Best known as Mouth, a character in the 1985 film The Goonies, actor Corey Feldman is on a quest to become a rock star. Well, maybe not a star. But for Feldman, who's on his first tour and will make his Cleveland debut at the Blind Lemon on November 15 with his band Truth Movement, succeeding in the music business represents a formidable challenge, given that none of his brethren have been able to successfully pull it off. Actors such as Keanu Reeves, Kevin Bacon, River Phoenix, and Johnny Depp have all tried to make the transition from celluloid to CD and come up short. So what makes Feldman think he can succeed where others have failed?
"Here's the thing with that," he says, speaking via phone from a tour stop in Spokane, Washington. "First of all, going back to old classic Hollywood, all actors were singers. It was part of the deal. All of a sudden, then, there was this weird thing where, if they're an actor, don't let them sing and vice versa." He points to the crossover success of Jennifer Lopez, Cher, Madonna, and Whitney Houston as signs that times are changing, but admits male actors have a harder road ahead of them.
"I think where I differ is that, when it comes down to it, I started writing music and recording it so I could enjoy listening to it," he says, adding that he's working on his rhymes for an industrial rap-rock record he calls a cross between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kid Rock. "I do stuff that I enjoy, and I do it as an art form because I want to listen to it. If nobody that I like has come out with a new album, I have to do it so I have something to listen to. Now, I'm making money at it, but that wasn't the plan. If the album sells, the more people that enjoy it, the more I enjoy it. If I don't make a million zillion dollars doing it, then that's cool."
Feldman's musical interests started early on. He recalls being forced to memorize "stupid songs" such as "Old MacDonald" and "Put on a Happy Face" for TV commercial auditions. ("As a kid, I wasn't a very good singer," he says. "I just couldn't carry a tune.") He says he was much more excited about learning the Bill Haley & the Comets songs that he discovered at his grandmother's house, where he grew up. Then he and his grade-school friends discovered Kiss.
"Me and my friends would put on makeup and stand in the middle of the living room and pretend we were playing instruments," he recalls. "That was the beginning. Then I started writing a couple of years after that. The way I started writing was in parody form, kinda like Weird Al. It escalated into putting messages down and actually say something."
Feldman began recording songs for soundtracks and had a collection of soundtrack singles he compiled on his first album, Love Left. Deciding it was best to share the spotlight, he recruited a band to record his next album, Still Searching for Soul. In the tradition of concept albums created by classic rock acts such as Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, and Styx, it follows the story of one young man on a quest to give his life meaning. It's not a parody, but a serious account of a wayward soul, lost in the maze of the big city and distracted by the media. And, given his history of drug abuse, whirlwind marriages, and arrests, it bears a striking resemblance to Feldman's own life experience.
"If you really diagnose the album, for the most part, it's third-person relative," he explains. "There are some direct connotations and some places where you can go, 'We know that's what that's about.' It's based on a character loosely based on myself. What you're watching in short detail is a 12-hour experience in this person's life. It starts Sunday morning at the beach and ends Sunday evening at the park. He has this soul-searching experience. He goes back and forth and hears voices telling him it's going to be OK and other voices telling him he's not going to be OK." And while there's a blatant reference on the album to River Phoenix, who died of a drug overdose, Feldman doesn't want to discuss his own past problems. In fact, his manager warned us before doing the interview not to ask him about drugs -- but of course we couldn't resist.
"I'm lucky I have survived," he says. "There's a lot of people who never move on and never have another chance. It's not like they don't deserve it. You see the flak that some of these child actors get -- Todd Bridges and Leif Garrett. It's awful. I feel terrible for them. They're good human beings. They're not evil people who are killing people -- well, I guess Todd Bridges did. But, you know, aside from that.
"Let me put that into terms for you," he says when pressed about his past as an addict. "I think, as a person doing interviews, I've been through it. Believe me. I've done tours speaking to colleges and doing interviews with the college newspapers and talking about anti-drugs, and this was 10 years ago. You get to a point where you don't want to hear another damn thing about it. It's so far from my life now. It's like talking about Goonies for an hour and a half. Who wants to do that? It's over with."
But didn't we just hear that a Goonies sequel involving Feldman was in the works?
"Well, that's a possibility, but then I'll talk to you about that for the next year and a half if it happens," he snaps. "But after the year and a half, don't ask me about that one. Thank you."