Adult. Interviewby Alexander Laurence
The mysterious duo behind Adult. started releasing records 1998 under the pseudonym Plasma Co. They became known quickly for their integration of vocals into analog synths and drum-machine electro. By 2000, it was clear that Adult. had already developed a style based around their new electro sounds and the almost punk, robotic vocals and the confident and strange lyrics. For years the identity of Adult. was unknown. The word is now out that the band consists of Adam Lee Miller (formerly of Le Car) and visual artist Nicola Kuperus.
Adult. were initially best known for their remixes of other bands. They released five singles and were included on many compilations. At the same time many people saw them for the first time live. They travelled to Europe to do many festivals. I saw them play with THe Faint and I Am Spoonbender for the first time a year ago at Noise Pop. They definitely made an impact. I was searching the stores for their records.
The duo released Resuscitation (2001), a full-length album consisting of reworkings of previously released tracks. By this time it was obvious Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus were responsible for a resurgeance in electronic music and were a big influence on many bands. Adult. toured with Trans Am in 2002. Nicola Kuperus did the lead vocals of a Death In Vegas track. The duo's cynical satirization of mainstream life continued on with the new record, Anxiety Always, which was released in April 2003. In May 2003, Adult. embarked on its first headlining tour of America. They have since released the D.U.M.E. ep.
Adult. will be performing in LA at The Echo on May 13th.
Photos: Keith Martin
AL: Have you done a lot of tours?
Adam: No. The most we have ever done is nine shows with Trans Am. This is our first headline tour and our longest tour ever. It's twenty shows
AL: When did you stop doing Le Car?
AL: When did you stop doing Le Car?
Adam: Le Car ended in 1997. We put out a 12-inch on a German label under the name Plasma Co. In 1998, Le Car was asked to play a show with Kraftwerk in Barcelona. It was the Sonar Festival. We got back together just for that one show.
AL: The Resuscitation CD is mainly just a collection of all the early singles and EPs. Why did you release that?
Adam: People kept saying that we should release these records on CD because people would like that. People would say: "I don't have a record player. I would really like to get your stuff on CD." So that's what we did. But many of the times, we didn't like the way the songs were recorded originally. Most of the songs were remastered or re-recorded. Songs like "Dispassionate Furniture" were completely redone. That is why the album is called "Resuscitation."
AL: You released all those songs as singles before?
Adam: All of them eventually were. There was a song "Mouth To Mouth" was an original song. But then a Dutch label put it out on a "Hand To Phone" remix EP. Everything on Resuscitation is on vinyl, but not in the same version. Many of these records are hard to find now. The first Adult. 12-inch single is out of print. The Plasma Co. record is out of print. All the singles are becoming rare.
AL: Was Nicola Kuperus always the visual component of Adult.?
Adam: I did the graphic design. There was a compilation that first had a photograph of hers. We started to use more and more of them. I think it was the "Hand To Phone" picture disc that created a buzz. That was a year before Resuscitation. That was the moment that solidified her photography with Adult.
AL: Did you ever DJ as Adult. or were you a studio group?
Adam: No, I never DJed. I have only DJed at three or four events in my life. Those were just casual events. I was just having fun with friends. I don't mix or match beats. Adult. was totally a studio project at the beginning. It was a big surprise that we got invited to play shows. We thought it was funny.
AL: Why did you think it was funny?
Adam: We never thought of ourselves as doing any of that. It was 1997. We were doing harder electronic music with vocals. Absolutely nobody else was doing that, except Kitbuilders. People were just getting into it.
AL: Why do you think that music caught on with people like Ladytron and The Faint?
Adam: I know a lot of these bands: Ladytron, The Faint, Kitbuilders, Miss Kitten and The Hackers. I think that you had all these people who were super passionate about what they were doing. It's one of those things. You can have a great business team or put out music that you believe in. I spoke to a lot of these people. There were a bunch of Techno DJs who were totally burned out and going through the motions. It just becomes a job.
AL: Paul Oakenfold has been doing the same thing for fifteen years now.
Adam: Exactly. There was a time between 1990 and 1995, when Techno music was still really weird. Now when you go to a Banana Republic and they are playing that music. It's on bank commercials. It's not weird nor new music anymore.
AL: You have a few songs which are ironic comments on techno music and consumerism.
Adam: Yeah. In the song "Pressure Suit" we are talking about that. It's quite funny to have a crowd of people chanting "I want to spend my money on entertainment." Yeah, you just did. We have been playing a lot of small clubs that hold about 500 people. People usually want to be there. I couldn't imagine that happening at a big festival where people are so burned out on drugs that they couldn't care less who is on stage. Obviously you can tell that I don't have a good opinion of festivals.
AL: What did you think of being part of the first Electroclash Festival?
Adam: At the time, it was just the name of a festival then. I don't think that we fit in that at all. We recently played a festival in Greece called Fire Fighters. No one started calling us Fire Fighter music. If we knew what Electroclash was going to mean in the future, we would have never done it, because we don't want to be genre-fied.
