Behind his thick-rimmed glasses, Adam Walder has become something of an icon in the dance music world. With a byline reading “mostly harmless,” this Brit better known as Funkagenda is an artist who marches to the beat of his own 808s. He’s a visionary who follows his own path, harnesses his own sound, and refuses to care what other people think.
With distinctions under his belt like DJ Mag’s Best Breakthrough Artist, Best Ibiza Track, and a Grammy nomination, it’s easy to see why Walder has garnered a global following of passionate followers. And yet, it isn’t his accolades that speak to his talent; it’s his music, and the accompanying unmistakable passion that leaves a mark on listeners worldwide. Citing his recent work as a return to his roots, Walder’s fervor for melodic riffs and grooves is evident, and his sound is fresh and distinct.
On the heels of delivering a chilling Group Therapy guest mix and in anticipation of releasing his new single “One Day at a Time,” Funkagenda arrived in Miami ready to showcase the essence of his current sound. We caught up with Adam to discuss the story behind his new track, the state of the music scene, and the trajectory that his career is taking. His openness, humility, and candid disposition shone through in every realm, adding to the ever-growing list of reasons to respect him as an artist unlike anyone else in the music scene today.
There’s been a lot of buzz about your new single “One Day At A Time.” Can you talk a bit about this track and what it means to you?
It’s actually a very personal record to me. As I’m sure everyone saw, about a year and a half ago I started having some personal issues. I was an alcoholic when I was younger, and I quit, I was like five years sober, but I had a lot of upheaval in my personal life. When I moved out to the states, a combination of being away from my family plus all the changes that were happening in the music industry, I began to doubt myself and where I was, and it lead me to go back to drinking for comfort. It was a really difficult time and I started seeing a counselor about it. And then literally there’s a moment – whether you’re an alcoholic or a drug addict – there’s a moment that comes when you know with complete certainty that you’re never going to go back to the thing you were doing. So with me there was a moment that came when I just realized to myself, I’m not going to drink again. And literally the day after that, I wrote “One Day At A Time.”
I think it kinda shows through, it’s supposed to have a very positive feeling. It starts with a moody intro, and then it moves to being very uplifting. It encompasses that progression and I think the whole record has that feeling. I’ve had a lot people who have sent me messages through Twitter and Facebook saying “I’m a recovering alcoholic, or a recovering drug addict, and I’ve been two years sober now and I just want to say your record really touched me.” And to me, the fact that it’s touched people in similar situations, that means the most.
For as much passion as there is in the music community, there can be backlash from fans if an artist follows a different path. Was that a factor in your progression?
In this day and age you can’t do anything without getting a negative response. Everyone has an opinion and for every ten people that think what you’re doing is worthwhile, there’s one person that suddenly wants to set fire to your house or murder your pets. I mean, these are the pitfalls that come along with doing the job that we do. It’s fabulous, the fact that people like myself are lucky enough to travel around the world and see and experience all these great things, and do the thing we love to do. But, you know, lots of people don’t realize that there’s a side that comes with it that’s very negative. You get very personal attacks over something, it’s like a labor of love.
I’ve only ever wanted to make music; from the age of 13 it’s all I’ve ever done. So even when you’re making music and you’re doing well, you constantly have people not just saying – “oh I’m not into that, I don’t like your music” – but people who are saying literally, “you fucking suck, you’re a fucking sell out, fuck you.” You get attacked on a daily basis, and it can really drag you down. But once you get past that and you have 100% faith in what you’re doing, it just slides off. I think in any art form, if you’re not pissing people off then you’re not doing it properly. It’s like Kraft mac and cheese; who the fuck doesn’t like Kraft mac and cheese? It’s great, but it’s not art, you know? You always want to stir up emotions, even if those emotions are negative.
You’re releasing your newest single on Armada, and you recently blew fans away with your guest mix on Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy. Do you think you’re branching more into trance these days?
It’s interesting, over the past twelve months I’ve found myself playing a lot more trance and progressive material, and for a few reasons. Everything these days has become EDM. House, dubstep, electro, all of it is turning into one thing. And as a DJ you have to be able to go into a club where people play that kind of music, and you have to get the crowd fired up playing music that they think that they recognize, but you don’t necessarily want to play the same hits that everyone else has been playing.
There are really great trance producers out there, people like Ilan Bluestone, Maor Levi, people who are making really good big room music that is not the same sort of EDM that everyone’s getting this boom from, and I found myself drifting towards that style. So yeah, I mean it’s kinda funny because a lot of people have listened to the Group Therapy guest mix and have gone “oh wow, he’s gone progressive or trance,” but in actuality I’ve been playing that forever. That’s always been my sound but it’s just been more housey here, or more progressive there. I’ve always had records that have good grooves and good riffs with them, so I like to the think of it as more of a return to my roots.
How did you get started making music when you were younger?
I’d always been interested in music, and my dad and granddad were both musicians so I have always been brought up around good music. I remember once I was at my granddads house and he was working on some backing tracks, and I had been watching him play so when he went off to the bathroom I started playing the notes. He came out and was like “wow, was that you? You should start playing.” So that Christmas he got me a keyboard and the next thing I knew that was just it, I was completely immersed in it. And I’d always loved making the whole record, you know, I didn’t just want to be a player of one part, I wanted to be able to do a complete finished version all by myself. So I started to learn other instruments, that was my goal, and then the great thing was once I got into electronic music, it’s like, well this is all made by one person on one set of equipment. It was a marriage made in heaven.
Technology has come so far over the years. Production-wise, what do you think you’ll be able to do 5 years from now that you can’t currently do?
It’s scary because there are things happening now in technology that I never thought would be possible. A couple years ago I saw a review of a piece of software that can literally extract instrument parts from a complete record. As far as we always knew, that was going to be impossible – the record is finished, it’s mixed down, it sounds like what it is – and then there was something that could do it. I recently discovered this section of Ableton which I never really used, but it converts audio to MIDI. So basically I can sing a melody into the microphone and it will turn it into something where I can have those notes played on a synthesizer. So when I come up with an idea for a riff on the road, I can just plug the microphone into it and sing the riff and it converts it to MIDI notes. If this were a couple of years ago I’d say it would be great if we could have this or that, but technology is advancing so fast I’m terrified to think what we will have in five years time.
interview courtesy of Headline Miami http://www.headlinemiami.com/funkagenda-interview/