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|Just What His Inside Sounds Like
Adam Green on Europe, touring, the Moldy Peaches, quirkiness, and Jacket Full of Danger
by Ashley Graham
ďIíve been trying to remember how many times Iíve played in Los Angeles,Ē Adam Green says as he sits down at the table. He rattles off every venue and who he played with before the conclusion, ďSo tonight will be seven, yeah.Ē
In most moments Adam Green seems a tough nut to crack. He mumbles, he throws his head in his hands, his eyes dart about the room, he struggles to find his words. And yet, in other times his mind seems a neverending catalogue of information--at the drop of a hat, he recalls that the Moldy Peachesí reunion date in Seattle was at Chop Suey, he can list off venues in Europe heís played and their crowd capacity, and he knows that his friends, The Strokes, will be in town in a few weeks opening for Tom Petty at the Hollywood Bowl. Adam Greenís quirkiness is as apparent in person as it is on his albums.
He spent the summer playing select dates throughout Europe, which is where he sees his greatest level of success, (heís even been on the cover of Germanyís Rolling Stone magazine), and now heís in the midst of a short U.S. trek about the country, in support of his latest, Jacket Full of Danger, released on Rough Trade in the U.S. in July. Heís come along way from his days with Kimya Dawson in the Moldy Peaches, and he knows it, he appreciates it, but mostly heís just doing what he does bestÖ beiní Adam Green.
Ashley Graham: It seems there is this idea out there of Adam Green as something to ďget.Ē Iíve always pretty much thought that there wasnít, that this was just Adam, take it or leave it. Whatís your response?
Adam Green: They think that itís like, that itís like not me singing the songs, that itís like a character. But itís not! You know what I mean? Thatís what I donít think people understand. My songs arenít written from the point of view of some character.
Ashley: This is you.
Adam: Yeah, I just write. Thatís the problem, thatís the discrepancy, thatís why they think my songs areÖ I donít know what it is. Iíll never know why people donít get my songs. I write whatís natural, and what sounds good to me. Thatís just the right way to do it. Critics will always change their minds, and you have to agree to someoneís version of taste. This is just my own version of good taste. Iím true to my own version of it. I think thatís what everyone should be doing, all the time. It can sound like whatever their insides sound like. That doesnít make it wrong that my inside sounds like this. Not liking it because thatís what it is like, thatís like disliking someoneís race or something. This is just what Adam music is. Itís just what it sounds like inside me.
Ashley: How have you seen it change? I think on the last two albums thereís a different texture, a different structure and aesthetic. Maybe more pop-oriented.
Adam: The last three for me. I got on a trip when I started writing Friends of Mine, of composing songs without a guitar, just by singing, and make up the words that sang better, and just sort of speaking through it, whatever they were. Thatís the trip that started with like ďBluebirdsĒ and ďI Wanna Die,Ē and it just continued on. It all came in a row, there wasnít really a pause. The albums arenít really albums, they are just sections of time. The last three albums are just one big album for me. They are coming from the same space.
Ashley: So you donít see differences in them?
Adam: Theyíre differentÖ
Ashley: Because youíre in a different place, different time.
Adam: Yeah. Theyíre different, theyíre stretched out. Theyíre not really concept albums, thereís nothing really conceptual about them. They are just sections of something bigger. 15 songs each, or whatever.
Ashley: Any differences in what you find yourself writing about? You started doing this when you were so young.
Adam: Of course. I try to write different things every line of the song. Itís funny. I think the funniest thing about it is that it just never works the way that you think it would work. It never works to try to come up with an idea. It never works to try to write a song about something. It just doesnít work. I just have to sing and make up music and it just happens, I just make it up. You know what I mean? Thereís no real ideas, itís just a style of music. Whenever I try to do it, it just doesnít work.
Ashley: How did the evolution take shape from Moldy Peaches to solo work? What was the dynamic between you and Kimya as far as writing?
Adam: Father-daughter, kinda like thatÖ We got together just to write songs, cruise around town. We were always working on something, like a project. Sheís nine years older than me, and that age difference meant a lot more back then. It was different. Now weíre not so far apart in age. I used to have a real dependence on Kimya to help me flesh out songs I was working on. In a way, it would guarantee that it would be good--like if we both agreed on it, it would be good. Then I came around a certain corner and realized that I felt confident to try things myself. It wasnít as necessary that I write with her. I think there was a really great period where it got to be past that, we would just come up with the songs together on my couch, and I think our best songs were from that time. But it was like anything, it couldnít last forever. I hadnít done anything by myself in my life before, the opportunity to do a solo album just came about. This is my chance, my life. Those other guys were a lot older than me, theyíd already done things. I donít know, I just have a problem with authority.
