By Tegh Matharu
As the world becomes flatter and more connected, many international artists are finally earning wider and greater recognition. Chief among them are international artists such as Mana, Manu Chao, Jarabe de Palo, and even the desert-rockers Tinariwen. However, one artist quickly earning a massive following across the world over the past few years, is the French-Mexican singer Adan Jodorowsky, formerly Adanowsky.
The son of the famed auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky, Adan was raised in a vibrant environment the likes of which many of us could only dream. He learned how to dance from the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, how to play the guitar from George Harrison, and as a young boy even appeared in his father Alejandro’s cult masterpiece Santa Sangre, and a film to which Roger Ebert affixed a perfect four out of four stars. Along the way, Adan embarked on the path of the musician, playing in a punk band as a teenager and later shifting towards a lush psychedelic-folk sensibility that culminated in his 2010 breakthrough Amador. Hailed by NPR and the New Yorker, Amador’s mystical, introspective, and “bedroom-folk” sound chronicled a journey of heartbreak and grief that cemented Adan Jodorowsky, Adanowsky as he called himself then, as the new poet of the heart and soul. As time has moved forward, Jodorowsky expanded his scope to include forays into directing, producing, and even returning to the front of the camera in his father’s film, Endless Poetry (Poesia Sin Fin), which is sitting at a comfortable 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Having since released the film, he now is touring the United States in support of his new album Escencia Solar. Yesterday, I had the fortune of talking with him ahead of his show at Beat Kitchen this Sunday to learn more about his music, his projects, and why success is not what you think it is.
*Interview edited for clarity. Also, I apologize in advance for fanboying out*
Tegh Matharu: My name is Tegh Matharu, I’m here from In the Loop Magazine here in Chicago. I’ve been following your career for a long time, ever since I saw you in the film Hecho en Mexico. I remember seeing you appear in the film and thinking, “Who is this guy? This guy’s a good singer!” From there, that’s when I started listening to Amador and everything that you’ve put out since. Thank you for allowing me to talk to you!
Adan Jodorowsky: Yes! I was singing in the metro! But thank you. I forgive you!
T: First off, congratulations on your film, Endless Poetry. It’s one of the best reviewed films of 2016, and also too, the release of your new album Esencia Solar.
AJ: Thank you very much, there are good things going on this year.
T: Very much so! Also too, you’re now a father right?
AJ: Yes. I have a son, he’s a year and a half now.
T: You’re going to be playing in Washington tonight (2/8/2018)?
AJ: Yes yes. Well in the beginning, I wasn’t going to play in Chicago and then at the last minute we had the show in Chicago. But Washington, yes, I play tonight. In fact, I’m in the car, and we’re going there now.
T: Nice! So how has your tour been going so far?
AJ: Very well so far! We had some sold-out shows, we had some great, shows. We had good people dancing and enjoying the shows. There are four of us on the road: a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and myself on guitar and lead vocal.
T: That’s great to hear that you’re selling out shows at this stage of your tour.
AJ: Yes, this is the first time that I’m doing a major tour here (in the US).
T: That’s one thing I’ve noticed. You’ve played a couple of shows in the US a few years ago, but nothing to this extent. Also, I’d like to ask you about your new album Esencia Solar. I think it’s one of the best Spanish albums since Mana’s Amar es Combatir. There’s a lot of optimism and, altogether, it’s a very joyous album.
AJ: Yes it is. It is. In fact, when I did this album, I was in a period of change. I first changed my name from “Adanowsky”because you know, I used to be called “Adanowsky”. This is the first album where I accepted who I am hence, “Adan Jodorowsky”. Also, I did that when I met my girlfriend. , we were going out together, and then she got pregnant, so it’s (Esencia Solar) full of this life, this album. Full of transformation and mutation. So you can feel it when you hear it. There’s a lot of sun, good energy and good vibes.
T: Definitely! It’s funny that you bring up that transition, because that’s one thing I’ve noticed in your career, from Amador (2010), to Ada (2014), to even this album (Esencia Solar). There’s always something new that you bring. With Amador, it was more introspective, inward, and wistful. Whereas with Esencia Solar, it was more extroverted and was full of love for everyone it seems.
