“It’s just open-heart surgery that’s all, no big deal”: Eels’ E on the major operation he underwent during the making of the band’s new album

Eels frontman E
(Image credit: Gus Black)

Eels returned this week with a brand new record Eels Time!, which came out yesterday (June 7). It’s the 15th record by the Los Angeles indie-rock eccentrics, led by songwriting dynamo Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) and one that explores the usual Eels themes – life, existentialism, death, love, goldfish – with all their customary it-is-what-it-isness. But on account of a major health scare, Eels Time! hits a little harder – Everett underwent open-heart surgery during the album’s creation and recently he told the music Substack publication The New Cue all about it.

“It’s just open-heart surgery that’s all, no big deal,” said Everett, somewhat sardonically. “They stopped my heart on the table and cut through my bones and my muscles and luckily it all worked, I’m good as new, I feel great.”

Everett said that he had no prior hospital experience and it was a long and slow recuperation period. “I’ve never stayed in a hospital ever so this was being in a hospital for a week, a major ordeal,” he said. “It took about two months for me to recover, it was a long time cos it was such a traumatic thing on my body. Now, I’m totally fine. It wasn’t that long ago either.”

Despite the fact that the record was made before the operation, Everett knew that it was on the horizon and thinks it may have seeped into the writing, honing in on Eels Time!’s reflective ditty and almost-title-track Time. “That may have been influenced by knowing something like that was coming up,” he said, revealing that the operation had altered his mindset. “I feel like I got a new lease of life. I’m like, ‘I’m so lucky I knew I had this condition’, because it kills a lot of people who don’t know they have it,” he stated. “It’s the only good thing that came out of my father dying of a heart attack at 51 – and this is unrelated at what happened to him but it’s the reason why I get scans every year, to keep an eye on stuff, because heart stuff can be so hereditary and it’s only because of my father that I found out my aorta was about to burst and that would’ve killed me so I’m really lucky that I knew about it and got to do something about it before it was too late.” 

Watch the video for Time below:

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.