Rising Music Star Adam Silvestri of Radiator King On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Elana Cohen

Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine
17 min readJun 27, 2023


Always look at the big picture. There are times when you put so much effort into doing something that seems minuscule. But these small tasks build over time, and when you look back you’re able to realize that achieving a goal is only possible when you win a bunch of small battles. I experienced this most while touring. For years, people told me I was crazy to tour as much as I did, hitting small town after small town. They’d say it was an outdated way to promote my music, but today I think one of the greatest assets I have are the friends I’ve met out on the road.

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Adam Silvestri.

For the last decade, Radiator King has been the moniker of NYC-via-Boston solo artist Adam Silvestri. But since he moved to L.A. in 2021 at the urging of longtime collaborator / drummer Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, Nine Inch Nails, Violent Femmes), the two have teamed up with keyboardist Alexander Burke (Bob Dylan, Anderson .Paak, Greg Dulli) to form a proper band with a fixed lineup and all members contributing to the writing process.

“Hammer & Nails” — the first song to emerge from the this new era of Radiator King — was hailed by Canadian outlet Tinnitist as “a track that lives in the netherworld where the rancid backwash of Saturday night seeps into the grim regret of Sunday morning. Like a defrocked preacher on a week-long bender, ‘Hammer & Nails’ comes lurching from an alley at 4 a.m. in the eye of a thunderstorm, shouting dark secrets about the human condition at unsuspecting passersby before vanishing into the fog.” The song was produced by Grammy-winning producer Ted Hutt.

“When writing a song,” Silvestri says, “it can be very useful to tap into the folklore and mythology of a culture — references ingrained in society’s DNA — and the Bible certainly fits into that category. When I sing, ‘Some are born to be the hammer / Some are born to be the nail’ — it’s not a new statement, it’s been around, but it encapsulates what was on my mind and what I wanted to say. The approach is like the old blues tradition of taking previously written lines and repurposing them to fit your life and what you’re trying to express. It gives the song a mystique. ‘Hammer & Nails’ addresses the dark and the light in each of us. There’s a palpable evil in it, but also renewal.”

With the launch of Radiator King’s new lineup, the chemistry of the Silvestri-Viglione brotherhood was firmly in place, the two having worked together on several Radiator King albums and tours since becoming friends in New York in 2015. “When I met Brian, it was clear we were kindred spirits,” Silvestri says. “There was an immediate connection the first time we played together — like I’d known him my whole life. A lot of drummers stay on the periphery of the song — they don’t concern themselves with the lyrics and melody or get too deep into the writing process. But Brian does. He listens very closely to everything that’s going on. He’s the most creative drummer I’ve ever played with, and he takes his work very seriously. He doesn’t take himself seriously, but he takes creating music seriously. He’s the heartbeat of the band, this energetic presence. Spend five minutes with him and you’ll see that there’s no separation between who he is as a person and the way he approaches the drums. Playing with him is always a magical experience. It just draws something out of me, something primal.”

To his credit, Burke was able to slide effortlessly into the mix from his earliest jam sessions with the band. Silvestri credits his savant-ish skills and big-picture musical vision. “Alex has this ability to completely work out a musical idea in his mind before he even puts his hands on the keys. It’s no wonder he’s so in demand, whether writing musicals or playing on sessions for Dylan or Springsteen. But he’s still such a humble, unassuming guy. One key element that Alex brings to the new Radiator King is his background scoring films — a lot of horror films actually. He’s not just another songwriter; he’s a composer. It brings a whole different flavor to the songs.”

The sessions that yielded “Hammer & Nails” took place at L.A.’s Kingsize Soundlabs, with session player Art Santora on bass. To guide things, Radiator King sought out veteran record producer Hutt, whose credits include The Gaslight Anthem, Chuck Ragan, Lucero, Jesse Malin, The Devil Makes Three, and a Grammy-winning collaboration with Old Crow Medicine Show.

“What drew me to Ted initially — he knows how to capture the energy of bands with a raw sound who are built for live shows,” SIlvestri says. “We had this really great first conversation. He said, ‘if we’re going to make music together, we have to build a relationship.’ So he started coming to rehearsals and getting to know the band. Through the whole process, he went above and beyond to foster a relationship with us, to understand our potential and draw it out of us.”

