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16 May 2011

Interview: Adaggio the violinist

Rarely seen without his fitted New Era cap, Nike high-tops and his distinctive gold tooth,  28-year-old Adaggio from Hackney looks more like an extra from a grime video than a classically trained musician.

At some point you would have heard Adaggio's strings, either watching Hollywood movies and various TV spots, or performing alongside The GameMacy Gray, N-Dubz, Estelle, Maxi Priest , as well as Goldie in an ad for car manufacturer Fiat!).

Having just released his latest mini project, 'M.I.T.O' he's set to carve himself a name of his own. Our contributor Toby Kay find out who his inspirations are, his song-writing process and what M.I.T.O stands for and more!

First off, how are you right now?
I’m good, we’re in Shoreditch, enjoying a few drinks, chilled out.

Taking it back, how did you first get into playing the violin?
I started in primary school, in Hackney, about 7 years old. They were giving free lessons, and I saw Nigel Kennedy who’s a famous violinist, on TV a couple of weeks before. As soon as I found out that they were giving free lessons, I just got in there…and that’s where it all started!

When did you start to believe you could use your violin over the non-traditional tracks that we hear you on?
At the age of 18, that’s when I stopped practising classically. I’m a classical violinist originally. By 18 I started going partying, hearing the bass of R&B and garage at that time. That’s when I was like “Right, I want to put my violins to this!” If I’m honest, it’s from my raving, that’s how and why I crossed over haha! I thought “forget classical, I want to move over to something more fun!”. But, I do love classical music as well.

Do you produce the tracks too?
Yeah, I’m also a producer, and composer. So I produce my own tracks sometimes, even though I’m known for taking other peoples tracks and doodle all over them with my violin. I’ve just posted up the Kelly Rowland/Lil Wayne - Motivation track onto my YouTube channel!

Rowland ft. Lil Wayne - Mr. Adaggio

What other producers to look up to, or take influence from?
Obviously Dr. Dre is one of my big, big, big influences. I like Ryan Leslie… his creative process, I like how he lets people in on his creative process. i.e his YouTube videos, where he lets you see how he produces. Also a Miamio producer called Red Spyda (G-UnitMobb DeepAmerie) I like a lot, especially his drum sounds.

What are peoples usual reaction when you describe to them what you do?
They’re usually shocked ! People don’t get it. Sometimes people don’t believe it until they see it! That’s been my little jinx over the past couple of years. People have to see me perform to understand it. But people are cool you know. Then they are like “But you don’t look like a violinist!” (High-tops, fitted New Era, hood etc….) But, how is a violinist supposed to look?!

I recently read a tweet of yours saying that you are no longer putting yourself out as a “session” musician, and from now on it will be “Featuring Adaggio”…
This is just an angle for myself since releasing the mixtape. I’m putting myself out there. I’m fed up of doing strings for people as a solo violinist, and not getting any credit. I’m not going to say names, but I’ve been ripped off so many times, and not credited. So I just thought “Right, I’m not doing that no more.” I’ve had my own MTV Base - About To Blow, put out my own mixtape, had massive features…why should I cast myself as just a session musician.  I’m holding myself back like that. So, from now onwards, I’m going make sure my name is a feature, all the time. If it’s not a feature…you’re not getting Mr. Adaggio.

Mr Adaggio - Buggin'

So, who have you worked with in the past a session musician?
Putting me on the spot…I’ve done KanoJennifer HudsonThe Game…a lot of people. I cast session ones as when you’re not getting named.

What Game track was it?
'Dreams', it was good. I just got found somehow! That was near the beginning of all this. I think it came about via the record label people. It was a good gig! It was all a live performance, I turned up with my hair all up, rowed, like a Coolio style. I had just come back from New York, so I had a big baggy t-shirt on…I was easily influenced back then!

How about in the future…is there anyone you would like to session for?
You know what, my musical taste is slipping all over the place. I came across a group called Metronomy. You should YouTube them, I have fallen in love with their music! It’s part indie, part  funky. Anyone who’s musical has vibes. I’m very anti-vibeless music! If you’ve got a vibe, and it’s warm and stuff, then I’m with it.

