Roomy: Well, first of all it is very nice of you to come here for this interview. And let's just get to the questions right away. About your music: it being so emotional, I always wondered where you take all those emotions from? Do they come from your personal experience?
Adam: Yeah, I would say the primary source is personal experience. I think that is the only way to be true. But of course, if you are in that place where you have experienced something, some very bad day, very emotional day you also can connect immediately to others much more. Maybe you have a talk with a friend who also goes through something really dramatic or tough, you accidentally put that in a song too, just because you met this person. So, I would say that all my songs are based on my own experiences and without my friends and environment knowing they are also in there somewhere. If you know me well, you could actually sense which song is about you. And I usually say that. One song I have is called "That Day" is about everyone in a way.
R: You say that before the song, at least that recording I listened to.
A: Oh, I know which one. That's from Tokyo, like two years ago. One of the first tours I was on.
R: So how do your friends react when you say: "This particular one is about you."?
A: First they don't understand how it can be. But then when I tell them what it's about, that everyone has this particular day that was the worst of their lives. That's very easy philosophy, of course they have had one of those. And then how that is actually a good thing, because if had your worst day, everything is better after that. So the darkness of that song eases up with it having been long ago since people had that day. But then sometimes I joke and say that maybe one of you is having their worst day right now. But then I apologize, that would be cruel. I try to balance it so they don't get upset.
R: Does it affect you personally? Can you get depressed working with all those emotions coming through you all the time? You seem to be a very bright and open person, so from the first glance I would say it doesn't actually. Is it so?
A: I mean, I'm not afraid of those emotions at all. I would say that it is easy for me to connect. I can be very sad, very angry and very happy. But I am a very positive person. This smile or smirk I have, sometimes it fools people. It is there even if I have a really bad day.
R: So, maybe I am fooled right now as well?
A: Maybe. (laughs) But since I am not afraid of those emotions it is easy to be in it when I perform. I think you have two times. When you write a song, that's one of the times when it's the toughest because you are in the feeling you want to express. And then I think you have some sort of peak at a live performance. At any time it can happen when you get back to the exactly same point again. And it depends on how the crowd is responding, some factors that you really can't control. And then you can become really sad. I've been close to tears on different shows for different songs and it is completely out of control, out of my control. But it is very nice because then the audience has pulled it out of you in a way. So, I'm not afraid to be sad or happy at any time, it's OK.
R: I see. Then about your music again. If in one sentence, how would you describe it? Just very shortly.
A: Let me see. In Swedish I would do like this. (snaps) But I have to translate what I would say. Like grueling pop. It just breaks you. But it's full of hope, there is so much hope that it is about to burst. So you have both those sides.
R: When I was researching about what kind of person and musician you are I came across this "chamber-pop" and you being called the founder of chamber-pop. Do you agree with it and does it affect you personally? Does it mean anything to you?
A: That would be a textbook example of explaining my music, that's the genre that I say I play. It fits perfectly because it is very easy to explain. "Chamber" comes from chamber music and "pop' is pop. And these are the two things that I combine. I write pop songs but I didn't put a band together with guitars, bass, drums and keyboard. Instead I took a chamber ensemble and played my songs. So that's why you get this place where you could fool people from both camps. Like the ones who listen to chamber music and classical music, they can come to a show but at the same time the ones who only listen to pop hear sort of only pop. We can put those together in one show, in a nightclub or a concert hall. It doesn't matter. They don't care, they have something that they like. And I noticed with this project, in comparison with other thing I played with before, that the spectrum of people who come to shows is much wider.
R: Do you pay attention to genres? Does such a statement that your music is chamber-pop mean anything to you personally? Or is it just your music which fits this textbook explanation?
A: Yeah, I think everyone has a habit that they want to define everything. So for me to claim I play chamber-pop is maybe just a way to give away something for people to understand. Maybe they don't know exactly what it is but they could get a sense.
R: Actually I didn't know what it was. I thought maybe it is this, but still I had to listen to your music to get some understanding.
A: But I like that. It's the ultimate thing: you should listen. Because I don't really care about genres of what you get inspired by or what you listen to. I don't think much about genres. I only think that if there is a genre I don't like then I define that and don't listen to that much. But everything else is just music that I like.
R: Especially given such a great variety of genres you can find sometimes so weird combinations. Even if there is a name for that it doesn't give you anything.
A: No, it doesn't.
R: For example yesterday I came across metal-jazz and I thought like "what?". It didn't give me anything so again I had to listen to it at least to understand what it was about.
R: So, could you tell me about how you started from the musical point of view? How did you find yourself in music?
