Green And Moldy

Sam Paerse - Friday 21st 2006f April 2006

“Hey, The Jewish News! I’ve been reading the Torah to prepare for this interview.”

I’m approximately 15 seconds into my interview with New York indie rock singer Adam Green, and he’s already managed to get the Torah in. Whether it’s tinged with sarcasm or not, I have a feeling this guy’s going to be good.

The male half of ‘anti-folk’ band The Moldy Peaches, Adam Green decided to go it alone in 2002 and is now on his fourth solo album - and all at the tender age of 24.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a career, after an equally unique upbringing.

Green was brought up in a secular Jewish home “My grandparents were very religious and they imposed it a bit on my parents” he explains “My parents didn’t want to do that to me and my brother, so we didn’t grow up that religious.”

“My mum taught me at home until I was 12. By then I was begging them to let me go to real school – I wanted to meet people like I saw on TV!” he recalls “I did go eventually, but the first kids I met were drugs kids. They were addicted to crystal meth. After a few months of hanging out with those kids, I started going to the other side of town where there was a record store and hanging out with these record store guys, started working there, and I first got into music through that.”

“I started learning guitar when I was about 11 years old, I played traditional folk songs, and some original songs I wrote.”

“I’d perform at a café every Wednesday night. My mum would drive me there, and I’d play for an hour. People are much less critical of you when you’re a little kid. It’s a great time to learn, because people give you the benefit of the doubt.”

These days you’re a nobody unless you’re hair looks like it needs a good cut and wash, are in a band and living the life of a rock star.

The thought of a nice Jewish boy even needing a haircut, let alone choosing a career in hedonistic rock n roll rather than sat safely behind a desk in a nice suit, send shivers down most Jewish parents’ spines. Having been brought up in a family of academics things weren’t much different for Green.

The Moldy Peaches were signed by Rough Trade records when he was just seventeen. Alongside bandmate and ex-babysitter Kimya Dawson, they achieved massive success on the circuit, a bevy of fans, but the obvious lack of medical cover and pension were a concern for Green’s typical Jewish parents.

“My family are all scientists and doctors. It was a bit controversial when I started taking music seriously as a career. Honestly, it only got better a few years ago when I didn’t have to ask my parents for anything anymore – and now my dad shows my videos to his friends”

Rather than splitting up, the official word is that The Moldy Peaches project is ‘inactive rather than dead’. Since then, Green has gone from strength to strength,

The German edition of Rolling Stone voted his album Friends of Mine the best of last year. Julian Casablancas of world famous band The Strokes, with whom he toured last year, was one of the first to notice Green’s talents. “It always amazes me how he can express such deep meaning with such twisted humour. Adam is eccentric and down-to-earth, with newfound technical proficiency over a wider spectrum of styles. I love it.”

Often compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen and Jonathan Richman, Green has an off-kilter indie style. Having written a ode to Jessica Simpson; his lyrics are tongue in cheek with a deadpan style. “I love British artists; they’ve been a big influence on me. The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Cliff Richard.” (Yes he did say Cliff Richard.)
I’m almost afraid to ask him about Jewish influences through fear that he’s going to come out as a closet Manilow fan.

“There’s klezmer on a track on my Gemstones album. Most of the good songwriters from the 60s were Jewish – Bob Dylan, Marc Bolan, Lou Reed, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon. They’ve all played a big part in my music.”

I’ve feeling distinctly out-cooled. The same age as me, an international star, and talking to me from his tour bus on his way from Rome to Milan. Oh, The Strokes are a fan of his.
But I feel we’ve bonded none-the-less. So with this wild lifestyle, any time to fit a Seder night in?

“Well, I was reading the Talmud backwards, and I came across 112 undiscovered mitzvahs. So they’ll keep me busy – I think I’ll try and work those into my Passover this year. All kinds of stuff that you guys are missing out on; the correct way to make a bed, and how to clean a toothbrush. You guys need to know this stuff!”

OK…I’m officially speechless.

• Adam Green is playing at Scala, Kings Cross on April 20th. His latest album Jacket of Full Danger is out now.