Adam Green

Silent Uproar: So what is it about Germany that you like so much? I know you're doing some throwing there, but the word is that you're quite fond of the place.

Adam: Well, I don't know. I mean, you know there's just so much demand for me here is why I'm here the most. Mainly.

SU: So it's just about the people over there being really into your music?

Adam: I mean I just get better offers from here, and I have the decision whether or not I'm going to take it, so I usually just take them up on it when I get a show offer.

Adam: Where are you calling me from?

SU: From Raleigh, NC.

Adam: Yeah, see over there in NC, no one's ever sent me an offer before. I've played The Cat's Cradle before, you know. I've played places in Raleigh, but at the same time, it's like, they're not hunting me down, you know.

SU: Well, why do you think they [Germans] are so into it?

Adam: Well, you know, a few reasons. One of them is just that the words in my songs, a lot of them can't get played on the radio in the states. So, they can play my stuff on the radio here, and they do. And they play my videos on TV a lot and I'm in a lot of magazines. Like this month, I'm on the cover of Rolling Stone here. So, I've just gotten really exposed by the media, and it's not the case in the States that my stuff got out there to so many people and they decided they don't like it. It's not like that. They just have never heard it. And maybe they never will hear it, I don't know.

But I think if it did get exposed by the magazines and TV and radio over in the States, a lot of people might find that they relate to it. I mean, I'm writing it for my neighbors and my friends in some way. I live in New York, in Brooklyn, and in some ways, the Germans are just eavesdropping on that stuff, you know.

SU: Yeah, but do you ever think it really will have that appeal over here because part of the reason things don’t get exposure in the U.S. is that the media outlets are just so filtered through these channels of trying to make only the stuff that's going to be huge and sell millions and millions of copies. It's hard for the smaller bands that maybe have something better to stay to break through that, you know.

Adam: Yeah, I mean I don't know if it will. I hope that it will eventually. But then, over here in Europe, I'm seeing it happen right before my eyes, you know. So, it doesn't seem impossible for it to happen back home.

SU: So what have you learned about yourself in the two years since your last album?

Adam: Uh - you know my latest album was a little over a year and a half ago, I guess. I guess a big difference, most of my new ones [songs] I wrote on tour. When I was recording Friends of Mine, there was nothing going on really. I mean like I had two albums out, and I wasn't on tour for about 7 or 8 months, so I did a few dates with Ben Kweller during that time. But mainly, I just kinda walked around my neighborhood and made up songs, and I had a lot of free time to just dream up this big orchestral album - strings and everything, and that's what Friends of Mine was.

Just like finally a signed deal with my record label. I had been putting off signing a deal with them for a while; just saying, just let me do it one at a time. But financially it made more sense for me to sign a deal at that time so they'd start paying my rent. Besides, what I started doing is I kinda just signed a deal where they'd pay my rent, and then I said, “Can I hire a string arranger?” and “Can I hire the musicians I want to play on this thing?” and they said yeah. So I just went in and recorded Friends of Mine in a real studio, which was the first time I ever got to do that.

Then that was the original plan. I was going to go on tour for Friends of Mine with the string section. But pretty soon, we found out that that wasn't financially feasible after about seven shows. It was too expensive to continue. They said if I wanted to keep on trying that I would have to find a different way to do it. So the next move was to put together a touring band - you know, four guys that were just good players who could pull off playing my music. We were looking for a way to sort of solve this problem of the missing strings part, and we found that Mason, who plays the Werlitzer, you know a Werlitzer, a kind of a 60's keyboard? It's nice cause it's not a synthesizer, it's got these little metal wreaths inside so it makes a sort of a natural sound. It's an electric piano is what it is. So, he plays a lot of the string melodies on that. And then we started touring like that, and I've kind of been just with them ever since, and in a lot of ways I wrote the new album for them. I wasn't thinking about the strings or any of that. I just wrote it for the band to play, and also in a lot of ways I wrote it to play live because I played, like, 120 shows last year.

So, just trying to write stuff that would reach out and grab people on the first listen, so that they could compete with songs from Friends of Mine that they already knew. I started doing these songs with all these twists and turns, rhythmic changes, surprises - all that kind of stuff I got into for that reason. I guess the first one I wrote like that was the song “Gem Stones” and after that stuff like “Over the Sunrise,” “Choke on a Cock.” There were a number of different ones like that on the album - Carolina. I don't know - the thing is we even did try to demo the new album with strings. We did, like, four or five different tracks like that, and I found that it just didn't sound…it sounded too cluttered. It was like I hadn't written the songs with any space or strength. So I guess that is the biggest differences between the albums. I think in a lot of ways it is a continuation of many of the ideas that I started working with Friends of Mine.

SU: It feels like when listening to it, and hearing you describe it too, that it's kind of been a natural progression of you were here starting out, and then you pushed it here a little bit, and then you maybe backed away from that a little bit and went more towards a live feel for it. Or in the sense of writing the songs, there’s just kind of an evolution of going through it.