A: I think it was around ever since I was really young. I didn't have any musical parents or anything, they just listened a lot to music. So, I think I got interest just by songs being played every day all the time really loud at home. And then in Sweden there is, or there was, a strange thing when I went to school that all kids had to play the recorder, this wooden flute, when you were eight. Everyone was introduced. They had to play it for two years after school once a week. I didn't really cared what kind of instrument it was I just loved this music lessons. I just learned everything by heart. And it feels really stupid when I think about it. I mean, it's not cool at all when you are that young. And there were these kind of episodes all through my school years. I came across the trumpet when I was ten and I really liked just to experiment on that, I took some lessons. And then one day my elder brother brought home a drum kit and he showed me a beat. I was eleven I think. Then I became a drummer immediately, that became my main instrument and it is still today. I started playing in bands and somewhere along the way I met one of my best friends now. It was the first guitar player I ever met and I invited him to come to the basement and play with me, with my drum kit. Then we suddenly started to write songs together.
R: Was it the same music that you played at that time?
A: Not at all. I don't know what you have heard..
R: I heard only your recent works.
A: Yeah, exactly. No, it's not what I meant. People usually say, or rather musicians usually say that when you start writing music you have to be prepared that the first three to five years sound so bad. No one knows what they are doing. So, speaking of genres, we went from the most insane kind of like aerobics music and trip-hop. So weird. And then suddenly you call your friend on the phone and say: "I wrote this song. It actually is very good. Now we should form a band." So all these episodes up to that phone call, that is how I realized in retrospect I should play music like forever. And then it is nice to get older and realize you get better at what you do, you can really focus on something specific. And I played in so many projects as a drummer that's why it feels good to suddenly become a pianist and play chamber-pop. I really enjoy that now.
R: Do you think that your music will eventually evolve into something else? Or do you want to stick to chamber-pop for, say, five years to come?
A: It's very hard to predict things like that. In one way I would like to say as long as there is some audience that appreciates it I could go on. But of course sometimes you just get bored and you want to do other things. Since I play other instruments and my previous act before this one was more like rock'n'roll act I can sometimes miss that, to just scream and play really loud. But I really like the chamber-pop genre because it takes a lot from myself. Since I haven't played the piano so long I need to learn what I'm playing and also to arrange for strings. It's like having a math problem. It's not easy to make it work always if you are not a schooled classical musician. But I like that I can just make up what I want. So, until I get bored. I don't know.
R: Correct me if I'm wrong, you used to be a teacher before you became a musician?
A: That's right. I would say that I still am.
R: Don't you regret leaving this job of a school teacher?
A: No, actually I don't regret it at all. And it is a simple explanation why. Because there were at some point so many others in Sweden working with culture in one way or another. They also work as teachers, either pre-school or primary, secondary. It is so easy to combine because you get substitute for a while and then you go on tour. So I did this through a few years and then I started to study to become a teacher because I wanted to have higher salary and could maybe be free longer, for longer tours. Since I played in so many projects I got so many offers and in music you sort of have to say yes because they don't ask you again. But with teachers, at least in Sweden there is a big lack of teachers. And I thought that I really love teaching, it is so much fun, but I can do that later. Because I couldn't see myself playing the kind of music I played then for so many years. I'm referring to this rock'n'roll thing. So I thought I can go back to teaching when I'm 45.
R: A follow-up question then: don't you perceive what you do, your music as kind of teaching itself?
A: I see where you are going with this. Maybe in a way. I truly believe that you have to work to maintain culture in today's society. The great machinery in every country just destroys theatres, they want to take away that orchestra, this opera shouldn't be played anymore… So, everyone working with music and art, I really respect that. It's not easy to defend it always. All my music colleagues always get the question of what their real job is. People don't take musicians seriously. It is really offensive to say that. You never say that to a doctor or a teacher.
R: Well, I am a teacher and I hear sometimes: "Yeah, a teacher but what are you going to do next?" I mean, this particular thing.
R: I don't know, maybe it is different. And I'm not a school teacher, that may be different as well but still. But I see what you are driving at.
A: I think you want to maintain this cultural heritage because everyone takes from what has been before and changes it so it just grows and changes. If it all were gone, then it would be like in all these dystopias, it would be just a sad, sad world. But I think some people wouldn't realize it until we are there. So I love this when you can get funding to go somewhere and just spread music. For example now that I'm here, I managed to get some funding from the Swedish government so that I could bring my strings. Because last time I played in Saint-Petersburg I got some local string performers. Of course that was great, but it is really nice to get the ones you are used to playing with. And I like the fact that you could get money for that because it means the government supports people to maintain the great cultural experience, not only in Sweden but for other countries as well. It's really nice. I hope I answered your question.
