The first time I listened to VOLA, I immediately noticed the drums. I was impressed with the drummer’s diverse sonic palate- deft, clever rhythms that, while complex, always managed to compliment the music. VOLA’s drummer, Adam Janzi, has been very intentional about standing out and creating a unique voice in a time when that is more difficult than ever. Whether that means using nonconventional drum setups or integrating technology into his playing, he accomplishes this incredible feat, while still serving the song and not drowning anyone out. This, to me, is the mark of a true musician!
I had the honor of chatting with Adam, who has been very busy with collaborations, drum play throughs, and an all new VOLA album (Witness, out May 21st, 2021). We talked about how he started playing drums, how he composes drum parts, his unique drum and percussion covers, his session work and drum instruction, and more.
How did you get into playing drums? Was that your first instrument?
I had a keyboard at home before I played music, but the first instrument that I picked up was guitar. It didn’t take long until I quit though. Guitar just wasn’t for me. Then one day, we had a chance to try drums at school when I was a kid, as we learned the basic 4/4 groove. The class ended before I had the chance to try it out on the drumkit though.
Since I was a bit bummed out about it, I told my friend who basically said that he didn’t think I could play drums since it was too difficult. That made me even more determined to play drums, and since then I haven’t stopped drumming!
Who were some of the drummers that most influenced you and your style?
A few drummers that really inspired me and that have left a big impact on me and my style are David Silveria (ex Korn), Terry Bozzio & Lars Ulrich (Metallica).
One thing I love about your drumming is that you don’t shy away from unusual setups (such as having two floor toms as opposed to rack toms), and you also are quite creative with your utilization of electronic sounds. What do you feel leads you to experiment with different, less conventional ways to play?
Thank you! I just like the idea of limiting yourself to odd choices to explore new creative ideas. Sometimes the usual and the expected choices are enough, but other times I like to force myself into (to me) unknown territory to find new and exciting ideas.
VOLA will be releasing a new album soon, called Witness. Tell us about the album. In what ways is this new album different from Applause of a Distant Crowd?
Witness is quite different from our previous albums in a few ways. It includes our first ever featuring from another artist (the american rapper Shahmen who is featured on the song ‘These Black Claws’). It’s also the first album where we have someone from outside the band who mixes the album. Previously it’s our vocalist Asger Mygind who has mixed our albums, this time we chose to work with the amazing Jacob Hansen for the mix & master.
Stylistically, this album feels more modern than anything we’ve done before. It also includes some of the heaviest songs that we’ve ever written and the overall themes of Witness dive into darker subjects throughout the whole album.
Tell me about the music writing process within the band, and how you come up with drum parts that fit the song and vibe.
The writing process within the band is very relaxed. Since I live in Sweden and the rest of the guys live in Denmark, we write mostly online by recording ideas and sending them to each other.
Most songs have a basis which I expand upon, where I try to add my drums without removing from the essence of the song. I basically think about what the message and the emotion of the song is, and then try to enhance that or add to it.
Sometimes though, ideas for songs start with a drum groove of mine, which is the case when it comes to the new song ’24 Light-Years’. In that case, I recorded the drum groove and sent the idea to the guys, and then everyone added their own thing to it.
What are some of your favorite VOLA songs to play, and why?
It’s hard to pick a favorite song to play since they’re all fun in their own ways. But if I had to pick a few, I’d say ’24 Light-Years’ & ‘Ruby Pool’ because of their flow and their combination of complexity and calmness/flow, ‘Whaler’ for its intensity and energy and ‘Inside Your Fur’ just because I love how it grooves.
Apart from VOLA, you also are the drummer for pop singer Dotter. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned drumming for pop music that you’ve pulled to progressive metal, and vice versa?
Yes, that is correct! Dotter and the musicians that usually play with her are awesome, and I’m happy to be part of that circle. Something which has been really reinforced in me through my experiences with playing live with Dotter, is the sharpness which is expected of you when you play live on radio/TV for example, and to adapt to different situations and settings. Sometimes you need to adapt on the spot, and that can be quite difficult when you have your habits. For example, I played a christmas-show on radio with Dotter in December, where I spontaneously had to play a few christmas-songs with brushes (which I’ve never done before). So I basically had to figure that out on the spot.
I’ve also seen how what I play with Dotter is similar to what I play with VOLA, in the sense that it’s basically supposed to serve the song and be one piece of the puzzle.
Together with Heli Andrea, lead vocalist of French prog metal band Mobius, you’ve released a series of videos called Odd Covers where you play unique arrangements of various songs you both enjoy. Tell us about how these videos came to be, and what the remote recording process is like.
Odd Covers is a very spontaneous and fun project that me and Heli Andrea have together. We basically started it as a fun thing, where we had some ideas to make covers of songs based on our shared love for world music and certain metal songs. Heli is an amazing vocalist so I had no doubts about working with her. These covers are created by us simply choosing a song we like and that we think could be cool in our own interpretation.
For the most part, I create the instrumental and Heli adds her vocals on top of it. We communicate in order to know which instruments she should imitate with her voice as well. We’ve been able to meet up to compose & record together in the same room sometimes, and other times we do it remotely. It’s not too difficult to do it remotely either. It just requires communication and planning.
Speaking of remote playing- you are also a drum teacher. What would you say are some of the most important things for drummers to know or remember if they’re trying to make it these days?
First, people need to define to themselves what “making it” means to them. Is it money? Reaching certain goals in terms of skills? Recognition? Experience? Etc.
Once you know exactly what you’re going for, it’s easier to make a plan to reach your goal. However, something which I think all drummers should know if they wish to play music with other people is how to be a piece of the puzzle and not the full puzzle itself. It’s a natural thing to feel like all the eyes are on us when we are on stage for the first time, or when we play drums in front of people in general, even when people just listen to your music. This can be frightening at first but it can easily turn into this thing where everyone wants to try to “steal the show”.
You are there in conversation with your fellow musicians on stage/in the studio etc. Don’t forget that all of you are creating a body of art together. The drums aren’t more or less important than the other instruments, and in order for the full artistic experience to be delivered properly to the listener, all parts have to be in place. I like to imagine it as a conversation. If all people talk over each other, then nothing is understood or gained. And if only one person talks, then it’s not a conversation and not an exchange. If the people listen to each other and respond accordingly, then it’s a conversation which might lead them all to a new place. Proudly being a piece of the puzzle and serving the bigger picture is very satisfying as a musician, in my opinion.
What are some of your favorite looking kits from rock history? Any that make you drool?
Haha, good question! To be honest, there actually isn’t a specific kit which makes me drool. However, I’d love to have a go at the kit of Terry Bozzio.
What fictional character do you most relate with?
That’s hard to say. I’m kind of a sponge, so I’d say that I usually relate with whatever character I’m currently diving into. I have to say though, that certain parts of the character of Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood) definitely sit well with me, haha.
What might be the most surprising song or album in your regular rotation?
Probably something like ‘Girls Chase Boys’ by Ingrid Michaelson.
Thanks so much, Adam! VOLA’s new album, Witness, will be coming out next week! Pre-order it here.
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