Ashley: Even when itís Kimya Dawson?
Adam: Yeah. I quit school too! A lifelong problem with authority. Everyone has a problem with authority, I guess, itís just how much you choose to share it with the world.
Ashley: Youíre in a weird place right now with friends settling down--Kimya got married and had a baby. Youíre friends with the Strokes, theyíre all getting married and having babies. Whatís that like?
Adam: The settling down thing is just a phase. People move on, and continue to change. I donít know that anyone will remain so settled! I donít think we live in that settling of a time. Some people are going to live ten more lives than they have so far. I hope I never settle down.
Ashley: No babies in immediate sight.
Adam: My girl isnít pregnant now!
Ashley: I saw you and Kimya when you played in Seattle last. So much fun to watch you guys doing the Moldy Peaches thing. Are there any aspirations on your end to do that again?
Adam: I think we could do it. Weíd have to find ourselves in a situation where things were balanced again. We were in a similar predicament when that started. Weíve said that maybe when weíre old and in wheelchairs weíll start it up again. Right now Iím busy, weíre busy. Maybe itís more than just that, though. You can write songs in a day, you can write songs in an hour, itís about getting to a certain place where it feels right again to do it. Itís not what either of us think about. I got burnt out on writing duet songs, but anything can happen. Anything can happen. We could do something soon, we could do Moldy Peaches this year. But, I donít want to do Moldy Peaches shows all the time unless weíve got new songs. I think the initial excitement could wear off unless there are new songs.
Ashley: Tell me what Europe is like for you.
Adam: Europeís the kind of place you can buy a baby for a dollar! Europeís the kind of place where parents drink more than their kids.
Ashley: What do you see on the tours there that you havenít seen here in the U.S.?
Adam: Higher record sales. So much higher.
Ashley: What do you attribute that to?
Adam: I donít attribute it to much. Well, the culture. But Iím not bitter about it. And it doesnít affect my life, you know? I play larger shows in Europe. Really big shows. My biggest show I ever did on my own was a show in Bremen with 12,000 people. So thatís how big it can get.
Ashley: Bigger than the Troubadour.
Adam: Iíve opened for people in bigger places. Iíve played festivals that were larger. But Bremen is the highlight solo.
Ashley: The U.S. is pretty different.
Adam: I donít know what to say about it. Iím just trying to stay optimistic about this tour. Itís a silly thing, weíre just going to get shuffled in and out of the van in different parts of the country. Iím just going to listen to music, read a book, drink some beers, and try not to get in any trouble.
Ashley: Is there a reason that you usually choose to headline tours?
Adam: I opened for the Strokes a few months ago. If people ask me to get in on something, Iím open to it. If itís opening forÖ the Libertines orÖ Phantom Planet, you know, Iíll do it. But most of the time, like in Europe, I just donít have to, you know? Itís like, do I want to get paid $10,000 or $200? Thatís what an opener makes, I donít know if people know that. You can see an opener at Madison Square Garden, theyíre getting $250-$500!
Ashley: Youíd totally do that, though, right? Madison Square Garden for 500?
Adam: Yeah, I want to play the Garden. More than anything I want to play the Coliseum in Rome. Or maybe just the Coliseum in Verona, I hear itís nicer. Iíd love to play a coliseumÖ
Ashley: Well, yeahÖ
Adam: I donít like to think about everything, plan it out. I want to just have the freedom to do this. I donít want to work my jobs that I did before--fuckiní arcade attendant or pizzeria guy orÖ I worked at a used clothing store. I sold video gamesÖ you know, video gamesÖ refurbished video games!
Ashley: I just passed one of those stores on the bus.
Adam: OhÖ man! I was a dishwasher too. And worked at a summer camp. I just want to write songsÖ forever.
As if on cue, Har Mar Superstar walks into the room to say heís going to the grocery store and heíll be back shortly. Adam, making various eating gestures with his hands, asks if he wants to get some Indian food. They agree to the plan. Har Mar leaves and Green comes back to the conversation and without batting an eye or trying to remember his previous train of thought, he looks up and says with a smile, ďItís a good life, man.Ē
For more information on Adam Green, visit: www.adamgreen.net.