R: Well, mostly yes. At least I heard what I wanted to understand about your approach to it. And about music again. People say that it is kind of a universal medium to convey ideas. Do you agree with this one? Is it actually universal?
A: Yeah, it is universal. Maybe not as universal as football. No, I mean..
R: It does make sense.
A: Yes. But this question is really fun to answer because I've been touring in so many different countries and some of them were very random. Like, just a friend of a friend says: "Oh, you should come to Georgia to play, or you should come to Mexico". Then you don't know so much before you go. Will they really appreciate it? But never mind! We just go and we try that. I think I've been to 30 countries, more or less. Everywhere it worked to play this chamber-pop even though the local scene is very different. So, I would say that it is very much universal. There can be such big interest even if they have never listened to it before. But it would be fun to go to maybe India and play chamber-pop there. I have no idea if that would work but it still would intrigue me. They probably have hipster venues that no one knows of, even there.
R: Having played in so many countries, do you sense the difference in the perception of your music by different audiences?
A: Absolutely. It's very clear. But at the same time I would say that the primary reason for a show being good or bad is mainly how the venue and the owners of the venue work with their acts. You could have a fantastic show in the most unusual place where you think it's going to be so loud and no one is going to listen, they're speaking. But they sort of taught their crowd that if they have an act everyone sits down. It's almost like a school class. I've had more than one show in all these countries and they have been represented both good and bad in the same country. But of course there are countries that only have good experience. It is just something in the culture how people are.
R: Do you have favourite audiences?
A: My favourite thing is actually playing in a very small place that is not completely full because then so odd things always happen. Because people relax, they feel as if they are special because they are there and there is a show which they appreciate and there are so few people so they feel chosen. Then it is very easy to interact, speak to one person at a time. I've had shows like that in Russia, in Brasil and Germany, Iceland also. In a way all those shows were exactly the same but so different. Because a crowd was small, and they were engaged. I always want to have shows like that. If you only played big shows you would get bored. But if you have to fight a little then something great happens.
R: Also, one more thing about language. Why is it the English language that you write your song in?
A: There are maybe three reasons for that. First of all I think that I'm hiding a little bit. If I sang in Swedish it would be too revealing I guess. Because the first ten songs that were on my debut album were so open and straightforward. Like, this is the deal. It's nice to hide a little bit behind English there. The second reason is there is a commercial thing about singing in English, everyone does it. For a Scandinavian and a Swede, we learn English so early in school so everyone speaks well and it really becomes a second language early on. And then it feels very natural to just be a part of that, be commercial in that way a little bit. Because everyone understands what you sing about. And then the third reason is that sounds in English can be very, very soft when you sing. So when you choose words they can be like a soft cloud sometimes. If I sang in Swedish I would have to fight more to find the right words. Because the structure of the text you write should be like a poem but at the same time you cannot take… even if it's a perfect word but it sounds so hard or weird I don't want to use it. You have to change that then. So English is good there as well. But I might switch to Swedish, maybe I'll release a Swedish album one day. Will see. It's tempting.
R: Not only about you but in general, do you think that it is justified to switch to English? A lot of bands when they are young prefer to use the English language because it is commercially viable and more people understand what you sing about. But is it always good? In Sweden, you say, almost everybody speaks quite well, but it is not always like that. For example in Russia not so much people speak well enough. Doesn't it affect the quality maybe?
A: I think you are completely right. Of course it is a bit of a double standard that I sit here and speak about chamber-pop and staying true to what you mean because to be 100 percent true I should sing in Swedish also. If you speak about literature, you can never get the same experience when it is translated, it doesn't work. I remember sitting with my manager, she is Russian, comparing Brodskiy poems. I was just reading in English and they were fantastic in English, but then we just went through one line at a time and each line had another depth in Russian. It felt so frustrating for me that I couldn't get this. But at the same time it was so wonderful that the language can hold these secrets. I mean now the Russian language is very impressive, it is so extremely poetic, you can't do that with English. I speak Swedish way better than English so maybe I could write an even better text in Swedish, I don't know. Maybe I speak the same, it was a long time since I spoke Swedish last. I should take it now as a dare, just make a Swedish album one day. And then I will send it to you and you will say: "This is better than your previous one."
R: But it wouldn't work with those people who don't speak Swedish then.
A: Maybe you sense this. It should be tried on a person who doesn't understand English or Swedish and then they would feel where emotions come from. I mean I like listening to Bjork's old band Sugarcubes singing in Icelandic. I don't understand anything, maybe 0.01 percent where there are similarities with Swedish but still I think I like that more because there are English versions as well. So it is very nice with native language of course.
