Interview: Adam Goldberg and LANDy

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When I pitched an interview with Adam Goldberg to his publicist, the first thing she warned me was: “I’m not sure it’s a good fit.” I asked why. She said it was the website’s name: Goldberg’s father is Jewish, his mother’s Catholic, and he wasn’t raised religious at all.

One way or another, however, Goldberg has become a hallmark of contemporary Jewish culture. He’s acted for the most Jewish of directors (in Saving Private Ryan) and on Friends, arguably the most Jewish adam goldberg playing with landytelevision show in the post-Seinfeld world. To thousands of people, some of whom may not even know a Jew personally, Goldberg is the face of Judaism: he played the title role of Mordechai Jefferson Carver in the classic Jewxploitation cult film The Hebrew Hammer.

But all questions about religious devotion and racial profiling aside, Goldberg is a fascinating artist. He’s a talented actor and director with exceedingly versatile talents, equally at home in comedy, drama, and the surreal middle. Currently, he dabbles in all of those in his regular gig on ABC’s The Unusuals (whose costar Amber Tamblyn is also multitalented, releasing her second book of poetry on Manic D Press this autumn).

And he’s versatile outside the realm of acting as well. For the past six years, Goldberg has been stockpiling recordings of his musical project — a non-band band named LANDy, made up primarily of Goldberg’s recordings of his own material, with backup provided by, among others, the bands Earlimart and the Flaming Lips. “Eros and Omissions,” their debut album, will be released Tuesday, June 23 on Apology Music, although you can hear tracks right now on Myspace or download tracks here.

MJL: The album’s fine print says that these songs were recorded between 2002-2008. What took you so long to pull it together–and how do you know when to say, okay, I’m done, this is one coherent album?

Adam Goldberg: I didn’t set out to record an album. I just recorded for “the love of doing it” or when I had a song idea and needed to get it down and just kept going, getting it down, getting down. Some things were more intentional demos perhaps to try and procure a record deal. I came to realize it was no longer 1973. Then some other songs, particularly the Oklahoma sessions with Steven Drozd in a “proper” studio setting, were what I considered at the time might be the commencement of an independently produced record.

But I sort of went a little mad mixing the stuff, mired in up to 50 tracks on a particular song, and retired for a while. Then just kept recording here and there over the years. Eventually, I had so much material I didn’t know where to start finishing — nor did I want to just abandon and re-record some of the “demos” I had become attached to.

I met Aaron Espinoza early last year and booked some time in his studio, dumped the hard drives on him and recorded some new songs (“BFF!” and “just a thought”), salvaged some parts of some of the demos and re-recorded vocals or guitar or whatever, and with Aaron mixed the rest.

landy liveThe album sounds like a lot of collaboration went into them, but the individual song credits make it sound like you’re doing a lot of the “jamming” yourself. How do you pull it off?

I don’t consider myself a musician, more a director of the music. I have to do things most people could do in one take and with one track with several takes and several tracks sometimes– which perhaps is one of the reasons there is more layering then say soloing.

But it was very collaborative: Steven brought his own sensibility, members of the band The Black Pine brought theirs, certainly Aaron brought a terrific sensibilities to the songs he recorded, even my sound designer on I Love Your Work contributed to a couple of tracks, and so on.

Do you consider yourself Jewish?

I feel more in touch with what is commonly known as a “Jewish sensibility,” but I’m not religious and feel very much my non-Jewish mother’s son (though she probably is more Jew-ish than my still-surfing former lifeguard father). I’m a mutt. I’m an American, damn it.

How did that impact your choice to be in the Hebrew Hammer? How does it feel to have starred in it; does it still come back to haunt you?

I was both ambivalent about doing the Hebrew Hammer — for fear of forever being known as such — and just as stubborn about refusing to allow another to be known as such. It was too funny not to do.

Is it hard to separate your role as a writer and musician from your work in front of the camera for other people? Do you feel like you have to make that division?

I think that, whatever I’m doing, I dedicate myself to, if not completely obsess about — though some things are more fulfilling than others. The work ethic is similar but the muscles are very different. I liken playing or producing music however to making a film. It takes very similar muscles. Music, though not the means by which I have earned a living, the environment wherein I feel much more like “myself”…whoever that is.

Posted on June 18, 2009

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