Two weeks ago, celebrated electro duo ADULT. announced the creation of Detroit House Guests, a project funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The husband and wife duo of Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller will bring six musicians to town, and they'll stay at the couple's house in order to collaborate on new recordings. The full list of future visitors is pretty diverse and downright exciting, especially when you consider that most will probably perform while in town (though only Chrysler and Lowe are confirmed thus far): Shannon Funchess (Light Asylum), Michael Gira (Swans), Dorit Chrysler (NY Theremin Society), Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (Lichens), Douglas J. McCarthy (Nitzer Ebb), and Lun*na Menoh (Les Sewing Sisters). The music they create together will likely later be released on the record label Ghostly. Kuperus and Miller responded to our questions jointly, as one voice, via email.
MT: You won your Knight Arts Challenge grant to do this project over one year ago, correct? Why did it take so long to get it together?
ADULT.: The grant is technically a two-year project; it's a match grant. You are given one year to raise your match money, and a second year to complete the project — so we are actually on schedule! Aside from that, it's a big project to coordinate. You have to make your schedule work with six other people's schedules, not an easy task.
MT: How do you see this particular process for securing funding to make a record in relation to where the music industry is now?
ADULT.: First off, we must clarify that the funding we received is actually not to "make" a record, but to have an experience and collaboration. It's really quite liberating in this moment of time to have that freedom to experiment, to grow and learn. If we are lucky and the results of the collaboration are good, then we plan to release it as an album.
MT: And how do you see it in relation to the Detroit arts landscape in general, where there certainly seems to be a lot more arts funding of late, thanks partly to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Kresge Foundation?
ADULT.: The support people are receiving from these two foundations comes at a critical time in the landscape and growth of Detroit. Not only do both these foundations give to individual artists, but they also give support to grass roots organizations and communities. There's no model for what we proposed, so it feels a bit unreal to have someone say "we believe in your vision."
MT: You both show artwork all over the world. What are the similarities between working within the music world and the art world?
ADULT.: The similarities are you are self-employed. You have to hustle and work all the time. It's important to participate in your music or arts community. You have to show up — and often you want to stay in the studio, in creative mode — but you can't. We find we are often exhausted trying to go back and forth between music and art and all the events. Honestly, we've missed a lot of great music this year because we've been working so intently on visual work. There's a lot of inspiring stuff happening in Detroit right now. Almost too much to keep up with!
MT: What are the differences?
ADULT.: The differences seem to be that with an album or live show, there's not much of a discussion over what you've done. We put great consideration into the visual look of the album and the poetics of the lyrics. Into what songs we play live. The order of those songs. The reworking of songs so they make a greater impact live. And in the end, people either like it or they don't. There's not much debate and dialogue. A final opinion might get based upon wearing a maroon skirt instead of a black skirt (true story) as opposed to whether the performance was actually good.
MT: Let's talk about some of these artists — how you know them, and why you're keen to work together, starting with Shannon Funchess.
ADULT.: We met Shannon at a show we were playing together in London a few years back. Wow, Shannon is a damn powerhouse! What energy she has and an incredibly, unique voice. Our next run in with her was in Seattle. Nicola joined in on a karaoke duet of "Pretty Vacant." We knew at that moment we had to invite her to Detroit.
MT: Michael Gira?
ADULT.: Our first encounter with Gira was in 2003 in Chicago. He offered up some vocal warm-up exercises and some Fisherman's Friends for Nicola's destroyed voice. Years later, we played a festival in Glasgow, shared a car ride, a nice meal, and some scotch. Michael is an unrelenting voice. So prolific. Such an inspiring and talented artist.
MT: And Dorit Chrysler?
ADULT.: We met Dorit just this past year in Ashville, for the MOOGfest. We've always been big fans of the theremin, so when we saw Dorit perform, we were completely enamored. Not only is she an incredibly skilled player, but she has a beautiful, haunting voice.
MT: What about Douglas McCarthy?
ADULT.: We first met Douglas at a show in Madrid and than later crossed paths in Mexico City. After giving him a place to sleep in Detroit, during a Nitzer Ebb tour, it was clear that if we could ever do some type of collaboration project Douglas was a must! All the years of listening to that strong voice. A lot of inspiration for us as a band has come from Douglas.
MT: How did you yourselves meet and how long have you guys lived in Detroit?
ADULT.: We met at the now-defunct gallery Cement Space, back in '95. That said, we've both been here for over 20 years.
MT: Do you intend to document the process and work to get videos up online or otherwise show, say, Michael Gira in his big cowboy hat, eating a coney?
ADULT.: Yes, absolutely! We want to show the collaborative process and whatever mayhem might ensue. We will be doing this through Instagram and Facebook.
MT: The press release states that the project "will culminate in an album that reflects the city's people and landscape." Can you please explain that a bit more?
ADULT.: When you're on the road, you spend less than a day in each city, and most of that time is spent inside a dark club. Most of the artists we have invited to stay with us have each spent less than 24 hours at a time here in Detroit. Our intent is to give an extensive tour of the city. There's so much history here, from Motown to the Diego Rivera murals, to great architecture, and the list goes on. This project is a wonderful opportunity to share this history with others, and in turn feed inspiration to these artists during their stay. — mt