AN ENLIGHTENING CONVERSATION
“Only a few people want to be great anymore, everybody kind of just wants to fit in or get on, nobody wants to change the game.”
PABLO (HIGHLARK): First thing’s first… is there a significance behind your name?
ADRIAN DANIEL: I don’t know the significance, I know I was named after a basketball player Adrian Dantley. My dad named me after him because he used to play basketball, college ball. That’s why he named me that.
PABLO: Also your favorite color [for the interview].
ADRIAN: Red, red is my favorite color… I always liked it because all of the superheroes back in the day wore red, all the ones I liked. Superman, the red Power Ranger, The Flash… all of them.
PABLO: At least you aren’t like my brother, his favorite is Green because of Blues Clues. I was like “Really? There isn’t any stronger influence in your life?” Not even Blue the dog, he liked the color of this guy’s sweater.
PABLO: How did you get your start in music?
ADRIAN: I was always into music since I was a kid. My godfather and my mother got me listening to a lot of stuff. My godfather was a great jazz musician so he got me into playing the xylophone because he played the xylophone. My mom listened to everything. She listened to Queen, Prince, Michael (Jackson), Journey, Sade all that. Early on that’s what I was hearing. That’s what I listened to all the time growing up. And as I got older it was Maxwell, D’Angelo those kinds of guys. My brother was the one that told me I should take music seriously. I liked music but it was really for fun, I never thought about it like that but he said I should give it a try and I sucked, (laughs) but I got better over time.
PABLO: Honestly, you see that a lot. Maybe it’s not necessarily that everybody sucks at first, but maybe that you have to find your voice?
ADRIAN: Yea, you have to find your own, whatever works for you, how you want to sound and how you want to talk. You know, we want to mimic what we first hear and sometimes we can’t do what they do, we have to do what we do, so finding that out was a process. Once I did, it kind of fell into place for me.
PABLO: What do you think is missing in music now?
ADRIAN: I don’t think it’s missing things, I think it just needs people to push it. I think music’s gotten too simple with it. People aren’t trying that hard, then people’s expectations aren’t as high. People always ask why people aren’t buying records, people buy records they want to buy, they feel it’s worth me spending my money on, they aren’t gonna buy something that you say “Oh I could make that in my bedroom, I’m not gonna buy that.” People are gonna spend money on artists that put in the work, artists that want to be great. I think that’s what it is. Only a few people want to be great anymore, everybody kind of just wants to fit in or get on, nobody wants to change the game.
PABLO: Well, I think you are well on your way.
ADRIAN: Thanks man. I’m trying to push this Soul, R&B music or whatever they want to call it. I’m trying to push this as much as I can. Give a new take, especially being from Brooklyn, I’m trying to bring a sound back to New York, for Brooklyn as far as a male singer. We haven’t had a big one since Maxwell, so Brooklyn needs one.
PABLO: You’re from Brooklyn as you said. What part?
ADRIAN: East Flatbush/Brownsville.
PABLO: Do you think where you’re from molded you into the kind of musician/artist that you are?
ADRIAN: Absolutely, me being from Brooklyn has this duality to it. It’s so great there’s so much culture, it’s like a melting pot of everything. All types of people, culture, art. You can go downtown, or hop on the train and go to Harlem, but also has it’s dangerous side, it can beat you down, literally, but it also makes you tough, so when you want to be brave and do something that might be nerve-wracking, you’re not afraid to because Brooklyn’s already tested you. I love Brooklyn. It’s definitely shaped who I am as an artist and a person.
PABLO: It does require some bravery to put yourself out there and ask people to “feel you.”
ADRIAN: Yea, they can say no too. There’s definitely a brave aspect to it. You need pure determination. People like Kanye, no one thought he could be a rapper. People said “No, it isn’t gonna happen for you.” Then it happened, because he’s persistent. People will notice your persistence, especially when you’re good. It’s undeniable. Sometimes you have to take another route to get there but what is undeniable, it’s undeniable and you can’t stop it no matter what you do. I just believe you need to be determined and be understanding of people. I think as an artist you have to always remember that the listener is the most important person. What we do as artists is important, to create, but we’re making it for them. I look at songs like nursery rhymes, everybody knows nursery rhymes because those are the songs you want to sing to your kids or whatever, and that’s how we should look at songs. I want people around the world to sing this, or to rap this, so we should be mindful of that. We can be as artistic as we want, but if people don’t want to say it or feel that or relate to that, who are we making it for? We make it for ourselves but we also make it for people because art is for people. To inspire people, to make people feel good, to get them into their feelings or whatever. I feel like that’s the most important thing, knowing that relationship between art and people. We do it for a living, we are instruments. I feel that art is an instrument of God, they are meant to relay feelings they don’t want to talk about, so they can address it and embrace it and deal with it and move past it.
“I always try to do some things to make myself better at what I do. I can attest to determination or persistence.”
PABLO: Do you believe you are talented or gifted?
ADRIAN: [puzzled] Dang that’s a good question! I don’t think I know. I think it’s a gift from God and I might just have talent. I can say I work hard at it. If I set my mind on something I’m never satisfied with being OK. So as a singer, a musician, a writer, I’m always trying to push myself to be better. I have this thing where every beginning of the year I try to learn something new to make my craft better. Whether it’s taking guitar lessons, learning the law or better song-writing skills. I always try to do some things to make myself better at what I do. I can attest to determination or persistence. Whether it’s a gift or talent, I know I have to work hard to master it. I’m still trying to master it, I’m still looking to get there.
