Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard’s series that showcases artists’ very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard’s Spotify account. The curated set features the artists’ favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.
The Airborne Toxic Event frontman Mikel Jollett just detailed the story of his life and career so far in the recent memoir Hollywood Park, and now he’s providing the soundtrack of his formative years to go with it on this week’s #TBT Mixtape.
Though the band’s sixth album that shares the same title was conceptualized and released alongside the memoir, and even features tracks throughout the official audiobook, Jollett’s mixtape is isolated to a specific sea change during his turbulent upbringing that caused an explosion of musical discovery.
The multi-instrumentalist and primary songwriter points to the untethered trailblazers of his youth like David Bowie and Pink Floyd for opening his eyes to the raw and limitless potential of rock music, turning him away from his path at the time as an embattled outsider and pushing him through the triumphant journey that characterizes the band’s bold, bracing sound.
Fittingly, Jollett summarized to Billboard the final consensus amongst bandmates for their first album in five years as “‘let’s do something we love, for the reason we love it, like the music we grew up on.’” Look no further than below to hear just who he had in mind on the latest #TBT Mixtape, and check out his full mixtape introduction and throwback photo after the jump.
“You have to understand how mind-blowing it was for a couple of white trash kids walking around in the rain in Salem, Oregon to hear David Bowie for the first time. My best friend Jake was six-foot three in fifth grade and therefore my own personal giant. We were just two misfits surviving on noodles and government cheese, playing cards in his room in the garage, trying to avoid our shitty step-dads who beat us up, sneaking cigarettes in the alley, trying to make sense of the world. His father was a drug dealer, mine was an ex-con who took us to the races at Hollywood Park Racetrack. His mom had lived on the street, mine had escaped a cult with us. We didn’t fit in. It was that simple.
And suddenly there was this music. Bowie and The Cure and The Smiths, and it told us we weren’t wrong to be weird, to be outcasts, to feel messed up in ways that pop music just didn’t capture. There was irony, style, and kind of sarcasm, embracing everything detached and ironic and angry. So much of the music of the time was about winning. No one was writing songs about losers like us. No one but Morrissey and Robert Smith. No one else could capture our dreams like David Bowie.
This music was the soundtrack to my youth and populates the pages of my book. When we sat down to make the soundtrack record for Hollywood Park, we looked to this music again. The old line is that you don’t do what they did, you seek what they sought. (In retrospect, The Wall sounds downright funky with all its wah guitar and jazz bass lines.) But the idea of capturing all that you love about music, all that you’ve experienced growing up — the wonder and freedom and, in our case at least, violence and sadness, the pride we took in transcending it — take all of that and you put it into one record, thusly named for what it captured: a record of your survival, something you can point to, if anyone ever cares to ask, and say, ‘This. This is how life was for me.’”