Interview with Actor, Writer, Musician Adam Goldberg.
CITY: Los Angeles
Did you take acting classes in high school or college?
I took classes in junior high and high school. Actually, by the time I was in college (for a year), even though I was still interested in acting and I was in plays, I was studying fiction writing and became more interested in making movies. I dropped out, in fact, to pursue a filmmaking career, and applied to Cal Arts. And though I was finally admitted into their filmmaking program a year later I had already begun acting professionally—honestly for lack of anything better to do and while in the throes of a breakup.
What was the first album you bought that really had an impact on you and why?
I’m not sure but certainly the first few albums I bought and that influenced me a great deal were most of the Bowie albums. When I was thirteen I remember I used to practice drumming to the entire Station to Station album.
What are some of your all time favorite films?
Husbands and Wives
Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession
The Odd Couple
Rebel Without a Cause
King of Comedy
Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
The Long Goodbye
Woman Under the Influence
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Honestly, this list would take up too much drive space. Recently, I really loved Kenneth Longergan’s Margaret.
What inspires you about the city you live in?
The trees, the hills, the ocean, the highways (sans traffic).
Do you have any recurring dreams that you remember? If so, can you tell us about one and also what you think it might mean to you?
Since I was a kid, less now I suppose, that I am a passenger or in the backseat of a driverless car. It is parked and it begins to take off. Loss of control would be my guess.
Where do you find beauty most?
In the mirror—if I’m standing behind a beautiful woman who blocks my reflection.
What (if anything) have you been reading lately?
Bowie in Berlin. It’s all about making Low, Heroes, Lodger. . ..
What was one of the most challenging characters that you’ve portrayed in either film or television? What about this character challenged you?
Actually, I just told Doug Ellin, creator of Entourage, that the douche-y trust-fund producer was one of the most difficult roles I had to play. He was surprised to hear it. And, I guess looking at some of those episodes I play him with a certain degree of conviction, but honestly that kind of guy—a money guy—is very difficult for me to relate to. A douche bag on the other hand, in general, is not so difficult.
What is a character or archetype that you’d like to play that you haven’t gotten the chance to yet?
I used to say a Southern working class guy, but actually I have played that. It’s just that few people have seen it. Honestly, at the risk of sounding glib, I’m happy—relieved, maybe more accurately—to simply be able to sustain myself with acting roles. I view it as a profession, much less a creative outlet, as I once did.
What do you find to be one of the main differences between playing music and performing as an actor?
Well, acting is easier for one thing, for me anyway. Writing and making music is a ground-up affair; it is a completely personal and totally encompassing and expressive process. Acting is more like serving as a vessel for another person’s vision. I hate playing music live as I have terrible stage fright and don’t have a “band” per se, so it’s always a rush to put together a live iteration of what I do; the stress unfortunately seems to far outweigh the benefits. I played all the instruments on the latest record and though I found that to be extremely challenging—and regretted doing so much of the time—I feel very comfortable in a recording environment.
What time period in history are you most drawn to? What is it about this time that resonates with you?
Probably the 1940’s or 1950’s. Then again, maybe the 1970’s, but that’s likely because of personal nostalgia cloaked in the sort of collective nostalgia we all have for that era. I love the film noir, the underbelly of American life often portrayed in 1940’s films. I love the aesthetic of the 1950’s but also the creative energy that for instance New York seemed to be bristling with then; I’m a huge jazz fan and most of my favorite recordings hail from that era.
When you were a child were you naturally more introverted or extroverted? What were some of your favorite things to do or places to be that you remember as a child?
An unbelievable ham. But also painfully awkward, particularly as I got older—an unholy cross between the two. Playing on my mom’s front lawn with the neighbor kids until the sun set. Swimming in the ocean with my dad. Catching a foul ball at a Dodger game when I was around ten. Basically sports, before I stopped playing them and became a neurotic basket case.
You have a new album coming out that will technically be your third album. The first was under the name LANDy-Eros and Omissions, but then you found out there were too many other LANDy references, so, you changed the name to The Goldberg Sisters and released your second self-titled album under that name. Can you tell us what the name of the third album will be and do you have a release date for it yet?
The new record is the first I named after a track from the album, actually the least representative sound-wise of any of the others, “Stranger’s Morning.” It was the last song I wrote before making the record, which came out in August 2013.
