“I’ve had many different sleep schedules in my life,” says Adam Green, which isn’t too surprising given the many hats he’s worn. The 34-year-old Green is a singer-songwriter, a filmmaker, a visual artist and most recently a father. His former band, the Moldy Peaches, gained wide recognition when their song “Anyone Else But You” was featured in the film “Juno”, though he’s has led a successful solo career since the duo went on hiatus in 2004.
Green’s work in any medium is often concerned with the unpredictable convolutions of the subconscious. There’s a dreamlike quality to his lyrics, and especially to his highly stylized music videos — think Michel Gondry meets Alejandro Jodorowsky (He's been described as Fellini on ketamine). This is a conscious effort. Green has spent years recording his dreams, and is deeply interested in the world they inhabit. His latest film, Adam Green’s Aladdin, is a batshit, trippy take on the folk tale starring Green, Macaulay Culkin, Alia Shawkat and Natasha Lyonne. It looks bonkers and will be released in April.
In his own words, here’s Green on fatherhood, wet dreams and sleep as self-hypnosis.
My sleep schedule has changed a lot in the last year and a half because we have a baby girl. She’s sixteen months old. You kind of reassess your whole idea of sleep — not even the wildest tours I’ve done in my life could have ever prepared me for how little sleep I’d get in the first two months of having a baby. Three, four hours a night. When I was younger I used to think of sleep as something you do at four in the morning and you get up at noon. Now, what I really want now is eight. I usually get five or six.
I’ve been working on this “Aladdin” movie four the last four years. When it went into production, my wife, who’s also the producer of the movie, was pregnant. She produced the entire movie while pregnant. By the time we had the baby, we were in the editing process, which has been more like a day job than anything else I’ve done in my life. I think it was the right time. I really needed to focus and do something that had a normal routine.
Our baby’s a great sleeper. I think a lot about having a routine and putting her to bed every night, what kind of dreams she has. Occasionally I think she has a nightmare, but she’s pretty good at sleeping. She really enjoys it, I can tell — when it’s bedtime, she really wants to go. It’s really nice to see a creature purely enjoy sleep as much as she does.
Being a parent, I’ll notice all these little things about sleep. Like when I wake up my daughter in the wrong moment in her sleep cycle, and it hurts her so much to be woken up in that moment. And I don’t know how to predict that.
My process of making artwork is rooted in my subconscious and in my dreams. A lot of the ideas I’ve explored creatively have been things that happened in my dreams. That’s something I decided is important — for a bunch of years I slept underneath a sign that told me to write down my dreams. And I would do it. Sometimes I’d go through months where I would look at the sign and go “fuck that sign!” But I think as a result I’ve probably written down more dreams than your average person. A lot of scenes in “The Wrong Ferrari” or “Aladdin,” or different song lyrics, are just scenes from dreams I’ve had.
“Aladdin” is set in a video game. One of my earliest wet dreams — I remember this very well, because I didn’t know what was happening and I felt terrible at the time — was that I won Super Mario Brothers and they said, “Now you get to meet the princess.” And I met the princess and I ejaculated. For me that was a sort of a symbolic conflation of the adult world and the child world.
I’ve gone through several phases with sleeping pills. I really try to be conservative about it now. I think the maximum I’ll ever take is a Benadryl — it really works, but it makes you feel like shit when you wake up. The one that’s really sure to work the first time you take it is Ambien, but I’m the cautionary tale — I’m totally an Ambien sleepwalker. Long story short, I found out when I slept-walked in my pajamas through the French countryside. Only take Ambien on the worst occasions, when Benadryl wouldn’t do anything.
I kind of feel like sleep is self-hypnosis. That’s the goal — you basically decide at some point in the night that you’re ready to hypnotize yourself to bed. And I think as a musician or a songwriter, the goal is really to hypnotize people into your songs. The idea is to invite people into a story, and they trust you, and they open themselves up. And as the singer, you kind of enter into their soul and you put rubber gloves on and you perform a little surgery in there. You come out while they’re still under hypnosis and end your song, and hopefully you’ve changed something.
My desire to make art is really just to try to bring back some feeling that we’re traveling through some other dimension. I want to give people the experience that I’ve grabbed something from another dimension, took it to this one and now we can look at it safely. Like an alien body part we retrieved from a deep-sea dive, which now we can examine in our private laboratories.
Joseph Campbell, who wrote “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, talks about the dream cycle’s commonalities with the myth cycle. He talks about creation myths, the way all these gods and heroes rise then decay, and the gods become obsolete and the world ends. He compares it all to a night’s sleep: We hypnotize ourselves, we make this world of dreams happen from a single grain of sand, we watch as it falls apart and the logic explodes, and then we wake up. In a way, every evening a person creates a mythology. A civilization.
My bedside table: Typically I’d have the Benadryl if I can’t sleep. I have some vitamins, I have condoms in a little drawer. I have some water — you gotta have water. And I have a little bit of weed, but you can’t tell my mom.