Photo: Kristen Lally
Adam Green is one of the most talented musicians to come out of the New York
music scene. The 23-year old singer grew up in New York City. His dad is a
professor at Columbia University and his mom is a psychiatrist. They were not so
happy that he formed a band when he was still in high school. He was 14 years
old when he joined The Moldy Peaches. He didn?t go to college, and instead
went on tour with The Moldy Peaches, supporting The Strokes. The Moldy Peaches
were infamous and their reputation grows every year. They disbanded in the
beginning of 2002. But their secret gig in October 2004, caused a riot. Once they
broke up Adam Green decided to take his turn as a solo artist.
His first album, Garfield (2002), was stripped down. It was a home-recorded
simple record. The audience for Adam Green grew in Europe during this time. The
past three years Adam Green has been touring Europe relentlessly. He is a big
star in Germany. His albums have sold nearly 100,000 copies each there. He
has written a book that has come out in Germany. His second album, Friends of
Mine (2003), was more orchestrated, and reached more fans. Adam Green has been
on a lot of tour supporting The Thrills and Ben Kweller. All this activity and
energy has resulted in his best album yet. In March 2005, he has released
Gemstones. This album combines all his past greatness. Lucky for us, he is about
to initiate an American tour, which is becoming more rare. The tour begins on
April 7th in Pomona. Adam Green will be appearing at in San Francisco at Bottom
of The Hill on April 9th. I was lucky to talk to him a few weeks before this
AL: Are we going to rock it in Espanol here?
Adam: Whatever you want. I am not too good. I know a few words.
AL: When did you finish recording Gemstones?
Adam: I finished it in November 2004, but it took four or five months to put
it out. There was a wait. I wrote the album when I was on the road. We would
rehearse the songs at soundcheck. When we went in to record, all the songs were
done. Recording it was really quick. I think it took five days.
AL: Was that how you did the previous records?
Adam: That was pretty much how I did Friends of Mine too. I haven?t had the
luxury of going into a studio where you are paying a thousand dollars a day. I
haven?t been able to mess around in a big famous studio with engineers. I
usually go in already practicing a lot. I am usually ready to record my record.
AL: How do you write the songs? You write by yourself right?
Adam: Yeah. I record things into a little digital recorder. I just sing into
it. I develop the songs on that recorder. I figure out the chords later when I
am all done.
AL: You begin with some words, or an idea, or a title?
Adam: I write the words and music at the same time. I am usually walking
around somewhere and I get a groove going. I carry the recorder with me wherever I
go. It?s very portable. I sing into it all the time. I can hear the music in
my head. Sometimes it will be like one line with a melody. Like the song
?Emily,? I had the words and melody (sings) ?I want to dance with Emily.? That?s
all I had. I recorded that in the park. A few days later I will go through all
the files. If anything is good after a few days I will think about making it
into an actual song. I will riff on it. It?s a very ugly process. You end up
singing a lot and most of it sucks. Whatever is all right stays. It can always
be better. I don?t have to make it prefect. I am just trying to be comfortable
with each piece. That is my criterion. I want to be able to sing a whole song
all the way through without feeling strange. It should be natural.
AL: What about the content of a song?
Adam: There are other ways of sizing it up. The song shouldn?t be too long.
It shouldn?t be boring. The lyrics are interesting in both an intellectual and
emotional way. The melody should be solid. I should be able to hit all the
notes and pronounce all the words. It should be comfortable to the way that I
talk and sing.
AL: Do some song ideas not make it to the album stage?
Adam: Yeah. But not as many as you would think. I wrote seventeen songs last
year. There are fifteen songs on the album. It is a shame about those two
songs. We tried to make them work in the studio. It was just better for those
songs not to be on the record.
AL: Was there an attempt to do something slightly different on this record?
The vocals seem a lot stronger.
Adam: I just got a lot of practice doing so many dates and tours. It was a
development of a lot of ideas that I had on Friends of Mine. The premise of
Friends of Mine was that the words are just as important as the music. Before I
thought that the words were more important than the music. I thought that if a
song has great words, the right words, the song would be great. I didn?t really
respect music in the same way. When I was working on Friends of Mine, I
discovered that at the core of every song is a strong melody.
AL: Did you have a poetry background?
