By Franz Szony

Comin’ in Hot – An Interview with Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert is back with a brand new track COMIN IN HOT which will be followed, in September, by the released of SIDE A the first half of his upcoming album VELVET. COMIN IN HOT is also unveiling the second part of the short film supporting VELVET. We were one of the few to get the chance to listen to a preview of the album with Pop super start Adam Lambert himself. We took this occasion to talk about his career, his new sound, but also about queer culture in celebration of pride month.

KALTBLUT: It’s been 4 years since your last release. How excited are you about your new album, Velvet?
Adam Lambert: Oh my God, I feel like it’s been a baby incubating. I feel like a mother with triplets and I’m like “Get the f* out!” I’m excited. It feels very authentic. It took a while but the reason is that I wanted to make sure that everything felt real. I thought this is my lane and I wanted a project that felt very cohesive where everything fits together very nicely. And it does.

What’s so great about this project is that I’m much more in a creative control position, more than ever actually, and that feels good. I love New Eyes so much, it’s such a romantic song. It’s not necessarily the most obvious first single but who knows? We’re in an age where we’re like “I’m just putting music out, that I like and that’s what matters”. It was important for me to not get caught up in the game as much as I had in the past, the competition of music. I’ve had to compromise a lot with labels in the past so this time I’m getting to do what I want, which is great.

By Joseph Sinclair

KALTBLUT: Who did you work with on this album? Any collabs we should know about?
Adam: At first, when I started the project I was working with people that I knew socially, writers and friends in the business. There was one writer that I worked with on my previous album that I called up and we kinda took matters in our own hands a bit, which is nice because there was no pressure. I also worked with a guy named Tommy English, an amazing Grammy-nominated producer who worked with alternative artists like BØRNS and K.Flay. I remember hearing that Electric Love song and I was like who is this? This track is amazing, I fell in love with it. I remember a lightbulb going off in my head and I had to find who had made it, and I found Tommy. He’s amazing, he’s contributed two songs on this album, Superpower and Loverboy.

KALTBLUT: Why Velvet? What was the main inspiration for the title?
Adam: The word just popped into my head, and I was like yeah that’s it! It reminds me of soft and nostalgic and kind of classic and glam and luxury. It’s also name-checked in a bunch of different things like Velvet Rage, Velvet Goldmine, which is my favourite movie, the Velvet Underground. I just liked the word. It made sense to me. The songs are smooth, there’s a smoothness in this album, it’s a little more soulful than I have been in the past so Velvet just fit.

KALTBLUT: I heard that you fell in love during the making of the album…
Adam: Yeah, I’m in a relationship. And that’s why I picked New Eyes as my first single because this is where I’m at right now. I’m in love, and I met somebody that makes me see things differently, which gives me a new perspective and new energy.

KALTBLUT: Do you think that the fact that you met this person during the creative process influenced the outcome of the album?
Adam: No, to be fair, New Eyes was already there before I met that person! But it just made sense, and it’s put me in a good headspace. I moved, bought a new house, started a new relationship, made a new album. It all feels like a nice clean slate, a new chapter.

KALTBLUT: Do you have one or two songs off of your new album that stands out for you and if so, why?
Adam: Superpower, which is coming out in September is definitely a key track. It’s different and doesn’t sound like a lot of other things. It’s like a rebellious, empowerment anthem. Addressing “something is wrong, I’m not in my power, and you know what, f* it! I’m not gonna be held back, I’m gonna take it back and find my superpower.” I think it’s such a powerful message. The world right now is a little bit sideways in some ways, people are fighting to be seen and heard and I feel that that song applies to a lot of that. And it makes you want to dance!

I was really inspired by a lot of alternative music like LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk, French house stuff, disco, funk. I love all that music, always have. And that’s sort of where Superpower lives.

KALTBLUT: Can we talk about On The Moon?
Adam: The sexy, slow jam, yeah! Such a vibe! It’s a style that I had never tapped into before. I kind of stumbled on it, and I got set up on a writing day with this young producer and he played me just the instrumental and I thought it was really cool. Then he came up with a melody and it happened organically. A friend of mine, Sam Sparro, co-wrote that track. I’ve known him for years, we collaborated before and it was fun to do another song together.

KALTBLUT: At times I almost couldn’t tell if you were the one singing. How did you train your voice for this album?
Adam: In the past I tended to sing full voice, just belt it out. On this album, I wanted to explore my falsetto which is the breathy, high voice, the head voice. A lot of times I just go for it. It was a nice experiment to get into that other part of my voice that I haven’t used that much in the past. The falsetto is a nice thing to record, it’s soft, it’s more inviting.

KALTBLUT: What’s your creative process for a song regarding your voice. Do you start with the lyrics and immediately know whether you’re going to go deep or low?
Adam: Every song comes together differently. It depends on the vibe. They’re all done in the studio. A producer plays a chord progression or a beat, there’s usually another writer there and we’ll just start freestyling over the instrumentation. And sometimes words just kind of come organically… you throw the ball back and forth and write a song. It’s hard to explain, it just kind of happens!

KALTBLUT: Let’s talk about fashion. You have a very strong sense of style. What’s your inspiration, who makes your outfits?
Adam: I love clothes. I have a shopping addiction actually. And now with online shopping, it’s way too easy, it’s so dangerous! I’ve been really inspired by Gucci’s whole world over the past couple of years. He’s a visionary. And I love that it’s playful and whimsical and weird and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I really identify with the way that he puts clothes together, it feels like the sound of this album, like the place I’m at emotionally: I want to have fun! I put out a preview track called Feel Something, which is super emotional, very honest and serious but New Eyes is dreamy and romantic, and Superpower is fun and danceable… I really like to be able to offer people escapism as an artist. I like people streaming a song or coming to a concert and getting a little escape from regular life, a little vacation.

