An Interview with Radio DJ and Author Jude Angelini
Jude Angelini is a difficult stranger to sit across a table from. He’s simultaneously jittery and yet he never blinks. He has an assaulting, raspy voice that wavers between almost-shouting, shouting-shouting and smooth jazz. He collects shoes and antiques and records—real vinyl LPs—and all sorts of other little things that make you feel like you are so boring. And yet, you wonder, “Is he okay?,” every few minutes.
Angelini, also known as Rude Jude, gained mild celebrity as the bully on The Jenny Jones Show. His main gig these days is hosting the All Out Show on Sirius/XM. Angelini’s persona on this long-running radio program as a brash, abrasive and filthy dude, is so eerily familiar to me that I find it endearing. He could be the grown version of any asshole I dated in high school, which, as it turns out, is no accident. We grew up just an hour away from each other: him outside Detroit and me outside Flint, Michigan.
Last year, Jude self published Hyena, a book of personal stories—mostly about sex and drugs and the decadent part of the world we’re from, but has since signed on with Simon & Schuster and his book can now be found in the “Beach Reads” section at Barnes & Noble. This is the first interview he’s granted to a literary outlet because we are the first literary outlet to have asked. I sat down with Jude a few weeks ago at his apartment in Los Angeles to talk about how someone like him (aka: someone like me) could dare write about themselves.
The minute I arrived, he offered me a drink. I asked what he had on hand. “I got everything, ma.” I chose white wine. He poured me a glass, grabbed what I later found out was a tiny bottle of the recreational intoxicant GHB, and led me out to his balcony for our chat.
THE BELIEVER: So how did it come about that you decided to write Hyena?
JUDE ANGELINI: My buddy told me to start a blog because I had a platform.
BLVR: You mean the radio show?
JA: Yeah, it was about five years into the show when I started doing the blog [on Tumblr] and it was mostly just lists and shit. I started telling stories about crazy sex exploits and people seemed to respond to that, but then I broke up with my girl and I started writing about that and I got negative feedback. I wrote about doing DMT and all I could think about was my ex. It was sad; it was sad. I was trying to find an answer and the answer was that I wasn’t over my ex and nothing I was gonna do was gonna help that. I said, They don’t value what I have because I’m giving it to them for free. So that’s when I took everything down [from Tumblr] and decided to write a book.
BLVR: And you self published the first edition?
JA: Yeah, I went through Amazon. I’m lucky enough to have a platform so I didn’t really need a publisher. A lot of times I feel like I was probably better off on my own but what I’ve gotten from a publisher is the co-sign of Simon & Schuster saying, “He IS an author.” That being said, I wish I’d done a little more research because they’ll give a book deal to anybody nowadays. Any idiot with a goddamned list blog about “what white people do” or “girls be like this?” They get a fucking book deal.
BLVR: When I found your book, it was in a really prominent place. You were next to Maya Angelou.
JA: That wasn’t because they liked me! That’s because I sold and pushed and pushed and sold. It wasn’t like, “I believe in this book, there’s something here.” That Barnes & Noble placement was straight up from pre-selling through BarnesandNoble.com to my audience. Mobilizing and activating them. That’s all that matters.
BLVR: I didn’t know that’s how it worked.
JA: I didn’t either. At the time I thought I was gonna get reviewed and that’s how that would happen. I have yet to be reviewed by anybody who is not just a consumer. I don’t have any non-consumer reviews of the book. My goal was to reach this literary crowd, but I didn’t want to alienate my core fan base. I grew up speaking that language, this isn’t put on. I can go back and forth; it’s almost like being bilingual. But I’m not college educated; I don’t know rules of grammar.
BLVR: You write the way people talk.
JA: I agree with you. I don’t like ten dollar words. Anybody can do anything with a thesaurus. Make me feel a certain way with the least amount of words possible and I respect that.
BLVR: [I refill my wine.]
JA: I’m over here drinking ghb, go for it.
BLVR: Did you ever feel like maybe you hadn’t earned it, the right to write this book?
JA: I didn’t know what I was writing. I consider it a collection of shorts. In my mind there were three basic arcs: the break up, growing up and how I learned how to treat women, and then the self destruction; the downward fucking spiral. Those were my three things I wanted to hit on. I kept that in mind and then I listened to classic albums to figure out the order of the stories. I listened to Fleetwood Mac Rumors. I was very inspired by that album. The shit that they were going through at that time… like John McVie has to play bass on a song that his wife that he’s breaking up with has written about a lover that does their lighting and it’s called “You Make Loving Fun.” Can you imagine the pain? I understand the pain.
BLVR: Were you taking notes while listening to the album?
JA: I would do a bunch of Ketamine and I would just lay back and listen and feel where the album took me.. I listened to a ton of Fleetwood Mac, the second side of Abbey Road, Beach Boys Pet Sounds, Scarface The Diary, Outkast ATliens, and the Eagles Hotel California. I’m like, “Alright, it starts off like this and then it goes into something melancholy and then it steps it up again and then it drops again and then it goes over here…”
BLVR: You describe having a rough experience on PCP.
