On April 8th of this year, Billy Bob Thornton appeared on CBC Radio One with his rockabilly band the Boxmasters. After being introduced by the program’s host, Jian Ghomeshi, as an actor with a prolific film career, Thornton regressed into monosyllabic petulance, each response punctuated by the disinterest of an ersatz Dylan. And, given the recent resurgence of performers who love to act and sing (from Scarlett Johansson and Zooey Deschanel to Jessica Biel and Terrence Howard), Thornton’s reaction has become the bellwether for how we address crossover stars. It’s difficult, when speaking to a performer best known for his cinematic work, not to discuss his films, especially in the case of Adam Goldberg, whose career over the past two decades has included stand-out performances in Dazed and Confused, Saving Private Ryan, A Beautiful Mind and The Hebrew Hammer. But, after just one listen to Eros and Omissions, a hypnotic, meditative debut album featuring songs that Goldberg wrote over the past six years, one can’t help but want to focus on LANDy, Goldberg’s musical alter ego. Assured, fractured and, at times, downright nasty (On “BFF,” Goldberg sings, “So your parents didn’t love you? Well, now mine don’t as well”), the album swells and shivers like a forlorn lover lost in a downpour. Here, days after news broke via Twitter that his ABC show “The Unusuals” had been canceled, Goldberg discusses his second act.
Billy Bob Thornton was criticized for lashing out against a radio host who mentioned his acting career during an interview about his band’s music. Can you understand the impulse? I don’t know that I would spell it out so explicitly, but I can understand Thornton’s reaction to this guy who was like, “What’s the matter? Being a big movie star isn’t enough?” Acting only fulfills a fraction of who you are. I don’t make gazillions of dollars, so acting is how I make a living. But actors—even the most famous, successful ones—have time off between jobs. And if acting is the only means by which you can express yourself, you really are beholden to the nature of the job market. It’s frustrating to have a lot to say, and not always be able to say it, and then to be derided by some critic who doesn’t look beyond the cover. The inverse seems a lot easier—maybe with good reason.
Do you mean musicians who become actors? It does seem like a far more acceptable transition. For some reason, this seems like a revolutionary or aberrant move. But I see this as an adjunct to that creative part of me. I suppose I feel a little precious about this album, much more so than I would about an acting performance. I’m sort of hypocritical, though, because I can totally relate to the skepticism and cynicism. A long time ago—this isn’t necessarily the case now, although it might be with High School Musical—performers had to do everything.
The desire to box performers into one creative outlet seems a little reductive. Every actor or filmmaker wants that one thing that’s going to catapult him into fame, but then, unfortunately, they become beholden to that very thing. It’s different for me, though, because plenty of people have no fucking clue who I am.
You don’t deal with public recognition? There’s a certain amount of that, but it’s not a huge part of my existence. I’m about as recognizable as I can psychologically handle.
Which is an idea you explored in your second film as a director, I Love Your Work. People who were harshly critical of that film said, “It’s a naval-gazing movie about the trappings of celebrity—how dare you?” The funny is, though, that it was autobiographical to the extent that it dealt with themes like longing and the past, but I severely exaggerated the more neurotic aspects of myself and explored my lifelong interest in paranoia and schizophrenia. Basically, the concept boiled down to: If Mark Chapman became a movie star along the lines of Russell Crowe, what would happen? The stalker and the star being stalked were really two sides of the same coin—both fueled by narcissism, one “successful,” the other “not successful.”
The criticism of autobiography certainly won’t dissipate with this album, which is also centered on love and loss. The works of art that have always moved me most are made by people who’ve laid themselves bare. I’ve always been moved, beyond any kind of intellectual or theoretical hypothesis, by that which is very personal—the personal being universal, and that sort of thing. Once you start trying to appeal to too many people, you stop appealing to anybody. In music, it seems less “indulgent” than it does on film. Every time I ever felt like writing, it was to expose or “cathart,” or whatever. I never thought that anyone would ever listen to it.
Stephen Drozd of the Flaming Lips, with whom you collaborated on this album, referred to Eros and Omissions as a world of sound, which I thought was a nice, apt way to describe it. I’m a big fan of sound design as well as music. David Lynch is a great example of a filmmaker who makes incredible sound-designed movies—it’s always very difficult to tell where the sound design ends and the music begins. I can’t help but want to evoke or create some kind of space where the songs live, rather than have the songs stand on their own. I want to place them in some sort of other aural context. Boy, I sound like a pretentious asshole!
After directing Christina Ricci in I Love Your Work, she became your girlfriend. You also starred in 2 Days in Paris with Julie Delpy, with whom you had a romantic relationship. Is it just easier to work with people you’re close to and be close to people you work with? My girlfriend now is a graphic designer by trade, but she’s also a violin player and so I asked her if she wanted to play on “BFF,” and a few other tracks that we recorded last year. It just happens like that. Down the line, it would be neat to seek collaborators out, but it’s pretty essential that I forge my own path for a while before relying too heavily on another person’s aesthetic.
I’m curious about the name of this album. Its title is Eros and Omissions, but it was originally called Everything Must Go, which is actually the name of a monograph by YBA artist Michael Landy, with whom you share your stage name. Is this all simply weird coincidence? Total coincidence, although that may have been the straw that broke the album title’s back. I had thought a lot about the art for the record cover—I’d been making variations of it for years, actually. One day, I woke up and Everything Must Go just seemed a really obvious title to me. But then I found out that there was a Steely Dan record called that. And then I heard about that book, by some bizarre coincidence.
Why the pseudonym? Is it so that people don’t say, “Adam Goldberg the actor has an album out?” [Laughs] It’s a weird thing because LANDy is definitely not a band, but I don’t particularly like the sound of Adam Goldberg as a record. I wouldn’t necessarily want to buy that. Beyond that, though, there are collaborations with a lot of different people on each track, and it feels more like a project that I’m the designer or creator of—though, obviously, I’ve written the songs.
There’s also a singer-songwriter in Boston named Adam Goldberg. I’m aware of him as well. It seemed like it could cause some confusion. There is a—well, actually, I shouldn’t say that. Never mind…
What’s that? Someone on iTunes thought that the music of that Adam Goldberg was mine.
And the album got panned? Yeah.
What a shame. [Laughs] Go on.
What is the best music venue in L.A.? I’ve spent many nights—years, probably—at Spaceland in Silver Lake. I used to live down the street from there, and it was one of the few places I would stop on my way home. I saw Elliot Smith play there. I’ve also been to and played at The Echo & Echoplex. To be frank, I’m pretty shit scared of performing live.
The stakes are a little higher now. I’ve literally been losing sleep about venue space and routing systems, rather than how I’m actually going to play these fucking songs.
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