We’ve interviewed some big personalities and icons over the years — Keith Richards, Gene Simmons, and Jimmy Page to name a few, but the LA Weekly “LA People” cover piece we did this year on a more contemporary artist, Mr Adam Lambert, ranks right alongside these, both as an enjoyable personal experience and as a “score” professionally.
We’ve had our share of challenging interviews over the years too –Kelis and Tommy Lee, come to mind– but for the most part we always find something to bond about with music artists, even the ones we’re in awe of. But with Lambert, we felt a special kinship like never before, his love of Los Angeles nightlife being nearly as intense as our own. The magic of the dance floor is one that can be difficult to describe, but Adam did a good job in our interview. His enthusiasm was infectious and we had a blast talking about our favorite clubs and good times after dark. For those who don’t know about many of the hot spots mentioned, read the stuff in added brackets for a bit more background…
As you’ll see below, the LA Weekly profile only touched upon a fraction of what we talked about that day. The interview was done several months ago, before his record came out, so some of the stuff here has already been said and out there, but we’re pretty confident a lot here has not.
With Adam in the news this week for his appearance with Queen in UK (read our pal Lyndsey Parker’s review here) and his name being thrown around as a potential judge on American Idol (now that Steven Tyler has called it quits, they are going to need a flamboyant fella!) not to mention his show here in LA next week at Pacific Amphitheatre, it makes to sense to finally post this for the fans. And Glamberts, if you’d like to learn more about the LA scene we discuss here with Adam, please check the new blog we’re working with Hollywood Style Scene, a fashion and nightlife site that provides an insider look at Hollywood lifestyle that goes beyond the stereotypes.
And now….. the interview!
Lina Lecaro: How long have you lived in Los Angeles?
Adam Lambert: I moved up here when I was 19, right after high school. For the purpose of show business, I said “Let’s try something new.” I’ve been doing a lot of theater throughout my life, since I was 10. Enrolled in Cal State Fullerton down in Orange County, I went to class for like 5 weeks.
LL: So you lived in OC?
AL: Yeah, for about 6 months at the end of my 19th year. After that, I dropped out of school right away because I wanted to continue theater, I wanted to keep working. I was in a show at the time, playing a supporting part, getting paid. It was Grease down in San Diego. I thought, I’m getting paid, doing this “semi-professionally,” so why can’t I keep pursuing this? So I moved up here to keep pursuing it, lived in a little apartment on Cahuenga in the Valley that was like a roach motel, it was so rundown. And then I got a job for a cruise ship, worked for about 10 months. Came back and lived in another apartment on near Lankershim, so I was in this little neighborhood for a little while. Was there for a couple years with a couple friends, and then eventually got it together and made the move to Hollywood.
LL: So you’ve lived here for a quite a while.
AL: Yeah, 11 years.
LL: I’ve seen you perform back in the day in the Zodiac Show.Did you ever go to Club Makeup [drag/rock n'r roll club from the late 90s]?
AL: Oh yeah. You know Mz A Superstar? She’s like my mother, my drag mother.
LL: Mizz Allana aka Alan. Love her/him!
AL: He’s in New York now. Club Makeup was the shit. I did their Halloween show one year. I sang with Mz A. and then with the band after Club Makeup was kind of gone, when they would come back every once and a while. But that was probably 6 years ago.
That’s the thing about me…I was a chorusboy for work and by late night, I was a club kid. So I was like going out after the show and getting dressed up a lot. I was really into Miss Kitty’s [Parlour] too because that’s where I lived, right around the corner [near the Dragonfly].
LL: Do the Boulet Brothers know that?
AL: I think so, I’ve seen them at one point since then. I used to get so dressed up, too, because that was the only outlet I had for that and I love dressing up.
LL: I think people in LA would love to know that you’re very much a product of our nightlife.
AL: I went out in West Hollywood plenty, but I also loved Dragstrip . I performed there once, with Mz A and my friend Scarlett.
LL: Your fanbase is so fervent. People here don’t care as much about famous people because we see them all the time. What is your fanbase in LA like … is it hard to go out?
AL: It depends, if I go unannounced usually it isn’t. The places I go aren’t usually the forums I find my fans. I went to Rasputin [in West Hollywood] a couple weeks ago and it was so fun. We had such a fun time, me and my boyfriend.
LL: So you can go out and not be bothered too much?
AL: Yeah, I can go out. It’s definitely a different experience than it used to be. It’s not so much that people are bothering me, but that people are talking about me. It becomes a bit like a fishbowl and that makes me a little uncomfortable, because sometimes I just want to kick it. So that is a little weird. It’s one thing to go up to someone to say hey ‘what’s up,’ but it’s another when they just staring and creeping.
LL: That’s probably because people in LA think they’re too cool to come up and say hi, especially in a club.
