Christopher Gutierrez - 10.10.07

Interviewed by
Christopher Gutierrez - 10.10.07For those of our readers unfamiliar with your work, please state your name and what you do for a living.

My name is Christopher Gutierrez and I walk into rooms across the country spilling my secrets. I am also known as dead stop to my friends, and I write books and rant ridiculousness on the internet.

Before we dig a little deeper, can you please give us a brief history of your career?

Well, I'm not really sure what "career" you're referring to, but I can only assume you're asking when I started writing. I wasn't some kid who had a dream of being the next Stephen King. I remember those kids, and I made fun of them. "Nerds. Who wants to do homework for a living?" I asked myself. But in the early 90's, I began publishing a fanzine because that's what everyone else was doing. It was called deadxstop, and it was a pile of turds. Not only because the content was a copy of every other zine I had seen before (shit, I even had crossword puzzles to fill space), but because I hadn't yet learned that people respect honesty in art. Whether your art is music, painting, sculpting, poetry or storytelling, people can see through bullshit and that was what I was trying to push over on kids, insincere cliches. I was bored in my community college political science class one day and I wrote a handful of stories that I compiled and assembled that afternoon in the library as a joke. Since I didn't take into account my audience, I wrote about what i found entertaining, my cats balls. As ridiculous as that sounds people responded well to it, and that's when I made the realization that sincerity (regardless of form) is paramount. Year after year, zine after zine, I took baby steps in my progression, often stepping in my own puddles of vomit and shit. Years later, a group of my friends received a small amount of fame and wrote a song thanking me for my support. Kids began instant messaging me asking me about said band, so as a joke I began my blog, askheychris.livejournal.com as my smug response to the annoying questions. After a few years, I found that thousands of people were reading my words. I'm not naive, and I'm well aware of how the attention came about, and agree with it or not, it's here. Yes, I have been given an opportunity, and yes, you're goddamn right I'm going to use it. We've all been given opportunities in life, and I'm not going to walk through an open door because some thirteen year old kid with a grudge doesn't like me. But it's not about that opportunity, it's about what you do with that opportunity, and I'm trying to be as responsible as possible with it and use it to the best of my ability. So, I wrote a book, then recorded a spoken word cd, then wrote another book, then began a slew of book tours. I took a gamble and quit my "real" job to follow my dream of being a writer. [Laughs] I ended up being that "nerd" I made so much fun of. Fucking karma.

What inspired you to become an author, and why do you feel people are drawn to your writing?

Writing is cathartic for me. What you read is simply the by-product of my late night melodramatics. Someone along the line thought my stories were entertaining enough that more people should read them, so they started an online petition to urge me to write a book. I wasn't aware that there was an actual demand, so I decided to borrow thousands of dollars to invest into my dream, that I think any fanzine writer, blogger, or anyone who writes aspires to see, their words behind a glossy cover. I won't lie, it was a selfish dream. Anyone who tells you that they think of "the kids" of their audience when they open their first case of books is a liar. It was like opening a box of trophies, and for a kid who only owns one award for being in third grade tee-ball, that shit felt amazing.

If you can tell me why people are drawn to my writing, maybe we can put our heads together and make millions. Honestly, I don't really understand it either. I've made a few mistakes along the way, and I've been honest enough with myself to write down what I've learned. I think people can identify with that. There are so many common themes like alienation, loneliness, the loss of our innocence, the worry of adulthood, the looming expectations of our parents, are we using our potential, are we ashamed of our mirror, are we happy? I think these things transcend age, culture, sexual orientation and musical genres, but in the end, I think it's as simple as "I may be clumsy, but I articulate my insecurities and triumphs with no shame," and I think people respect that.

You recently published your second novel, A Life Deliberate. What sort of material does the book contain?

Some days I wake up with good hair, a smile, and an inspiration to live to the best of my abilities, while other days I wake up with eye boogers, smelly farts, and no desire to do anything but jerk off and watch the history channel. My book is completely representative of all of that and everything in between. It's a celebration of my accomplishments and a confession of my sins. It's full of dirt and villains, and smiles and love.

In comparison to your previous work, how has the response been to this novel so far?

For the first book, I don't think anyone knew what to expect, so people may have been surprised at the honesty. It's like the sophomore slump, you know? You don't have the element of surprise anymore, so people have expectations. The response for the first one was overwhelming, and better than I could have ever hoped for. With the new book, I think people are saying to themselves, "yeah, thats what we expect Chris to do." But the stories are longer, I dig deeper, and I'm much more vulnerable. The progression is obvious. I sold out of my first pressing in half the time it took for the first book, so I don't know how anyone else feels, but I think I'm doing a decent job with the minimal tools I've been given.

