Taken from Forbes (June 07, 2019)
Who I Am: Adam Lambert On Bowie, Burning Man, Gaga, Queen, The Who And More
by Steve Baltin
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Adam Lambert performs onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Before he began touring the world with rock gods Queen, Adam Lambert had a successful solo career in his own right. Now after devoting himself entirely to Queen the last few years, Lambert is ready to return to the solo scene as well.
"I definitely feel like there are different sides to me as an artist and I am lucky enough to have the platform with Queen as a way to showcase what I do and my solo stuff as another part," he says.
So while he is on tour with Queen this summer, Lambert recently released "New Eyes," his first new solo track in four years. The song is from the upcoming album Velvet, which will come out sometime this year.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable talk with Lambert for my Who I Am column, where he took me through the many diverse influences, from David Bowie and Rocky Horror Picture Show to Lady Gaga, Burning Man and the full-circle moment of opening the Oscars this year with Queen.
David Bowie, Diamond Dogs (Age 10)
My father playing this record was a big pivotal moment of me going, "Wait! What the f**k?" He pulled the album out of his collection and just the cover of Bowie, half-dog, half-man, sultry and androgynous, that visual, to me, I remember being like, "What is that?! Who is that?" "Future Legend" is the first track on that and it scared the s**t out of us, my brother and I. We were sitting there together. It was scary and eerie and I was such a Halloween fan as a kid, I was always playing dress up and I loved dressing up as scary monsters and things. So, to me, it felt like Halloween. It was my first time really understanding what a subversive rock star was. The thing that made Bowie so special is obviously his amazing songs, but also his visual presentation was like nothing else at the time. And he definitely carved out his own lane that way. So whenever I take a risk either sonically or visually I definitely think of artists like Bowie, who paved the way for that type of expression.
Being In Hair The Musical (Age 20)
All of a sudden it kick started this fascination of the late '60s for me and diving into all the music of that time, the Haight-Ashbury scene and all that. My dad had a lot of that music playing around the house, but it was a full-circle thing for me to go back and research it and research that whole movement. And then doing the actual show, the themes of that musical are the hippie code. It was like free love, that communal sensibility and that's how we lived as a troupe of American actors in Germany, most of us pretty young. And it was a time of firsts for me. I was experimenting with everything and that was my version of a college experience, going off abroad to do that show. We all got cast over here, but it was a tour of Germany. So we spent two months in Berlin, a month in Munich. It was like a six-month period and it was really pivotal to me because it was my first time living in Europe, which, and Germany in particular, is so progressive. So, for me, being an American going there my friends commented when I came back, "There's something different, you really feel more comfortable in your own skin." And I do think that experience led me to a lot of self discovery and inspired me to express myself more. And there are some great songs in that musical. So singing that every night was transformative. I'm an Aquarius and I remember thinking singing "Age Of Aquarius," "This is my theme song" (cracks up).
Prince "Kiss" (Age 14)
It stopped me dead in my tracks. There's something so special about that record. It's the coolest record of the '80s in my opinion. It's just so funky, so sparse and even the lyrics, like, "You don't have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude." It's just brilliant, it's a brilliant song. I love the past, I love the classics. And I think that they are considered classics for a reason and songs like "Kiss" have influenced a ton of tracks, from people being inspired by it. And I like going back to the old stuff. I think it's iconic for a reason. I suppose that's part of my love affair with the past is I like learning things that aren't force fed to me. And in today's age there is so much information and there's so much we're being told to like and there's some freedom and liberation going back and rediscovering something that was liked many years ago and figuring out why.
Velvet Goldmine (Age mid-20s)
I saw that movie. it came out in 1998 and I saw the movie when I was in my mid-20s. I remember sitting there watching it and after it was over, I thought, "That, to me, in one film encapsulates everything I love about rock and roll." Just the idea of it, the expression of it, the drama of it, the romance. It's like a love letter to glam and that era. And I knew that I was really drawn to that era of music and that movie just sort of cemented it for me. To this day it's one of my favorite movies. I f**king love it. It's one of the few movies that I have watched repeatedly. And I'm not one to watch a movie more than once actually. I love the actors in it. The cast is nuts. Toni Collette, Christian Bale, Ewan McGregor, Eddie Izzard and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. They're all absolutely brilliant in it. I think the other thing that spoke to me there's sort of a love triangle in the middle and I think it's between the two male characters, they sort of end up together. It's clear the movie is sort of based on David Bowie and Iggy Pop, even though it uses different names. And I found it very clever the way they even wrote original music for the film in the style of David Bowie. It's a very interesting piece of art.
Rocky Horror Picture Show
You have to keep in mind, I was a little weird gay boy who wanted to play dress up all the time. So when I would see a man playing dress up and in Rocky Horror he's in drag, my mind was blown. I thought to myself, " What the f**k is this?" It resonated with me because it felt like something that looked like fun. "That looks like a good time." Tim Curry's performance in that film is just nuts. He's so good. And every time I go back to watch it his performance is just always electric. He is so funny and weird. It's such an iconic performance. I met him, cause I was in the remake they did on TV a couple of years ago. I was playing the Meat Loaf character, so they actually cast Tim Curry as the narrator. It was really special to shake his hand and tell him how much I loved him.