Between songs at practice, Hutt would fire off questions about their lives — who they are as musicians and people, their formative experiences, influences and relationships. He encouraged Radiator King to bring those personal elements with them into the studio and the writing process. “Ted wanted us to express ourselves in the most genuine, natural way,” Silvestri says. “He was pivotal in a philosophical sense — erasing boundaries and guiding us to rely on our most innate tendencies. He was like our coach, our trainer — the person in our corner with all this wisdom who could see everything from the outside looking in.”

What most separates Radiator King’s present direction and sound from everything he’s done in the past, Silvestri says, is the highly collaborative nature of the new songs, which the band has been spontaneously banging out together at their Hollywood rehearsal space.

“We’re all so happy to be here,” he says. “ It’s like we’re teenagers again in the basement of our parents’ houses making a bunch of noise. Really, that’s what you’re looking for when you’re making music — that childhood mentality and sense of wonder where anything seems possible. When you write together as a unit, there’s an alchemy to it that goes beyond supporting players adding their own stamp on their respective instrument. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Massachusetts, just North of Boston. My great grandparents on both sides were Italian immigrants. I played a lot of baseball as a kid, and that’s where I first really learned about discipline and practice.

Growing up, I had a brother who was four years older, and I was always trying to tag along with him and his friends. From a young age, they got me into skateboarding, punk rock and guitars. By the time I was in high school, I had friends from all different walks of life — athletes, punks, burnouts, drug dealers, intellectuals — from all of them I learned that the clique didn’t matter as long as a person was good at their core. That definitely influenced the way I listen to and create music. I never want my music to fit neatly into the confines of a genre. That’s boring. Art should be more interesting than that.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I guess it all started with my first guitar that my Mom bought me on my 8th birthday. I’m a lefty but I play guitar right handed because they didn’t have any left-handed guitars at the shop my Mom went to. This was before the days of megastores like Guitar Center and ordering off the internet, so there weren’t many options. The owner convinced her it wouldn’t be a big deal to have me learn right handed, so I did. To this day, playing guitar is the only thing I do right handed.

I learned guitar by playing along to what was popular at the time which was mostly grunge and alternative music. But there were two significant moments I remember that got me hooked on making music. The first was the time I wrote my first song. I was probably 10 or 11, and I was trying to play along with a Jimi Hendrix song. In trying to mimic what Jimi was doing, I stumbled on another riff — something different, something that was my own. I played it over and over, and I jotted down some words for it. The whole experience happened very quickly and it was powerful for me. I created something that didn’t yet exist in the world, and that felt really good. After that, I was hooked.

The other memory was the first time my older brother took me to a punk show. This is what gave me the motivation to form a band and to try to get my music heard. When I discovered punk rock, for the first time, playing music in a band — on stage in front of people — seemed accessible. The bands weren’t little tiny specks on some giant arena stage a thousand light years away. They were normal people right in front of my face, with shitty instruments making a bunch of noise with their buddies. That’s when I realized, “I can do this too!” So I did. And at every step along the way, that punk-rock ethos has been a reminder that anything I want to do, I can. That mentality became especially important when I started to tour.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There’s this strange power that exists in the universe that looks out for you when you give yourself over to a calling. I don’t claim to fully understand it, but I know it exists because I’ve experienced it often, usually in the form of human kindness. There have been so many times in my life when complete strangers have done incredibly nice things for me. I was brought up to be cautious of people and their motives, so when I was younger, I was suspicious a lot of the time, but I’ve since learned to view these random acts of kindness from a different perspective.