You recently embarked on a tour in support of your new book. What can fans expect from your live performance?

I don't want it to be a stuffy and boring experience. I rarely read from the book. I find that telling the stories from my own memory evokes a better response from the audience, as well as myself. It's much more intimate. I think it's somewhere between a book reading, a high school pep rally, and a late night Denny's hangout with your friends.

Now that you've had the opportunity to experience the best of both worlds, which do you prefer: band tours or book tours, and why?

Fuck. Book tours. Man, do you know how much it sucks to load amps and equipment, or tune and change strings in the cold of the winter or the heat of the summer? It's brutal. Now, I walk in with a book, a bottle of water, and a mouthful of ridiculousness, and I get to do it for a living. Also, I feel I connect with people more on book tours, as opposed to band tours. It's easy to hide behind a guitar or someone else's lyrics, while it's much more difficult when it is just you, your head, your heart, and a room full of people waiting for you and only you to entertain them.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to date, and what exactly do you wish to accomplish in the future?

My greatest accomplishment? Being thirty-two years old and every year of my life being better than the last. It sounds lame, but it's the truth. The future? I would like to be able to not worry about being able to eat. That's all. I feel like a little homeless man who walked into a restaurant and sat down, then someone came over to me and set a huge ice cream sundae in front of me. I didn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, but goddamn I'm going to enjoy it until someone kicks me out of the place. For me to ask for anything more would be like me saying "thanks for the ice cream, but couldn't you put nuts and cherries on this motherfucker?" I would feel greedy. I don't need anything more than what I already have.

Prior to becoming a novelist, you performed in a band called Arma Angelus. Do you have any plans to continue with music in the future?

No, although when I'm jumping around my living room floor-punching to old Youth of Today songs, I miss playing on a stage and jumping on kids heads. Maybe I'll do that at the end of one of my speakings, just start two-stepping and windmilling, and then try and walk on the kids heads.

While on the subject of music, who are your favorite bands performing today, and who do you recommend our readers support?

I'm in love with Modern Life is War, Red Sparrows, Interpol, 2*Sweet, and Bloc Party. 2*Sweet are some of the hardest working, most appreciative dudes out there today. Talk all the shit you like, but those fuckers play just as hard to three people as they do three-hundred. Then, they load their van back up with a smile and five bucks in their pocket, and they keep doing it month after month. It doesn't hurt that they play awesome songs as well.

You were slapped with the "HeyChris" tag in 2003 when Fall Out Boy included your name in the chorus of their track "Grenade Jumper." How did it feel to hear one of the scene's poster-bands dedicate a song to yourself, and looking back, are you pleased with what the inclusion has allowed you to do?

Fuck yeah, I'm proud of it. That was awesome. It was a moment in time, and when I listen to that song now, it takes me back to an amazing summer. Yes, of course I am pleased and extremely grateful. I'm well aware of the doors that the song has opened for me, and I am forever thankful for it just like anyone would be if someone helped them out along the way. I read in Men's Health magazine a few months back that 85% of people got their job by someone putting in a good word for them, and that's the way I see it. Someone put in a good word for me.

To clear the air once and for all, what exactly happened between Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz and yourself, and what sort of relationship do you maintain with the group today?

He did something crappy, and I retaliated with something crappy of my own, and now we're both better dudes because of it. Friends have beef. You, me, dudes in bands, your brother, sister, coach, neighbor. It's just that this beef was public. so it was magnified by a thousand. It's over and done with, and of course we'll never be as close as we once were, but we're cool. I love him with all of my heart. As far as the band, I don't think they've ever recorded a bad song. Yeah, I said it. What?

Now that you have initiated your own successful career, are you in any ways sick of being of being associated with that reference?

It's not really that big of a concern of mine. It was like watching Screech on Celebrity Fit Club. He would get all bent out of shape when someone called him that. yet he brought it up every chance he got. That's lame. I understand that the tag is permanently affixed on my back, and that's fine with me. I don't run around telling people about it, but if they ask, I'll talk about it. Plenty of bands write songs about other people, only this band got popular. It was an honor, but it was four years ago. I've smiled, breathed it all in, and moved on.

You now maintain a highly-popular online journal. What is the strangest encounter with a fan you have ever experienced?

I always say, no one can creep me out. I'm the king of the creeps. I've been doing this far too long. [Laughs] I have had people break into my apartment building, slip demo records under my door, decorate my apartment building, and on more than one occasion, people have taken pictures of me through my window while I was home. I think it's hilarious, and awesome at the same time. Hey man, it means people are paying attention, and there are people out there who spend their entire lives trying to get others to pay attention. I welcome it.

