Adam Green plays his biggest New York show ever when he headlines Town Hall this Saturday, May 10 with Tim Fite and Laura Marling. Tickets are $26 and still on sale here. Expect costumes.
Used to be that Adam Green was best known as Kimya Dawson‘s other half in the Moldy Peaches, the anti-folk Captain & Tenille who rhymed phrases like “Steak for chicken” with “Who’m I gonna stick my dick in?” Then came January 2008, when Green became both the shyly intoning boy on the centerpiece of the Juno soundtrack, “Anything But You,” and the vocal model for Michael Cera’s closing-credit cover-song pas-de-deux with Ellen Page. Fast-forward to March 2008, when Green became, to the world-at-large, a momentary YouTube phenom–promoting his goofball-cabaret solo record Sixes & Sevens, he showed up for a guest appearance on cross-the-pond talk show TV Total hilariously hammered, spun wiseass-b.s. about fighting in Iraq, and at one point, affectionately jumped in the burly male host’s lap. It was pretty awesome.
So you never know what you’re gonna get when you interview Adam Green. I got a pleasantly wry dude with a measured patter and an occasional Snagglepuss hiss-laugh in a Frankfurt dressing-room. My first question was going to be “Are you drunk?” Turns out, I didn’t need to ask.
Village Voice: Hey, how’s it going?
Adam Green: Who is that?
Village Voice: I’m Camille.
VV: Where are you?
I’m in a dressing room in Frankfurt. Yeah, Frank-furt.
What’s it like?
It’s a nice place. It’s sort of like a squat. There’re like German squatter kids at the place I’m at.
You’re big over there, I’ve read.
Well, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Where I’m playing in New York is Town Hall, right?
This place [Mousonturm] is not as big as Town Hall.
So you’re bigger in New York?
Maybe? It’s hard to say. I’ve been touring everywhere for seven years. It’s funny, I can go to Copenhagen and maybe a zillion kids will come and then I can go to Philadelphia and there’d be nobody. For all I know, I could go to China and play their version of Madison Square Garden. It’s become really nebulous where there are geographic pockets of people who’re buying my records. Or not buying, just listening to my songs.
Either way, this Town Hall show really is a big deal for you.
Yeah, it’s major for me.
Well, I’m a New Yorker. I was born in White Plains, in a neighborhood where I couldn’t show my feelings. Where I couldn’t show my feelings without getting beaten up. So this is big for me, to play a gorgeous seater like Town Hall. It’s the biggest venue I’ve played in New York. I have some wonderful clothes that I’ve picked out for the occasion.
There’re gonna be costume changes?
Yeah. And I’m gonna wash my hair. It will be really nice. My parents live about a few blocks from Town Hall. They live West side of Midtown.
You’re gonna have to behave for them.
My parents are used to my antics.
Speaking of which, how has the TV Total appearance affected you over there?
I think more people saw it in America. It was sort of like blogged about. My dad is a neurologist. And he’s a professor at Columbia University. He recently did an interview with Wired Magazine about the electro-biology behind headaches. And in the course of the interview, they asked him if I was drunk all the time. [Laughs] That’s the only way it’s affected me directly.
What did your dad say?
Oh, he said no.
Are you drunk now?
Hey, it’s a different time zone. So it must be really early for you.
It’s 11 am here.
Well, I just woke up. I had a pretty wild night in Berlin. Let’s put it this way: I owe some people some money.
[We both crack up.]
So you’re still drunk?
I think so.
How do you like Berlin, anyway?
I spend a good amount of time there. But they work me to the bone when I’m there. Last time I was there, they took me to a techno club where there was this South African electroclash performer named Gazelle who wore like a sparkly Nazi outfit and told me that he was bringing the essence of Africa to Berlin.
Could you ever live there?
I think I’d always live in New York, because it’s hard to escape and my family and friends are there. I enjoy Berlin. But I really enjoy Barcelona. It’s always been sort of a fantasy to escape and live in Barcelona.
And actually, one time, I blacked out and for some reason, flew to Berlin and had like a week where I wandered around homeless and kids just let me stay at their house. It was maybe a year and a half ago. It was a very stressful time for me.
Yeah, it was weird, my girlfriend got me this flask to put Jägermeister in. And I was carrying around this Jägermeister flask. And one time, she was just sleeping and I kept on filling up the flask and before I knew it, I was on a flight to Berlin. I called her from there, she was so mad.
She probably regretted buying you that flask.
I threw out the flask. Actually, I wrote a song about it because it leaked. It’s on my new record, it’s called “Leaky Flask.”
How’d she like that?
She’s actually out here with me now. And I have a bunch of gospel singers here and I’m flying them to New York too because they’re going to perform with me. They’re South London girls. They think I’m nuts.
I can’t imagine why.
. . .
Were you straight-edge when you were in the Moldy Peaches? For some reason back then, I thought you were.
Me? No. But since Kimya’s been touring and hasn’t toured with the Moldy Peaches, she hasn’t had a drink. That’s because she was way out of control and she was terrible growing up. She was one of the most meanest alcoholic bitches ever. We’re all very happy she doesn’t drink anymore.
Has your relationship with her gotten better from the whole Juno experience?
Why, who said it wasn’t good?
Ah, I just got the sense that it’d been fractured.
We’ve been in touch more than ever now.
Okay. Well, do people ever come to shows and be disappointed that you don’t do “the Juno song”?
No. No one’s ever yelled for it. I think they know that we tour separately and don’t do Moldy Peaches songs.
When’s the last time you wrote a song?
I’ve been working on one recently. I guess I work on songs a lot. On tour, as well, I just sort of have a digital recorder. That’s how I write all my songs pretty much for the last five or six years. I don’t write them on the guitar, I just write them by singing into a recorder and then I just sit down with the guitar and figure out the chords later. But it frees me up melodically like that.
I try to keep it consistent. A friend of mine told me that’s the best way. I think that if you go too long without writing a song, you can become out of touch with the artistic process, which is sort of a machine unto itself.
Where and when do you typically write them?
I guess during the day. I’ll get up, drink some coffee, walk around my neighborhood signing into what looks like a cell phone, but is actually a digital recorder. Thank God for cell phones, nobody looks at me funny.
I develop them from there. I might make 10 seconds of a song up, then the next day, make the next 10 seconds up. Then by the time the song gets to be like two minutes long, I already want out because I’ve been working on it for like three weeks.
Oh, I almost forgot. Who is Stinky the Ferret? He’s credited as playing the piano on Sixes and Sevens.
Oh, I was recording under a strange circumstance where I was at a school for autistic kids. And Dan Myers, who’s recorded all my records, his wife operates that school. So she told us that there was an empty room there that we could use to record on the cheap. And there happens to be ferrets that run around the school. Well, you know, they’re really interesting creatures and autistic kids especially like them. So I had this ferret running all over the piano and I kept putting him on the piano and he’d run across the keys. So I figured, might as well let people know that he played.
So Stinky the Ferret is actually just a ferret named Stinky. Believe me, no explanation needed for the name.
I’m really glad to learn it’s not some studio-musician dude with the stage-name Stinky the Ferret.
Ferrets, those creatures have the shortest attention span I’ve ever seen.
Remind you of yourself at all?
Yeah. Maybe to some degree. But I’m a man.
Lex Benaim on Adam Green’s Sixes & Sevens