AJ: And also, it’s the first album I produced, I arranged, and composed everything.
* Vagabundos del otro mundo from Esencia Solar
T: That’s another thing. Even with Endless Poetry and Dance of Reality, you composed the music for those films as well.
AJ: I did too. It was a lot of work. I had a lot of work. I’m trying to not lose my time and try to work and work and keep working. I’m not going out anymore to nightclubs or coffee with friends. I just stay home and work.
T: You are a composer, musician, director, actor, father, and wear many hats. How do you manage all that?
AJ: I have too much work! For example, I’m producing other bands. In January, I produced a band for a month. Then I went directly on tour with them and I had to bring my son with me, so I had more than a month without a break. I only had two days off, day before yesterday and yesterday. Now I’m on the road again.
AJ: For example, on the plane going from Dallas to Washington, I had a little bit of time and so I started to write some scenes for a movie I’m writing. I’m trying to find my moment. On the road, I write and I’m trying. I’m trying!
T: It’s great that you’re working so incredibly hard and the results of all that hard work is some of the best music and best music videos I’ve seen, which you’ve directed as well. They’re just really well done.
AJ: Thank you! I always remember myself when I was fifteen because I used to go to a lot of shows and I remember what I needed from an artist. For example, I needed to hear albums that were not the same albums from the artists that I would listen to. Some artists always play the same music always and always. What I used to like were artists that would change the style of their music, you know for example, Bowie.
T: Yeah, exactly!
AJ: He would release a rock album and then suddenly a funk album. You know? That kind of artist.
T: It’s funny, because that is exactly how I would characterize you. The way he went from Ziggy Stardust, to the Berlin Trilogy, to Diamond Dogs, is the same way you’ve switched characters across your albums. There isn’t any way to pin him down and that’s something I’ve noticed with your career.
AJ: Oh yes. I just love those disguises. I love that. Alice Cooper, Little Richard, Bowie, all those guys inspired me a lot.
T: Also too, when you were fifteen or sixteen I read that you fronted a punk band?
AJ: Yes I did. I played eight years with this band and we did only one album. We used to play very badly. We were really bad musicians, well, the other ones (his band mates)! I was working on my instrument and the other ones were really punk.
T: How did you make that transition from punk music to a more pop sound pretty easily or did it some time to figure out what your new sound would be?
AJ: I always heard a lot of music. When I was in this punk band, I used to play bass and then I started playing bass for other singers. I did some sessions for studios in Paris and then naturally, I wanted to sing because I wanted to be like Elvis Presley. I saw him singing “Love Me Tender” and kissing girls. I said, “Okay. That’s what I have to do!” But now I’m not kissing anymore girls, I’m only kissing my wife!
T: Also too, I have to ask. I’m also a fan of your father, Alejandro. I’ve been a fan ever since I saw El Topo when I was sixteen. What was it like growing up as the son of Alejandro Jodorowsky?
AJ: Well, we used to have dinners and read poetry at the table. When my brother was a kid, he liked to pee in his soup. Also too, when I was angry my brother gave me a chair, and then I broke and buried it at the end of the garden. At the same time, instead of going to school, I stayed home and watched Kurosawa movies and had some Zen and meditation lessons. Yes, it was very complete.
T: It’s definitely a very unconventional but fruitful kind of upbringing though. Watching you and your family interact in the film Endless Poetry was amazing.
AJ: It’s definitely very indiscreet to watch this movie right?
T: What’s that?
AJ: It’s a bit indiscreet, like when you watch this movie, it’s a bit personal.
T:How does it feel to showcase the life of your family, and especially your father, in front of the world?
AJ: It’s like a Psychomagic act! We had to change the story around. I won’t tell you because it was pretty horrible, but the story of my father is something poetic. I think my sons and grandsons are going to watch this movie and they are going to think this is where they come from, that their story is beautiful.
T: I agree, and some of the scenes in the movie are breathtaking. For instance, that “Vive!” scene, where you’re having your fortune told with the dancer played by Carolyn Carlson. It was absolutely brilliant. The way everything was composed and the way it was filmed, was true cinematic art. Also, too it was really interesting to see how your father works behind the camera. He’s a very hands-on director.
