Megan and I had a little conversation about writing and music (in relation to the split of ours Punch Drunk Press released earlier today. Here it is posted at her tumblr… -AG
What I love most about Adam is his uncompromising nature. He & the characters he creates are dogmatic in the most liberating of ways—I never have to worry that one day I’ll pick up a novella or listen to a song by him that’s weak, sugar-coated or unrealistically sweet. He will always be genuine, a new man patiently wading through the old artist’s sea, taking life one bloody, beautiful prepositional phrase at a time.
A year and something ago, Adam threw out the idea of doing a split album together. The only snag in the plan was that I hadn’t written any actual songs yet. I flew into a slight panic and locked myself in the bedroom to try my hand at the process. Within a few grueling minutes I had Hymn of Venus and calmed down.
Much gratitude is due AG for his encouragement in my musical endeavours; for inviting me into the Punch Drunk Press artistic circle and allowing me (you) to pick his brain by consenting to the following interview:
Megan Michelle: How have you evolved as an artist between the last record release and ours, Adam?
Adam Gnade: I don’t know if it’s for me to say. I’m just trying to make everything I release better than the last thing. You should always try to be better than you were before.
MM: Favorite track you made for the split? Why?
AG: I like the noise segues between songs the best. I wanted my half of this record to feel like driving at night listening to the radio. You’re out there alone and you’re in rural Georgia or Louisiana or Iowa and it’s nothin’ but black out your window and you’re scanning the dial as you drive and songs are coming through but you’re also getting late-night sermons and radio static and half-stations that fade from old blues to hiphop to gospel to feed-lot commercials and ads for all-you-can-eat buffets and video slots and stripclubs and outlet malls and farm reports. Buried sound, abandoned-sounding things.
MM: Where/how were the songs recorded?
AG: In my upstairs bedroom here on the farm; at night with a bunch of tape recorders and toy instruments and junk electronics laid out around me and my four-string guitar I call “Holy Shit.” If you listen hard enough you’ll hear cicadas and frogs and thunderstorms in the background. It was raining a lot back then. Torrents of spring, and all. Not in the Hemingway sense. More biblical.
MM: Any major influences (literary, musical or artistic) behind the tracks?
AG: Springsteen’s great Nebraska. Son House. Damon Moon and the Whispering Drifters’ “Guild the Lily.” Old country tapes my great-grandmother Ethel Brown (RIP, star of my sky) made off the radio in La Veta, Colorado. Also: mellow noise. Drones. Tape loops. Field recordings. Quiet stuff. Oh, and Motion Sickness of Time Travel! Oh fuck! Yes, yes, yes. I was obsessed with that record of hers (I think her name is Rachel) called Seeping Through the Veil of the Unconscious; an incredible, downright spirit-lifting drones record Alan English from Youthmovies/Blessing Force got me into. Great slow-glacial-pace-in-winter introspection ride. Great sweating out your life-force in summer record. Great watching the world go orange and brown in autumn record. Great soundtrack to the thaw in spring. I can’t recommend it enough. Actually if you’re reading this, go find Seeping Through the Veil; it’s SO much better than what I do.
MM: What’s the difference for you, as an artist, between writing a novel/novella, or fiction, and writing a song?
AG: It’s all part of the same thought. Total integration between the books and records. That’s the only way I can do it; to make the songs and fiction dissolve into each other.
MM: What is it about music, you think, that connects people?
AG: Because we’ve been doing it so long. Thousands of years of chanting around the cave-fire and beating jawbones on skulls and zoning out after the mammoth hunt. It’s in the fiber. I’m sure people did talking-songs back then too. Only they didn’t have to suffer hearing the critics call their stuff “spoken word.” That phrase makes me want to quit. Quit or shoot my brains out. I guess it’s better than freak folk. No it’s not actually. They’re both terrible. “Talking songs,” that’s what I call it. It’s not poetry or spoken word or rap … talking-songs.
MM: Why Megan Michelle?
AG: Because your songs make me sit down and listen. It’s the immediacy and mood; makes you kind of nervous, like you’re listening in on something you shouldn’t hear. You should invent a time machine and tour with Conor Oberst in 1998 or 1999. Letting Off The Happiness-era. I mean that in the best possible way. The covers you used to do are great too. The Britney Spears one is a motherfucker.
MM: Farmlife, citylife, suburbanlife—which is the way to go?
AG: Farmliving is the life for me but I need to fuck off to the city every now and again to reset my thinking. Of course I could never live in a city after knowing what countrylife is like but I wouldn’t mind having an apartment some day in New York City or Oxford to run off to when it was necessary. The suburbs are horrible places. I’d rather live in a box.
MM:Three things about yourself the world-at-large (including myself) probably doesn’t know?
AG: Here are some minor ones: a) I used to hunt when I was a kid but I stopped (and stopped eating meat) after seeing the sweet-faced veal calves at the Del Mar County Fair. Had a hard spiritual golden rule moment out there. Still kind of fucked up over that. I don’t want to be killed; why should I kill someone else? b) I’m related on my mother’s side to the Old West gunfighter John Wesley Hardin. I’ve read his autobiography. Best cowboy novel you’ll ever read. I look just like him. C) I like guns. I just bought a beautiful Savage 320 shotgun (flat black) with pistol grip and tactical sights and I’m ready for the Philistines. Bring on the Philistines. Huns too. I hate the Huns. Down with the Huns.