Adanowsky and the art of bedroom folk
“When I am not in love with someone, I am lost,” Adan Jodorowsky said as he lounged back in his chair, his black shirt open slightly as he looked to the sky, his eyes covered by dark sunglasses. The French singer is on a journey, but his destination is unknown. He’s looking for a sense of home, for love, and an audience to share the heart-gripping, swooning folk ballads of his dreamy band Adanowsky. The lonesome troubadour, the searching artist, the boyish troublemaker; Adan Jodorowsky is them all.
On Tuesday, Adanowsky’s album "Amador" debuts in the U.S. It’s a velvety affair infused with creaky barroom pianos, gentle guitar strums and Jodorowsky’s smoky, Gainsbourg-like croons that waft along like a cigar plume. The intimate album, sung in Spanish and English, explores the character of “the lover,” who is not unlike Jodorowsky himself.
"Amador" is music for rainy mornings with a French press brewing in the kitchen. It’s music for the last couple on the floor, slow-dancing after the bar has cleared and the chairs are stacked. It’s an exploration of the art of being alone, loveless and always searching.
For Jodorowsky, music and art have been his longest love affair. “Without art, I die,” Jodorowsky said, sitting in the backyard of an estate in the Los Feliz hills. “I don’t do it because I want to do it, or it’s something fun. No. I really need it in my life or I get depressed.”
Art is in Jodorowsky's blood. He is the son of psychedelic Chilean director and cult film icon Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose films "El Topo," "Santa Sangre" and "The Holy Mountain" are mainstays of film schools and midnight cinemas around the globe. The director’s acid westerns and fables of the grotesque were a favorite by artistic outliers and luminaries. John Lennon even gave the senior Jodorowsky $1 million to fund his surrealistic opus, "The Holy Mountain."
“I was artist’s kid,” Jodorowsky said of his early years in Paris. “It was difficult for me to communicate with the other kids because I grew up in an artist’s family, so crazy and surrealistic. I learned to count with Tarot cards.”
Jodorowsky's famous father earned him an inimitable childhood. Beatle George Harrison taught him his first guitar chords. “He taught me E, A and B, and he wrote the chords down and said, ‘OK, now you can play the blues.’”
James Brown taught the young boy how to dance after Adan showed off his steps to the godfather of soul. “He said, ‘No, no, no. It’s not like that, it’s like this,'” and showed me his moves.”
When he was 10, Jodorowsky won a Saturn Award for his performance as a young circus hand in his father’s film "Santa Sangre," a cult classic of surrealistic horror. “It was in the worst neighborhood in Mexico,” he remembered, “so they paid for gangs and the narcos to be our bodyguards. I saw a woman without arms, elephants, dwarfs, monsters. Now, I love monsters. I think monsters are beautiful.”
Jodorowsky began making music when he was 16 with the punk band the Hellboys. Later, he broke out on his own with the sultry bedroom folk of Adanowsky. After two French albums that didn’t get much success, he decided to start singing in Spanish. The translation paid off.
“I realized that the world was big, and I needed to travel,” he said. “So I started to tour in Venezuela, Chile and Argentina. The audiences, they screamed, they sang songs, my really ego needed that.”
He briefly lived in Echo Park in 2007, where he connected with the area’s psychedelic, freak folk scene, which looked to the experimental sounds -- and counterculture style -- of the original 1960s Laurel Canyon crew. He met whimsical folkster Devendra Banhart, who became an artistic collaborator and friend.
Now Jodorowsky divides his time between homes in Paris and the tree-lined, wide avenues of Mexico City’s post-bohemian Condesa neighborhood. In the tumultuous sprawl of Mexico City, Conesa is a calm in the storm. When Jodorowsky was recording "Amador" in Paris with composer and Phoenix band member Robin Coudert, Jodorowsky said that Mexico City was always on his mind.
“It’s really chaotic there,” he said. “There is a tension and a lot of strongness in the art in Mexico. That’s what I like. I need the violence to create. That’s why I made 'Amador.' I felt like the people need something really peaceful.”
As for Adan’s own inner peace, that sense of balance and home, for love and the comfort of a lover, he is still searching, and writing songs along the way. “I am always traveling and searching for where I feel comfortable. But I never find it. I am not peaceful inside me. I think if I am peaceful inside of me, I can be at home.”
Adanowsky appears tonight at the Bardot, 1737 Vine St., Los Angeles. The event is free, but RSVP is required. Also Tuesday at Origami Vinyl, 1816 W. Sunset Blvd., at 7 p.m. The show is free.
-- Drew Tewksbury
Photo: Adanowsky, otherwise known as Adan Jodorowsky. Credit: Everloving Records