As he tells it, Mark Oliver Everett — aka E, the misanthropic leader of eccentric (and defiantly lower-case) alt-rock outfit eels — was just minding his own business, smoking a reflective cigar in London's posh Hyde Park a few months ago. No harm, no foul. And that's when all hell broke loose.
"I was doing a round of press at a hotel there, it was the first day, and there was a little break in between interviews," recalls E, who's grown a beard so long and pendulous it'd make the Smith Brothers jealous. "So I went out to the park like I always do, sat on a bench, but then was approached by a bunch of police. With guns. I didn't even know they had guns over there."
Thanks to his rumpled jeans, beat-up old jacket and sinister facial hair, the singer/keyboardist had been mistaken for a potential terrorist. "Someone had called the police and said I was a suspicious character," he sighs, still baffled. "And at first, I laughed. And then I saw their guns and noticed that they weren't laughing. And it actually turned out to be a very unpleasant experience. They finally let me go after taking all my information, but I was worried that I wouldn't be able to leave the country for a while there. It's probably the strangest thing that's ever happened to me, which is really saying something."
E was in Britain to promote Tomorrow Morning, the radiant, uplifting finale to his rapid-fire trilogy, which was preceded by Hombre Lobo then End Times, all released only six months apart. He's now touring the world in support of all three albums, a move he'd put off, he says, "because I was just waiting till I felt it in my heart. I don't think it's fair to the audience to just go through the motions, just for the sake of going through the motions." He may even have shaved by the time he reaches your town. "Because the beard is starting to be more trouble than it's worth."
A few days after the police run-in, E stepped into a Heathrow airport elevator after a Muslim woman. Once she saw him, "she motioned to my beard and started apologizing profusely, and at first I thought she was crazy. Then I realized that she was apologizing for walking in front of the Muslim man. I think that's what was going on."
But on Tomorrow Morning, the wispy-throated artist sounds uncharacteristically ebullient. The album opens with the paean "In Gratitude for This Magnificent Day," and continues through more chiming charmers like "I'm a Hummingbird," "Spectacular Girl," and "This Is Where It Gets Good." (A deluxe edition includes four snarkier tracks, such as "Let's Ruin Julie's Birthday.") And it's released via E's own vanity imprint, E Works. "But this doesn't mean that it's the end of the story, or that I'm just gonna be writing songs about being at peace," he assures. "I'm sure I'll find something to be miserable about soon enough."
Like maybe the Hyde Park incident? Has that found its way into song yet? No, says E. "But I did experience something I'd never really experienced — the feeling of victimization, of being judged as your book's cover. So something just might come out of that."