“Sorry, I get like this sometimes,” Alex Kazemi says, not looking me in the eye once. “I’m just really annoyed; this keeps happening.” He has been talking about a pop star who had heard one of his ideas from a friend — he is convinced yet again, that he is the root source. “It’s my fault… people in the industry keep ripping me off. I don’t know how to shut my mouth! It’s all my fault.”
I try to explain that it might just be his age, coming to terms with the brutality of industry. He bites back. “No, it has nothing to do with my age? Why does everyone always think any mistake I make has to do with my fucking age?”
We’re in Vancouver, a city well known for it’s rain and disconnect. A couple of blocks from Alex Kazemi’s apartment is a scene where there is, well, no scene. He finds a curb to sit on and lights a cigarette. “There is nothing to do here, even where I grew up. There’s always been nothing to do. Unfortunately, I’m fascinated by nothingness”.
The setting is so muted that I’m not haunted when Kazemi begins to tell me how upset he is about life: that he wishes he could be someone else, he constantly feels at war with capturing life and living it, he genuinely seems like he cannot relax to the point where I cannot tell if this is performed-angst or a brooding neurosis.
“People my age look at my life and they think that I’ve done a lot, maybe that’s true but it’s all I really know how to do. They are like, ‘Wow. You’ve done more than anyone I’ve known,’” he says at one point. “I’m like, god - if only you fucking knew.”
In this one-hour conversation, Kazemi cannot help but to return to dark themes. Telling his triumphant story - one that involves an unasked for fight with cancer, low days at the Chateau Marmont, battles with OCD and amphetamine addiction, Bret Easton Ellis reading his texts out to the world on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast and finding himself in a viral media storm when he uploaded the manuscript for his first novel, Yours, Truly Brad Sela, at 18 years old. The manuscript he describes as “pure and weak” was enough to catch the attention of starlets like Chloe Grace Moretz and Azealia Banks and landed him a deal with a publisher at MTV Books. When he was 19, the preview of the book was tweeted out to @MTV’s multi-million followers. The book’s “rough 50 pages” took us through the life of a troubled teenage boy in the late 1990s, written in a style that many young people found both relatable and disturbing.
I ask if he was able to enjoy the millennial dopamine-rush viral success of Yours Truly, Brad Sela when it was happening. “It was cool, sure, but it put me into depression. It wasn’t even finished yet. People were expecting a finished novel and that was just not going to happen right away. I was featured in all these magazines about a book that wasn’t even finished yet. It’s unsettling.”
Kazemi says he’s not afraid to put out the novel when it comes out and he knows “exactly what will happen”, but during the three years since Yours, Truly Brad Sela was uploaded, he has dealt with an apocalyptic uncertainty that makes him ruminate in the darkest hours of the night: “Has everyone forgotten about me? Did I miss my chance? Is there any point in finishing?”
I found myself constantly worried by the amount of pressure that Kazemi as a 22-year old young artist growing up in the public eye in our ever-changing fast paced world is facing. I asked myself: “Can he handle it? Can he recover from the hype?”
From the rough drafts and unfinished scenes I got to read in his apartment, it’s safe to tell that this novel has plenty of typical Kazemi-level controversial material to shake up the Internet once again. One scene, for instance, made me have to step outside after reading it. He was calm. “I’m always so shocked when people have such visceral reactions to my writing because for me, it’s normal. It’s a reality that I live in, that it’s that intense.” He laughs when I asked where such inspiration comes from. “Satan inside of me. I mean, I think all art is an exorcism of our shadow or inner daemon. I can’t write happy scenes. I do not want to know where all this energy would be directed to if I didn’t write.”
By energy, does he mean destruction?
He laughs again. “I think what is destructive is equally as constructive. I’m a self sabotaging, destructive person by nature.”
“I promise, someone put me into one of my more darker moods,” he says of writing that scene.
“You know if I could just relax and be normal, I wouldn’t have to keep doing this. It can be so embarrassing; I blackout most of the time.” He talks about this frequently: a mission for internal peace, a nauseating obsession with privacy - away from the glare of Snapchat and Instagram that “makes him suicidal.”
Like the at-home wooziness of his critically acclaimed Marilyn Manson-approved Snapchat movie Snapchat: Mudditchgirl91, Kazemi’s writing carries a dissonance to Hollywood’s representation of adolescence, a mirror held up to the atmospheric moments of Suburban reality. He calls it “documentary reality, but not.”
Kazemi thought the book would have been done in the spring of this year but after realizing how many unfinished parts are all over the place, he could not help but push it back to make sure they are true to the vision — even if it is taking the risk of distancing himself further and further away from the digital spotlight. “People are going to think what they want about me. I know people who have called me a flop or a failure. It’s not something that I can control. I know myself, I am learning about myself. I am accepting myself everyday. I am working to finish this book everyday. I’m on my own, on my own journey.”
- C.M.K (10/16)
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