Ryan Adams Interview: We Manage To Really Piss Him Off
See also: Ryan Adams performs at Hollywood Forever, October 10, 2011
[Correction: Contrary to what was originally written, Adams did not hang up on reporter Drew Fortune. Rather, Adams cut short the conversation, and the two agreed to continue the next day. West Coast Sound regrets the error.
A second correction was also issued for this story, by way of Ryan Adams' response.]
Two days ago, a very pissed off Ryan Adams cut our interview short, leaving me shaken.
Now six years sober, and settled into domestic life with wife Mandy Moore, I'd heard that he was nonetheless a notoriously volatile and wary media subject. Still, I figured Adams was no longer an angry young gunslinger ready to spew bile at journalists. And, though our first chat started off friendly enough, things quickly turned sour. A question about Mandy Moore? Big no-no. Bring up the fact that he's been extremely prolific over the years? That'll make him sound like he's about ready to fight.
Adams plays tonight at Hollywood Forever's Masonic Lodge. His solo album Ashes and Fire -- which comes out tomorrow and was produced by Glyn Johns, who worked on the Beatles' Let It Be -- may be Adams' most peaceful and reflective album ever. His 16th release, it's a stripped bare meditation on mortality and new beginnings. Diagnosed five years ago with Ménière's Disease -- an inner ear inflammation that disrupts the body's natural balance and in severe cases causes complete deafness -- Adams briefly quit music in 2009. Like Bret Easton Ellis in the meta-fictional Lunar Park, the vilified bad boy has relocated from New York to Los Angeles for his third act, and does, despite our spat, seem to have found some peace. Here are excerpts from our talks.
Getting sober certainly changes peoples' lives. I'm curious how you adjusted, and how you changed your routine. This album has a lot of nature in the lyrics.
I think the subtext to your question suggests that I didn't have any hobbies when I was drinking. I didn't drink during the day. I didn't drink every night or drink all the time. Lots of perceptions come up with the life of a musician, or the world of rock and roll. We all know that Gene Simmons didn't walk around in dragon boots, blowing fucking fire in the morning. There were these consistent lies, and these preconceived notions. But yes, I have many hobbies and have had them consistently my whole life. I'm into vintage arcade games. I like restoring games from 1978-1984.
Heartbreaker and Ashes and Fire feel like bookend albums. Is love a stronger muse than heartbreak?
I think it would be wrong to consider Ashes and Fire a love album. The record is obsessed with time. I believe that there is a kinder view of the self on this record. I'm passing through my own life as a ghost, and looking at these pieces and places in my life. I'm looking at California, and the idea of being lost and found at the same time.
It's a very gentle record. I took that as a reflection of you being in a good headspace.
I think that's very bizarre. These are albums. If somebody asked me straight out "are you in a good headspace" I'd say yes. I wasn't living in a basement surrounded by cockroaches, fucking drinking Robitussen, ever, when I made records. I just think it would be a weird thing for somebody to make a judgment on me based on the records. I would never say, 'The new Danzig record is pretty dark. He's in a real bad place. We better go give him a hug.' I don't begin to pretend or understand Danzig based on a record.
On the surface, it seems like you and Mandy Moore are polar opposites. Could you pinpoint a specific moment when you realized you wanted to spend the rest of your life with her?
I understand why you would be interested, and I understand the question, but you should know that I don't discuss my personal life.
How much stock do you put in what rock critics say? For instance, I think one criticism against you in recent years is that you've been overly prolific.
I don't understand the question.