Also, can you tell me a little about the recording of this album, was it all done at home or did you go into a studio? Can you tell me some of the other musicians and engineers that you worked with on this album?
I recorded it entirely in my shitty garage-cum-rehearsal studio. Andrew Lynch, a fantastic solo artist in his own right, recorded it. I sort of moonlighted recording my own vocals upstairs, in the house. I find it easier to punch in and layer vocals and harmonies if I have one hand on the keyboard. Andrew did a tremendous job. Again, I was playing everything and he really helped keep things cohesive, and given that we were going after a sort of big 1970’s LP sound and had limited outboard gear and a garage do it in, I think he went a long way to help me realize that vision.
Was there a certain underlying theme that kept coming up for you, at least lyrically, for the songs on this album?
Move forward. Stop stopping. Stop retreading taken roads. But many other lyrics were written on the spot, when I first wrote/demoed them, and those are more abstract. Many of my songs are written and demoed at the same time and lyrics are improvised.
Were there any different recording approaches you used this time that you hadn’t tried on previous albums? If so, how did they work out?
See above. But it worked out I think, though I’m not sure I’d do it again. I’m a mediocre guitar and keyboard player, but that’s usually the extent of my playing—in addition to vocals. Although I drummed as a kid and play percussion parts on all my albums, I don’t consider myself a drummer and am definitely not a bass player. I can write string parts and play them on string and soft synths, but miss the sounds of real strings. Having said that, I’m glad I did it. It was something I felt I needed to do and frankly was more convenient than scheduling musicians. But it was grueling at times. Ultimately, I think the personal nature of the recording process reflects the personal nature of the lyrics and the conception of the songs, which were all, in one iteration or another, originally recorded by me and uploaded to my Tumblr blog.
You have been getting a lot of worthy notice on your Vines and I noticed that you were documenting a lot of the recording process this way, which was really interesting and fun to watch. Now, the first video you are releasing for the new album was done using collected Vines, is that correct? Is this something you’d like to continue to do with other songs, or was that kind of a one time thing?
I think that was a one off. Actually Vine came into being after we had finished recording and we had started mixing. Andrew and I would say, ‘Thank God Vine wasn’t around while we were recording, we’d never have finished the record.’ But I do like making musical Vines and loops. I’ve always made loops on loop pedals and easily get lost in them. Many of the songs on the record began as loops I made with my Boomerang.
Where can people buy your album(s)?
I think all the normal outlets: Digital on iTunes, Digipak Amazon, record stores (if you can find one). But I suggest you buy it straight from me at goldbergsisters.com, then you get a little note defacing the artwork we took so much time to make!
You have written and directed two films, Scotch and Milk and I Love Your Work; have you been writing and or working on a third film? If so, would you like to tell us where you currently are in the process: writing, filming, etc.? And can you tell us anything about the story line?
No Way Jose is my first naturalistic sort of comedy. It avoids most of the trappings of the other more stylized films you mentioned. Basically, it’s about a guy who has a band that’s a bit of a has-been, presumably, and now plays children’s birthday parties. He’s about to turn 40 and lives on and off with the perfect woman, his fiancé; and for not having disclosed a rather important piece of information about his past, manages to get himself kicked t0 the curb—where he decides he feels more at home anyway. He decides he’s better off as an old stunted guy than as a domesticated, responsible and—gasp—potentially happy one. He moves in with his overwrought married-with-children friends, hangs out with his 40, 50, 60 year-old single cranky friends who all represent the potential failings of his future; he dates his ex-girlfriend, etc. He tries to find his way back or forward or somewhere over the couple of weeks the movie takes place. It’s thematically not dissimilar from the record. We are scheduled to begin shooting September 15, I play Jose (who so christens himself after he learns he is 1/8 Mexican), and Giovanni Ribisi is producing with me.
Are you currently acting in anything that we could expect to see in the near future?
Really just my film.
What keeps you going?
Yoga, hope, music, love—and a certain degree of its emotional counterpart (probably not the best thing, but I quit smoking three years ago and a guy needs a vice).
Interview and Photographs of Adam Goldberg taken in Los Angeles by Emma Kathan for Psychic Gloss Magazine.