AL: Do you collect a lot of old Arps and Moogs?
Adam: On this whole trip, we have been driving around the country and seeing pawn shops. We think maybe we should look around and see if they have anything. We never really have any time. We want to stop and look around in these small towns. Right now I am in Flagstaff, Arizona. We are near the Grand Canyon. If you could find some old pawn shop, you could probably find some old Korg. You could plug it in and make it sound really stupid. They would probably give it to you for twenty bucks. I like gear. I am not a hardcore collector. We are more into pedals right now.
AL: Do you have old keyboards?
Adam: Yeah. We don't tour with the really fragile stuff. We have a Juno 106. If one of them breaks, we have a second backup one.
AL: Could you talk about the label Ersatz Audio?
Adam: We started it about eight years ago. We evolved over time. We don't sound like we did eight years ago. There was a time when it became Adult.-centric. We didn't want that. We wanted to have a family again. We have Magas now. It's naturally happened. Now it's like the Manson Family. We had a lot of labels who wanted to put out the new Adult. record, but we are very content to do it ourselves.
AL: When did you record the new album, Anxiety Always?
Adam: It started in September 2002 and we finished up in December. Most of the songs have been written in the past year. One song "Nothing of The Kind" had been around a little longer. We wrote it so we could do it live on the Trans Am tour last June. We hadn't recorded it yet.
AL: It seems like the vocals are really advanced on this record, compared to the early stuff.
Adam: Nicola is asleep in the back right now. I don't like to answer for her. We played so many live shows between Resuscitation and the new record. That allowed her to develop from one record to the next. On stage we used to be static. Now, she has total control over the audience, and it's awesome.
AL: Some of the bass guitar on the new record reminds me of Joy Division and The Cure.
Adam: Oh yeah. I love those bands. I played bass guitar in some punk rock bands before this too. In the show I play a lot of bass guitar and keyboards. Many of the early songs are mechanical and many of the parts are impossible to play live. One of the ideas with this album was that we wanted to write songs that we would enjoy playing live. We wanted to give out more energy to the crowd.
AL: When I think of some of the songs like "Glue Your Eyelids Together" and "Nausea" it reminds me of Existentialism. Do you like those writers, like Sartre and Camus?
Adam: Yeah. I have actually. People have asked us before about our lyrics. Most things work on a subconscious level. When it is written, nothing is about this one thing. Our songs are not about anything specifically. They are a non-didactic, or non-narrative approach. Then over time, the songs begin to have meaning to us. But we always enjoy what people think the lyrics mean. "The Wages of Fear" is my favorite French film.
AL: You have remixed tracks by The Faint, Tuxudeomoon ,and Erase Errata. Do you think that you will release a remix album at some point?
Adam: I don't know. It's a double edged sword. It's totally out of control. We have just put out Anxiety Always. Then people think "So when are you going to do a remix album?" When did that become a standard? I don't know if we will or we won't. Shouldn't you put out a real record, and see if it does well, before you do a remix record. I find that really funny. We have cut down on doing remixes. We have done about twenty-three remixes in the past few years. That is ridiculous. We could have done two new albums in that same time. If you concentrate on that, you stop developing your own music.
AL: What other bands do you like?
Adam: The Faint.
AL: When I first heard "Pressure Suit" it made me think of John Foxx "Metamatic." Were you familiar with John Foxx and the stuff he did with Ultravox!?
Adam: Oh yeah. My old band, Le Car, was very John Foxx-centric. It was on a label called Monoplaza, which referred to a song of his called "Plaza." The sticker for our band had a burning car on it which referred to his song "Burning Car." The bands that we like the most were Throbbing Gristle and Sonic Youth. They are an influence because they are massively independent. They had their own labels and they always did exactly what they want to do.
AL: Do you see yourself as a futuristic band?
Adam: Yeah, except phones still don't work everywhere in the future. We have never thought of ourselves as futuristic music. Lyrically, we think of what we are doing as social commentary. It's about anxiety and social disorder. I know that John Foxx and Tubeaway Army are the first records that I bought that put me on this path that I am still on sixteen years later.
AL: What do you think of people who put your music on the internet and do filesharing?
Adam: There's a good chance that all that will kill the industry. We had a lot of problems with Anxiety Always being uploaded on the web. This is how we live. We are just two people. We are not a corporation. We have no money coming in, except through playing live and putting out our CDs and selling them. Now that we have released it, there are journalists who sell them back, and people who buy them used and put them on Ebay. There are massive amounts of lost revenues. We had to go after this one company. They put the whole album up on this corporation website. It was the webmaster for this corporation. We had to tell the corporation that we were going to sue them, because this webmaster would take it down. They had to lock him out and close the website down. It's okay to have one or two MP3's to hear what you sound like. But if you give it all away for free, nobody can do it for a living.