Hugh Everett Is Alive and Well in an Alternate Universe

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Mark Everett with his father’s papers and documents, which he stores under his house
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Mark Oliver Everett (AKA "E") is best known as the singer, songwriter, and driving force behind the indie rock band Eels. His songs can be poppy, but there's always a hint of sadness in there — sometimes more than a hint.

A lesser-known biographical detail about Mark: his father, Hugh Everett III, proposed the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics. Everett's work raised the possibility that multiple realities could exist simultaneously, with multiple versions of us in them. It was an out-there idea when Everett first proposed it in 1957, but over the years it has gained adherents, among physicists and Hollywood screenwriters alike.

Mark himself didn't know about his family legacy for many years. "I grew up having no idea that was my father's thing," he says, "but enjoying lots of "Star Trek" and "Twilight Zone" episodes and countless movies that were all inspired by it."

Hugh Everett III died when his son was 19. But, years later, Mark was invited to participate in a "Nova" documentary called “Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives.” He calls making the documentary and learning the details of his father's work "the single most rewarding experience of my life in many ways."

Kurt Andersen: If his theories are correct, then your father could be alive, an old man, in some other universe. Is that a thing you think about?

Mark Oliver Everett: Yeah, that's a thing I've thought about. And I have dreams occasionally about my father as an old man — I'm actually now a year older than my father was when he died, so that's a strange feeling. So, I'll have these dreams occasionally where he has gray hair and he's kind of a more laid-back, happier version of himself.

You once said that you and your father could both be described as “idea men, and anything outside that can be a distraction." What did you mean by that?

Well, the older I got the more I started to see parallels between our personalities. He was always this quiet presence, sitting around thinking all the time, sorting out his thoughts. I hear people describing me that way often. We all try to be the opposite of our parents, but then one day you look in the mirror and your father is staring back at you.

There's a theory that's kind of adjacent to your father's work about something called the "pocket universe" — does it ever feel that way to you when you're working on a record or song, that you're in this happy little pocket universe?

Totally. That's a great analogy, because often when I'm making a record I've got blinders on and there is no other universe — that's one of the things that is easy about doing what I do, because it's your entire cause for living until it's done. But the price you pay is: it's a very unbalanced life.

Are you working on something now?

I'm working on balancing my life.

Bonus Track: "Parallels"

Video: "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives"

Music Playlist

  1. Things The Grandchildren Should Know

    Artist: Eels
    Album: Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
    Label: Vagrant
  2. Parallels

    Artist: Eels
    Album: Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett
    Label: Pias America