R: Have you listened to any Russian music?
A: Yeah, I have listened to the Russian music. And the best I've heard is so many people's favourite band Auction. I think it is so good, such peculiar songs. I know they don't play anymore but I listened a lot just to random tracks and some of them are so strange. I found it very inspirational actually. And I wish I understood the lyrics because I heard that the one who write the lyrics writes very well, very poetic. But I don't know so many modern acts.
R: Are you interested in modern music? Not only Russian.
A: Yeah, a little bit. I mean some things you get just because you listened to it since you were young and if they still release albums you just take it in. But I would say that I'm more an old-timer junkie. Like music from the 20s and 30s and 40s. It's fantastic, I love that so much. Old choir music. But I mix it with The Doors. A good mix.
R: And what is more important in music? The music itself or lyrics? If it is possible to take it apart.
A: Of course both work. But both can also ruin the other. If the text is too bad, so cheesy, so corny then you can't listen to it even if it's a great melody. And the same goes for if the singer can't sing and the melody is not a melody at all then you don't really care what he or she says. I think there are not too many people who write really good lyrics these days. I wish people, songwriters focused more on that. Especially in commercial music. I think I would listen more to commercial music if the lyrics were great, I would be so surprised. If you heard a Coldplay song and then just : "Wow, this lyrics is insanely good, so poetic." Then I think I would see through. Because all this production you hear on the radio so much you get so tired of it, so something needs to stick out but then the lyrics aren't very good either. You should need something to listen to. Also you should need a few laps on your record player both for the song and the lyrics. Because it's like a poem, you don't get the poem when you read the first time, you need to read it over and over. That's how it should be with both melody and the lyrics. Then the music just lasts forever. I'm going to strive more for that, I'm actually doing it already. The new album will be way more poetic.
R: Are you the only person who writes lyrics?
A: Yeah, that's true, I'm the only one who does that. I do everything in this project. But sometimes it is nice to have some back-up from my strings because they have classical background. So, if I come with a new song and some really weird arrangement, they could go like: "I think we should try playing it a little bit like this because I think it's going to sound better." They are humble. And then they play like two different things and I hear it's better. Because sometimes you need to stick to the rules of arrangements, but at the same time its 50/50. If you break them you sometimes end up in a more interesting place.
R: Could you tell me a couple of word about people you play with?
A: My main band?
R: Yes, the main one.
A: They are such nice characters. My father actually told me once that they have so much energy. But they don't speak during the show or anything. They just stand there and flow with the music. They look very serious, so he referred to them as people working for a funeral home. They are dressed in suits and nice dresses, very serious faces and play so well. I like that because it makes the music very serious. And it is very serious. But at the same time they are such nice and fun people. When I speak between songs I can say anything about them and make very dark humour jokes about them. They appreciate that, they are really cool. They are real rock'n'roll. Even if we play chamber-pop, they're rock'n'roll. It's nice to see sometimes a violinist drinking a beer and then playing super well, it's a nice contrast. You don't see that in a symphony orchestra. But we can do that in a nightclub if we play chamber-pop. I think I could say a lot more about them, it's hard on the spot. People should come see a show and I will tell stories and point at them. They come from different backgrounds, all of them are schooled musicians. Two of them as music teachers: the bassist and the pianist. The others are in a string quartet, so they play all the time. So it was actually really hard to get them to come because they are booked so much. Even if they are my standard band, they work all the time and play with all the musicians in Sweden because there are not so many great string quartets. And especially not with the rock'n'roll ladies, so it's appealing.
R: I see. OK, partly we spoke about it but still. Maybe not how you see yourself in future but is there any idea how you would like to be?
A: As a musician with my music?
R: As a musician, yes.
A: Well, I don't think so much about the future with music. I used to do that before. And I think it is a good sign, because it means that I have found something that I believe in. Even more, it feels more timeless. When I played rock'n'roll music I felt as if I was getting a bit old with that and people couldn't take me seriously any more. But playing chamber-pop, Frank Sinatra could play that when he was 50, and it feels more timeless. So the only future plans or future thoughts is more how I will develop chamber-pop into something more interesting and I think that would be to just expand the orchestra a bit. Although I'm a drummer, that is my main instrument, I'm really against drums in this project. A lot of people constantly tell me that I should have drums. And I just scream: "No!" Instead I want to take in instruments that can have the same function but would be stringed. Woodwind would be fantastic, a clarinet or an old bow. Then the strings could be more and they could play more rhythmical and represent a drum kit. Because you can be really loud with an orchestra, even when we are just five we can be really loud. You don't need an electric guitar always. And the dynamics. I just love how dynamic you can be with a chamber ensemble. You can play so soft, it's not even possible with a normal rock'n'roll band. I think it's all broad there, so many things to do. Yeah, a bigger orchestra. Maybe it will be with a symphony orchestra one day, that would be fantastic. But then I have to train my mathematics so that I can arrange for a symphony orchestra. I think you need to be wise to do that. But it is possible, because I love math. And I am a math teacher.
