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Interview: Mike Adams reflects on 2015
Posted December 21, 2015 by Seth Johnson

There weren’t a lot of dull moments in 2015 for Bloomington’s Mike Adams. Even between U.S. tour stops, the charismatic songwriter was busy recording podcasts in the van with his band, Mike Adams At His Honest Weight. And, that’s not even mentioning the record label he runs or the talk show he hosts.

With the year coming to a close, Seth Johnson decided to catch up with Adams for an in-depth interview.

Seth Johnson: 2015 seemed to be a very busy year for you. For example, I specifically noticed how much you were out on the road. Had you ever toured as much as you did this year?

Mike Adams: This was definitely the most with Honest Weight, yeah. This was the first full year that we had our booking agent, and we were able to do more because of that.

 

SJ: Did husband&wife (Adams’ prior band from Bloomington) ever tour as extensively as Honest Weight did this year?

MA: Yeah, husband&wife did a lot of touring. The longest tour we ever did was a 35-day stretch. It was insane, and I never want to do that again (laughs).

 

SJ: Where all did you go with Honest Weight this year?

MA: In February, we went down south, as far as Austin, and back. And then, we did a trip in the spring out to Boston and back. Boston was great. Next, we did some Midwest stuff a little bit, and then in October we went all the way to the West Coast and back.

 

SJ: With all of those, too, didn’t you have different lineups of the band going on certain strings of dates?

MA: Yeah. We’ve kind of had different lineups for every tour we’ve ever done, just always depending on who’s available and everyone’s schedules. Ya know, there are six of us. The six-person band is “the band,” if someone asks me what the band consists of. But, it’s kind of hard to juggle six schedules sometimes. So it just depends on who’s available and what we feel like doing at the time. Ya know, whatever our little whim may be.

 

SJ: What have you liked about having a different lineup on every tour?

MA: I like that the show is unpredictable. I like that if you saw us on the last tour, it might be a completely different show when you see us on the next tour. What I don’t like about it is that it’s a lot of work (laughs). Reconfiguring the band for every single trip is hard, but it’s worth it, I think.

 

SJ: Didn’t you do the West Coast tour without your drummer, Ben Lumsdaine (also a member of Diane Coffee, Cooked Books and Sophie Faught Trio)?

MA: Yeah, but we actually took Ben into a studio before we left. We knew that tour was coming up really far in advance, and we knew that Ben couldn’t go far in advance. So we went into a studio with Ben and had him record the drum tracks. And then, we sort of manipulated and edited everything and built a set around that.

SJ: What are some positives that you’ve seen come out of Honest Weight touring as much as you did in 2015?

MA: One of my favorite things is how much we’ve been able to do the podcast that we started doing in the van (Tan Van Tour Talk). I guess I’d say it’s been surprisingly valuable to us. It eats up a lot of time in the van, but it also kind of serves as a tour diary. And, people seem to be into just hanging out with us in the van on tour. It feels like it has given us an extra extension to connect with people that are interested in what we’re interested in, and that are also interested in us. That’s kind of been a surprise, but it’s been very fun and cool to do. We kind of keep making little incremental improvements with the podcast on every tour. I mean, it’s more work and an added layer to think about for the tour because we put equipment in the van and stuff for recording it. It’s kind of crazy (laughs). But, it’s been great.

We’ve also met a ton of cool people that we would not have otherwise, thanks to the touring. That includes normal people like us, but then also people that we’re fans of. So yeah, it’s just been a really cool year and an exciting time for us to be out doing stuff.

 

SJ: How did the podcast even start in the first place?

MA: I don’t remember when, but it was sometime last year. We were driving to a show in the van, and it was one of those lulls in the van where you’re just driving and everyone is kind of lost in their own thoughts. There may or may not have been music on the radio, but we made a joke about how anything can be a podcast in 2015. Like, any garbage thing can become a podcast, and I like that (laughs). But, it’s also funny because there are no standards. It’s just kind of like, “If you can do the work, you can have a podcast.”

We kind of made a joke about how it’d be funny to do a podcast about what it’s like to be in the van with a band on tour, thinking in terms of the long periods of silence and boredom. So we thought, “Let’s do one of those just as a goof.” We recorded one, but actually found that it goaded us into talking about our thoughts on the tour, and that it was kind of a formal structure for how to talk about what we were experiencing in real time. So I think we all came to find it a little bit therapeutic. And, it killed time in the van, and anything that does that is welcome (laughs).

 

SJ: Do you go into the recording of these podcasts with any sort of plan at all?

