Famed for his quirky performances in films like Dazed And Confused and Two Days In Paris, and as Chandler’s crazy freak roomate in Friends, actor Adam Goldberg is making a move into music with his project The Goldberg Sisters. Described by BBC Music as ‘rewarding indie-pop set that’s as warm and comforting as a hot water bottle at the end of a bed,’ yes, DIY catches up with Adam and his twin sister Celeste (yes, you heard right!) to talk music, movies and madness.
Welcome to DIY HQ Adam. Will Celeste, your bearded twin be joining us for this interview?
Celeste: I am here. Yes.
So Adam, what came first - the acting or the music?
Celeste: Adam wanted to be an actor from an early age. He used to put on little plays for our father when he would come to pick us up for the weekend from mother’s. On one occasion, he even re-enacted a sword fight scene with mother’s boyfriend from Macbeth. Poor father had to sit there and watch. Sick. He played drums and loved music throughout high school, made vain attempts at recording music with friends but had very little facility with the guitar and piano… until around ‘93 when in the wake of relationship shake up began teaching himself guitar, converting poems to songs, and experimenting with recording using a Tascam 4-Track.
So how would you both describe The Goldberg Sisters record? Fans of which artists should check it out?
Celeste: It is a record collector album. Our tastes veer from Steve Reich and Phillip Glass (me) to cruder artists such as Bowie and Neil Young (Adam). We agree about Bert Bacharach.
The song on the album Erik Erikson is a very interesting lyric - what fascinates you, Ad enough to write a song about an ego psychologist?
Celeste: In rather unconventional form, not unlike home schooling, I am Adam’s analyst. Some people frown upon this. I frown back. We learned about Erikson in high school and I was particularly moved by his carving up of one’s life into a series of existential conflicts one must fight in order to move on to the next. I was always haunted by the last one: Ego Integrity vs. Despair
Shooting the video for ‘Shush’ must’ve been fun. How did that shoot work and what were the obstacles you (successfully) overcame in shooting a video in a car?
Celeste: It was alright. Adam complained a lot about the heat. And the car died a few times. It was his old car he sold to a friend and way past the 100,000 mile mark. The iphone became the key. We needed something small to grab ‘coverage’ of Adam and the vixen, Roxanne, in the front. There were probably about 5 full takes, each which different virtues but in the end only one could be chosen. The one used was the second to last, after the car had to be jumped if I remember, and had the best light.
Adam, your voice has been compared to John Lennon’s by various reviewers. How, if at all, did he influence you in finding your voice in more than an abstract sense?
Celeste: It sounded similar to me as well when I first heard his 4-tracks. He was always a Lennon fan but so was and is he of Elvis Costello and Chet Baker…To a certain extent you sound like what you sound like but it took him many years to perhaps feel fully intuitive and comfortable about it. But there are many characters in the songs as well - high falsettos (‘Yours Truly’) and there’s this low singing Adam too. So, you know, he’s all over the place. But if you go back to those early 4 tracks, he would record through this Boss Digital Delay pedal I bought him, and it immediately did evoke something form Plastic Ono. He used to do that over enunciation thing that a lot of the indie guys like to do; I suppose because he was listening to a lot of Neil Young. I broke him of that habit.
Which film from your credits would this album soundtrack perfectly and why?
Celeste: I deplore the overuse of source music in movies. Often it seems that the movie was merely an elaborate excuse for a director to make a mixtape. But okay, I’ll bite. I’m assuming you mean, Adam’s movies. I happened to have done small parts in Claire Denis movie and Louis Malle movies…but I was cut. I did however do that hilarious imitation of him in 2 Days in Paris while he was busy making Deja Vu. Okay, back to your question. It would work well in…
Adam: Adam here. She’s bound now. She thanks you for your time and we won’t have any further interruptions. Uh, I don’t know. Honestly the movies I’ve done I can’t think really lend themselves to this stuff. Maybe I shouldn’t have bound her.
You starred in the cult classic Dazed and Confused with a host of future stars and a stellar soundtrack. What was the experience like for you to be part of a move that looks like a hoot on screen and how is Linklater to work with as a director?
Adam: He ruined me. Seriously fucked. First real film and super collaborative and felt like it was going to be this harbinger of several more like experiences. But it was truly rare. He sent us music, excerpts from soon to be released Slacker book…generally engaged us on many levels. It suited my style of working exceptionally and has absolutely influenced the way I’ve gone about making my movies as well as other projects I act in - though this is not always reciprocated. But it’s also easy to romanticize. I took the thing very seriously, probably too seriously (I really am not a fan of my performance in it) but I gave it my all… and we did have a fairly insane time, all these kids in this hotel in Austin. We took it over. We took it hostage.
You have had so many roles in film and TV, but perhaps your most recognisable role globally is as the dehydrating maniac / unhinged roomie of Chandler in Friends. What was your experience of working on the show with that cast?
Adam: I really, really, REALLY should have asked for more money.
Which musical artist(s) have you gone a bit *cuckoo* yourself over?
Adam: Colleen. I stalked her. Wrote her an email. Never did that. But her loopy lullaby soundscapes are really wonderful.
David Lang. Bowie. Elvis C. Lips. Dave Pajo. Tom Rapp. Garry Higgins. Nick Drake.Nick Cave. Leonard Cohen. Elliot Smith. Mark Linkous/Sparklehorse. Coltrane. Billie Holiday. Bill Evans. Miles Mingus. Jimmy Scott. Nina Simone. T-Rex. VU. Lou Reed. Midlake. Bridget St. John. Claudine Longet. Warwick/Bacharach. Pixies. Sonic Youth. Built To Spill. Neil Young. Tom Waits. Curtis Mayfield. Gil Scott Heron. The Clash. Wire. Buzzcocks. Brian Wilson. Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. Karen Dalton.
You collect vintage instruments… what are some of the coolest/most rare/weirdest pieces you’ve picked up?
Adam: I have the standbys - Space Echo 201, Echoplex… but this thing is fucking nuts.
Will The Goldberg Sisters be coming to the UK?
Adam: We or I or we or I or… were was there to do press. But there is no band per se. One configuration was put together to play a gig in Paris and Belgium using loops, samples, etc and Roxanne Daner on violin and Andrew Lynch on keys/trumpet….Playing a gig next week, hastily putting a ‘conventional’ band together. But the combination of not loving playing live, not a lot of money to pay people (hovering just above zero) and a nearly crippling antipathy to flying make touring a bit of hurdle.
Celeste: Jesus Christ Adam, give the ‘neurotic thing’ a rest will you!
Adam: Sorry, she got unbound.
The Goldberg Sisters’ new album ‘The Goldberg Sisters’ is out now via Play It Again Sam.