Adventures of Power: The Power of the Beat
"Adventures of Power," an award-winning comedy about air-drummers and the American Dream, starring Michael McKean, Jane Lynch, Adrian Grenier, and Ari Gold, is being released independently starting October 9 in New York City, October 16 in L.A., and beyond. Since this is an independent release, we encourage people to spread the word about this hilarious rock-and-roll comedy, which has a strong subtext about political and spiritual transformation. The film is also raising money to support children's music education programs.
In "Adventures of Power," we meet Power, a small-town mine worker who only wishes he played drums. But his union-leader father could never afford to buy him any, so he's embraced the next-best thing: air drumming. After losing his job at the mine, Power sets off to join a legendary underground air-drumming crew in Newark, NJ. But as a competition looms, so does a rival billionaire drummer Dallas H., scion of the copper mine, who thinks anything but real drumming is an abomination and seeks to destroy Power and his crew. "Adventures of Power" is a humorous fable about the American Dream, about making something out of nothing, and trusting in your own heartbeat as a way of changing the world.
I sat down with co-star Adrian Grenier ("Entourage"), award-winning singer-songwriter Elvis Perkins, who, by sheer chance, happened to have videotaped my first public performance as Power four years ago, and the film's composer/songwriter, Ethan Gold to talk about the spiritual aspects of the movie for Reality Sandwich.
ELVIS: When you hear about a movie about air drumming, you don't necessarily think, "Oh this is gonna be a deep cut." My experience of it is was quite a mystic one and a deep one. Right off the bat I feel there is something mystic blowing through that small town, a quest that leads him to Newark.
ARI: What does "drumming without drums" mean to you?
ADRIAN: If you look at the essence of life, go down to the core, to what the building blocks of reality consist of, there's nothingness! Our entire created reality, our conscious existence, is actually just manifested from a desire to share with other beings, and that's what this movie is about, making something from nothing, which is what we all are --something created from nothing.
ELVIS: Power's destiny is to discover this in himself.
ARI: But while most audiences really love the movie, there are some people who see Power as weak and they want to "gay-bash" the movie.
ELVIS: He's a true innocent, and that's scary for certain people to confront. One of my favorite moments is when he's walking through his hometown feeling like he's the bomb, and all the local urchins throw shoes at him, and he doesn't read that as being "anti-Power." And then you cut to some of the kids beating each other up. Very funny.
ARI: Violence bounces off Power when he's in his music. This is what I talked about last week with Neil Peart from Rush -- music has a healing power. But at the beginning of Power's journey, whenever the music stops, Power suddenly remembers that he's poor, alone, living in his aunt's basement, and doesn't even have drums! He feels deficient because he hasn't found the drums in himself, yet.
ADRIAN: While my character is ego and materialism, and has everything Power thinks he lacks.
ELVIS: Power doesn't function so well in the material reality, in the world that's created by men. He's like one of those wonderful kids who is too pure for the world. What's great about Power is he still has this purity, which is why he's able to transform and transform the people around him. He's able to defeat the symbol of materialistic society, Dallas.
DALLAS: By changing him.
ARI: Exactly. Some people complain that seekers can be selfish, but the idea here is that by changing yourself, you do change the world by this ripple effect. And you change it in a deeper way than if you are attacking the world.
ELVIS: It seems to be a simple and true fundamental rule of energy flow. With innocence or a surplus of love-energy, for lack of a better word, Power is able to do great things that are beyond the capacity we imagine at the beginning of the movie.
ARI: Look, anyone who's talked with a four-year-old has heard the staggering wisdom of this kind of innocence. Ethan and I have a niece, Ella, who's able to stop me from chewing my food too fast, just by staring at me and chewing her food properly. When I slow down she just says "better," and laughs. She's a natural teacher. Power was, for me, a chance to rediscover that quality in myself, yet also to see some of the downside of that innocence, which is that as an adult, he's vulnerable to attack.
ADRIAN: My character, a billionaire cowboy, is definitely the ego, the materialist, all of those things that can often be very seductive but are ultimately unfulfilling. He's a perfect foil to Power, who has nothing and ultimately finds his identity in his ability to embrace nothingness.
ARI: The characters are two sides of the human coin. Pure ego, and spirit.
ELVIS: I always think the reason kids have that connection and wisdom is that they've just arrived from the void, the oneness, and they've still got the remnants of it over their brains, which gets unlearned as they become functional adults in society.
ARI: I remember the night after Ethan and I lost our mom in an accident, I had a powerful experience of grief which snapped me back to being born. I'd held myself together all day and then I lost it. I re-experienced, briefly, that total innocence and loss of conscious thought.
ETHAN: We threw you into a bathtub and turned on the water. You were screaming.
ADRIAN: What were you experiencing?
ARI: I remember the feeling of coming from nothing, and onto the earth. Loud sounds, bright colors, human beings around me. As I came to, I wrote something down on a napkin: "Life is a gift -- painful, beautiful, and instant." What a crazy thing to be on the planet, and also how much of an illusion time was, with 21 years of my life at that point erased. The character of Power, having also lost his mother, is rooted to primal truth by the feminine heartbeat, which is the first thing we all hear in the womb, and Power still hears. So he's closer, spiritually, to the void. Which may help to explain why certain young men, not fully in their manhood, find Power to be so hard to deal with.
ADRIAN: I'm sure they want to be more like my character! My character represents masculine materialism -- the image, the things, the material gains of capitalism.
ARI: Yeah, while Power's best friends are a ten-year-old Apache boy and his aunt. His father doesn't understand him. He hasn't been accepted by male energy yet.