AL: Well, that’s my biggest pet peeve. I’m so friendly when they’re being cool, when we’re just talking and we’re just exchanging stories or information or getting to know each other. But when the first thing that’s out of their mouth is “I need a picture for my Facebook,” that’s a little… Now everyone has to document everything for their social networking.
LL: I’ll admit, I’ve benefitted from writing about you. I just know whenever I write about you, the piece or post will do well. Your name in a tweet always gets re-tweets, and if I see you out, I will always mention it. So thank you. You come off as appreciating everything.
AL: I appreciate it, and also in a city like LA, the hustle is a hustle, we’re all trying to work a hustle. We’re all trying to get somewhere and I respect that, I respect the drive and the process.
LL: You seem cool enough to let somebody you like use some of your shine… A lot of your friends have benefitted from knowing I’m sure.
AL: When it’s done tastefully and respectfully, it’s cool. But it’s a fine line, you can be really tacky about it and that’s why I’m like “Just level with me.” If we’re talking in a club and we’re at a club and you’re like, “it’d be really cool for me to get a picture with you.” I don’t give a shit, but when you’re trying to work me…. It’s really a case by case thing, it’s the energy of the person. It has nothing to do with the act or what’s being said, it’s how it’s being presented and that’s life. Like being picked up at a bar- if someone says a cheesy line but they’re really cute and funny about it, and they’re making eye contact and they’re genuine, it’s like “You just gave me a line.”
LL: Expanding upon that, why do you think your fanbase is so passionate? I’ve written about a lot of famous people, and you’re up there with like, Jimmy Page and Lady Gaga. Do you have any theories about why they’re so fervent for you?
AL: I don’t censor myself very much, I don’t have much of a filter. I‘ve heard from fans that that’s something they like.
LL: And you’re cute…. but a lot of people are cute.
AL: I don’t think I rank high on that, I like to put together an outfit and a look.
LL: Well, Adam the fanbase I’m seeing most are straight girls who wish they could turn you.
AL: I love that. It doesn’t work that way ladies, but I’m flattered.
LL: I think it’s easier for a gay guy to turn a straight guy.
A: I think that has to do with aggressiveness and forwardness. But think about how many girls can just flip. Girls flip so easy.
LL: That’s true, especially when liquor is involved. But I think they’re doing it as a novelty half the time — that’s a whole other conversation– but it’s not because they’re hot for this other girl, but because it’s hot and crazy.
AL: But there’s a lot of straight boys that are like that with boys too. This next generation coming up there are a lot of straight men that will flirt. I’ve gotten it in the past.
LL: I know quite a few [straight guys] that would flip for you.
AL: That’s funny.
LL: Back to my theory. You’re seem every real, for lack of a better word. Is that why “Glamberts” are so obsessed?
AL: I don’t really know, it’s a good question, but it’s not really for me to say. It’s weird and it’s very flattering.
LL: And you always make clear that you appreciate the fervency. Still, they know your every little move…
AL: They’re intense but you know I’m making a second album because of these people. They’re supporting my craft and my opportunities, so of course I support that. And again, it’s case by case. I can’t make a generalization about my fans or going out because it’s different every time and everyone’s different. I try really hard to take everything case by case, you know? And it’s hard because in our celebrity culture in the way of the media, celebrities are kind of… labels are really easily slapped on people based on one-time things, and even if you have one negative experience with paparazzi or a fan or someone in a bar, suddenly you’re ‘that guy.’
LL: Like that thing in Finland…
AL: Yeah, it got blown out as things do, and I know that’s the machine and that’s how things work, but… But it’s unfortunate that we can’t realize celebrities — it sounds trite — but celebrities are people. They aren’t invincible and they aren’t made of Teflon and they’re not perfect.
LL: You knew you could weather all of that because your fanbase, though. They will defend you no matter what. Like I said, I’ve never seen anything like it.
AL: They’re so protective and it’s amazing, they’re incredible and devoted. When I perform for fans it’s a very safe environment. It feels very accepting and comfortable. It’s like a very family feel. I don’t feel like I’m getting a lot of critique, I feel like they love all of it. It creates a very safe space for creating.
LL: But you know your friends will tell you the real deal because you need that, too.
AL: Oh yeah, my closest friends are the friends I had way before all of this. They remain my closest friends because they will read me.
LL: How about your look? You take chances with your wardrobe.
AL: You know I love fashion and I love putting together a look, but if something isn’t received well, I couldn’t give a shit.
LL: When I saw you at Mr. Black [at Bardot Hollywood], I took a picture of you and Luke [Nero]. Your hair had grown out and looked great. I posted the pic in LA Weekly’s blog and this is when I realized what your fans were like. They were were talking about it all over the web for days. [Note: the gratuitous headline was NOT ours!]
