Good luck connecting this with the tireless, teetotaling TM'er who now tends toward white sneakers with those, yes, still-tight black trousers, whose stand-up riffs, which once evoked child murderers and necrophiliacs, now tend toward "my wife" jokes: "Kat-ee" telling him to go see what that noise downstairs was. "I don't want to meet a burglar! What'll I say? 'Hello, mate, don't be alarmed. I'm really much more famous in England, y'know.' "
Brand's new life in L.A. has been a headlong plunge into normalcy. It's Grammys Sunday, and with Perry already in rehearsals for tonight's performance, the entourage is swarming about the couple's Los Feliz digs at 11 a.m. It's a four-story mansion with a two-tier swimming pool/hot tub and a panoramic view of the city. A lengthy stroll through the house (Brand has excused himself to meditate) makes it clear they're not together as often as normal newlyweds—framed prints have yet to be hung in the dining room, and root vegetables in a kitchen bowl have begun to sprout—but domestic normalcy is clearly the goal here.
Except, of course, for a second living room given over entirely to movable racks of shoes and clothing. And that 25-foot tepee next to the pool.
"We bought that for our last Valentine's Day," he says with a shrug. "I suppose those are the kind of sentences that rather mock my insistence that everything is normal." As do their matching GO WITH THE FLOW tattoos, in Sanskrit, on their right biceps. "All Katy, really," he says. "There are a lot of areas where I've simply relinquished decision-making. It really does make my mates laugh, though. I do not go with the flow. I quarrel with flows. I build dams. I drain lakes. I split oceans when required." And that "burglar" he had to go downstairs for was all Katy too.
"That's always happening. Every bloody night."
The irony of Brand's "my wife" jokes is striking: Henny Youngman from a man who used his addictions, his anus, even his flowing blood as raw material for his comedy. Marriage, it seems, has changed the approach.
"A bit," he acknowledges guardedly. "Because now I have something to protect, and it is very odd indeed. There are a lot of things you have to amend to be in a monogamous relationship. I've had to readdress everything and start buying deck furniture. On the Titanic. Avoiding the constant icebergs. In the end, putting snowshoes on the bottom of it?"
Brand is sprawled over a studded black leather sofa, his toes on the keys of a 1940s typewriter on a shelf above the couch. We'd been talking about the creation of his tabloid-fueled rocker-sex-god persona, and Brand is clearly comfortable with neither the "creation" nor the "persona."
"Well, it seems obvious, if not at the time," he says, "that to turn myself into a character—incredibly theatrical and rock-and-roll and languid and sexualized—was to emphasize areas where I was confident, to draw the eye from the obvious deficit of a man only just getting over being a junkie. I'm very confident in the physical manifestation of a rocker. And there are aphorisms I still deem tight: The carnal self is the true self. In that barbaric, marauding period of promiscuity, there was a type of Aleister Crowley 'Do what thou wilt' as the sum of the law. That voice you use when you come? I was using it to perform. Not some distant, attic-dwelling emotion brought out occasionally, like a front room you never use except when the vicar visits. I was in there fucking all the time."
He pats the sofa for me to sit beside him and watch some recent stand-up, a clip for the Oliver Stone documentary about happiness—the meaning of it and pursuit of it. I ask, "How're you coping with life with addiction?"
"The only way to cope is with a program. If you stop doing the recovery, even eating too much chocolate, something will flare up, and I know where that leads, because I've been there before. To me, the gravity is heroin, and then death. You know, to sleep"—he's improv-ing the Bard again—"that incremental suicide of turning your life into a dream, to make being awake as similar to sleep as possible. Drowsily, lazily, dry-mouth your way through the day's ceremonies, fumble your way back into the dew-bather you never really left, draped in brown, brown now all around, the haze!" Brand looks about the sun-strewn room, and at his now-sun-strewn life, and smiles out the improv's ending: "Fortunately, it was just a phase."