R: And do you think that nowadays, especially nowadays, it is important for a musician to have some formal education in music? If you play with a string quartet I think you cannot do without it. But is it as important for modern music? And what is your opinion on this?
A: I'm a Beatles fan. Paul McCartney is the best example there. He is not educated at all and he wrote so many good songs. And still writes great songs. So, I don't think that you need that ever for modern music, maybe not for anything. But I still think it is a great strength with a classical background or just a schooled background as a musician. I'm very happy that my chamber orchestra is schooled. It's a good way to throw ideas back and forth. But I know that it wasn't for me to be schooled. I tried when I played the trumpet and that was all right, it fits to play the trumpet. But then with the drums I tried one lesson but I just hated it so much. I was much more innovative on my own. And now playing the piano it works much better if I just decide for myself what I'm doing. And I've received very nice compliments. Once I had a show in Berlin and there was one particular guy in the audience. He had so much energy and he was really looking intense, almost a bit intimidating. After the show he comes up and he tells me that he is a classical pianist. His name is Sasha Pushkin, which is very funny. I know that he is quite established but I don't know which level exactly. But he was so impressed how I played the piano. At first I didn't understand why or how because he is a classical pianist. And I saw clips of him after, he just plays insanely. And he was impressed with how I played. That's a nice compliment and then I understand that I should keep on doing what I'm doing because if he comes from that background and likes that then there is a good connection. Then both are needed for the music scene.
R: When you started with this band did you have any particular audience in mind? Or did you like the fact that absolutely different people may find something in your music?
A: I didn't think about it. I think whatever kind of music you play, you should be able to play it anywhere. But I guess it is very forgiving to play chamber-pop because that is easier to accept in a Swedish church and in a Swedish nightclub. You could get both there. But if you play rock'n'roll it is harder. I once had a rock'n'roll gig in a library in my hometown. That was odd. Never heard such loud noises in a library. Did I answer the question? I sort of lost it. What was the question? (laughs) I'm sorry.
R: Never mind.
A: Oh, I remember. If it was suited for… I didn't think about that but I like that. You can have a show where there are infants and senior citizens. It's very nice and both of them like it. Maybe I don't know how to be sure if they liked it. They didn't die, none of them died. (laughs) I like that. It feels more promising. If you have a crowd of just teenagers of course it is great, they are super in the audience. But if you only have them maybe that's not as good. Everyone has so many different stories they can tell you. If you meet a 60-year-old couple after a show they don't say the same things as a teenaged couple would say. It is nice to get this perspective after a show. I like it when you tour, in Russia it is very nice because people say deep things after a show. I think because it is a nation of great literature. Even If you are not a great reader you still have read a lot and you have this with you. You are not satisfied saying: "Good show!" You say much more. This is more common in Scandinavia, I would say, that you hear: "Oh, good show. Goodbye." So I appreciate it, that's fun when you travel around and people really want to tell: "This is what happened to me tonight when I heard your music. I remember this chapter in a book I read when I was 15." It's very nice.
R: Of course. But don't you get bored of touring? I mean physically.
A: Right now I'm a bit exhausted actually. I think it's very easy, maybe not for everyone… If you know when you are coming home and it really happens that you come home that day then you could withstand so much. But if something happens that it becomes prolonged then it can start to be rough because your mind is in one way very simple. If you know that you are coming home, say, in July and you just tour and everything goes as planned then you feel good when you come home. That's when you relax. But sometimes things become prolonged and you wish you were home then. But I really enjoy touring, it has been so much fun. This project is not so old, it is just three years, maybe a little more. And I've mainly been touring. I think this summer I will take it a bit easy. I will just have a few shows in Sweden and will work on my new material more intense. Because now I've been writing on stray pianos standing around on tour. It's not easy if someone comes and speaks to you, you want to be in a bubble.
R: Well, what can I say? Good luck with your music then and I wish you have place and time to do it. And thank you for this interview, it was very nice having you today.
A: Thank you for having me, it was great. And I need wishes of luck, all musicians need it.