It’s Friday night in the Southland, and the city of Los Angeles is vacant. Like some bad apocalypse movie, it seems everyone has evacuated to the desert to make peace and await their destiny. Actually, they are all moon-dancing to the songs of Paul McCartney — we hear Ecstasy made a big comeback this year — as the former Beatle headlines Night One of the three-day mash-up of big names and overpriced water known as the Coachella Valley Music Festival.
Those left behind, the broke and the too busy, include myself and Buddyhead.com founder Travis Keller. “We could have been at Coachella tonight, but fuck that, no,” Keller says with a smirk, adjusting a paper crown over his mussed hair. “I wanted to see a battle. I wanted to see the black-and-white knight in action, but he’s turning out to be a pussy.”
We’re four shots of Jameson deep, watching a battle to the death at Medieval Times, and things are looking bad, real bad, for our knight. Trumpets blare in triumphant unison over the metallic clang of sword on shield, sparks fly on impact and then burn out in the arena air, which hangs thick with the smell of horse urine and sawdust shavings, like a hamster cage. Across the sandy tournament floor, a dimly lit mob of children, stoned high schoolers and patient parents wearing red crowns furiously wave tiny flags and roar for their red knight, who has just wounded and disarmed our black-and-white knight, kicking his heavy, two-handed sword out of reach.
As the evening unfolds, 32-year-old Keller describes the origins of Buddyhead’s notorious “take no prisoners” gossip column, his record label, and why seemingly overnight, what was once the biggest, baddest music Web site in L.A. went quiet in 2005. He then digs into the details of his latest project, creating Buddyhead 2.0 and bringing it back online this past March, as well as the challenges he faces relaunching a business after several years on hiatus. The story includes Keller’s collaboration with some of L.A.’s brightest new Web entrepreneurs, but first, in true Buddyhead tradition, Keller is sidetracked relating a wickedly funny tale involving sex, drugs and, what else, rock & roll.
Our knight is really blowing it, and we want more whiskey. The dinner server, Serf Tom, says we can wait for the cocktail wench or go to the Knight Club bar and order it ourselves. The elated piping of trumpets gives way to a thunderous drum rattle, and Keller and I look up just in time to see our knight “die” in a not-so-epic finale, stabbed with a rearward thrust by the victor in red. To the bar we go, and after another round of whiskey we are talking over each other, cursing way too much for the children lurking about, and gossiping about the night in 2007, when Keller first met “Antichrist Supertard” Marilyn Manson.
It was Travis Keller’s strangest Christmas Eve on record; the writer and music know-it-all, whose merciless skewering of rock’s elite made Buddyhead the most loved and feared source of music criticism online, was enjoying the comfort of his couch, hanging out with a friend and watching some stupid holiday movies when the phone rang. “Can you get us some cocaine?” asked the voices on the other end. Keller was sober and declined. But it was Jeordie White and Marilyn Manson and they pressed on, urging Keller to come hang out anyway.
When Keller arrived in West Hollywood at the Le Montrose suite, Manson answered the door, nearly unrecognizable. The shock-rocker stood in the doorway, wearing a Von Dutch trucker cap — sideways — and a white shirt covered in stains, pulled over his beer belly. It was a far cry from the pancake makeup, flamboyant gothic attire or bondage gear associated with the frontman.
Keller busts into laughter as he retells the story, “I was like, ‘You’re Marilyn Manson?’ I remember thinking he’s going to come out with some kind of cape on. I’d never met him before and thought he’d be hanging out in a coffin. He’s nothing like that.”
Inside the suite, Keller recalls cocaine spilling off the kitchen counter while a superparanoid Manson ran around in circles repeating, “Travis, don’t try to fuck my girlfriend. Travis, don’t try to fuck my girlfriend.” The off-limits girlfriend was a certain young actress, then just 20 years old. “They called her ‘Snowflake’ because I guess when they played shows, she’d hold all the coke,” Keller claims.
While the rest of the party hoovered cocaine, Keller plugged his iPod into the stereo and cranked up Led Zeppelin. Manson told Keller he’d flown to the U.K. for the one Zeppelin reunion gig that November but got bored after the band played “Stairway to Heaven,” because it was the only song he knew. At that moment Manson may as well have painted a big, red target on his Von Dutch trucker cap. Keller exploded, “Poser! You’re in a rock band and you don’t know Led Zeppelin?”