AL: That was all fake… they were all tracks. It had grown out, and it was getting long, but I told my hair girl, “I want 70s rocker,” so she added to it. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Like how Beyonce and Rihanna have those long looks.
LL: Let’s talk about your record. Your record is the big thing everyone’s talking about. Tell me about what you did differently.
AL: It’s funny you said you came up in these LA clubs.. I wanted to make music for that, the crowd I came from. I did everything I could to go back for this record- before Idol, before the fame, before traveling and having the expectations of record labels. I thought how do I get back to what I love? What I love is being in a club and that infectious thing.. you get stink face and you’re like “oooh.” When I go to clubs I don’t like to dance, I like to have a drink and chat with people. But if there’s a song that’s really good it will get me dancing, and I thought I want to make that kind of music.
LL: So a lot more dancey?
AL: We borrowed a lot from funk and disco. 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, a lot of the production is very electronic but it’s borrowing a lot of sensibility from disco funk, and it’s very house oriented. I wanted to make something for the community I come from.
LL: Do you mean the gay community?
AL: Gay, straight- everything. Alternative and clubby. Obviously there are a lot of songs on the record for the boys, and for the girls that want to hang out and get it. There’s a song called “Shady,” about throwing shade. One of the hooks “No I ain’t broken, but I need a fix.” Like I want to go out and get crazy, because I’ve been feeling shady lately.
LL: That sounds like it’s going to be big in all the clubs.
AL: I want to make music and perform it for my peers and for the community. And luckily we have this fanbase, The Glamberts, that are so die hard. The other thing I love is it’s dance music and it’s fierce and flamboyant, but it’s also borrowing from the classics so I think a lot of people will get something from it. The front half of the album is the dance funky stuff, but the back half slows down a bit, borrows a bit from industrial, new wave kind of sonic stuff.
LL: So Nine Inch Nails-y?
AL: Definitely not as hard, but there’s textures in the music it gets grittier, there’s a bit of dubstep in there. There’s some electro in there. It’s experimenting for me.
LL: A lot of people think of you as a rocker.
AL: And as the kid from America Idol. Those two things I kind of wanted to flip. A lot of the funk stuff, there’s guitar in it, and funk comes from rock, but there’s a lot of R&B feel. Like Michael and Prince, a lot of energy… A lot of stuff I loved to listen to. When I was on Idol, I think I was drawn to singing rock music because, a) the type of range I have was the type of range that felt right for rock songs… male rock songs that I could show my range on. And b) because there was no “rock” performer on the show, so that was my thing.
LL: It was strategic then?
AL: The inside joke is that I’ve always wanted to put on a fierce outfit and some eyeliner. And as the boys say, get real cunty. That’s what this album is. This album is cunty.
LL: Can I quote that?
AL: You can quote it, but I hope people understand the slang because people misunderstand. It’s not the C-word… maybe add an “ie”? It means fierce, it has attitude.
LL: You know, I thought I was up on my lingo but I didn’t know that one. I just learned “fishy.”
AL: This album is also a little fishy. Cunty and fishy are kind of the same. It’s a positive thing. When my friends and I say it, for dance music, it’s a good thing. it’s diva, strong but still a lady.
LL: So Gaga fans could like this record, yes?
AL: I definitely think she taps into this spirit. I’m a bit funkier, she’s doing a bit more like, hard electro dance.
LL: I didn’t know you were taking your music there. Is it because at first you had to be guided, and now that you’re established you’re free to do different things?
AL: That yeah, and also I had the time. I had the time to think about it and work on stuff and experiment. It wasn’t that I sat down at the beginning of the writing and said I’m going to do a funk thing. It kind of just fully unfolded. I did a bunch of other stuff that was a little more expected, stuff you’ve heard me do already. Then I realized I’m just not drawn to that right now.
LL: What was the catalyst for the new direction?
AL: Working with Pharrell (NERD) was a big catalyst. Pharrell and I wrote the title track, “Trespassing,” and we wrote another song “Kickin It.” “Kickin It” feels like old Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson or Prince. It’s borrowing from that sensibility, but with lyrics that are specific to my experience and my community.
LL: You wrote all the lyrics?
AL: I wrote them with him. Trespassing is a great anthem too. It’s about being told no and being an outsider and rebelling with creativity.
LL: You think people still pigeonhole you?
AL: I think I have yet to prove some things. Hopefully, you get a taste of the real Adam. I think it’s me asserting myself as a musician, and as a person. Professionally, celebrity-wise, and on a personal level- it ticks a lot of boxes. I hope every alternative community gets strength from that.
LL: By community, you mean anyone who’s an outsider- from dressing different to their sexuality?
AL: People who don’t want to be lumped into the mainstream, because I’ve a really hard time with that.
LL: And isn’t that ironic that in the mainstream public, you’re so popular?
