Tommy John Don’t Care: A Conversation With Adam Kravitz Of Future Projektor

by | Jan 24, 2022 | MUSIC

He pulled his Ford F-150 in front of the Starbucks on Robinson Street like it was some kind of mobile command unit. Loud music getting louder from a few blocks down. I knew who it was before he got there. We’ve acted this scene out more times than I could try to invent for an article. 

You can almost see it: Adam pulling up in front of wherever, playing something really loud, while I’m smoking cigarettes somewhere I shouldn’t be smoking cigarettes. This probably happened for the first seven years we knew each other.

“Have you heard this?” his voice shot out the window.

Per usual, I hadn’t.

“You should,” he said.

I climbed into the passenger seat of his truck, and we sat there, as we’ve done for over a decade, and listened to whatever it was he was tweaking out on at the moment. This time it was Infant Annihilator. The song was “Soil the Stillborn,” and it sounded like a helicopter singing through a machine gun. 

When you’ve been pals with someone for a long time, usually the conversation doesn’t need to pull over for gas. Either it begins where it left off or it hovers above, waiting for the right place to land or drop something hot. This normally doesn’t take long. 

“What was the movie with the guy and the puppet opera?” he asked.

“John Cusack? Being John Malkovich?” 

“No. The movie with [Jason Segel] in it.” 

“Oh, Dracula musical [Forgetting Sarah Marshall].” 

“That’s the one,” he said. “I love the idea of having an event. A one-time, real deal. If I’ve got to pay to do it, so be it. The thing would catch the eyes of the 17 people who would show up. I’d probably just give the tickets away and make it free. Would probably cost me 40 grand to put it on, and I’d lose money, but I don’t really care.”

Adam Kravitz. Photo by Ryan Kent.

This is Adam Kravitz. He doesn’t have 40 grand or a puppet opera somewhere in his truck, but at least 17 people would show up to whatever his thing was.

“I am a 49-year-old, Jewish heart attack survivor.”

He’s also a very loud guitar player. His past metal band, Gritter, released five loud metal records from 2008 to 2018. They did regional tours, and toured some of the US, but mostly Gritter played shows here in Richmond. Sometimes opening for marquee names like Children of Bodom, The Sword, Eyehategod, GWAR, Royal Blood, and so on. More often than not, people showed up after Gritter played.

Maybe you’ve recently stumbled upon his instrumental band, Future Projektor. They’re a raucous blending of doom-metal and psychedelic rock, synced with rolling, abstract film scenes. They’ve been double-dosing willing ears around town ever since dropping their first album, Terma, in 2019. 

“Doom soundscapes,” Adam said. 

Yep. Doom soundscapes. Played real fucking loud

As luck would have it, a week after Adam’s 48th birthday in May 2020, he got that “one-time, real deal” thing, but naturally, it wasn’t part of the original plotline. Life wrote a few paragraphs of its own, adding in a non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) into his story for spice. This means three of Adam’s arteries were partially blocked and his cardiovascular system panic-dialed in a heart attack. He was taking a shower, stepped out, called 911, and collapsed on the floor. 

The rest is doctor-speak, involving stents and an angioplasty. A conversation which took place with a newborn pandemic screaming down the halls of every wing everywhere, just a day after George Floyd was murdered on camera. A new hospital drama, it would seem. Taped in front of an empty studio with no audience. 

However, this wasn’t the pilot episode for Richmond Med, and our lives aren’t a Dick Wolf production. People passionately marched in defiance of law and order. Helicopters. Fireworks. Gun shots. Hundreds of voices. Thousands of clenched teeth. Bedlam unfolding outside of Adam’s hospital window and across the country. A deadly virus doing pushups in the middle of all of it. 

Who wouldn’t fear what 2022 had waiting just outside the shower curtain? 

“I think, everything everyone’s ever been through is why they’re where they’re at today. [Having] gone through too many different things. Just like the heart attack. I think that’s the one that aged me. I [went] from feeling 33 to 50 in a day.”

“What’s the difference between 33 and 50?” I asked.

“You start seeing your own mortality. Timelines. You start seeing everything how it is, not how you interpret it. The pandemic, the way it all worked, [and how] everything hit at the same time. It made me see myself for who I truly am. I [had] lived in a clouded haze of pills and drinking, somehow skipped 40 and went straight to 49. Like, I’m missing almost a decade. That’s a mindfuck.”

Adam in the hospital, post-heart attack.

“Have you seen it translate into your music? Was there a change?” 

