What The Kid From The Cover Of Evil Empire Looks Like Now
There’s a distinct menace to the child on the cover of Rage Against The Machine’s sophomore album, Evil Empire. His narrowed eyes and arrogant little smirk make him look like an embodiment of the America that RATM are rallying against: haughty, white, and playing at being a superhero while harboring own dark intentions.
The painting is such a loaded image that one might assume the kid in the cape was never a real person, just an imagined freckle-faced child out of somebody’s imagination. But that’s not the case – the model for Evil Empire’s cover is actually author and entrepreneur Ari Meisel.
Ari runs Less Doing, which helps businessmen and entrepreneurs scale down their operations and make themselves expendable so that they don’t have to run every little aspect of their operation.
Curious as to the story behind his appearance on arguably the greatest rap metal album of all time, we reached out to Ari about Evil Empire, and what he’s been doing since then:
How did you end up on the cover of Evil Empire? Did you model for the painter? Did you meet Rage Against The Machine?
“Actually, I didn’t model nor meet the band. My father was and is an art dealer and he represented the painter, Mel Ramos. Mel painted the original painting of me, entitled CrimeBusters, as a birthday present for me when I turned 11. The group saw the painting in a book of Mel’s and liked it, then adapted it for their album cover.”
Do people recognize you from the cover?
“When I had hair, I was recognized a lot. There were people wearing shirts of it, there was a billboard of it in Times Square. It was surreal.”
Are you a Rage Against The Machine fan?
“Sadly, I was never really a fan, When the album hit, and all these people made the connection, it was like that scene in Office Space when the two guys find out the guy they are interviewing is named Michael Bolton, and they say, “Oh my god, you must be such a fan of his work.” Yeah, it felt like that.”
Tell us about Less Doing. How did you come up with the idea of helping entrepreneurs scale back/reorganize their businesses?
“It started as a way to deal with the debilitating Crohn’s disease I suffered from in my 20s. The doctors told me I could only work one hour a day, so I had to hack my life and look at ways to optimize that time using automation and outsourcing. I figured if it could work for me, it could probably work for anyone.”
What is a piece of advice you’d give to business owners or entrepreneurs, as a tool to start improving their work life?
“Put artificial constraints on your decisions and remove bottlenecks. Develop systems and processes that make you more replaceable, so you can get back to driving your business forward, instead of getting mired in the day-to-day.”
Did writing about your work come naturally to you, or was it hard getting your ideas down on paper? Are you working on another book?
“I have an idea capture system that enables me to get my ideas out pretty effortlessly. My writing partner fills in the blanks. My next book is called The Productive Family. I’m taking my methodology and applying it to home life. I hope it will help families maximize the time they spend with each other in a way that is enlivening to everyone.”
You’re also a dad – how has that informed your work? Is there any advice you could give to working parents that might help them balance their work and home lives?
“I do not believe in work-life balance. I particularly like Alain de Botton’s take on this where he says that there is no such thing as work-life balance because anything that is worth pursuing will take us out of balance.
“We try so hard all the time to make it so everything’s good and everything’s right and it always seems so fleeting… because it is. I think we need to accept that sometimes in some way for some period of time, there will be things in our life that don’t work well.
“As entrepreneurs, we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations on a regular basis. Comfort for us is a very bad thing. It makes us complacent. Life ensures that it will go out of balance. Then we have the chance to fix it, amend it, change it. There’s always something with which to tinker. Always.”
Finally, what kind of music do you listen to? Is there a type of music you urge the people you work with to listen to?
“Well, the Moana soundtrack is pretty much on a constant loop in my head these days. I have four kids. But I’m a really big fan of listening to BrainFM when I’m working on complicated projects. It allows me to get into a flow state, where I’m super-focused and hours go by like minutes.”
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Watch twenty one pilots’ incredibly old-school lyric video for Level Of Concern.