I met Adam Bailie when I was living in LA, on the west side near Santa Monica. Back then, I knew him as Adam Sounds. I was running an open mic night at this place called Bar Pico (rest in peace), tending bar, hosting the open mic, and playing some of my own music every Tuesday night. Adam came in one night and played, and he was really fucking good. His style was like Jack Johnson meets Donovan Frankenreiter, with his own kind of unique vocal delivery that bordered on hip hop, and he had solid acoustic guitar work. We started hanging out; he was visiting from Canada and was staying in a place near Venice Beach. I was playing a lot of shows at the time, so Adam would show up, and we’d talk about music and the changing industry. Once when I played at Room 5 (another bygone LA venue that’s near and dear to my heart), I gave him some stage time during my set to play a few of his songs. Adam was a big influence on me; in retrospect, some of the defining characteristics of my music style evolved from him.
During this time, I was doing a lot of drugs. I had a beautiful girlfriend named Victoria, and my lifestyle was somewhat nihilistic. Los Angeles had made me jaded, and while I was still playing a lot of music, my attitude was more like “What’s the point? Who gives a fuck?” Adam, who was maybe thirty, a couple years older than me, had an attitude that was much more chill, open, relaxed. It started to rub off on me a little bit. He had recorded a lot of his own stuff, and he had a lot of cool aspects to his musical style. One of the reasons that I got into looping was because of Adam.
We were hanging out at Bar Pico, and he had his pedals arranged on the stage. One of the pedals was a vocal autotune, and another was a loop. Adam showed me how to use the loop; up to that point, I hadn’t really messed around with the concept of looping.
“Just click it on the one, play something, and click it again on the one.” He explained. I did it, and it was surprisingly easy. The autotune pedal for the vocals was something that I would have normally scoffed at, but it was actually kind of cool to see Adam at work with it. It opened up my mind about being a one man band, which would come to fruition much later.
I had lived in LA for over a year at that point, so I took Adam around to some cool hangouts. One was Vidiots in Santa Monica, off Lincoln and Pico. (Goddamnit, none of these places are around anymore! It kind of breaks my heart.) Vidiots was a one-in-a-million kind of video rental store with DVDs and VHS movies that were hard if not impossible to find anywhere else. When I began to get into my Italian grindhouse phase, ground zero for all that was at Vidiots. They had a whole section devoted to Italian horror. (Nostalgia is coming on hard right now.) While Adam and I were perusing through the video shelves, he pulled out a documentary on Fela Kuti.
“Have you heard of this guy?” Adam asked.
“No,” I said.
“He started the Afro-beat movement. He married all his backup singers, like thirty of them, and he started his own commune in Africa to defy the government.”
“Huh,” I said.
I looked into Fela Kuti’s music later that week and found Zombie, one of his best known albums. It became the soundtrack of that time period in my life: I had just been accepted onto a tv show from Sony and ABC, and while I drove around Hollywood and the LA area for filming and rehearsals, I listened to Fela Kuti. The show never aired, but it was still a killer experience, and it was my introduction into Afro-beat music. I still listen to a lot of Fela Kuti. His albums Zombie, and Koola Lobitos 1964-1968, an early record, were some of my favorites.
Adam and I would visit this taco truck near his place off Lincoln Blvd, where we’d eat and smoke cigarettes and talk about our different influences, drugs, and the difference in culture between LA, the United States, and Canada. We’d go out to eat with my girlfriend Victoria at places like Pink’s Hot Dogs on La Brea, or La Cabana on Rose. It’s surprising to me how much time I spent with Adam in the little time that he was in LA. He really struck me as a cool guy.
Adam returned to Canada later on, maybe a month after I met him. We stayed in touch casually online; both of us keep on recording and releasing new material, and we’re both still playing and touring and making a living doing what we love. I hope that one day we’ll cross paths again and jam.
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