JA: And I never bounced back fully. To this day I haven’t bounced back. Whether it’s mental or real, you used to be able to give me numbers and I’d remember that shit. I was way better at arguing. I’m struggling. I struggle now. But people were way nicer to me when I was fucking dumb for that time. I remember walking around in these stores lost because I couldn’t figure shit out and people were like, “Can I help ya honey?” I was like, Wow everyone is so nice to fuckin’ idiots! I could get used to this shit.
BLVR: Were there other people besides your daughter who you were worried about reading this?
JA: I don’t really talk about the mother of my daughter. For as open as I am, I’m also really respectful of everyone around me. Even with my father, he did some shit back in the day. He’s a different man now, but it’s like, “This is some shit you did, this is the truth. I’m not lying about you. It affected me and I’m telling my story.”
BLVR: Have you heard of the term “sexualizing?” My dad informed me of everyone who wanted to have sex and make babies with me way before I even understood what sex was.
JA: Yeah, my old man was the same way.
They don’t realize what they’re doing. I don’t think my dad was like, “Let me go ahead and mind fuck this kid.” I don’t think either my mother or father planned to do that, but they did.
BLVR: Did your mom read it?
Yeah, she was real proud of me, man. My mom was real proud.
BLVR: Do you think you’re the horniest man alive?
JA: I think I’m hornier than most dudes. I’m not a selfish lover—but the bottom line is… I guess I am horny. I’m insatiable. I can never get enough.
BLVR: Are you expecting to hit an age where it calms down?
JA: No! I’m chilling out but this is me. So much of my self-esteem derives from my sexual conquests. Part of that is because I don’t like myself enough. I like myself probably as much as anyone likes themselves, but most people don’t like themselves, so that’s how I get my shit, with these empty victories. But then what? I go to bed by myself. It’s just these empty victories that really don’t mean much. I think I’ll probably always be like this and even when I’m not I’ll probably take Viagra so I can be like this.
BLVR: When did you realize you were funny?
JA: I been funny. My whole family is funny. As a kid I always held my head differently. I come from a sincere place where I just don’t agree with a ton of shit and that little off-ness gives me a better sense of humor. I was always the class clown and then I was the fat kid growing up. You have to rely on something other than your looks; it makes you work at shit.
BLVR: I had a hard time reading the book.
JA: How so?
BLVR: For example: you describe being in drug houses with creepy dudes. Being in unsafe seedy environments and all of a sudden someone wants a blowjob.
JA: The book is hard on people. It’s 220 pages but it’s dense. It’s hard.
BLVR: How much of it had you written on your Tumblr before it became a book?
JA: Maybe thirty percent? When you’re writing on a blog there’s this immediacy to it, you’re writing for people. You’re writing to an audience. So imagine taking that writing down and doing that same piece for yourself. I was allowed to be so much more vulnerable. I just wanted to tell the truth, I didn’t want to edit myself. There are certain authors I can’t get through because I’m like, [rolls his eyes] “Dude. C’mon, man.” I was reading Women by Bukowski and I just had to stop. And he was the one who inspired me to write! He made me go, “Regular people can write!”
BLVR: Who else inspired you?
JA: Elmore Leonard. I like that he is a Detroiter and he’s very lean and punchy. Me to him, and I don’t want to compare myself to Prince, but I’m gonna compare myself to Prince: Prince was inspired by Bob Seger. Purple Rain was inspired by Seger. Prince was watching him tour and he had these giant fucking arena anthems and he wrote Purple Rain off that shit. The two sound nothing alike, and you wouldn’t read my shit and go, “Oh, Elmore Leonard,” but that was who was in the back of my mind when I was writing. I was like, Stay punchy like this motherfucker. There were jokes I had to take out because it didn’t take us anywhere.
BLVR: You aren’t precious about your writing?
JA: You can’t be. Is it pushing the story along? That’s all you need to know. That’s not even to say I’m a good writer, but I know what I don’t like. The other cool thing about this book is there’s a lot of shit I did with it that literary people haven’t been able to do. I want to be accepted by them, but I’m different from them. This is what I was able to do with this book that these motherfuckers are having a hard time doing: I sold books!
BLVR: The cover doesn’t reveal very much.
JA: And I had nothing on the back [of the original printing] and I argued about that with Simon & Schuster. I didn’t want anything on the back. If you flip their first printing it says “Rude Jude from the All Out Show” and I was like, “Dude, this is why I signed up with you so I could not be recognized as this fucking white trash shock jock! I’m trying to fucking dress my shit up a little bit.” The one thing I didn’t write in the whole goddamned book, that’s what you’re gonna judge the book by? It drives me crazy. I’d rather somebody crack my book open and like or not like it and buy it.
BLVR: You coming from where I came from made me think, “Oh, so it’s okay for us to write a book? We don’t have to go to Brown?”
JA: I took solace in that fact. The other reason I self published was because I was insecure about my writing.
BLVR: You didn’t want to shop it around and get told no?
JA: Dude, that would’ve crushed me. The idea of having to write all this shit down, my innermost shit, give it to somebody and have them shit on it? No way, dude. I’ll fail or succeed on my own.