“Yes. Also, a sense of urgency. [Having] a life altering scenario like that, it just made me really want to push forward. Get the ideas organized and together. So, I stopped fucking around. If we needed something, we’re gonna go get it. We needed to get this set up. Go do it. Needed to write this stuff. Go do it. Needed a graphic design. Go do it. I mean, not that much different than what we did in Gritter.” 

“I think there’s far more maturity in the songwriting of Future Projektor compared to Gritter.”

“More or less, when in-comparison to being fucked up for a decade versus only the last few years. We started Future Projektor in 2019, but we didn’t play that many shows in the first incarnation of the band. COVID-19 shut it down. The last show we played was with Weedeater at The Camel. Two weeks later, [Seth Harris, drums, formerly of Honor Role/Kepone] told me he was quitting and [Brian Metz, bass, formerly of Bowl Ethereal] eventually lost interest. So, I went from playing in a band, to the pandemic, to almost dying. Funny thing is, fast-forward a year later, I had [new band members] working on new material. That’s pretty incredible. What did it though, for me, was jamming with you and Jimmy Bower [of Eyehategod/Down].” 

“The heart attack jams!”

“Yeah, he was amazing. It was surreal. He would call me like, ‘Let’s fucking play, man. Come on, dude. Let’s do this shit.’ We had just started jamming before he moved back down to New Orleans. He was gonna be the [new] drummer in Future Projektor.”

Adam Kravitz with Jimmy Bower

 “Always so close, Adam. Why haven’t you stopped playing music?”

“A lot of people ask me that. They’re like, ‘Why would you still play music? There’s no money in it.’ Let’s look at all the other ‘old guy’ bands out there playing. They’re not trying to play incredibly heavy, intense music [anymore]. They’re going softer. But me, I want it to be heavier, louder. It’s not loud enough. I want it where your taint and your balls shake. Then it’s loud enough. That’s when it’s right.” 

“That sounds like your mentality with most things,” I said.

“Exactly. I think my allure and attraction to heavy music is that it drowns out everything else. I don’t listen to music for the lyrics. I don’t get any lyrical attachments to things. I don’t connect that way. I connect over sound. The feeling and sensation when it shakes your bones. You feel it in your core. That’s the reason I play. I love the way it feels. I saw PJ Harvey once, and [some] girl did nothing but talk loudly for twenty minutes. For me, I want it to be so fucking loud that [people] can’t talk. I know what I’m feeling onstage feels awesome. It’s always been about metal.”

I decided to go to a Future Projektor practice. The setting was familiar. I’d spent ten years playing music with Adam Kravitz in Gritter, six of them with Kevin White (also of Throttlerod), who was behind the kit again. Sean Plunkett (ex-I Am The Liquor) was newer to the fold, being tapped to lug around the low-end after the “heart attack jams.” It almost felt like Gritter, but it wasn’t. Even still, with four years gone, the sound still shook my balls. My taint. 

In 2022, Future Projektor is slated to play The Maryland Doom Fest near the tail-end of June at Café 611 in Frederick, MD. Before then, Adam and Co. will be entering the studio to record their follow-up to 2019’s Terma. Local and regional shows will be dripped like napalm throughout the remaining winter months into Spring, slow-burning audiences each and every night. 

I watched my friend play his baritone Schecter during the band’s rehearsal, and I remembered the heart attack conversation we’d had earlier. It made me think of the many things I’ve given up on in my life and how my reasons were growing thinner with each song Kevin counted off. What right do I have to complain about anything? Complain when it’s gone.

“Tell me the Van Halen story,” I asked on the way back to the Fan. 

“I worked up in the Hollywood Hills on the backside, in Studio City,” he began. “My boss [at Good Guys] was like, ‘Adam, go help that guy out by the camcorders.’ In L.A., even the most homeless-looking person probably has a black American Express card. You can never judge anybody on how they look out there. The richest of the rich look disgusting because they’re fucking insane. Anyway, this guy looks a little dirty, a little hippie-ish, and everything he’s got is in a little necklace pack. Some little stoner pack or whatever.”

“Was it Andy Garcia’s brother, Barry Garcia?” 