How do you go about dealing with ignorant comments and remarks made towards you personally over the internet?

Thank God that they're there. You can either let shit like that bum you out, or you can use it to inspire your art. That's what I try to do. I read every last one of the emails and comments I receive. I look for genuine criticism, and then ask myself if there is any validity. If there is, maybe they have made me look at something in a new light. However, most are just haters telling me to get off of Fall Out Boy's coattails. I've moved on from it, and so should they. It's really low of someone to bring up a beef that happened between two friends that they don't know personally from years ago and pontificate on the direction of their careers. There is a line from a Minor Threat song that I always recite to myself when I read shit like that, and it goes "You tell me that I make no difference, but at least I'm fucking trying. What the fuck have you done?"

On the other hand, how does it make you feel to know there are people out there who turn to you, and you alone, for advice and wisdom?

I don't feel like I deserve it. I'm not trying to sound overly humble or anything, I'm being completely honest. I'm the same insecure, fifteen year old, punk rock kid who walked down the hall in high school with his chin buried in his chest trying not to get beat up. Only now, I'm older and I've learned how to hold my head up. Either way, some people do look to me for answers, generally answers I don't have. I can only tell them what has worked for me personally, and if someone can take something from that, then I live a blessed life. I'm trying my best to be as responsible as I know how to with the hearts people hand me.

Do you plan to go in a different direction with your next novel, or are short-stories alone where your passion lies?

The next book will be a cross between the type of short-stories from the first two books and my journal. I want to be even more honest and vulnerable. I want people to know what keeps this machine moving forward, and not gloss over the kinks in that system.

Where do you see your career taking you within the next ten years?

Man, I have no idea. Seriously, not a clue. If I could keep this up for the rest of my life, I would die the happiest man on the planet.

That's all the questions we have for you today. Do you have any last words you'd care to offer our readers?

Wes. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols is the greatest record ever recorded. Your band will never be as good as Black Flag. Go read You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn. It will change your life. Listen to Minor Threat, and know your history. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to answer these questions for us.
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 64
03:29 PM on 10/10/07
on the edge of summer
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holy shit this was awesome, i don't even know who this guy is aside from the fall out boy song (haha that sounds lame but oh well) time to check out his books!
03:30 PM on 10/10/07
Moira Amiss
I have the Lefevre Fever. Catch it!
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I've never read any of his stuff before. It all sounds interesting, so maybe I'll look into it. And I don't know what all the fuss is about, he seems like a cool dude.
03:31 PM on 10/10/07
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he's a cool guy
03:34 PM on 10/10/07
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Chris is a great guy. Maybe some people will read this interview and stop shit talking him so much.

Nice interview.
03:34 PM on 10/10/07
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berniemac1234's Avatar
I like this interview alot. Good job Brandon. I liked the total honesty in everything Chris said. It's definitely changed my point of view on him and im sure it has to others.
03:34 PM on 10/10/07
Scott Pippen
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03:45 PM on 10/10/07
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Good interview. Though I don't know much about Chris, I think he's living his life to the fullest extent, and his writing is exceptional. I find myself reading from start to end whenever he posts his stories on livejournal. I have not had the chance to purchase any of his books yet, but I do intend on doing so soon.
03:45 PM on 10/10/07
Get outta my way.
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Love the guy.
03:46 PM on 10/10/07
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SJms1026's Avatar
I liked this interview a lot. Chris is a really nice guy, people should check out his books.
03:58 PM on 10/10/07
How will I break the news to you
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Shoes's Avatar
Two thumbs up:)
03:58 PM on 10/10/07
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He came to Umass Lowell to speak, and it was one of the funniest and most engaging speakings I've ever been to. He spoke of his love for his mother, and how he jacks off into socks. I highly recommend his books. Awesome dude.
04:01 PM on 10/10/07
.and the family telephone
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good interview. shed a little light on who he is. I'm glad he got over that childish shit with Pete.... that shit was lame.
04:03 PM on 10/10/07
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He came to Umass Lowell to speak, and it was one of the funniest and most engaging speakings I've ever been to. He spoke of his love for his mother, and how he jacks off into socks. I highly recommend his books. Awesome dude.

I saw him at UMass Lowell twice and both times were awesome. I can't wait to see him again.
04:27 PM on 10/10/07
I'm Not a Doctor
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littlebeav's Avatar
His closing comments are my favorite. Cheers to you HeyChris!

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