When writing a song…do you have a similar approach to an MC, where they have a feeling that they want to express though words and their voice, but you use your strings instead?
Yes, definitely. I approach the track like a singer. But, also like a MC, where I’m trying to get the vibe. So if the track’s dark, I’m going to play dark. If the track’s bright…I’m going to play bright. If it’s a typical slow jam sound, I’m going to do that. So yeah, I approach it like a singer. I actually hum the melody to myself first. So I’ll turn the beat on, listen to it, get the melody, and then play it on the violin. But sometimes I just freestyle and go crazy on it! There’s no typical Adaggio recording method…unless the track’s boring haha!

When recording with other artists, do they come to you with an idea, and just let you do your thing…or do you build it up together?
Usually what happens is that they’ll press play on the track, I’ll freestyle, then they’ll be like “That bit!”, “That bit!” and “That bit!”. Then we’ll piece it together on the track. Sometimes they’ll have ideas, but usually they’ll leave me to it.

How about with the movie scores?
That’s totally me. There’s nobody telling me what to do. So far all the movies I’ve been working on are American, so they just send the track to me and it’s been up to me what I do. Which is a beautiful thing.

You must have more than a few musical influences, who are some of your main ones?
I’d say, anyone from Stevie Wonder to Coldplay to obviously Michael Jackson. You know, anyone I grew up on. I think I can actually hear in my violin, their kind of voices, and I try and imitate on the violin.

The free sampler/mini album M.I.T.O…firstly what does that stand for?
It stands for 'Murder In The Orchestra'. The meaning behind that is what I see myself as to the violin world. I’m completely different. I’m not saying that in a “look at me” way, I just am different. I’ve got a gold tooth, I got long hair, I party hard. Not saying other violinists don’t party…I just party harder haha! I always say I’m the UK’s number 1 bad boy violinist! That’s my brand.

Mr Adaggio - Crazy

So why are you 'The UK’s Number One Bad Boy Violinist'?!
I party ‘till I drop, I speak my mind and I rock out on stage! If you come and see me live, I can promise you that you’ll never have seen a violinist like me before.

Has it been put out to test the water and gain feedback, or did you just feel the need to get something out in the public?
This is the first time I’ve ever put anything out there that’s just me. So it was really to get feedback. But it was also because I’m always gigging and people are like “where’s your material?”, so I want to provide for those people. That’s why I put it out.

Do you have a goal with the release, or are you just enjoying seeing where it takes you?
The goal was the people. Give them something to listen to. Something that was completely me. Something that was organic. Recorded in the bedroom. No high end producers. Just me.

How about live performances, can we expect any?
At the moment, the only live performances that I’ve got are in foreign countries. Over the summer there will be a lot of PA’s. So far it’s just Thailand and Dubai though.

Now that the release has dropped to a lot of positive feedback, solo wise, what else are you planning on doing over the coming months?
I want to release an E.P, which features other acts, and me. So all the tracks will be features. So, basically, Mr. Adaggio featuring…. Also my group, The Element. The Element are like an experimental, R&B, pop, reggae, ballad, it’s everything, it’s very versatile. But, it’s very dark as well. I’ve got my hand on the production, so I’ve got control on that. Some of the songs are happy, we’re trying to steer our way. What I’d say we are…is like a new version of The Coors…gone wrong haha!...and a bit street too! You can expect to hear something’s over the next few months. And, I’ve got my own video coming for two tracks off the mixtape.

If you could work with 3 current artists of your choice, who would they be?
I’d say…Stevie WonderDot Rotten, and…Two Door Cinema Club. So I’m down for everything! I’m not a musical snob, I like everything! From the most ghetto, ghetto, ghetto beats, to indie, to jazz and piano. I like dark music though, I’m a fan of dark music. I don’t know why. Even dark pop I like!

If you could work with 3 artists who aren’t here anymore?
MozartBeethoven….Bob Marley. I’m one of the biggest fans of Bob Marley, I love his music.

Any last words?
Nice interview, thank you!

Mr Adaggio - E.T.

I seriously advise downloading M.I.T.O for free RIGHT HERE!!
Twitter: @MrAdaggio1
YouTube channel: Official Adaggio

Interview by Toby Kay for BlatantlyBlunt
See more of his work at

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