The Who's Tommy
To me the movie is a masterpiece, particularly Tina Turner's Acid Queen scene. To me it's just so nuts and so iconic. The frenetic energy she uses in her performance I've always been really fascinated by. She was sort of twitchy as a choice. And they shot it with lots of fisheye and really up in your face and there are these weird surreal props in it. The whole movie is brilliant, visually it's just nuts. And it resonates with me also because I remember as a kid, before I ever saw the film, I actually auditioned for the musical that they did of it in San Diego where it started. That's where I'm from. And so when I was preparing for the audition I had to learn the main theme from it, which is the "See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me/Overture." And I didn't get the part, but I remember going to see the musical after it opened in San Diego and just being blown away by it. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Then I saw the film and I went, "Oh, wow." So it's a piece I've been familiar with now for a while in its different forms. It's a great piece of music. That album is nuts. My dad ended up playing the album for me before I saw the film as well.
Going To Burning Man (Age 24)
That was really transformative for me. It's just a crazy f**king festival. It opened my eyes, seeing a whole community of people that are brought together for a week, that build this city. It's like something out of a dream. It didn't seem like a real thing until you're there and you're like, "What? It's nuts." And the whole thing is really fueled by people's imaginations. So it's a very utopian experience because you're going to a place where you're partying with people that you don't know what they do as a day job. I remember seeing a middle-aged man running around in a tutu and a pair of goggles and platform boots. And for all I knew he could have been a nine to five Silicon Valley computer tech. To me, that's the beauty of that festival is you're encountering people that aren't necessarily artists, but are expressing themselves as artists. And there's so much joy in that. I've been a few times, but coming back from the first time I went I was so inspired just by that community.
Videos Of Runway Shows Of John Galliano (Age 17, 18 )
Early on, they were the shows he did in the late '90s, early 2000s. These men's fashion shows were very theatrical in their presentation and just the sexiest clothes you've ever seen, incredibly cool s**t. And the way that the shows were laid out and the way each look would evolve, it would turn a page and it was a forward motion. One in particular was on the deck of a ship. It looked like an old pirate ship and he touched on pirate looks, a New Orleans Cajun thing, a gypsy culture look. And each look that would come out would go further down that pipeline and slowly each look that would come out would evolve into the next scene. And it was just so clever and stunning and the men all had like long hair and eyeliner on. I was blown away. I was a poor struggling artist that didn't have any money to buy high-end fashion, but I immediately went out to every thrift store in L.A. to try to find things that looked like that.
Lady Gaga (Age 27 )
I was on American Idol in 2009, that was the same year she was really popping. And I remember meeting her briefly backstage at Idol cause she was performing as a guest that week. Just a quick hello in passing, then watching her performance. And from then on out watching her trajectory as a fan and fellow artist and a lot of the risks she was taking and exploring in her pop music, to me, resonated so deeply cause she's got a theater background, she's also a lover of the classics and it helped me explain to people in the music industry what I was trying to do. And not to say I want to do what she is doing, but they see that, see how there is something specific being referenced, how she is making a theatrical statement with it, that's what I've always wanted to do as well. So it just helped me understand there was a world for that and there was an audience for that and it was inspiring to watch her do it. I would say the "Bad Romance" music video was a highlight for me, particularly because right after she was done filming it, before the video came out, I worked with her in the studio for a day on a song that was on my first album that she wrote. Just getting to work with her in the studio and getting to know her was very rewarding. She was wearing one of the fashion pieces from the video, she wore it to the session (laughs). I thought that was great. She is a contemporary artist I am very inspired by that definitely makes me feel more confident in taking the types of risks that I like to take.
It's hard to name one moment. Like I was saying about Prince earlier, Queen's music is so iconic and so woven into pop culture I don't even remember exactly the first time I heard a Queen song. I probably heard "We Are The Champions" or "We Will Rock You" at a stadium as a kid. I remember definitely going to Wayne's World with my brother and asking what that song is that they're singing the opera stuff to then. That was the first time I think my dad was like, "Well, that's Queen." I'm like, "Who are they?" And again, like many of these other examples we went to the vinyl closet and he pulled out some Queen records. I saw Freddie [Mercury] in his eyeliner and nail polish and looking like a witch and he put on some of these albums for me and I was like, "Okay, this is a trip." And the thing I think I loved so much about Queen, being a musical theater kid, they're so theatrical. Freddie in particular was such a showman and so grand in the way he sang things. And even the references of some of their songs genre wise are operetta. It was this bridge my father and I found between rock and roll and the theater world and it was really special to me. I think at some point in my 20s I ended up singing "We Are The Champions" at a private party or something. So that was the first time I dug in to learn a Queen song to perform it. And it just felt so good. It's such a gratifying song for a singer to dig into it. Freddie put so much muscle into his vocal delivery. And it's really fun to do that. And a full-circle moment would be singing "We Are The Champions" at the Oscars this year. Having sung the song at a little dinky private party in my early 20s to singing the song with them on the American Idol finale and that leading to the last seven years of working together and then being on the Oscars together with that song, major. I actually had to not think about it too hard when I got ready to do the Oscars performance because I think I would have fallen apart. It was so weird, the synchronicity of it all.