Whenever I listen to Adam Green, I imagine him lounging in a martini glass, drinking a Dr Pepper and wearing a party hat. There seems to me no other way that Green could make the music that he does. His witty offbeat lyrics, which include cherished lines such as “everyone’s fucking my princess,” and ”Jessica Simpson, where has your love gone?” (amongst many, many more) twists and turns, rendering listeners bemused and delighted at the same time.
Green, who began in the cult indie group the Moldy Peaches, is the pied piper of the contemporary imagination. Whilst the band garnered mainstream adoration thanks to a flawless Juno soundtrack, Green was already hoarding accolades solo, producing gems such as Dance with Me, Friends of Mine, Emily and That Sounds Like a Pony. With a film already under his belt, it seems only fitting that Green has now turned his mind to a re-imagining of Aladdin, creating the soundtrack and movie, out this spring. Expect quirkiness aplenty and appearances from familiar faces which include Macaulay Culkin and Zoe Kravitz.
Ahead of the release, I caught up with Green to talk presidential castings, papier-mâché and getting pretty weird.
There seems to be quite a lot of edits and changes to this tale, why did you want to adapt the story of Aladdin as opposed to creating something new?
I wanted to try reinterpret the Aladdin myth and try to see it through modern eyes. In my version the lamp is a 3-D printer that prints out an analogue version of the internet. And the Princess is sort of like a Kardashian who’s on the Sultan’s Reality show. I really like when directors make their own versions of classic stories, for example Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, Pasolini’s Canterbury Tales, or Fellini’s Casanova. In this case the goal is to create something completely new, but you have some basic symbolic framework to anchor the plot a little bit.
You have a lot of great people onboard. How did the film come about?
It began with a Kickstarter campaign where I made enough to rent a warehouse. Then I got together a group of people to help me build all the props and sets out of cardboard and papier-mâché. I wanted the effect of the movie to be that the actors were inside a real life cartoon, so we built 30 rooms and 500 papier-mâché painted objects. The build took four months! I had an amazingly talented group that helped me, some had gone to film or art school, or had worked in the art department of independent films. It was important to me that I painted all the black lines though because I wanted everything to look like my drawings. It was pretty surreal being inside the warehouse once we got going. There’s a “Making Of Aladdin” short film I’m gonna put out.
If you could cast American politicians in the roles, who would play who?
George Washington as Aladdin. Condaleeza Rice as the Princess. Ted Kennedy as the Sultan. Bill Clinton as the genie.
How did you get into film?
I made a movie called The Wrong Ferarri that was shot entirely on my iPhone. I began shooting it over a summer tour and it turned into a whole lifestyle. I liked shooting on the iPhone because it was so fast and that frenzy helped actors feel free to improvise. Also because I was on tour I could shoot scenes in Venice, Stuttgart, Rome, France, Belgium all within a few weeks of each other and I wrote the script in the tourbus as we were rolling along. It was a lot of fun. But I think after that I started thinking in terms of movies. I see movies as a great way to combine my visual art, music, and writing into one alchemical medium. It would be hard to go back to not making movies now!
The Wrong Ferrari is a self-described ketamine inspired surrealist gonzo feature. What were the influences behind Aladdin, from a creative point of view?
Aladdin is a reimagining a materialist fairy tale. It’s a movie about technology where everything is made out of paper, glue, and house-paint. The ethos is almost the exact opposite of Dogme 95 rules where filmmakers had to shoot in all pre-existing locations and not bring any props onto the scene. It’s a comedy too, sort of a cross between Jodorowsky and South Park.
You co-wrote the soundtrack for Juno and you’re creating it for Aladdin as well. How does the process compare to making a stand-alone album, if at all? Do you feel more or less attached the music as an entity in itself?
I knew going into Aladdin that I wanted to make all the music in the film. I was writing a bunch of songs at the same time as I was writing the script. Sometimes I’d have a line and it was hard to tell if it would go into a song or into the script, so I’d put it in both. I recorded in LA and recruited some of my favourite people who live out there to be the players: Rodrigo Amarante, who people will know as the singer of Little Joy as well as his amazing solo-work, plays guitar and sings a little bit on the record. Stella Mozgawa, who is the drummer of Warpaint, slays the drums. And Josiah Steinbrick on bass, who I love to play with because he makes all my albums sound really Serge Gainsbourgy.
I think on one hand the Aladdin album is really the next solo-album I was going to make anyway. There’s lots of different moods which is important for a film soundtrack. But more than anything I was looking to make a groovy album that is fitting of a movie where everybody is wearing bellbottoms. I wanted a folk funk bubblegum psychedelic sound. I wanted it to be groovy.
The message of Aladdin is obviously deeply romantic, do you think there’s room for that kind of love in the arts more generally these days, or are people too jaded to engage?
Well I found love and I was a pretty jaded nihilistic motherfucker, so I think it’s possible for anyone. Maybe people will find it easier to relate to an album that’s also a movie! I think sometimes it’s difficult to know where music belongs because people listen to playlists that have like a Madonna song and then a Kurt Cobain song right after it. I think it’s nice that the Aladdin album exists inside this fantasy movie world so it’s harder to take it out of context.
When will the film be coming out, and will we catch it in the UK?
I’m doing a UK tour that starts in early May, so I think that the movie will come out then. I’m planning a London Premiere at the Prince Charles Theatre. And also I’m planning to bring a projector around with me so I can screen the film each night before my band plays a concert. I also want to paint a backdrop and dress like Aladdin so it can be a bit of a traveling circus. Also I want to screen the movie at various indie movie theaters as I come through town.
The internet: with or against it?
If I was going to try and romanticise the internet, I’d say that maybe we will build something really great with it that is actually classic and timeless. Maybe people will see the internet like Ancient Rome someday, I dunno.
Last record you listened to?
The New Har Mar Superstar album, it rules!
Favorite David Bowie song?
I know it’s cooler to say something from the Berlin period, but probably “Life on Mars” or “Man who sold the world.” I love that scene in Christiane F. where he sings “Station to Station” and looks like Vampire James Dean.
Last film you watched?
I watched four movies on the flight home from Paris last week and I’ve combined them all in my head. In my mind it’s Woody Allen and Joaquin Phoenix co-directing a Noah Baumbauch movie where Johnny Depp plays a tired old gangster man who’s married to Lola Kirke, who murders Anne Hathaway for being mean to the cast of Entourage.
What’re you looking forward to in 2016?
2016 is gonna be all about going around the world with my band and showing everybody what we made. I’m excited to go to people’s towns and hang out with friends, have some beers and get pretty weird.