Adam Green charts his inner landscape through art, filmmaking
Adam Green, multifaceted artist and member of 90s Anti-folk band The Moldy Peaches, stops by The Andy Warhol Museum to screen his film Adam Green’s Aladdin, a “humorously modern take” on the Arabian Nights tale.
By Ashlee Green
Photos by Sean Carroll
Adam Green smells like a million bucks—or about $150, if you’re shopping on Amazon. I tell him so, and he thanks me, saying one of his hobbies is collecting perfume. The one he’s wearing tonight has a woody fragrance, with hints of amber and vanilla: It’s called Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
Green, who rose to fame in the 90s as a member of Anti-folk band The Moldy Peaches, hasn’t toured Pittsburgh in about 18 years. Back then, The Moldy Peaches were on the road with the rock band The Frogs, but now, they’ve mostly gone on hiatus. Green has kept himself busy, though, making a string of solo and collaborative albums, exhibiting his drawings and paintings internationally, forming an art collective and delving into filmmaking, not to mention getting married and starting a family.
He travels a lot, which is how he first found out about The Warhol Museum. He was on a road trip to Austin, Texas, with his wife, Yasmin Green, director of research and development at technology incubator Jigsaw, a subsidiary of Google, when he stopped here to check out the museum. It was his first exposure to the place.
“The force of art ran through the man,” Green says of Andy Warhol. “He was so smart that he could articulate concepts that hadn’t happened yet, like ‘15 minutes of fame’ and he was so dumb that he painted Campbell’s soup cans and felt like they were art.”
Green says that Warhol was a complicated character. He theorizes that the current Warhol ran through can be traced to the work of French-American artist Marcel
Duchamp. He sees a dystopian narrative in Warhol’s work that is “not all that dissimilar” to the writing of Philip K. Dick.
“Some of the concepts that [Warhol] articulated are things that would probably at that point have been considered sci-fi, but now, are real,” Green says.
Green is screening his film, Adam Green’s Aladdin, here tonight in the museum’s theater as part of their ongoing Sound Series and playing a few songs from the soundtrack.
He describes the film as a “hyper-sensory, poetic and humorously modern take on the
Arabian Nights classic tale.” It is highly symbolic, exploring themes of technology, greed and true love and stars Natasha Lyonne, Macaulay Culkin and Alia Shawkat.
When Aladdin was first released, in 2016, Green did a world tour of it, playing what he estimates to be about a hundred post-screening concerts.
“It was like a haunted hayride that came to your town,” he says. “We played in costumes. It was fun.”
That part of his life has closed, though, he says, and he’s now looking for unique places, like The Warhol, to screen Aladdin.
The film premiered at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland. It began in a museum context, and The Warhol was on Green’s list because Francesco Clemente, who plays the genie in the film, is a visual artist who collaborated with Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat on some largescale pieces.
Aladdin was the most ambitious and complicated project Green has completed to date. The original script, which took a year to write, was more than one hundred pages. With funding he raised through a Kickstarter project, Green rented a 6,000-foot warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn and reportedly built 350 papier-mâché props and 33 sets over a period of six months with a crew of college students and artists who had experience working on independent films. Shooting took about four months, and there were special effects added too. Two editors were required to trim the film to a “comprehensible and fast-paced” 80 minutes. That’s not all: Green also went into the studio to record an entire soundtrack for the film. He worked with producer Noah Georgeson and Little Joy’s Rodrigo Amarante; Joe Steinbrick played bass and Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa played drums. The album’s sound was inspired by Serge Gainsbourg.
“It took forever to make this movie,” Green says. “It was years and years.” Making a movie, Green says, is much more community-based than making a music album.
“I generally don’t sit around with my albums and ask people, ‘Should I change these lyrics?’ or ‘Should I not use this song?” he says. In the making of Aladdin, though, Green found himself crowdsourcing friends on where they lost interest in particular scenes. Green’s creative projects, he explains, are always an expression of what’s going on in his personal life.
“It’s like being an excavator of an interior landscape,” he says. “You push it out of your skin… Everything that I’m seeing, I’m taking notes about and trying to push it out.”
Green wasn’t attached to the story of Aladdin, in particular, he explains, but rather its ability to serve as the “framework” he could hang his own “emotional apparatus” on.
“I was going to find my genie, my princess Jasmine,” he says. “My version of the genie was the 3D printer.”
Aladdin is different from Green’s first film, The Wrong Ferarri (the title’s spelling is intentionally wrong), which is about Green saying goodbye to the partier lifestyle he led in his 20s, and the apprehension he felt toward turning 30 and navigating the next stage of his life.
“I was trying to be my own shaman and guide myself into my 30s,” Green says. “[I was] trying to build another phase of life, even on a subconscious level.”
He remembers being in the dressing room of The Bowery Ballroom on his 30th birthday, about to play a Bob Dylan tribute show, when time “passed through” him.
“I remember actually going to the corner of the room, thinking maybe in the corner of the room, over there, I can get away from 30—maybe you don’t actually turn 30 in the corner,” he says.
No miracles happened, but at that point, he realized he couldn’t go back. It wasn’t long until he met his wife and started a family.
Green is lucky to have the ability to single-focus on a project until it’s done, a skill he believes is required for long-term efforts like the remaking of Aladdin.
“Sometimes it can be annoying, because I’ll feel so angry I have to finish something that I don’t even want to finish,” he says. “Sometimes I feel like I’m just some guy that works for Adam Green and he has these [expletive] ideas and I have to do them.”
Adam Green’s Aladdin is now available to stream for free on YouTube. For more
information about Green, visit his website.
To learn more about The Warhol’s Sound Series, click here.