Singer Isaac Brock talks to Rosanna Alam about death, struggles and why he has issues with Charles Bukowski.
It's 12.30 pm and Isaac Brock sits sipping a sparkling mineral water, tea and
cola while puffing on some smokes in the lounge of the London Kensington Hilton.
This combination of "caffeine and bubbles" is his answer to jet lag
and a drunken hazed night involving Absinthe with merry tears.
And I'm also told crazy time has just kicked in for the Modest Mouse front man, as it's his equivalent of being up at 4.30am.
"The gravity of me needing these beverages just seems to make sense right now," he mutters softly.
With a rep for being evasive when it comes to press, the prickly, brown haired Brock takes deep aloof breaths while pondering questions and later apologises for being "slippery".
Perhaps this is because the media attention hasn't always had the band's interest at heart following a series of incidents.
Over the last couple of years Brock has been accused of date rape (a charge which has been withdrawn), having his jaw broken by a stranger, being in jail for one and half weeks because of a drink driving offence as well as having to come to terms with many deaths of those close to him. It's therefore no surprise that he can appear to be a tough shell to crack.
"When it comes to the trouble I have been in, I don't like to talk about it as I don't really see the point in revisiting the past," he says frankly. "There are parts of my lifestyle that a lot of the population wouldn't approve of and I know that I don't always make the right decisions."
Those who are unable to grasp his dark wit, heighten his need for being dubious.
"We told this guy in an interview that we chased dogs, ran them down and liked killing them like dead bugs. I thought he was a fucking moron because I was really surprised to read he took us seriously."
Formed in the early nineties at a time when Seattle exploded with grunge, Modest Mouse offered an alternative slice of Americana while popular masses were too busy cloaking themselves in chequered lumber jack shirts. Unlike many of those belonging to the whole grunge epic, they have now become a lasting force in the underground scene.
With a sound that has been compared to The Pixies, Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips, the trio included Jeremiah Green (drums), Eric Judy (bass) and of course Isaac Brock (guitar/ vocals).
"I never really wanted to be in a band, I just wanted to play music, so all this just happened by accident," explains Brock.
That old chestnut maybe so, but after putting out many sought after releases for avid music fans through Up records, it wasn't long before they were being sniffed out by the majors, which eventually landed them a deal with Sony. They have already been cited as one of America's best kept secrets on this side of the ocean, much of this has been sparked up by their highly anticipated new album, Good News For People Who Love Bad News.
However, Brock admits, it was a bit "touch and go" for the band when it came to the record, mainly because he was faced with the departure of their drummer after 10 years because of personal differences.
"Initially making and writing this album was a fucking nightmare," says Brock. "Jeremiah went completely insane. We tried to write with him for about six months and jump start it by getting him in the studio.
"The first day he didn't show up, the second he was eight hours late. By the third day he lost it, ended up in a mental institution and signed all of us up along with him.
"I left because I didn't feel like putting on the Daddy pants. I was told some shit, I proved them right and then I went to a bar. But he (Jeremiah) had his shirt off and tried to fight Eric. He regrets it I'm sure, he'd rather I'd not talk about it."
Jeremiah was soon replaced with Benjamin Weikal with the addition of Dan Gulucci on guitar/ keyboards.
After band issues were resolved they decided they didn't gel with the first two producers on the record and enlisted Dan Herring known for dabbling with the Throwing Muses and Camper Van Beethoven. Looking back on it, it all seems a bit mentally and physically exhausting for Brock.
"I love the guy, he's great but he's fucking crazy." he yelps emphatically. "He'd have me play the same part four hours straight and at about the time I was going to kill him and turn myself into the cops- he'd turn round to me the next day and say that he liked it better when I played it the first time round.
"That was tough. All things said - it was a hard, fun and interesting record to make. I don't think we would have enjoyed it so much if it wasn't as difficult as it was to do."
By the looks of things Brock has pretty had more than his fair share of hardships than most people do in a lifetime.
A recent tragic mountain accident involving his brother has also meant coping with another loss.
"It hasn't really sunk in but it will," he says pensively.
"Death showed up a lot on this record because I would rather it quit killing all my friends. It used to be people would die of a heroin overdose while growing up in Seattle because it was a poor town. Although it was a problem, I didn't feel as I do with the last few friends and my brother who died.
"It's because they died in accidents and of things like leukaemia where no one was doing anything wrong.
"This proves that there is no God, otherwise he would have smite the fuck out of me by now.
"I've been through some awful shit like being in comas and having screws in my face after getting beaten up by Mafia folk. I've set myself up and there's no reason I should be alive.
"Then there's people who are healthy and do things right who are dead."
He adds: "I don't usually like to talk about my songs but I really mean it in Ocean Breathes Salty where it says "And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both grow old." I still hope for that."
And hopeful he is these days, as demonstrated by a bold tattoo proudly displayed on his wrist stating "Life Is Still Sweet"- which is inspired by a White Hassle song. By this token it's clear he has decided to strike back at bleakness with its enemy optimism.
He says: "I like being optimistic. There is enough bad news and there are enough records in the wilderness with whiney dark bullshit. Not that I don't like that stuff, but I just feel there's not enough bands saying that things are going to be ok."
With all this in hindsight, it seems that Brock has developed wiser perspective on life.
Although he has been known to indulge in excess, and be a heavy drinker, he despises those who seem to advocate it. Which clearly shows why he dedicates a whole song to having a pop at Charles Bukowski.
"He glamorised alcoholism and misogyny. I've seen friends get impressed by him and he seemed to impress himself by being a pain in the ass. I just don't like alcoholism being put in a way that makes my friends wanna be alcoholics."
This year looks likely Modest Mouse are ripe to burst open the gates into the mainstream floods.
But like their name suggests, when it comes to making musical history, Brock remains modest.
"I'd rather make good music than be famous and it's not because I don't want to get paid, it's because I just don't want to be distracted.
"In years to come I'm not bothered if I make a mark on the whole scheme of things, it's just about whether I make a mark on me and my friends lives.