DS Exclusive: Talking Tolstoy (and other subjects) with Adam Kreutzer of The Kreutzer Sonata

Leo Tolstoy was a punk rocker! Ok perhaps not. Tolstoy widely considered one of the greatest writers in history is the author of such works as “War and Peace”, “Anna Karenina”, and the first Tolstoy (ok only Tolstoy) I have yet to read, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Tolstoy is the inspiration for for the band name The Kreutzer Sonata and its leader singer Adam Kreutzer’s stage surname.

Kreutzer explains, “I have read the novel [The Kreutzer Sonata by Tolstoy]/listened to the musical composition. Tolstoy’s novellas have inspired me for a while as a huge passion of mine is literature. There is a lot of literary inspiration/references in our music and Tolstoy’s ability to take dramatic and tragic events and write them into something moving and beautiful is a strategy that we’ve tried to use in the story telling of our songs.”

Kreutzer further describes to me how the musical composition and its creation mirrors his early life as a musician:

“On top of that the musical piece The Kreutzer Sonata, another beautiful piece of art was made in dedication to a prestigious violinist with the last name Kreutzer. He rejected the Sonata as garbage. And that’s something I can really relate too. I remember showing my music teacher my music in high school and he pulled me aside and told me what a waste of time my band was and how it wasn’t real music. A similar thing happened with my father after the first time I ever recorded a demo where he gave me the ultimatum between punk rock and Jesus Christ. For years TKS played to nobody but the sound guy and sometimes our girlfriends haha. We know rejection all too well, and sometimes still feel like we’re on the outside looking in.”


Nowadays. The Kreutzer Sonata draws far larger crowds and its schedule will be hectic for the next few months:
Per Kreutzer: “Right now we are in the process of releasing a new album “The Rosehill Gates” out June 28th. We’ve already dropped a few music videos for it, with more to come. This summer and Fall we have some pretty solid shows lined up and we have been talking about doing a decent sized tour early next year. Also, this October/November we will be in the studio at Million Yen in Chicago to record something we will be trying to shop around to labels.”


Kreutzer may be the only remaining original band member, but The Kreutzer Sonata is no solo act.
“We are all a bunch of jagoffs. We all take the band seriously but what makes that easier is how much we goof around with each other. Jack [Kreutzer] our bassist is a full-time truck driver. Patrick [Goray]. our guitarist works in a sign shop and Logan [Hoover] our drummer is a pet caretaker/walker. I work in the service industry. We all are pretty easy-going guys with a mutual love for music and they are a blast to play with.”

As for Kreutzer’s musical origins, he first played that first instrument so many of us played: “The first time I performed musically was probably playing the recorder in elementary school or singing (if you can call it that) in a school musical/graduation/even church.”

However, he first truly discovered music just after he hits his teens. Per Kreutzer, “I would say around 13 years old is when I started really getting into music. I will be 30 this October. Before that I only really knew what was on TV. Bands like Green Day and Blink-182 were as crazy as it got for me until about that age. I remember hearing “Rise Above” by Black Flag on a mix Cd my brother made and being really intrigued by it. Around that same time, I discovered The Unseen, and remember seeing Rancid videos on MTV as well. Me and an old friend also found Kurt Cobain’s top 100 records in Rolling Stone and took turns downloading different albums off that list off Napster or LimeWire or whatever people were using at the time.”

This was also when he realized music was his calling. “Before I got into music, I was big into sports and was very athletic. I remember my brother had this crappy guitar that he would never let me play. But when he was out of the house I would sneak into his room and play as much as I could.”
He continues, “once I got good enough to get a band together the high of playing live meant more to me than sports. The jock kids were all my bullies anyway. I started going to shows, setting up shows, playing as much as possible. People didn’t believe me at the time, but I had decided at that point that music was my life.”

Kreutzer describes how his musical career started, “With a band I first performed in this church basement that I would set up and run local shows in.”
Soon things got serious. Says Kreutzer, “shortly after that I played my first legitimate show opening up for The Unseen and The Ghouls. That was more of a punk/ rock band. We did some covers and had some softer songs on top of some faster ones.”

His long-held motto/mission statement as a musician has been “Carpe Diem.” The phrase, translated from Latin as “Seize the Day,” originates from book 1 of the Roman poet Horace’s work Odes (23 BC).

