Talking to David Liebe Hart, it’s hard to differentiate between reality and delusion. During a nearly hour-and-a-half phone conversation, Hart shifted sporadically between a number of bizarre topics, including an alien encounter, the advice he got from Doris Day, a dead frog that haunts him, and his removal from the premises of several organizations. One thing is clear: It’s been a rough few months for Hart.
“I know I’ve got to keep (the interview) on a positive note,” he said. “I’ve been going through some negative challenges lately.”
Hart is a musician, comedian, puppeteer, painter, and actor known mainly for his role in the Adult Swim comedy series “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” and for his unusual songs, which have earned him a sort of cult following. The 61-year-old is currently touring with his new musical partner, Jonah “Th’ Mole” Mociun, and he’ll perform at Birdseye Lounge in Portsmouth on Saturday, May 28, with local band Rick Rude opening.
Within the past year, Hart says he has been kicked out of a meeting of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), despite being personally invited by an engineer at Capitol Records; the La Brea Tar Pits, where he was performing as a street musician and had his first encounter with extraterrestrials; his favorite record store in Los Angeles; and the Christian Science Church in Studio City, Calif. The details are a bit fuzzy, but the incidents have taken a toll on his morale.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you the blues,” he said with a laugh. He then switched topics to complain about the housing department in Los Angeles.
“They made me take half of my stuff to storage. I’ve got three storage places,” he said. “The housing department said everything was a fire hazard. Everything in my closet, I’ve got to clean. I’ve got to take everything and take it to storage. They don’t want you to have everything in your apartment. And you’re paying to be there!”
For those familiar with Hart’s music, his strange style of conversation should come as no surprise. In addition to his regular appearances on the “Tim and Eric” show, he was formerly the host of the public-access cable show “The Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Program.” He can be found on YouTube singing his songs, usually accompanied by a large puppet. His latest album, the electronic-influenced “Astronaut,” features songs about eating vegetables, exercising, being abducted by aliens, rap music, encounters with the ghosts of two dead dogs, and, of course, the misfortunes of his love life.
Many of Hart’s songs reference people he says he knows personally. The song “Teleportation Through Space” is about Bob Renaud, who, in 1961, supposedly became the first person to have contact with an alien race known as the Korendians. Hart’s 2014 album, “Go Into the Light,” includes a song about his encounter with actress Betty White, titled, of course, Betty White. (Hart says he was once featured in an episode of “Golden Girls.”)
A devout member of the Christian Science Church, Hart says his interest in music began in the 1970s, when he learned to sing and play traditional Christian hymns. He says he was inspired to use puppets and music to entertain people by his Sunday-school teachers. Those teachers, he says, included Jim Henson and Walter Brennan. He says he also had Doris Day as a teacher at the Christian Science Church in Beverly Hills, and she gave him the best advice of all.
“I said to Doris Day, ‘How did you become so successful as a songwriter and as a singer and as an actress?’ And she said, ‘I set goals for myself. I put myself in action and I know I’m loved, cherished, appreciated, and accepted and I’m just as successful as anybody else. And what you think about, you bring about,’” he said.
Hart’s music spans a range of genres. He’s got a full catalog of religious songs on the album “Christian Hymns and Songs of Praise,” but his best-known work is “Monsters,” a heavier punk album he made with former musical partner Adam Papagan. The album features music whitewashed with distortion and riddled with Hart’s frantic lyrics, which are filtered through psychedelic effects pedals.
Hart says he’ll only be playing a couple of religious songs on his current tour. And, since his split with Papagan, he says he no longer has the rights to perform the songs off of “Monster.” (He says he has received “60 calls from New Hampshire and 40 calls from Albany” asking if he would be playing the “Monster” songs on tour).
However, Hart says he is recording a new crop of punk-rock songs with Mociun, which he plans to put out sometime next year. Some of the songs are already finished.
“I wrote a … song about a dead reptile,” Hart said. “It was a frog that I didn’t take care of and he haunted me in Lake Forest, Ill., and he’d stare at me and he was upset because I didn’t feed him, and he died when I went to Christian Science camp.
Hart says he has some other new projects in the works, as well. “Jonah and I were supposed to come up with a comic book. That’s why we’re not going to do touring much next year,” he said. “We’re also trying to get funding for a horror movie.” But before he could elaborate much on these projects, Hart shifted gears again and started complaining about the baggage limits on airplanes.
Despite the negative challenges he’s facing, Hart looks forward to getting on stage in Portsmouth. He’d also like to get his music played on a local college radio station. He asks anyone who can give him a ride to get in touch.
David Liebe Hart performs with opener Rick Rude on Saturday, May 28 at 8 p.m. at Birdseye Lounge, 41 Vaughan Mall, Portsmouth, 603-766-3333. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 day of show, available here.