I remember playing a show in Dallas, Texas, on my first solo tour. I was traveling by myself, sleeping in the back of my van, which meant I’d go long periods without a shower. I played my set that night and started talking to this really nice couple at the merch table. We talked about how the tour was going so far, and the woman seemed genuinely concerned with my well-being. At the end of our conversation, she asked if she could have my email address to keep in touch, so I gave it to her. Later, after I’d loaded all my gear into the van, I got in the back and crawled into my sleeping bag and took a few pulls off a flask of whiskey. I decided to check my email and noticed I had a mysterious email from Marriott Hotels. It was a confirmation email with a note that said, “It was a pleasure to meet you tonight. Do us a favor and go get yourself a shower. Didn’t want to embarrass you at the show but you are starting to stink.” I couldn’t believe that this couple I’d just met had gotten me this really nice hotel room. The cynic in me wondered what the catch was — like maybe I’d show up to the hotel, and the couple would be there waiting for me to participate in some kind of deviant sex act. But, hey, a Marriott is a Marriott so I went anyway.

When I got to my room, I was the only one there. Turns out there were no strings attached. They were just kind people trying to do a good deed. This is just one of the many nice things strangers have done for me on the road, but this one stands out because it was the first, and because it opened my eyes to a kindness I hadn’t known before.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

You know how there are cities with the same name in more than one state? Like there’s a Springfield, Illinois, and a Springfield, Massachusetts? When I was first starting out, before I had much experience booking tours, I once booked a show in a city I thought was in one state, but turned out to be in a completely different one. I can’t remember the name of the city at this point, but I realized the mistake while talking with a local after a show in Nebraska. Turns out instead of being a short distance like I thought, the next day’s show was a 10-hour drive. So I just got in my van and hit the road. Believe it or not, I ended up making the show. But I can tell you I’ve never made the same mistake again.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One person that comes to mind is Rob Janicke who ran a label called SoundEvolution Music. They put out a few of my albums and I became very close with the team of people there. Rob and I first met back in 2016. He found my music and felt compelled to get in touch with me. We became fast friends, and right off the bat he started coming to every show and was a great supporter. Without ever asking for anything in return, Rob was always there for me whether I needed help with something music-related, or when I just needed a friend to talk to.

It wasn’t until a few years into our friendship that we finally decided to work together with the “Roll the Dice” 7-inch and the Unborn Ghosts LP. Rob and his late cousin Angel D’Apice, who also helped run the label, showed me a level of support that was not dependent on money or sales but rather on a pure love for music. They were in it to support something that they believed in. This kind of devotion is really hard to find in the world, especially in the music industry. I’ll never forget the role Rob and Angel played in my life. Sadly, Angel passed away in 2019. She is greatly missed.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I was recording my album A Hollow Triumph After All in Brooklyn, I was fortunate to have some well-known musicians play on the album. One was a horn player named Peter Hess from The Hold Steady and World/Inferno Friendship Society. Before the session, Peter invited me over to his place so we could get to know each other and talk about the music. He was really kind to me, and right off the bat we got along great.

A few weeks later, I started recording the album. Since Peter was a horn player, he wasn’t coming in to do his part until about a week into the sessions. At that point, I was feeling really unsure about myself and the album. I felt an immense pressure. I was completely overwhelmed, just trying my best not to break. After Peter recorded his parts, I went out to get some fresh air. A few minutes later, Peter came outside to catch a cab. He asked me how the album was coming along, and I told him that I felt completely lost and was having a hard time keeping it together. He just looked at me, smiled and said, “If it was easy, everyone would do it,” and then he got into his cab and drove off. Those words completely changed my perspective at the time. I went back into the studio with a renewed sense of purpose.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

The band and I are getting ready to go back into the studio in June to work on a new batch of songs with Grammy-winning producer Ted Hutt. I’m very excited about it. And I’m also in the final stages of booking a tour for late summer / early fall with dates in the U.S, U.K. and Europe.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think we only have to look at history to see how diversity affects culture. All of the greatest music America has spawned has been the result of the combination of cultures. Jazz and blues were only possible when African music came into contact with European music — it’s that blending together that made it so unique and special. Without diversity, the arts become homogenous and there’s nothing interesting about that.

Meaningful art is always the reflection of the current state of the world. In order to have an authentic expression of what it means to be an American today, you’ve gotta have diversity. No one type of person or culture can define this alone. In order for the arts to evolve and to reflect the times, we have to hear the voices of people from all walks of life, with all different experiences.

