, suggesting that he doesn’t make music “seriously.” Asked what he meant, he said it just sounded funny.

“I mean I do it, it’s ‘serious,’ it’s my career and my job. But that’s me — saying I do anything ‘seriously’ is kind of funny.”

He also has trouble explaining the title track of I Get Even, his latest EP. It’s a tune filled with rage that — as the title suggests — is about getting even with someone.

“There had to be something behind that, but I don’t even really remember what I was angry about,” he said. “It sounds kind of silly, to be asking about a song, and then not know what it’s about.”

What he does know about is Hollywood — a track he wrote after hearing Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z’s ode to New York.

As a kid, he used to walk the streets of Hollywood and remembers asking his dad if the tourists who arrived knew that the city didn’t look anything like the postcards said it was.

“I asked him if people knew, before they came here,” he said.

But while there’s still some seedy stuff hidden behind every corner, he said things have changed.

“They’ve actually cleaned it up a lot.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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