AJ: Yes, he’s very hard and very soft at the same time. There was a lot of imagination and improvisation, it was very interesting.
*The scene from Endless Poetry, I’m talking about.
T: One last thing about the movie. When I was watching the behind-the-scenes footage. One thing that I really didn’t know was how difficult it was to get the movie made.
AJ: Yes it was difficult because there was something very emotional and personal that was going on in this movie. This was the story of our family. At the same time, I was playing my father and was directed by him. My stepmother was doing the costumes, my brother (Brontis Jodorowsky) was playing my grandfather and at the same time was my acting coach. It was a big working family. I did the music and it was six months of my life. This movie, in fact, changed my life. I even buried my hair after shaving it all off once the film was done. It was a new start for me.
T: I was reading an interview that you did way back in 2011 and you’ve mentioned that you’ve always been restless, always trying to find a place to feel comfortable and find some inner peace. From this experience, have you found that inner peace?
AJ: No, no. When you travel too much it’s not good. When you stay in one place for too long, it’s not good either. I’m traveling but I’m trying to find a base and a home at the same time. I’m trying to find a balance now. Now, maybe I’m going to move to California! I love Mexico and living in Mexico, but it’s too violent now and the military are in the streets. It’s like a war. When I sleep in the night, I hear noises and I’m afraid someone is going to enter the house and kill us. That’s why I’m going to leave now and it’s better for my kid. But I’m afraid too of Los Angeles, because maybe someone, a crazy guy, wants to put a bomb under my bed! So you know, there’s no place safe in the world.
T: I totally agree with you. Even in small-town America, right up here can erupt in violence. I’ve seen it happen and it’s a fear that’s not misplaced at all.
AJ: But you know, one moment in your life you have to live. So I think about living and not about being afraid.
*Me Siento Solo
T: Also too, ahead of your appearance in Chicago, have you been to Chicago before?
AJ: Yes, I was playing at RuidoFest in Chicago twice. It was very fun. But now it’s the first time that I’m playing in a venue.
T: I’ve been to the Beat Kitchen and it’s a phenomenal place, it’s a nice, intimate kind of venue and I think you’re going to have a lot of fun there.
AJ: That’s great! I’m going to have fun for sure. For sure!
T: For your set, will fans expect a whole selection from your past albums including your new one or will it be mostly from Esencia Solar?
AJ: Well, we’re playing two songs off each album. So there’s a lot of songs off, Amador, El Idolo, Esencia Solar, and that’s it. I’m not playing music from the soundtracks because I don’t have any violins with me! Next time, I’ll bring the horns!
T: Sounds good! I’m on my last question now, and it is this: what advice can you give to artists and musicians that are struggling to be successful?
AJ: The bad thing is to want success. It’s a horrible thing because success is ephemeral. It can end tomorrow. Instead, playing for recreation, that’s the goal no? That’s the goal. Success? We don’t care about success, it’s an illusion. It’s nice when you can take pictures with fans. It’s nice, but after that, what? What do you have inside? Having success, is like going to watch a Marvel movie. You go in, you see the movie, you go out with a good moment, but then after that, what do you have in your heart?
T: One last question before I finish. How did it feel to be situated among all those talented Mexican artists, musicians and actors in Hecho en Mexico?
AJ: Haha! Well I didn’t miss anybody. In fact, the director asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said, “Okay let’s do it!” But I didn’t know it was going to be on screens. So I did the scene, we had fun and I sang the song. He asked, “Do you want to sing the song?” And I said, “Yes! Let’s do it!” It was very simple!
T: That’s amazing! Well thank you so much Adan, I look forward to seeing you at Beat Kitchen this Sunday here in Chicago.
AJ: Thank you very much!
En Mi Vida Secreta – Adanowsky Hecho En Mexico
Adan Jodorowsky will be playing at Beat Kitchen this Sunday, February 11th at 9PM. Click here for tickets
For more on Adan Jordorosky, click here
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