KALTBLUT: Speaking about dancing, the choreography has always been a part of your identity as an artist. Can we expect some of that on Velvet?
Adam: I don’t know yet, I haven’t figured it out. But Superpower kinda begs for some steps. I haven’t gotten there yet, but soon!

KALTBLUT: You’ve been touring with Queen for a while now, how did this experience influence you as an artist?
Adam: Osmosis, you know. It kind of rubs off on you. Brian and Roger are so wise and they’ve had so much experience. They’ve done it all! So just being around them and talking to them, hearing stories and getting advice has been very important. Being on stage with them and performing songs that everyone knows, people are singing along and have memories associated with the songs from when they were younger or maybe they brought their children or grandkids and there are multiple generations there; it’s so cool to look out in the audience and see all the different types of people. And now with the success of the movie, it’s gonna be an even more diverse audience, which is very exciting. If Brian and Roger feel like they want to go out there and perform, I’m down!

KALTBLUT: This June is Pride Month which is celebrated all over the world, and this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. These days with Trump and the anti-gay rhetoric getting attention in the media, do you feel it is important for you as an openly queer artist to raise your voice?
Adam: It definitely is. I’ve tried over the past ten years to lead by example and not make any apologies or not shy away from being exactly who I am. I’ve gotten involved with different causes like the Trevor Project, Project Angel Food… it’s very important to lend your celebrity and platform to these organizations. I love where we’re at as a community right now, there’s so much diversity, we’re blowing out all these labels. The trans visibility is incredible right now, gender fluidity… all these new conversations, it seems that people are really taking the time to understand that everyone is different and has their own situation and identity. It’s a really interesting time.

KALTBLUT: A New York monument will finally honour the legacy of transgender activists and icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Who were your queer role models growing up and why?
Adam: When I was a teenager I was watching Will & Grace, usually with my family, and Sean Hayes, the actor who plays Jack was so brilliant and funny. And they were talking about everything, it was all out in the open. It was a comedy but they were addressing gay issues and lifestyles. I remember my family being really receptive to the show and I think in my mind I was like “it’s gonna be OK.” I was not out yet, but when I came out in my mind I was like they’re not offended by it, they don’t think it’s weird, so for me, it was a way to kind of ease into it. So the show was big for me. I met Sean recently and he’s such a lovely guy. It was a weird full circle.

As I got a little older, once I came out and explored the world of rock’n roll, I discovered people like Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Boy George, George Michael… all these male artists that I could relate to, as a singer and a performer…

I was also in the theatre world for a long time, auditioning, but even that was difficult because I was auditioning for the straight, young, romantic guy that was with the girl, I always felt uncomfortable, like a fraud. So discovering male pop and rock musicians that were alternative with their sexuality or gender expression meant a lot to me. If they did it, then I could do it too. It was very inspiring.

KALTBLUT: And now, you kind of are a queer icon…
Adam: What I love is that I’ve met fans and people who have come out to me and told me that because I was on American Idol they were able to have a conversation with their parents. To be able to pass the buck and for it to come back around the way it did for me with someone like Sean Hayes, is really cool. And those are the kinds of conversations and the kinds of people that make you realize that it is bigger than you. It’s not just about how much money I made this year, it’s the impact.

It’s interesting too because ten years ago when I came on the scene it was tough. At the time in America, there were no mainstream artists who were openly gay, so it was a bit of uncharted territory. I had good support but there were a lot of people on the business side of things who didn’t know what to do. They were afraid because they didn’t want to put their necks on the line. So you look at where we’re at now and you have all these other artists who are queer and out and commercially successful like Sam Smith or Troye Sivan…

KALTBLUT: And when you did that AMA performance and received some backlash because of it, you had to explain in interviews that if a female pop artist is provocative on stage it’s OK but if a guy is, suddenly it’s frowned upon…
Double standards always frustrate me. It’s fine, you can’t control people’s preferences, an audience is gonna like what they like, whether it’s fair or not but to have executives slapping you on the wrist, that’s just not fair.

KALTBLUT: Did you ever experience homophobia and how did you deal with it?
Adam: There’s always some underlying homophobia somewhere. I try to ignore it as best as I can. I do think I was lucky, I was raised in a very supportive family that allowed me to express myself however I wanted. Then going into the theatre world in Southern California which was a pretty safe space, I didn’t deal with a lot of things that my friends have had to deal with. And maybe that’s why this has worked out for me because I’ve been able to move forward without that trauma. So leading by example is easier for me. But I hear stories all the time from people I know and from people I don’t know and it’s heartbreaking. Whether it’s their families not accepting them or bullies or their church, it’s hard.

KALTBLUT: I know you’ve lived in Berlin before, what’s your favourite thing about the city?
Adam: Yes, I did live in Berlin a long time ago, in 2003. I just loved the attitude here, it’s so open and progressive. In 2003 especially, I was a bit innocent, I experienced some things too, I went to KitKatKlub for the first time, bars. It was an eye-opener. It was cool because I felt that in Berlin I could be anything I wanted to be, maybe even more so than in Southern California. California is progressive and liberal but because L.A. is an entertainment city, people box themselves into a look in order to get work so there’s not as much expression happening, it’s more about trying to please the powers that be. And when you come to Berlin, people are doing exactly what they want to do, so I was really inspired by that.

KALTBLUT: There is going to be a Velvet world tour, right?
That’s the goal! Yeah, we’ll be back. Nothing’s in stone yet, but it’s being talked about for sure!

Interview by Nicolas Simoneau, Marcel Schlutt and Bénédicte Lelong.

Instagram: @adamlambert