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People's Lives

Andrew McMahon: "My band, my fans, they motivated me."

Jack's Mannequin front man Andrew McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia last summer. After chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, McMahon is in remission -- and on the road. Net proceeds from all ticket sales of his 19-city "Tour for the Cure" will benefit the Dear Jack Foundation, a nonprofit organization McMahon started. Dear Jack will donate the funds to the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Regents of the University of California in support of the research of Dr. Gary Schiller (McMahon's physician).

Houston Press: How did the Dear Jack Foundation come about?

Andrew McMahon: I knew that kids were going to want to send cards and flowers to me when I got sick. My band has always had a real strong connection with fans, and I knew they would want to reach out to me. The most common thing people send is flowers, and when I was sick, I actually couldn't have had any, they would have made me sick. Flip-flops were something that people saw me wear on stage and so we came up with the idea of Project Flip Flop. The deal was that if you bought these flip-flops off of our Web site, we would send all of the profits to Pediatric Cancer Research Fund, which does cancer research for kids' cancers. From there it grew into the Dear Jack Foundation. And now that we're going on tour, all the profits from the ticket sales will be donated to that fund as well.

HP: You're a public person, so you were sick, basically, in a spotlight.

McMahon: Because I earned a lot of my success underground, it's not like it was tabloid news when I got cancer. It was just something kids in high school knew about or that people in college talked about on their message boards. I didn't have all that stuff that a movie star would have if they got sick. I really just had a lot of people who cared and who sent me their well wishes. And, I think, that got me better quicker, knowing that I had sort of an obligation to my band and my fans. That got me off my ass a little bit quicker, it got me working toward something. Within a hundred days of my stem cell transplant, I was doing shows. My band, my fans, they motivated me.

HP: How has being ill affected your songwriting?

McMahon: Most of the things that I have written since I got sick haven't been heard, except for a song on the Superman soundtrack and a couple of other little things. Everything I do affects my subconscious and my perspective on the world. Anything I encounter in day-to-day life is somehow getting mathematically factored into my awareness. It's going to show up, there's no question about that, but I can't say exactly how or pinpoint directly where my being ill translated into a particular line in a song. Without question this is one of the largest events that has happened to me, one of the most traumatic and dramatic and enlivening, so it's going to affect everything.

HP: Being sick was an enlivening experience?

McMahon: Yeah, when you think there's a good chance that you might [die], and then you're given the chance to [live], you wake up with a little bit more pep.

HP: You'll be raising money with this tour, and promoting awareness about cancer in young people. What else do you hope that people take away from your show?

McMahon: I hope that people walk away from the show thinking, "Wow, that show was worth every penny." We try to make every show, every stop on the tour, special, unique. Ten or 20 years from now, when some of my fans are thinking back, trying to remember what shows they really liked when they were young, I hope they think of us.

It blows my mind when I meet college kids who tell me they were listening to my music when they were in sixth or seventh grade. One, because that means I'm getting older. When did that happen? [Laughs] And two, because it means that so long as I keep my promise to make good music, I get to be part of people's lives.
Jack's Mannequin appears Friday, September 8, at Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas, 713-230-1600.

Between the Cracks

In the dark corner of a warehouse hip-hop show, you'll find Perseph One, the local beat/wordstress who is known for her ability to churn out rhymes faster than most people can hear them. You might remember her as last year's opening act for the Talib Kweli and Jean Grae show at the Engine Room -- where she silenced the audience except for whispers of "Who is this chick?" -- or from her countless appearances at warehouse parties and at B-boy Craig Long's monthly music installment "The Bench." But little is known about the mistress behind the mike, so we traveled way out east to Crosby to catch up with Perseph.

What's in a name, specifically yours? I like the idea of being the only woman to have the key to hell.

What is the best thing about your gig? Making art that people can relate to.

What's the worst thing about your gig? [Long pause]

Doing interviews like this? [Laughs] Yeah, people always -- I'm pretty much a quiet person. I don't say many words to people. They're all like, "You have so much to say on the mike, but then you get in social situations and you don't have anything to say."

When did you start performing? I started performing in high school.

Did you always want to be a hip-hop artist? When I was younger I liked Janet Jackson a lot and I wanted to be just like her.

What artists have had the biggest impact on you? H.R. Giger, Yppah, he's a local guy. He just got signed to Ninja Tune. His music has been a big inspiration as far as my beatmaking and the direction of sound that I like. Rappers would be, I don't know, not too many rappers. Right now I'm diggin' Macromantics.

What do you do to pay the bills? I'm working at a day care and at a restaurant.

What do you do at the day care? I wipe snotty noses and try to keep kids from causing chaos; yeah it's fun...

I get ten to 15 three-year-olds and I have to change diapers. I'm in the middle of all of 'em and they want to be held and they're always fighting because everything is like a possession of theirs -- "Mine, mine!" -- that's what I hear all day.

What's the worst thing about being a waitress? I don't like so directly being a servant. "Hi, my name is your server." I like serving in different ways. At the same time it's good to get paid to do something that makes people feel good. People like to eat.

The uniforms are bad, though. They're button-up, and mine is bright yellow. I picked that one because I ride my bike to work and that way I don't get hit by a car.

You used to have dreadlocks but you cut them all off. Why? Most people say, "Because it was time." Just one day I had a feeling like I don't know if I want to carry this anymore, all this energy, I just don't want to carry it around. They say your hair carries energy. I just looked in the mirror and cut it, and at first I had this reverse mullet -- I said, "Okay, this looks silly." The next day I had a friend cut the rest of them off. I still have them.

In case you need some extra energy, you could put them in your pocket... I was thinking about giving it away; I gave some away.

Would you consider selling it at your shows? [Laughs] Yeah, that would be cool. Like $5 a lock.

If you could choose a superpower, which one would you choose? Um...Can I have two?

Sure. To morph and to be invisible.

Ah, so you would rather change into something or change into nothing? That's a very interesting contrast. You made that sound deep. I don't know, God is all things, is something and nothing. I can't think of anything else that's greater than that.

You have a really laid-back personality. Do people ever think that you're constantly under the influence? Most of the time I am. Kidding! Actually, I stopped smoking weed, because it makes my demons talk to me and I get really supersensitive. I've been drinking, though.

Um, this questionnaire says, "How many girls have you picked up with your 'Hi, I'm a musician' line"... None. Actually, I don't have to give that line.

Where can we see you next? September 9 at B&B Sports Bar, 13310 Cullen.

If people want to know more about you, where should they go? To hell. No, tell them I'm just kidding. My MySpace.com page, www.myspace.com/perseph1.


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