February 15, 2002
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Third Eye Blind's
influences range from Lou Reed to Queen
By DOUG ELFMAN
Third Eye Blind's singer and sex
symbol, Stephan Jenkins, is a massive Lou Reed fan, and he
thinks it shows in his work. This idea might be hard for
some rock fans to wrap their brains around. On the one hand,
you've got Reed, the classic singer-songwriter downer of the
1970s. And on the other, there's Jenkins, the aspiring
hip-hop/pop/rock poet of the late 1990s. But compare.
Reed talked-sang once: "Valium would
have helped that bash. She said: `Hey babe. Take a walk on
the wild side.' I said: `Hey, honey. Take a walk on the wild
"And the colored girls say: `Do. Do-do.
Do-do-do-do ...' "
Jenkins sang much later: "She said, 'I
want something else to get me through this semi-charmed kind
of life.' Do-do-do. Do-do-do-do-do ..."
" `Semi-Charmed Life' is `Take a Walk
on the Wild Side,' " Jenkins says, then sings Reed's
Each song immerses itself in a "culture
and gets subdued by it, and that's something that resounded
Certain Lou Reed songs were "about
heroin, although the band's always denied it," Jenkins says.
"Semi-Charmed Life" "was about becoming a speed freak."
Other Third Eye Blind hits similarly
delve into dark subjects. "Jumper": "I wish you would step
back from that ledge, my friend." "Losing a Whole Year"
observes, "When you start talking, I hear the Prozac." And
"How's It Going to Be" wonders: "How's it going to be when
you don't know me? How's it going to be when you're sure I'm
Jenkins would like to meet and perform
with the man who has inspired him. But so far, he has not.
He has, though, sat down with Reed's wife, the avant-garde
performance artist, Laurie Anderson. Jenkins confessed to
"I've had dinner with Laurie Anderson,
and I've said, 'I've made a career out of ripping off your
husband,' " Jenkins says.
Contrasting the Reed-influenced
pensiveness, though, is Third Eye Blind's generous up-tempo
rhythms and its layers of catchy melodies, which are
descendents of the 1970s operatic rock band Queen.
"I'm always in sort of in a state
between something of Lou Reed's punk rock and Queen. I want
(songs) that have these complex arrangements," Jenkins says.
"These things are kind of at odds with
each other. One of my favorite bands was the Sex Pistols,
and the Sex Pistols were there to destroy Queen!"
As you can see, Jenkins' taste in music
is all over the map. He grew up in San Francisco listening
to hip-hop, a lot of Prince and also T. Rex, the "Bang a
Gong (Get It On)" rock band of the 1970s.
And when he pieced together last
October's Breathe, a fund-raising concert for impoverished
breast-cancer fighters (his mom is a breast cancer
survivor), he lined up pop-rocker Nikka Costa, rapper Lil'
Kim, the hard-core Deftones and singer-songwriter goddess
Phair, as it turns out, "was a fan of
our band," Jenkins says excitedly, and why wouldn't he be
thrilled by this news? Maybe the coolest moment of Jenkins'
whole life was then dueting with Phair on her song,
"(Expletive) and Run."
"Liz Phair is a musicians' musician.
Everybody who wanted to play (at Breathe) wanted to play
with Liz Phair. Scott Weiland was going to play. Before (he)
pulled out, his prerequisite was to play with Liz Phair."
"She knew all the lyrics" to Third Eye
Blind songs, Jenkins says. "She wanted to do 'Motorcycle
Drive By,' but she did 'Jumper,' " instead.
As you can also see, Jenkins' life is
charmed. He was one of People magazine's sexiest people of
1999, although he doesn't think he's hot. ("If you knew me,
ha ha ha ha, it's not so hot.") He travels the world. He has
dated beautiful starlets (Charlize Theron, Winona Ryder).
But happy as he is to reap the rewards
of celebrity, he doesn't think anyone should envy the glitz
"I'm not complaining at all. I feel
completely blessed, and I've had a really good time so far,"
he says. "There are aspects, or things, I really love about
celebrity, (such as) the access to really anything. I have
access to really anything. There really is that sense that
all the curtains are open."
"The last couple of years, I have
really corrupted my soul in some way," Jenkins says. "I
think luxury and glitter is a complete bore. It's just dull.
And I think that being able to make records and make music
part of the culture, and to tour is just the greatest thing
ever. I love it, and really cherish it, and value it. So
it's just something I want to keep doing. I want to keep
doing it on my own terms."
What's dull about the glitz?
"I'll give you an example. I have to go
to Paris as a guest. I went there to go to be a part of a
fashion show, because they want celebrities in the front.
"So there I am (with other
celebrities). ... And we're all sitting next to each other
at this fashion show, and we're staying in a luxurious
hotel. It's the best. But is this bed really more
comfortable than my bed? No. Is the food better? It's foie
gras, but is it better than a cheeseburger? No.
"The people (living that lifestyle),
that's not really fun. Whereas, like, you know, roaring my
motorcycle down North Beach is fun!
"I'm glad I get invited, but there's a
sense of being remote about your own life."
Jenkins also has learned from watching
other rock stars ascend and descend. For one, he he saw the
pop-rock band Eve 6 turn all rock star while that band
opened for Third Eye Blind a few years ago.
"It was really funny," Jenkins says of
Eve 6. "The (tour) bus catching on fire and burning to the
ground. A pick-up line I will never forget. A lot of girls
were on tour, and one of the band members came up to a girl
and goes: 'I'm a slut. What do you say?' "
Third Eye Blind has since put one of
their own favorite bands on their opening band slot, an
indie outfit called the Muffs, but the Muffs never broke
"The fans were like: 'What the
(expletive) is this? Where's my hit?' "
Third Eye Blind is still pushing the
Muffs. Third Eye plans to put their cover of a Muffs song,
"I'm a Dick," on a to-be-released all-covers album someday.
They'll also probably lay down a cover of the Police's "Next
to You," and maybe a rendition of the Clash's "Should I Stay
or Should I Go," which they played at Tiger Woods' charity
event here last year.
For now, though, Third Eye Blind is
recording its third album of original songs. They've written
about 30 tunes in a new studio the band built in their
hometown of San Francisco, Jenkins says.
Many of the new songs are wrapped
around complex song structures, he says, and once again the
music will not fit into any contemporary radio categories,
especially since modern-rock radio is "in the hands of the
infidels," he says.
"I listen to alternative radio, and it
sounds like .38 Special," he says. "What was alt rock has
become metal rock for suburban, teen-age boys.
"No Doubt figured out not to even try
to be a rock band anymore," Jenkins says. "They're playing
urban-rhythm radio to have an audience.
"All I'm trying to do is record songs."