ADRIAN: My character, the ego character, has to get back to this basic energy too. There are a lot of walls and facades surrounding Dallas. Image. He just wants to be a little boy and to be himself, but he's not ready to do that, because it takes guts to let go.
ELVIS: For good reason. Both of their fathers equate this kind of innocence with being gay. It's pretty brutal.
ARI: And some bloggers wished death on me and even my sister! No joke. But then we have people of all ages, including young men, who say the movie uplifted their spirits for a solid week after seeing it. Two DJs at the radio station at Columbia University had watched the DVD seven times since getting the screener!
ELVIS: Perhaps these dudes are part of the new breed, the new consciousness. The whole film defies the materialistic view of reality. Power pounds air. What does the guru say, "We pound elementary forces"?
ARI: "When you have to bounce your hands off air, off the substance of life..."
ETHAN: "...that's a double workout."
ARI: Of course, the line is totally absurd. It's my attempt at medicine hidden inside comedy.
ELVIS: But for some people, though, it still freaks them out. They must not be ready for it. Perhaps it's operating at a frequency or a pitch they don't yet understand. Maybe, if it's true that we're headed for some kind of climax in human or planetary consciousness, some people are going to get it and some people aren't going to get it. Perhaps this film is a good litmus test for who's ready to evolve.
ARI: "If you don't like my movie, you just don't get it!" Well, maybe not -- but you can't possibly love the movie unless you have access to goodness. Adrian, you're on a show that's about friendship, but it's also a wish-fulfillment show about getting all the material things our culture paints as being so important. How is the reaction different to a show about fame, money, power, sex?
ELVIS: King of the world stuff.
ADRIAN: It's true, but it's about loyalty. And people get an inside glimpse of a world they think they'd like to be a part of.
ELVIS: Those fans are different than "Power" fans.
ARI: I was talking with Mike Sargent from WBAI, who vibed on the degree of detail in Power, and the weird characters and the extra bits and the streets signs that we put in the background and the kind of details that I love in a movie like "Repo Man." Which is one of my favorite movies and is about planetary transformation presented way ahead of its time... also presented in a powerfully ironic and skeptical way. I was inspired by that. You present them as a surreal joke, but make the world detailed enough to feel real. But then the ideas cook in the brain.
ETHAN: I think all the crazy elements of the movie, the strong color, the music, help to let the audience know that it's a heightened reality where stuff can transform.
ARI: You're writing about doomsday for your upcoming record. Are you conscious of a message you are trying to put forth in your music?
ELVIS: I am trying to do good in the universe but I don't have a specific means of doing it nor am I always thinking about needing to do good or do good in a particular way. In relation to the song "Doomsday," someone asked me if I thought the world was going to end in ice or fire. I can't answer that...! [laughs] Well, you and Ethan are twins, he does all your music. Maybe you're the modern manifestation of the Mayan hero twins who are so widely featured in mythology, here to defeat the lords of the underworld in the great ballgame?
ARI: Yeah right, good luck to us! But I'm glad to have a brother like Ethan. Music's essential to my movies, because it bypasses rational thought. In "Power," there's a deaf character who gains access to the music through watching Power play imaginary drums!
ETHAN: It's absurd, obviously.
ARI: It was interesting working on the soundtrack with Ethan and watching the way he brought all these themes into the music. Power can't afford drums and yet finds rhythm. We can't afford an orchestra, so Ethan recorded his own voice humming in harmonies. It is a beautiful metaphor for Power's journey as well.
ETHAN: The human voice is supposed to be a quieter statement of the people in the film. The male voice was in chorus representing the unity of the men. The female voices are solo -- a representation of the mother Power is hearing, both his literal mother and the broader mother that we all carry with us. I think I was somewhat conscious of it on the character level. I've never heard people humming as the foundation of movie-music arrangement, but it felt totally right for the movie. I harkened to some of the Native American elements that are at Power's roots, where he grew up in New Mexico.
ADRIAN: Ethan, you wrote a song that convincingly sounds like North African rock pop, in Arabic. That song is amazing. Ari said it means "We are all One"?
ETHAN: The song plays as Power finds a team of people who are all drumless, all lost, and all come from different parts of the world, and find each other in New Jersey.
ELVIS: It's in a language that some people fear now.
ETHAN: The chorus is "We Are All One," in Arabic. There's a message in using that language here, obviously.
ARI: I've realized that if you honestly believe something, it'll come through in your work. It is absurd what happens on Power's journey. But air drums can be as powerful as real drums!
ELVIS: What I love most in the movie is the moment where Power's air-drumming is transmitted across time and space to his community. Everyone knows the song, it has one of the most famous drum-fills in all rock music. I thought it was great you put the drum-fill in the hands of the Apache kid. The future is in the hands of children and we need to honor that. Were there other versions where Power does the fill?
ARI: No, it had to be the kid. This is the moment Power's spirit returns to his town, like a shaman coming back from the dead. But I see it as a dialectic -- this 10 year old orphan is usually giving Power advice about girls and life. The energy of this search is now bouncing between Power and his community. From the kid, the drum fill spreads to the rest of the community, the striking workers who stand up. And then the energy from them, acceptance by the community, gives Power to ability to hear the drums in himself.
The movie opens on October 9 at AMC, 3rd Ave. and 11th St., New York City, and on October 16, at Sunset 5 in Los Angeles. For other cities and to see the trailer, click here. And visit the movie blog here.
In addition, "Adventures of Power" is hosting charity events to raise money for music-education for kids, through the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation. Drummers are encouraged to join Metallica, Rush, Broken Social Scene, and Judas Priest in donating signed instruments for the tax-deductible online auction which will be announced to our lists in a few weeks.Tweet