Photo by JON PREMOSCH/BUZZFEED NEWS
BUZZFEED: The trajectory of Modest Mouse’s career from tenderfoot punks from Podunk to kings of the post-grunge Seattle scene was fairly meteoric. Not that they didn’t pay their dues. They ran their laps around the indie-rock stations of the cross: They played house parties until the cops came, they slept on the floors of strangers, they ate out of gas stations, they drove 22 hours through the night, in the snow, uphill both ways, to play for three people in Cow’s Ass, Indiana, like they were playing the Hollywood Bowl.
But hordes of young bands do that and never wind up with Modest Mouse’s career. It takes more than heart and stamina and an indifference to the smell of one another’s farts and a willingness to eat Cheetos for dinner. You have to have that X factor — that lightning-in-a-bottle combination of charisma, genius, and luck. Modest Mouse had it all, almost right out of the gate. It takes some bands 10 albums to turn out a “Dramamine,” and other bands make 10 albums and never get a “Dramamine,” but for Modest Mouse, it was the first song on their first album, This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About.
“It was clear right away that Modest Mouse was going to stand out from the herd,” says Sean Nelson, arts editor for Seattle’s alt-weekly The Stranger. “There were quite a few young bands from the Pacific Northwest suburbs who were cultivating the indie-punk sounds that would become a lot more familiar as the ’90s wore on, and a surprising number of them were really good, but Modest Mouse were obviously in their own league. In a weird way, they sort of put Seattle — which for all the success of the early ’90s was still kind of provincial — back on the map as a site of truly interesting, meaningful, new rock music. Then they made The Lonesome Crowded West, which was the first blatant masterpiece LP any Seattle band had made for a long time. It was a while before other bands caught up.”
The Lonesome Crowded West put Modest Mouse on the indie-rock map. It also made them a target. More specifically, it made Brock a target — not that the Wild Man of Issaquah didn’t often go the extra mile when looking for trouble. “Back then he was just crazy, super high on so many things,” says Blessed Light frontman Toby Gordon, who has been part of the Seattle music scene since the early ’90s. “He was always getting in people’s faces; he was fearless. And he went out of his way to find trouble. I once saw him pick a fight with a whole gang of dudes walking the opposite direction across the street.” To the casual observer, it would appear that Brock saw the world as a giant fist and it was his job to get out of bed every day and run face-first into it.
Around the same time, the Jackass guys were getting paid to be human cannonballs. For Brock, it was just a hobby. There was the time he got drunk and herniated three discs falling from a third-story balcony onto a second-story balcony. There’s the time he got his face bashed in with a beer bottle in Nottingham, England, that fractured his eye socket so severely doctors had to screw a plate into his skull. And the hits just kept coming. There was the time in Chicago when the band were recording The Moon & Antarctica, their 2000 major-label debut, and Brock tried to make friends with the local toughs drinking in the park and was gifted with a shattered jaw for his trouble. “My jaw felt pretty loose and weird — turns out they knocked it off the hinge,” he says. “There is a plate in my chin from that one. I still can’t feel that part of my face when I touch it.”
His jaw had to be wired shut for weeks, rendering singing nearly impossible — until he was done with having his jaw wired shut and, the night before Coachella, yanked out the wires with nothing more than Leatherman pliers and a bottle of whiskey for anesthesia. It took an hour and a half of cutting and yanking and bleeding. He does not recommend it. “I needed a lot of dental work afterwards,” he says.
But all those bone-crushing blows would seem like love taps compared to the hit that was coming. MORE