Adam Goldberg Talks Jason Schwartzman, Flaming Lips Friendship, and the New York Art Scene

Adam Goldberg is a jack-of-all-trades — an actor, writer,producer, and musician. Whether he’s playing Mellish in Saving Private Ryan, the cynical New Yorker boyfriend in 2 Days in Paris, or recording intricately produced pop with members of the Flaming Lips, he has a sense of precision and creative flair that makes his work a pleasure to experience. In (Untitled), his film and music worlds bleed together, as he takes on the role of a tortured avant-garde composer pulled into the absurd jungle of the contemporary art world by a gorgeous gallery owner.

We caught up with Goldberg to learn more about the new film, discuss his most recent musical endeavor, and find out who he thinks would win in a battle of the bands face-off with Jason Schwartzman.

Flavorpill: How goes it?

Adam Goldberg: It goes all right. Sorry again for being so late with the interview. I have a fantastic excuse though. Three of my e-mail accounts were compromised yesterday. So I can’t access any of my accounts to check new e-mails or back e-mails. Meanwhile all of these important e-mails are coming to my accounts that have extremely important information that I can’t access. So that is why I am late and thank you for understanding.

FP: No problem. Anyways, tell me a little bit about your new movie.

AG: It’s a small indie flick, a dry satire about an avant-garde composer who is a bit surly and indignant about his music, and is really convinced that anything commercial is valueless. He has a successful brother who creates bad abstract expressionist art that he sells to corporate businesses all around the country. He sells it out of the backroom of this gallerist played by Marley Shelton, who is ashamed by his work, but actually manages to make a living by selling it. In the front of the gallery she displays more innovative non-commercial art. The gallerist falls for my character, and tries to turn me in to an art project in a way, but the art scene appalls me. So the film is kind of a take on how and what happens when these worlds collide and what the actual definition of art is.

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FP: What drew you to the role?

AG: I liked the script. It’s just well written; it’s kind of dryly funny and very scathing. The guy is kind of foolish, which I liked. He imagines himself as a sort of high-class artist who is surly and indignant about his pieces, which are fairly ridiculous. He crumples paper, kicks buckets, slams pianos, you know? But the sincerity with which he does it is really funny. I like the idea that he is going about it with his blinders on and kind of has a real lack of self-awareness it just seemed pretty funny to me.

You know I guess on some levels I can relate to this. This idea of being so defensive of what it is that you do, that you can’t fully appreciate the fact that you are actually really incredibly insecure and feel that you have to justify everything that you do, this whole idea of overcompensating for your insecurity by being indignant.

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FP: So you guys share a few traits?

AG: I find myself competing healthfully in dinnertime discussions about anything really. You know sometimes my desire to prove a point or offend a position actually supersedes my actual beliefs. I realize sometime later in the privacy of my own home that I did this. I can definitely relate to it.

FP: Would attend a performance by the character you played in (Untitled)?

AG: Probably not. Although the piece that is put on by the Morton Cabet character for his birthday show that my character attends is quite beautiful. David Lang who is really talented, composes all of the music in the movie. He had to do some really absurd stuff for my character, along with some stuff that is more melodic and makes more sense. You know Morton Cabet is more the idealized version of Adrian’s character; his stuff is really pretty and accessible. I have really early Steve Reich recordings where there are samplings of hand clapping and usage of found audio footage, but I don’t know if I would want to see that in a live performance. It definitely interests me, though. Generally it has to be more musical for me to be intrigued. I grew up listening to Philip Glass, which is totally different. His stuff is abstract yet beautiful at the same time.

FP: Are you working on any other music projects right now?

AG: I actually finished a project where I put a band together, and we played around a little bit, which I didn’t necessarily love doing. I really like recording a lot, so I decided to go back in to the studio to record an album from start to finish with the same band. The LANDy recording that I released earlier this year was sort of a compilation of recordings from the past few years that were composed in a variety of different settings with different musicians.

I actually just finished the new record a week ago, we just have to do some revisions and I will be done with that. I am really excited about this project. It was really exciting to do something that was super, super concentrated, you know recording the whole album over two weeks instead of a span of six years.

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FP: What would you say was the music that influenced your most recent album?

AG: Some of these songs were songs that I had sort of lying around, and others were songs that I wrote when I had the studio time available, which were actually the best. I think there is a lot of stuff that unconsciously ends up influencing me. One extreme example is I have been listening to a lot of this greatest hits Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach album over the last year. I really wanted to do something like in that vein. But you know, kind of my own take on it.

FP: I noticed you are in both Fearless Freaks and Christmas in Mars. How did you get hooked up with the Flaming Lips?

AG: I met those guys through through a friend who worked at Warner Music.  I was in their movie because they came to an I Love Your Work screening in Austin at SXSW, since Steven Drozd from the Flaming Lips had actually done music with me before for the movie. So I was hanging out with them  and they just happened to be shooting Fearless Freaks at that time. Christmas in Mars was in production outside of Austin at the same time, so we just drove out to the studio for a day and I shot my part then. It was a lot of fun. We have become pretty good friends over the years and Steven  actually played on a lot of the tracks when I was recording the LANDy album later on.

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FP: If you and Jason Schwartzman had to face off in a battle of the bands, who do you think would win?

AG: Oh man, I would have to go with Jason Schwartzman. He has a real knack for crafting some extremely catchy ’60s-influenced pop melodies. I guess our musical influences are quite similar, but I would have to say Schwartzman has one of up on me in that department.

FP: What about in the boxing ring?

AG: Oh that’s a hard one. I mean size wise, he is much shorter and stockier than I am, but I am not sure if he packs a punch. He could have a wicked left hook that could put me on my ass. Who knows?  So I would just have to say it would be a pretty even match.

(Untitled) opens in limited-release this Friday.