AL: It’s hard because coming to prominence on a show like Idol… it is mainstream, and getting signed to a record label that is very mainstream too. It’s interesting to push against that, but people are really excited, because you do see dance music becoming mainstream right now. So the time is right for me to do my version of what I want to do
LL: I agree. I’m excited, I wish I could hear it!
[Adam plays us two track off his phone, grooving the sounds...]
AL: It’s dance music, there are a couple contemporary sounding and then there are a bunch of throw back dance songs- I’m excited for that.
LL: What are you going to do when you perform? You going to fully get down with choreography and whole deal?
AL: Not fully, I’ma do my thing. I’m going to sing. I might give you some little moves.
LL: When you tour do you envision dancers?
AL: I envision dancers, yeah. And I just hired my backup singers yesterday- two girls, gospel singers. Dance music is part of my identity and that’s what I come from… the club thing.
AL: I used to go to Moustache Mondays and Josh Peace used to spin this shit, it wasn’t mainstream, but it was catchy… and I was like, ‘oooh what is that?’ I want to make music that makes me feel that way, that makes my friends feel that way.
LL: Listening to the songs you just played me, I think you’ve got it. The fanbase will go along with the ride for sure. It’s great that you have the luxury to do do something different.
LL: I just thought of Gwen Stefani. She came from rock and did the dance thing and it totally worked. Pharell worked with her too.
AL: There’s a lot of funk in a rock song, especially from the 70s. That groove… and that’s what I’m feeling.
LL: Yeah, even Aerosmith -Stephen Tyler being on Idol is a coincidence – have some serious groove. And my favorites, The Stones, are way funky.
AL: Yes. It makes you dance. My mom’s a huge stones fan and she’s always dancing to it. I really like rock music you can dance to, stuff with a hybrid feel, rock beats and the baselines.
LL: I love it. So I promised some fans, I’d ask a few questions posted for this interview on Twitter. You must get a lot of these. By the way how do you manage your Twitter? It must be overwhelming.
AL: I just kind of breeze through it.
LL: Ok, question #1: What apps does Adam have on his iPhone?
AL: [Looks through phone] : Angry Birds, Pages (which is the word processing app for writing lyrics). I have my Kindle, an Astrology app, Chess. I have Moviephone, 360 Panarama (a photography thing that is amazing). I have Fatbooth and Dragbooth. You can take a picture of someone and make them fat, or dress them in drag.
LL: Question #2: What songs would you include on the soundtrack of your life?
AL: I’d probably like to feature my own albums. This album could be a soundtrack to my life. It’s the whole thing I wanted it to be. I wanted to allow people to get to know not just facts about me or what I’ve done, but where I’ve been and how I feel about it. All my fans know all this info about me, but until now, not how I feel. That’s what this album does.
LL: And that’s what they want!
AL: It shows you how I want to feel… To go out and be sexy-nasty… how I want to celebrate… how I want to find love (and I how found it and how great that is)… how I want to stand up against people who say no and to haters… And the flipside too– the darker stuff about how sometimes it sucks and how it makes me hurt.. how heartache hurts and how the plight of the LGBT community is so difficult. “Outlaws of Love” is a poignant song about all this.
LL: Question #3: Are there pressures on you to be a poster boy?
AL: The struggle of being different and being persecuted for it and being hated-on for it, that can be pressure.
LL: Is that now or back in high school years?
AL: Kind of me looking at where we’re at now, and kind of seeing, with the marriage equality thing and the bullying situations happening… people are more socially aware, but we’re still fighting against it. It’s still hard. We’re still fighting discrimination. That’s what I wanted that song to explore. How it feels to be like, “I’m just trying to find some peace but because of who I choose to love, I feel like I’m an outlaw”
LL: But do you still feel that way because you’re gay?
AL: Not me personally, but I’m trying to give a voice to a mentality because I hear a lot about it. In a way I do feel a little like, if that were removed from the equation I would have a very different path. But that doesn’t make me resent the equation. That’s the key, you can’t resent the equation just because that’s the lot you’ve been given, you have to accept and celebrate.
LL: In a distilled way, is this sort of a gay record?
AL: For a gay listener, it is a gay record. The beauty of this album is that, at the end of the day anyone can relate to it. It’s not specific, it’s about the human experience. What it could accomplish in the larger picture is to say “hey you know what I’m different, I’m gay, and we go through the same shit. You feel the same way about relationships as I do, you want to go out and get drunk and get crazy too. You had your heart broken, too. It’s kind of post-gay. It’s a post-gay record.”
LL: Had you not done Idol, would you be here?
AL: No, not to this level.
LL: So really you do give credit to the show. It was your last shot in a way, wasn’t it?
AL: To me it was the most direct way to sidestep the machine a little for a second and just be able to be on TV sets for the public and say to those watching, ‘look do you like this or not, because I’m going to need help convincing an executive that you guys like it.’ And it worked.
LL: Yes it did…