Adam: Yeah, it's a natural thing for me. I just write in a way that feels comfortable, and that's the most important thing - that I can get on stage and not feel like a jerk. When I'm singing, it's a balance. You know what I mean? Like, I'd feel foolish singing a lot of other people's songs. You know, they're just not real to me. They just don't have any depth. The stuff I make up for me to sing, it's like I feel like it's a real person. It's like how real people are, so I feel comfortable with it.

SU: Well, when it comes to writing the lyrics for a song. Do you write it kind of like a single stream of consciousness, or is it written in parts and then put together?

Adam: A lot of different parts. I always write the words and music at the same time. I write the words while singing, so it's always with the sound in mind to. But then it's always a test to try to find words that are interesting in both an intellectual and an emotional way. A lot of time the song starts out with an emotion, and then it's like there are certain symbols that I attach to that emotion, and that's what becomes the words - whatever symbols I attach to the kind of music, the kind of groove that I'm getting into. I could spend a month on it.

I kind of enjoy just relaxing with a song and allowing myself the time to try out a lot of different possibilities as far as where it goes. What's nice about a song is that you write it from left to right. It's not like a painting. It's like you start at the beginning and you go to the end - at least that's the way I do it. I'm always deciding what comes next, what comes next. And that's why I think it takes a long time cause, especially when you write these songs with twists and stuff, you don't want it to sound too forced. You want it to sound like a surprise. You don't want to sound artsy. I was pretty conscious not to make it sound overly artsy. I wanted the changes to be musical, and I want them to feel smooth but surprising.

SU: Yeah, you still want it to flow but…

Adam: I want the flow; I don't want to kill the flow with a sudden quick decision. So, that, for me, takes time. I don't know if I could do it faster. I suppose I could write a song faster; it's just there's never been a need for me to, and I've enjoyed spending longer on them. I can write about an album a year. There's like two songs of Gem Stones that we left out because they just didn't quite work. They did in my head, but we just couldn't get them to sound like I thought they should sound. Mainly, almost everything I write, we release. It's just that I spend a lot of time editing it.

SU: Do you think it'll always be your style, at least with this Adam Green stuff, to have that feel lyrically? I mean, does that define the music?

Adam: Oh, I don't know. I imagine it could change. I guess in some ways it will change. In some ways, it's like I'm kind of drawing from a similar source of inspiration I was doing when I was writing the words to the Mouldy Peaches, you know. It's just kinda like the stuff that stands out for me, and that's what I'm writing about, just things I'm interested in.

SU: That's cool. Well changing gears a little bit. Tell me about the Adam Green magazine. What's that all about?

Adam: Yeah, it started out just as a magazine. I would just put it out myself - three different issues - at a certain point I had three of them out. They were different. Some of them were like carrying a pocket notebook. I've been carrying around a notebook in my pocket for years. Just writing down one-liners. Just stuff I didn't want to forget. So the first magazine was sort of like a collection of one-liners. Just a long list of them. Like eight pages. And the second one, I typed for, like, an hour a day for ten days as fast as I could, and then edited it down to something much shorter than that. Then the third one was a poem that I wrote on tour, and at some point, this publisher in Germany bought all three issues, and they asked if I would be interested in putting it out in a book form, and that's kinda what happened. I just met with them in Frankfort and they're very highbrow publishers. They were more than qualified to put it out. They asked me if I wanted to do the book. So, I said sure. I even gave them some additional material. Kind of like a long poem that I wrote at my apartment in Brooklyn over a few weeks. Now it's come out - it's also bilingual. They got a translator to translate it, so the first part is my original English text, and the second part is the German text.

SU: So is it always meant as a commercial thing or is it just something that you decided to do, and it's kind of turned into that?

Adam: Well, I don't know. I guess it's a thing I did to organize my thoughts. I guess I thought that people would maybe relate to it in some way. I guess it's just that the only way I've ever really made any kind of money in my life is by doing artwork, so it was kind of natural for me to take stuff I thought people would find entertaining in some way and compile it into something and put it into a book like that.

When I started out, it wasn't like I was making money at it. Every magazine was a dollar to buy. We sold a lot of copies, but it was pretty much the cost of printing it. It was more just a way to communicate with people, and I guess the way I'm running it is so that I get to pay my rent and stuff.

SU: I didn't mean it as a negative thing. It’s just in reading around things, I had seen some comments from people just talking about how you'd gotten more popular, and one of the things they sited was this - that it went from kinda this small thing, and now it's going to be published, and blah, blah, blah.

Adam: Well, you know, it's true - I mean I always had in my mind that those magazines could be a book because, like I said, they're very concise. I really pared it down. It's not like some journal or something. You know what I mean? It's really edited down stuff. I thought they could be like chapters in a book. But I didn't expect that it was going to be a book so soon. That just fell into my lap, you know, and you’d have to be retarded not to sign that book deal and put out the book that you have been writing that someone wants to put out. People are just totally insane, or just too young to understand that things work.

SU: Well, as far as art for the albums, do you do all the art work for the albums?