Diversity is really the key element in forwarding the progression of the arts. If we ever fail to recognize a particular group and the worth of what they have to offer in film, music or wherever, then we are stunting the possibility of creation, and narrowing the immense connection that’s capable through the arts.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

1. Always look at the big picture. There are times when you put so much effort into doing something that seems minuscule. But these small tasks build over time, and when you look back you’re able to realize that achieving a goal is only possible when you win a bunch of small battles. I experienced this most while touring. For years, people told me I was crazy to tour as much as I did, hitting small town after small town. They’d say it was an outdated way to promote my music, but today I think one of the greatest assets I have are the friends I’ve met out on the road.

2. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Action moves you forward. There are no blueprints or textbooks on how to have a career in music. You’ve got to figure it out for yourself, and the only way to do that is to act on your ideas, no matter how far-fetched they might seem. You just never know what will come of it. Do as much as you can, and don’t worry about what people say. And enjoy the hell out of it. When I toured Europe for the first time, I had no booking agency to help with shows and very little budget — it seemed impossible to pull everything together, but I was determined to make it happen, and it ended up not only being one of my most successful tours, but one of the best experiences of my life.

3. Remain present in your current place. If you are driven in whatever field you’re in, it’s easy to fixate on the future, to always be thinking about the place you’re trying to go, but this can mean missing out on all the good things where you are in your life right now. I remember reading Bob Dylan’s book Chronicles — he said the most exciting and enjoyable part of his life was right before he became a star, when he was still unknown to the world outside of Greenwich Village. Not knowing what’s about to unfold can be an amazing place to be in life, if we let it. I was on a tour at the time I read Dylan’s book and his words changed my perspective in a very meaningful way. Instead of looking around the rooms I was playing and worrying about how many people would show up and how many new fans I was making, I started to pay more attention to the experience right in front of me — playing music every night to new people in a new city. All the unknown situations that were unfolding and the new people I’d meet. There’s a wild journey at hand, and if we aren’t present it can pass us by.

4. Don’t take yourself or your career too seriously. When you try to stick to a plan too rigidly, you can miss where life is taking you, and that can lead you down the wrong path. Leave room for spontaneity and chance — that’s where I’ve found the most inspiration and beauty. Real success is letting go.

5. Surround yourself with good people. The friends I’ve met through music are amazing. I never have and never will work with anyone I don’t like. Never once have I toured with or recorded music with someone I wouldn’t call a friend. Doing so would cheapen the whole experience and the art being made. Part of the beauty of life is that we get to choose who we let into our strange little world.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Do things your own way. Music-industry people on the business side will often tell you that things need to be done in a specific way — they try to boil success down to a formula. There is no formula. The bands I know who have had the greatest impact are the ones who have found their own unique path to being heard — one that works for them and is aligned with what they are trying to express. There isn’t a cookie-cutter way to build a career, and anyone who tells you that can screw off.

I’d also say, be honest with yourself about why you’ve chosen the path you’re on, and keep your goals realistic. I’ve seen a lot of artists come and go, some who convinced themselves that there’s a shortcut to the top, that you can just put out a song or a video and expect it will catapult you to fame. This line of thinking is unrealistic, and artists who think this way won’t be in the game for long. You’ve gotta be a lifer if you want to make a real impact.

You are a person of influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

It would probably be a movement where people believe more in themselves than they do in celebrities. Where people are encouraged to spend less time obsessing over the lives of the rich and famous, and more energy investing in their own lives. So often we compare our lives to a false representation of others, and as a result we feel like shit about where we’re at ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle, and I think with social media it’s worse now than it’s ever been. It would be so amazing and beneficial to all of us if everyone just stopped paying attention to all the bullshit celebrities are constantly parading.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Bill “Spaceman” Lee. The most interesting southpaw to ever grace Fenway Park. I’d ask him to teach me to throw the eephus, his signature pitch. Spaceman had guts, and he had principles — principles that cost him his professional baseball career. He was a brave man in a world that makes it awfully difficult to be. If you don’t know about him yet, get on it!

How can our readers follow you online?

instagram @radiatorkingmusic


Listen to Radiator King’s new single “Hammer & Nails” here:




Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine

Elana Cohen is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She covers entertainment and music