However, Kreutzer discovered it in a far more recent piece of art: Dead Poet’s Society, the 1989 acclaimed film in which a boarding school English teacher named John Keating (played Robin Williams) urges his students to “make their lives extraordinary.” It’s actually the motto Kreutzer, who will celebrate his 30th birthday this year, has held most of his life.
He explains, “I have had the luck and privilege to be able to tour playing music and continue playing music into my thirties. Granted I work my ass off. But the point is I’m thankful for every day I wake up and to me the best part of life is the opportunity at times to take control of your story, of your identity and follow your heart. The older I get the more I am dead set in doing whatever it is I feel I need to do to be happy. It’s the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done.”

I asked Kreutzer to memorable event in his career thus far.
“Touring Canada was fun. We witnessed a bar fight turn into a mini-riot in Montreal and the police were pepper spraying everyone. Then we drove through the night puking down the highway to the US border. That’s not really anything to do with music. But those wacky events wouldn’t have happened without music. We’ve gotten to open up for some cool bands and I’m very grateful for that. It’s always a highlight starting to see more and more people sing-along to the words at shows.”
The Kreutzer Sonata has played many different venues. As for particular venues, bandmembers find particularly great in which to perform, Adam Kreutzer offers up: “I love Liar’s Club, but I do also work there. The Fallout in Pilsen is fun as well as Reggie’s on State Street.”

As he notes above Kreutzer is in the employ of Liar’s Club. “I work as a door guy, bar back/bartender.”

Turning briefly to a subject that punk music has a rich history of addressing: Politics.

Kreutzer’s take: “I think on some level the current political climate resonates into all our daily lives. I also think a part of the storytelling of lyrics in music should be used almost like a personal history book to tell the stories of the times through your own perspective.”

The musician continues: “In that case I think it’s important for artists to speak out for what they think is right politically in this day and age. And there are a lot of bands doing it. Our President and many other leaders use misinformation and hysteria/phobias/hate to keep people ignorant and divided. If you can enlighten people with truth and knowledge you can give power to the common people which is exactly what politicians don’t want.”

Returning to Tolstoy, in a way. Literature has always provided inspiration as a human and as a musician. Among the works and writers, he considers most influential to him:
“ “A Season in Hell” by Arthur Rimbaud, “The Explorer” by Rudyard Kipling, “My Little War” by Louis Paul Boon, “My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy” by Robert Bly, Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, most books by New Directions Publishing and Dalkey Archive Press as well as the works of Flann O’Brien, and Louis Ferdinand Celine are a lot of my major influences.
Also, the book, “From the Darkness Right Under Our Feet” by Patrick Michael Finn, and other books by Black Lawrence Press. “

“As far as films, anything by Guy Maddin [from the director’s Internet Movie Database page: Maddin’s films often feature autobiographical elements, especially his “Me Trilogy” (of Cowards Bend the Knee, Brand Upon the Brain!, and My Winnipeg) of three films that feature a protagonist named “Guy Maddin”.)] or with Isabella Rossellini is alright with me. Also, Rumblefish.”

Of course, when it comes to punk rock, Adam Kreutzer has some recommendations for bands everybody should check out. “Brix n Mortar from Salem, Mass. Secret Spirit from Manchester, NH. Mickey Rickshaw from Boston. The Abductors from CT. Death of Self, Sawbuck, Shitizen, Butchered, Mystery Actions from Chicago. Radio Hate and The DUIs from Wisconsin and Stacked Deck from Detroit.”

When not performing or working, Kreutzer likes to stay busy.” I also go to Chicago Fire [Major League Soccer] Soccer Games with the Arson City Ultras. I’m a huge record collector and book collector. Also, a big drinker. You can find me around the city. I like to get out of the house haha.”

I ask Kreutzer if he has words of inspiration for Dying Scene readers about, well, anything? “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life or find happiness. I’ve learned that the hard way too many times. Also, some of the best inspiration for punk songs and lyrics has come from other genres and forms of media outside of punk for me. Don’t be afraid to keep an open mind to new things.”
Kreutzer final words for DS readers is both cheeky, tinged with truth as to readers of any and all publications for any genre of written word: “Pat yourself on the back if you made it to the end of this interview. Not many people read full articles hahaha.”

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