Adam: Yeah. Not really. I started out writing things on paper. I was working
with a mentality where I had to squash a lot of my ideas because I thought
people might think I was weird. Everyone goes through that. I came into a comfort
zone. I had an understanding on Friends of Mine of what I could do. Gemstones
was developing those ideas and stretching them out and seeing how far I could
take it. Since we have done Gemstones, I have written some songs that take it
even further, and other songs that go back to the beginning. Some of the new
songs are really simple.
AL: Where did you come up with the title of Gemstones?
Adam: I thought that it was a good title for an album. I like titles that are
named after a song on the album. Maybe that is where a lot of the ideas
crystallized for me in writing it. When I finished writing Gemstones I thought that
maybe there is something here that I can work with. It had changes in it.
What separates Gemstones from the other albums is that it is more rhythmic. When
I made Friends of Mine it was a big stylistic change. I think it freaked
everyone out. It didn?t get good reviews.
AL: They didn?t understand it?
Adam: Yeah. I grew up listening to different stuff than the people who review
my records. I grew up listening to ?good music.?
AL: What would that be?
Adam: I don?t know. The Incredible String Band, Sam Cooke, Lou Reed, and Hank
AL: What informed the early records and the Moldy Peaches then?
Adam: I started out playing Hank Williams in folk clubs. I met these kids
growing up who I would call drug kids. They sold speed. They turned me on to a
lot of indie music. There were things like Black Flag and Bikini Kill. I was
looking for something different very early on. I found American traditional folk
music. I learned how to play guitar listening to Mississippi John Hurt. I was
into the finger picking style of those records. I just wrote a song the other
day, which has that sort of finger picking. It?s funny. Sometimes it takes so
long to come back to what inspired you to make music in the first place.
AL: Maybe you were into shock value and provoking people early on?
Adam: No, it wasn?t ever anything like that. I was just spicing up the songs.
It was never the focus of my music. Humor has never really been the focus of
my music, despite what people think. It?s just been one element that I have
not been afraid to include. It?s like many of my amigos are really scared to use
any of that shit. They might think if they do that, the music is ?not
honest.? It?s bullshit. Everyone that knows rock and roll is originally very playful.
Chuck Berry is funny as hell. ?Too Much Monkey Business? is like bubblegum
AL: It didn?t take itself too serious.
Photo: Kristen Lally
Adam: Now you see something along the line of people expecting artists to
come from a very naïve place. It?s like the critic are the critics. And the
artists are the naïve people.
AL: They are babes out of the woods.
Adam: Right. I never did that for people.
AL: Who is in your band? How did you find these guys?
Adam: Steven Mertens, who was in The Moldy Peaches with me, put together this
band. They are called Gnomes. They are playing with me on this tour and they
will be one of the supporting bands too. They will play a set as the Gnomes.
They will come out a second time as my backing band. They just did a record.
AL: The guys who played in the Moldy Peaches were pretty talented.
Adam: Yeah. It?s tricky to play the music on Gemstones. You have to be
proficient. It?s difficult, but it?s not hard for the Gnomes because they are
really good musicians. The music is difficult and impossible to play for most
people. In the last year I was listening to some old music that very rhythmic like
Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath. The drums on the Lou Reed?s ?Berlin? are very
progressive or prog rock. I was getting into some of those really complicated
drum fills. You take those things for granted if you listen to a Led Zeppelin
record. People don?t really give you that sort of musicianship anymore. A lot
of that music has been repressed in my brain, and it?s really groovy.
AL: Have you been touring a lot?
Adam: We have just done a tour of Europe that lasted seventy-two days. That
is long tour. Longer than I would ever want to do again.
AL: You published a book in Germany?
Adam: I wrote it in English. A German publisher brought it out. It is a
bilingual book. They got a guy to translate it. The first part is what I wrote. The
second part is the same thing in German. It?s available in New York at St.
Marks Bookstore, and in LA at Book Soup. I would like to make it available for
people in the States. I don?t know anything about the publishing world. I would
like to bring it out here.
AL: What is it like playing in Europe compared to over here, where you play
places like the Troubadour, Bottom of The Hill, or the Magic Stick?
Adam: People don?t understand. In France or Germany I play massive concerts.
It?s different for me. It would blow people?s minds if they saw me perform in
Europe. It?s a very different reality.
AL: You have played large venues here when you played with The Strokes.