Adam: Yeah, well the Mouldy Peaches one and my first one, yeah - just on a copying machine. And then with Friends of Mine, I sat down with my buddy at the computer, and we kind of worked on it together. I had an idea to use that picture and to make it yellow and to make a band. He has a good sense of design. He made it much better than probably I would have made it if I had been at the computer. He really knew what he was doing. And with Gem Stones, yeah sure, I picked out this picture, and what I did was - it's kind of unfortunate because in the States it's not going to come out how it's coming out here with this sparkly paper. Yeah, over here in Europe, it's coming out like - I tore a sample off a Colgate Toothpaste container, and I got the record label to find the actual company that makes it, and they bought like a million roles of this paper, and they printed my album cover on this kind of holographic paper. It looks really cool. And they wouldn't let me do it in the United States because they said I don't sell enough units.

SU: That's really cool.

Adam: It's too expensive.

SU: Well, do you consider the art an important element of the presentation of yourself as a musician?

Adam: Yeah, sure, absolutely. Because I myself am really into visual art. I'm having an art show in Sweden in a month - it's 100 of my drawings. When I was younger, I thought I was going to go into that. I guess when I'm working on an album, I'm always thinking like, “If this was on a CD, what would the CD look like?” - and that's kind of what it ends up being.

SU: Well what, or who, was it that made you decide you wanted to be a musician.?

Adam: Well, when I was younger I got home-schooled by my Mom and older brother. My brother taught me how to play different types of classical instruments like piano, trumpet, tuba, violin. I played sheet music. And when I was twelve, I got a guitar, and I was interested in guitar because you could make sounds on it. I don't know. I guess the stuff that I grew up listening to is not anything that would surprise you. It was just the pop music of that time, like MC Hammer, Heavy D and the Boys. It was C and C Music Factory, Chris Cross. I just grew up with things like the top ten. You know, Brian Adams. I don't know. Just like, whatever. I guess I just tried to write rap songs and tried to write pop songs. One of the first shows I ever saw was The Grateful Dead. We went to see them with some of my friends and his dad. I was really surprised by how many different ages of people were there. From kids like us, like 12-year-olds, to 60-year-olds. And when Jerry Garcia came out on stage in this big purple shirt, people went fucking ape shit, you know? The biggest star I had ever seen in my life. People couldn't believe that he was real. That was like a mile away. It was a giant stadium or something. And, you like just saw this little purple dot freaking out. So, I guess, stuff like that.

SU: I know you've done at least one Mouldy Peaches gig recently. Are there any plans to make that more regular?

Adam: I don't think so. I mean, something would have to change for us to do another show. That show was for charity. That's different. We were all into that. That was just to help out the store. It was one of the first stores to carry our record that had a flood, and the merchandise was damaged, and they needed help paying the rent, and they asked us, and we said OK. And that was fun. But there'd have to be new songs. We'd have to write new songs together and to write new songs together, we'd have to hang out all the time like when we were young. I'm on tour most of year and so is Kim (?). We used to pretty much live at the same house where she stayed on my couch. We used to wake up all the time and eat breakfast together and eat dinner together and then go to sleep and then wake up the next day, you know what I mean? And we found part of our relationship like that. Like part of what we did was our routine. And that would have to come back for us to do something again.

SU: So, what lies in the future for you?

Adam: Maybe a nursing home scenario. A nursing home scenario might suit a Mouldy Peaches reunion.

SU: Are there any other projects you're working on or new things coming up other than touring for this record?

Adam: I hope to make another record by the end of the year. It's pretty good writing on tour. We've been playing a lot of the new songs on this tour. I don't really know what lies ahead for me. I guess I'm kinda just living one month at a time. I mean, I'm missing home right now, so I don't know.

SU: Are you happy where you are as a musician? I mean, would you still like to achieve more or are you pretty content with where you are right now?

Adam: I guess musically. Music is more like my hobby, you know. I feel like in some ways like I'm more like a fortunate kind of amateur that got exposed by all this media. I mean, I'd love to think of writing some really good songs in the future.

SU: Well, I guess I mean more like in terms of popularity or fame, or whatever you want to call it. Just that, I'm sure you'd want to keep making music throughout your life, but the level of success you've had as far as that - are you still looking for more? Do you think there's still room to go or are you happy kinda being somewhere in the middle of has attention but not totally?

Adam: I don't really know. It's different. Like now all of sudden this morning I awoke in Germany. You know, you get recognized in the hotel lobby, and I'm on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine at the newsstand, and it's a different world. Of course, there's room to grow. I mean, I guess that could happen in every country if I wanted to or if I worked hard at it. I don't know. I guess part of me just kinda doesn't really want to be a…

SU: Go ahead and say it - Rock Star.

Adam: Yeah, or even just like an indie rock star or something. I just want to continue to be... I don't think of myself like that. I'm just Adam. Sometimes I draw pictures, and then I'm, like, a drawing pictures person. And then sometimes I'm, like, singing, and I'm a singer I guess. But, I don't really think of myself as…. You know, just because music's my bread and butter, I don't really know what to think about it.

Feb 8 2005