Everything After August
How do you know when a rock star is about to go on tour? Check the gym. That's where Mr. Showbiz caught up with Counting Crows' Adam Duritz--at a Manhattan health club, just days before the release of the band's second album, Recovering the Satellites. "I ride, lift a lot of weights, do a bunch of sit-ups," the thirty-year-old singer-songwriter says. "I'm just trying to get myself in shape for the road."
He'd better. All eyes are on Duritz as he and his bandmates--guitarists Dan Vickery and David Bryson, bassist Matt Malley, keyboardist Charles Gillingham, and drummer Ben Mize--prepare to hit the road in support of the follow-up to their acclaimed 1993 debut, August and Everything After. For some, August sounded more like the long-lost work of a favorite artist than the first release of a new band. With strong threads of the Band, Van Morrison, and other rock legends woven into songs like "Mr. Jones" and "Round Here," the Crows' sound was the musical equivalent of pre-washed jeans: it was new, yet so broken-in that it was instantly comfortable and palpably familiar.
Nearly five-million copies later, August and Everything After stands as one of the most auspicious debuts in rock history. The annals of pop music, however, are filled with promising starts betrayed by rushed follow-ups and disappointing sophomore efforts. That may explain why Counting Crows spent so long working on Recovering the Satellites, which was released on vinyl October 8 and arrives in stores on CD October 15. The new album rocks harder than its predecessor, but it's just as soul-searching, exploring the toll success has taken on the band, and especially on its leader. But that was just one of the many subjects the introspective Duritz discussed during a break in his workout schedule.
Everything After August
What did you do after the tour ended for the first album?
Bartended at the Viper Room for awhile.
I needed to get out of Berkeley, so I moved to L.A. I had friends down there--specifically the people who ran the Viper Room. It was a comfortable place to hang out without being hassled. One night I realized it was less crowded behind the bar, and one of my best friends was bartending, so I started hanging back there, smoking cigarettes and drinking beers. I became a pretty good bartender after awhile.
How were the tips?
I made a lot of money from my friends while I was bartending. Mostly it was just a place to hang out; I could talk all night with my friends who were bartending with me. And I was always free to go upstairs and watch bands if I wanted to, or they'd go and I'd bartend.
Sounds like a pretty cozy existence. What made you move?
I have this stupid, recognizable hair, and it became hard to go anywhere. In Europe it was fine, but it was hard in America--especially at home. I felt weird going out in the Bay Area: I couldn't seem to go anywhere without someone staring. In L.A., no one cares. New York is the same way. That makes them perfectly pleasant places to hang. I have some nice friends in L.A., musicians like Maria McKee and Bruce Brody, or people like Gary Gersh, who signed me to Geffen, or Samantha Mathis, who I dated for awhile, or Sean Penn. I needed to be normal for a little bit, just to be a guy, go out and talk to people, not be a rock star for awhile. The idea of writing songs repelled me.
What got you going on new songs?
During the summer of '95, I wrote a few songs, called the guys up, and said, "Listen, I think it's time to start working. I don't want to write a whole album of piano songs." So we got a rehearsal studio in L.A. and rented a house for the guys. They'd come down for a week, go back home for a week, off and on. We'd rehearse 'til we burnt out, and when we got some songs, we'd play an unannounced show at the Viper Room. We did that for four or five months until we had an album. The last side of the album we wrote in the studio while we were recording: "Recovering the Satellites," "Monkey," "Mercury," and "A Long December."
You refer to a "side," which isn't really the parlance in the CD age. Do you view it as an album of sides, or of distinct parts?
It's been said that it's in four suites, but I don't think it's separable in that way. To me, there's a first album and a second album--all the songs up to "Have You Seen Me Lately?" are the first album, then "Miller's Angels" and beyond are the second one.