MA: It has pretty much been the same people every time, so we all have an idea of how an episode is going to roll. Usually, we try to recap the show we just played the night before, and we say what we’re kind of expecting for the next one. So that gives it a little bit of a structure. But otherwise, things are pretty well improvised, with keeping in mind that we’re always going to do it. So if something comes up at some point during the day, you might think, “Oh, I’m going to bring this up on the podcast.” And, all of us are kind of doing that subconsciously.

We do have a couple of rules that we had to establish early on. One of them that we found that all of us were really guilty of early on was that we would just read signs as we passed them. Like, we would read business or marquee signs out loud, and it just made no sense. Because if you’re just listening, and all of a sudden someone says some weird thing out of the blue, it’s like, “What was that?” So we had to make a formal rule of, “No reading signs during the podcast.”

SJ: I know the talk show you host (The Mike Adams Show) was involved with a promotional video for Lil Bub’s album via Joyful Noise Recordings. Did you do installments of The Mike Adams Show pretty regularly throughout 2015, in addition to everything else you had your hands in?

MA: Yeah, we’ve been doing it. “Regularly” is a hard word to define though (laughs). We always have it in our minds to tape a couple episodes every couple months because we usually do two at a time. But, Busman’s Holiday are always on tour, I’m always on tour, and we always have things going on in our lives in general. But, we have been trying to be as consistent as we can, while keeping everyone’s availability in mind. This year, I think we’ve done like six episodes.

 

SJ: For those who are maybe unfamiliar with The Mike Adams Show, can you explain how it progressed from just a fun idea to an actual talk show that’s filmed in front of a live studio audience?

MA: We had been doing it in Jared Cheek’s (founder of Flannelgraph Records) garage for a while. It was very goofy and only an Internet show. It was kind of Jared’s idea to have a goofy talk show in his garage. We did four episodes at Jared’s place, and then Dan Coleman (talent buyer at The Bishop in Bloomington) contacted us one time. December is a slow month for everybody, but especially for bars and entertainment venues. So Dan just got a hold of us and was like, “Hey. Why don’t you come do the show at The Bishop with an audience? It’ll be a free thing. We can basically just try to have a party, but also do the show.” We liked the idea a lot, went and did it, and it went really well. Well enough that he has invited us back, and we have continued to want to come back. Now, we’ve done all of them since then at The Bishop.

 

SJ: Talk to me about your latest Preparation Age release.

MA: The new release is a one-sided 12” on Burnt Toast Vinyl. So it’s five songs, and they are five songs that come from the same sessions as the upcoming full-length. When I handed Best of Boiler Room Classics over to Adam Jessup, who does all the mixing on everything, the record was kind of out of my mind at that point, so I just started writing new songs and recording. I recorded 20 songs. And then from those songs, we started to pick what was going to make the best full-length and what stuff we should leave behind and not do anything with. We got an idea of what the full-length should be. Like, “Okay. This is what we’re going to put on the new record. These 11 songs.” And then, Scott from Burnt Toast just asked me if I was interested in being a part of the label’s one-sided 12” series [see website for list of other participants], and I said, “Yeah, of course.” So I was lucky that I had material. We took five of the songs that didn’t make the full-length, and gave them to him.

SJ: Speaking of record labels, I know you recently announced that the label you founded, Crossroads of America (or XRA) Records, will only have one more release before calling it quits for good. That being said, can you talk to me about what XRA has meant to you, and why you ultimately chose to have the live husband&wife double LP/concert film be your 50th and final release?

MA: The label's been a big part of my identity for the last 10 years. But, it recently started to feel like I was only ever referring to it in past tense, so that was a good indicator that it was time to hang it up. All the bands have broken up or moved on, and it seemed more appropriate to me to cap it off than try to start XRA 2.0 or something.

Husband&wife was the reason for starting the label, so having a husband&wife release be the last thing seemed right. I'm really proud of all the label accomplished and the relationships it's afforded me. I never once had a question or a doubt that running XRA was the thing I was supposed to be doing.

 

SJ: Aside from the XRA release, what else is on the horizon for you?

MA: For the first time in many years, I don’t have anything concrete on the horizon. We don’t really have many shows coming up. The only thing right now is to get the full-length record done, and then go from there. It’s about 98% done. I’m already working on the artwork, so that will hopefully be done pretty soon. And then once the record comes out, we’ll probably learn the new songs with the band and start touring again. But mainly because of manufacturing timelines right now with vinyl, we just have no idea when all of that stuff is going to start happening. But, it’ll at least be by mid-2016. And, we’ve got a few one-off dates booked leading up to that, but no tours or anything are planned at the moment.

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