Adam: They weren?t my shows. I was the support act. It?s exciting to have
that challenge: to win over people who know nothing about you. I try not to
think about it. People will come around to my music sooner or later. In the States
people would relate to my music if they ever heard it. The way it is, they
will never ever hear it. You can?t hear about if it is not in the magazines, or
on the TV or Radio. Nobody is writing about Gemstones. My music is not trendy.
I hope that people come around to it, because as the gap grows larger and
larger, I can?t even afford to tour in the States. It makes more sense to do a
successful European tour, rather than a US tour where you lose money.
AL: You did this benefit concert with Moldy Peaches for Accidental Records in
New York in October 2004. How did that happen?
Adam: Accidental Records is an all night 24-hour record store on Avenue A.
They got flooded. Most of their merchandise was damaged. They were actually the
first record store to sell my stuff. I gave them Xerox copies and they sold
them. They helped me get some of my first shows at the Mercury Lounge. When they
asked me and Kimya to play, we said sure, because we hadn?t done any Moldy
Peaches songs in years.
AL: What is the status of Moldy Peaches?
Adam: There is nothing going on. We put things on hold but there are no new
songs. We had played the last show three years ago at Irving Plaza in early
2002. We could have done things again. We had a record contract that ended right
there, so there was no need to keep it going. It was time to have a break.
Kimya had a life and lived in different places. I hadn?t had a life yet. I went
from high school to touring with Moldy Peaches. I felt held back by the band
and I want to do things by myself.
AL: What should people expect to hear when they see you on this tour?
Adam: It will be different every night for sure. The shows can go in any
direction. We write up a little list before we go on. I will take requests from
the audience. We usually ignore the list and play what we feel like. Usually I
see where people are at. I try to play a suitable show for each environment.
The show never goes the way you think it will. Sometimes the high point of a
show is playing a song you didn?t plan on playing.
AL: Did people show up in numbers when you played with the Moldy Peaches?
Adam: Yeah. Sometimes we lost money. People think that Moldy Peaches were
bigger than it was in retrospect. People ask questions about that band a lot.
They talk about the song ?Who?s Got The Crack?? like it was a big hit or
AL: People heard about the band in the past few years.
Adam: Yeah. More people have bought our record since we broke up. It?s funny.
We played a lot of shows, but the last show at Irving Plaza was the biggest
we ever played in our lives. The Moldy Peaches played to a hundred or maybe two
hundred people at the time. We weren?t a very popular band.
AL: I saw you play towards the end at Café du Nord in San Francisco. There
was about a hundred people or so there.
Adam: I will play to fifty people if they are enjoying it. It will be a good
show. I can?t afford to do all the time. It?s sad that I can?t tour in the
States. This is where I am from.
AL: Do people think you are from England now, since you spend so much time
Adam: Some people do. They don?t know the difference between an English
accent and an American one. People from Germany will ask me what part of England I
am from. I can?t tell the difference between a Berlin accent and a Bavarian
AL: You played with The Thrills. What other bands have you toured with?
Adam: I have toured with The Libertines and The Strokes. I have played with
Badly Drawn Boy, Ben Kweller, Bright Eyes, and Phantom Planet. I have done a
lot of opening tours. Ben Kweller is my buddy. He lives in Brooklyn too. I have
never been on a tour that was a total disaster. I got along with everyone most
of the time.
AL: How did you meet the Strokes?
Adam: We played a show with them in New York. They were doing a tour and they
asked us to go on tour with them. That is how it started. It just became a
thing where we would open for them almost every show. It was like that for a
year. I was managed by the Strokes for the first two years. They have a
management company. They had The Strokes, me, and Ryan Adams. It collapsed after a
while. It takes a lot of work to manage the Strokes. I found new management.
AL: How did you end up with Rough Trade?
Adam: We ended up on Rough Trade the same way the Strokes ended up there.
Matt Hickey who booked the Mercury Lounge was a scout for Rough Trade. They
signed the Strokes first and had a lot of success with them after one month. They
decided to sign another New York band, so they signed us next. After us there
was A.R.E. Weapons. After a year all the New York bands that were playing
Mercury Lounge got record deals. We were in the right place at the right time.
AL: You want to do another record this year?
Adam: Yeah. I would like to do one record every year. Anything less would be
"EMILY" Video: www.sanctuarynewmedia.com/roughtrade/adamgreenHI.ram