“Haha. No. The guy turned around and it was Eddie Van Halen. [He’s] literally on a shortlist of three people I’d ever want to meet. My first concert was Van Halen [at the Richmond Coliseum] in 1984. My dad took me, and that’s the reason I play the guitar. That shit was fucking incredible. I helped him [in the store] for a solid hour. Finally, I was like, ‘Look, the chances of ever meeting you again are zero. I just want to [tell you] the first concert I ever saw was Van Halen in 1984.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, that’s great. You know, I remember that.’ I was like, ‘There’s no way you remember 1984. I don’t remember three weeks ago but, thank you.’ I said, ‘I just wanted to tell you, that watching you play ‘Eruption’ and getting to see what you do live, you’re the reason I wanted to play the guitar.’” 

“What did he say?”

“He looked at me dead in the face. [He said], ‘It’s not because of me that you play the guitar. It’s in you. You play guitar because that’s what comes out of you. You just liked what I do, and I influenced you.’ Then he turned around and started looking [at the camcorders] again. I was dumbstruck. I’m like, Eddie Van Halen just told me it’s because of me that I play the guitar. He could have had 100 million rehearsed, generic statements, and maybe that was one of his rehearsed statements, but it doesn’t matter. [What] he said seemed genuine. It wasn’t condescending. For like, 18 seconds on this Earth, I felt like an equal musician. Not equal as in playing ability, but equal. That was the single coolest fucking musical story [for me] ever.”

Adam Kravitz. Photo by Ryan Kent.

For me, somehow, the metaphor usually comes back to baseball. I romanticize old baseball stories, no differently than whatever it is you romanticize. Maybe your thing is the Fox Fire book series. Maybe it’s cannabis. Maybe it’s Carrie Bradshaw. Maybe it’s the Old South. Maybe it’s metal. 

Adam Kravitz reminds me of Tommy John, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who tore his ulnar collateral ligament in 1974. At the time, this injury was a career ender. Dr. Frank Jobe, an orthopedic surgeon and the Dodgers’ physician, performed this experimental “ligament replacement surgery” the same year, in which a ligament is chosen from somewhere else in the body (or from a donor) and replaces the damaged one.

Jobe said, “Tommy’s attitude was the special thing. He didn’t hesitate. He said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Sound familiar?

John was the first player to ever receive this procedure, which eventually was named after him. In 1976, John went 10-10. The following year, John recorded his first 20-win season, won the pennant with the Dodgers, but lost to the New York Yankees during the Fall Classic. He appeared in two more World Series during his career (losing both), finally retiring in 1989 as the oldest player in baseball, tying the record for most seasons pitched with 26 (broken by Nolan Ryan in 1993), and ending with 288 Wins and 46 shutouts. Forty-eight years later, over 500 players have undergone this same surgery. 

Nice. What does any of this have to do with Adam Kravitz

Like Tommy John, Kravitz didn’t quit, even though he also had a legitimate excuse. It wasn’t ligament replacement surgery, it was a severe heart attack, and the dude almost died. Yet nearly two years after the NSTEMI, Adam is creating the best music of his career, and he’s going to play that music whether Future Projektor is a marquee name or not. 

The best part is he doesn’t give a shit. He gets to play.

Tommy John wasn’t a marquee player and he’s not in the Hall of Fame. Standing behind big names like Don Sutton and Steve Garvey during his years with the Dodgers. Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson with the Yankees. Rod Carew and again Reggie Jackson during a short stint with the California Angels. 

Tommy John didn’t give a shit, either. He got to play. 

Sound familiar?

Adam Kravitz. Photo by Ryan Kent.

I think that mentality is something to admire. It doesn’t make me want to pick up a guitar or play baseball again, but it inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing. I get to play.

For the bulk of the last decade, most things seem to have taken on the dense smog of superficiality. Relevance being attached to constant social media presence, faux corporate enthusiasm, performative activism, lots of finger pointing, and almost zero accountability. Listening to Future Projektor feels like breathing in pure air for the first time in a long time

It makes me thankful my friend is still here to make real music. There’s nothing fake about Adam Kravitz.

Hopefully, his mentality resonates with you, but just like this article, it’s here whether people bother to read it or not. I think that’s a fine mantra to have. 

Tommy John don’t care

Top Photo via Future Projektor/Facebook

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent is the author of the collections, Poems For Dead People, This Is Why I Am Insane, Hit Me When I'm Pretty, and Everything Is On Fire: Selected Poems 2014-2021. He has also co-authored the poetry collections, Tomorrow Ruined Today, and Some Of Us Love You (both with Brett Lloyd). His spoken word record, Dying Comes With Age, will be released by Rare Bird Books in 2022. Ryan is a staff writer for RVA Magazine and maintains a pack a day habit. (photo by D. Randall Blythe)

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