PABLO: Did you grow up playing instruments?
ADRIAN: Nah. Well, I know how to play the xylophone and a little harmonica but nah. I was a dancer. I love to dance, it kept me out of trouble. I was a street dancer and I joined a dance club. Danced all the time, to relieve stress. Then I started taking music seriously when I was about 18, I picked up a guitar at 17 and been playing the guitar ever since.
PABLO: I know in school I played drums, were there any programs in your school for the arts?
ADRIAN: Nah, well my mom put me in piano lessons when I was a kid but I got bored of that real quick. I wanted to run outside with the thugs. I didn’t have an interest in music back then. I was really to myself growing up, I went to Boys and Girls High School, which you could consider a poor school, but I think they had programs. I never went to music class, it was first period (laughs). I was really unfocused when I was younger. Then it got to a point that where I wanted to be better. Even though I was teaching dance at 17 and I was a high school teacher at 18. When I was focused on what I liked to do, I excelled at it, but when I didn’t care about it, I didn’t care. I think it was better for me, it gave me my own way of thinking about hearing music, approaching music.
PABLO: I was gonna ask about adversity, when it comes to people discouraging you?
ADRIAN: I got all of that, I had to make my family believe it. I had to prove that to them. When I decided to do music, no one thought I could. No one believed in me, my brother was the only person that said “You could do this.” I got that a lot, but for me I never really cared. I knew what I was gonna do, even when I went to college I said “Nah I’m gonna apply to one school and I’m gonna get in.” And I got in, and I got a scholarship! That’s how I was, I didn’t really care what you would say, I knew if I was gonna do it, I was gonna do it.
PABLO: A good mindset for an artist to have.
ADRIAN: I left after a year. I went there for one reason, to meet people that did what I did.
PABLO: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
ADRIAN: Yea. One thing college did teach me is that you never realize how much math and science went into music. There is a math and a science to it. Like dbs, you never realize that until you get into it. I went to take the audio engineer classes because I wanted to be better at something I didn’t know how to do at all.
PABLO: Is there a formula?
ADRIAN: Yea there’s definitely a mathematical formula, so you can make sure that it’s not peaking and all that, so it sounds good in your ears when you play it back.
PABLO: I know you did a project with LO that were on your album Disillusions, how did you link with LO?
ADRIAN: Yea from Germany. He would send me beats and I would make whole songs to them. Now it’s an actual work relationship. When I was making the project with LO I was already working on Disillusions. I already had the idea to put them on Disillusions, but LO wanted them to go out so we made an EP (Fkkking High EP), to keep people happy.
PABLO: As long as you ‘keeep’ the people happy! The fact that you can link with people from Germany from a website is amazing. What does ‘Disillusions’ mean to you?
ADRIAN: It was basically my reality. I feel that we live in a world where everything is perceived to be good, supposed to be good, but it isn’t all good. From when I was a kid, that’s what it was when I turn on the TV. It’s supposed to be entertaining, you turn on the news it’s so much death, or so much Donald Trump, that’s what you see. The internet, it’s so innovative but people are being cyber-bullied and killing themselves, getting low self-esteem from the internet. People can’t communicate because all they know how to do is be indirect (talk, text). That was my reality when I walk outside. A façade. That was me telling that story.
PABLO: Tell us about the interludes on the album? “To be Frank with you,” “Dang, Adrian,” “I can Write Songs Too” and “Normal Faces are Weird Too.”
ADRIAN: Three of those are from a movie, Frank I saw in 2014 and it was such a great movie. It was so honest. This guy wore a giant mask, he didn’t show his face, he let his art speak for him. It just spoke to me for the album but you didn’t know his reality. He had a disability and he ran away from home, but when he put that mask on he was an entirely different person. To me that was ‘Disillusions.’
PABLO: Do you watch Anime or TV?
ADRIAN: (instantly) Anime. Anime and Movies since I was 7 (laughs). Yea. First one was DBZ (Dragonball Z), then Ronin Warriors. All of the ones on American television. Attack on Titan, Black Butler, this new one called Onepunch-man. It’s so great! It’s straight to the point.
PABLO: I was on that (Onepunch-man) when it came out. Such an unassuming guy (the main character). He’s just some guy who worked out too much and lost his hair, and on the low he’s the strongest guy and it’s almost infuriating because he defeats [the villains] and he’s a low-class hero that lives in an apartment while these whack guys are famous.
ADRIAN: But that’s the reality though, the greatest people don’t get the most respect. I thought that was so genius. Anime is definitely a part of my culture now. I learned so many things from Anime. It teaches you just as much as it entertains you. There’s so much depth, very spiritual at times.
PABLO: Music or musician that you listen to that people around you would be shocked to know you listen to?
ADRIAN: They aren’t shocked, they are just like “Whatever Adrian.” This is funny, I liked N’SYNC back in the day. I have the cassette tape of “Bye Bye Bye” (laughs).
PABLO: If “Tearing up my Heart” comes on, I’ll sing it super loud. I know all the words too.
ADRIAN: Yea it was real. But in my neighborhood they were like “Whoa, what? Get out of here with that!”
PABLO: Well people are too concerned with what’s around them.
ADRIAN: Yea I never cared.
PABLO: Anything we can plug for you?
ADRIAN: We are planning shows, people have been reaching out. We are actually planning a tour.
PABLO: Sounds good, thanks Adrian!
ADRIAN: Thank you for talking to me, I appreciate it!