If you like the beat writing of Kerouac or spoken-word essays by the likes of Henry Rollins and Eric Bogosian, then Adam Gnade may be your cup of tea. If you're accustomed to innocuous pop music, then Gnade's stream-of-consciousness rants (set to a slight musical backdrop by drop-in players) may be off-putting, filled as they are with rotting bodies, anxiety attacks, and stories of helpless souls on hopeless quests (often involving drugs). "Sometimes I think people hate passion," he says. "Or are afraid of it." Many of the characters populating his new album Run, Hide, Retreat, Surrender are based on locals. "Half the record is about San Diego," he says, "and the other half is about escaping it."
Asked to describe his music, Gnade says, "For someone who's never heard it, I'd say the louder songs are like a midnight head-on collision on the 70 west -- the sounds of cars hitting cars, metal crunching, glass shattering and spraying across the highway -- then silence, followed by God and the devil trying to figure out which one gets you. The quieter ones are like [Led Zeppelin's] 'Going to California' played by big-rig drivers or sad waitresses."
WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
1. Donovan, Sunshine Superman ("Elaborate, ornate folk songs in disguise as chamber music, played by elves and scarecrows. Real fantasy stuff. Freaky.")
2. Virginia and the Piedmont: Minstrelsy, Work Songs, and Blues ("Old rustic blues and gospels collected by Alan Lomax, who was a saint. Gives me chills and makes me grin stupidly when I hear it.")
3. Big Brazos: Texas Prison Recordings 1933 & 1934 ("Another Alan Lomax collection, chain-gang songs and a cappella hollers.")
4. Coco Rosie, La Maison de Mon Rêve ("Two sisters junkyarding together a sound that's something like Elizabeth Cotton plus Tim Kinsella [Joan of Arc, Cap'n Jazz], recorded on the worst four-track ever. Family bands are the way to go.")
5. Leadbelly, Goodnight Irene ("Twelve-string Texas blues, big sound, big voice. I like to pretend he's Bo Diddley's dad.")
HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A SOLO ARTIST?
"My problem is, I hardly ever play shows alone. When you have a six-person lineup (guitar, keyboards, saxophone, musical saw, vibraphone, drums), explaining why this considerably large group of people is called 'Adam Gnade' instead of, like, the Cars or the Babys or the Somethings, is hard. People think if you're billed under one person's name, it's gonna be one guy and a guitar, not six people and a shitload of weird instruments."
A LOCAL DESTINED FOR FAME?
"Ray Raposa from Castanets. His last record was great, got solid reviews, but his new one, First Light's Freeze, is magical. It's on Sufjan Stevens's label, Asthmatic Kitty."
SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW WOULD KNOW OR GUESS?
"I want nothing more than to retire to a farmhouse in Kansas and make music with my friends and family. There, I'll renounce terrible shit like the Internet, TVs, phones, fashion, iPods, sports, airplanes, meat, cops, scenes, and wear homemade clothes and shoot guns off my porch."