Marvin Nygaard on music and ADHD: “I believe it’s my job to inspire others like me to see that this is something they can do”

Having been diagnosed with ADHD at a fairly young age, Kvelertak and Beachheads bassist Marvin Nygaard has been using his platform to help those struggling with the disorder. Here, he reflects on his journey and the “safe space” of art and music…

Marvin Nygaard on music and ADHD: “I believe it’s my job to inspire others like me to see that this is something they can do”
Marvin Nygaard
Header photo:
Arne Bru Haug

“Looking back at my childhood, a lot of my memories are very chaotic and I have a hard time remembering details. But I do remember getting frequently yelled at in school and feeling very misunderstood. Thanks to my parents, I got diagnosed with ADHD at a pretty early age. I was around 12 – 13 years old at the time. If it hadn’t been for my parents fighting the system and fighting for me to get the help and understanding I needed in school, I believe my story would have turned out very differently.

“I was really bad at school and all the teachers probably thought that I would make nothing out of myself, but I was so incredibly interested in the things I was interested in and it eventually shaped my life into what it is today. I think it’s important for everyone to remember – whether or not they have an ADHD diagnosis or not – that there is not one way that fits everyone. And just because you’re not an academic and kick ass in school, doesn’t mean that you’re not able.

“I guess the younger you are diagnosed the easier it is to understand why certain things are the way they are. Looking back at my first years at school, for example, I guess they were pretty tough and I constantly felt like an outsider. I think my diagnosis eventually steered me in the direction of a culture and people that makes me feel like I belong. However, I think knowledge is key and I still, to this day – 25 years down the line – continue to seek information about ADHD. And I also share that information with family members and friends to help them understand certain parts of my personality.

“I think the most important part is that the teachers and parents understand how ADHD works; like, ‘What’s the person and what’s the diagnosis?’ With ADHD, I feel it blends in a lot of the time and it’s hard, even for a person with ADHD, to know what is what. I don’t think it’s the kids’ responsibility to understand, it’s the system around them that should do whatever it takes for them to feel safe and understood. Life gets real pretty early on, and I don’t think everyone is equally fit or equipped for the battle that is ahead of them. But the system expects you to be just as ready and equal as everyone else.

“One of the best things that came out of school was when one of my teachers introduced me to punk rock. This was pretty early in my life. I come from Båtsfjord: a tiny, rural village at the very top of Norway. There was not much to do there, so I had all the time in the world to dive into my interests. Me and my friends started a band pretty early, and then we could skate in the summer and snowboard in the winter. I believe punk rock and skateboard culture has been one of the main influences for me. It was something I could relate to and that would take me away from everything else. I was definitely better at daydreaming than I was practicing. After all these years, punk rock still gives me so much. And I’ve been lucky enough to make friends all over the world because of it.

“To be honest, at the beginning I felt a lot of shame around getting diagnosed with ADHD. You have to remember this is 20 years ago and I didn’t know anyone else with the diagnosis. I already felt pretty different from the kids at my school and I was afraid that this would label me even more as a ‘crazy person’. But as the years went by and as both myself and the people around me learned more about it, I became more at ease with things. But I don’t wanna sugar-coat it: it was always and will always be a struggle getting through life with ADHD. It’s not a superpower like some people make it out to be. There is a chance you will be a bit different and society is not built around or for people with ADHD. That’s why being able to play music for a living is a blessing for me. It gives me the opportunity to make a living and there is room for me to be me with all the good and the bad that comes with that.

“I find that doing creative stuff is something that definitely centres me and is a big part of who I am. I do artwork on the side of playing music and drawing is something I can do for hours and hours and I forget the world around me. I would say that both Kvelertak and Beachheads are results of all of us together and what everyone is bringing to the table. In both bands, there is a lot of room for you to be who you are and we all have our reasons as to why we do this. Over the years we’ve definitely had to learn to take the good with the bad, I think that’s just part of being in a band. Rock and punk attracts a lot of outsiders and outcasts and we all have that in common. I would say that being in a band like Kvelertak has definitely given me a sense of mastering which is so important. I’ve been able to create a pretty steady job for myself that still allows me to be who I am, even with certain challenges that come with my diagnosis. I continue to learn all the time – it definitely took me a lot of years to build up the confidence to make music on my own and starting Beachheads with Vidar [Landa] was a big part of that.

“I think that music works as a safe space for a lot of people that might have felt more lost without music and art in their lives. That’s what music has given me. Therefore, I believe it’s my job to inspire others like me to see that this is something they can do, too. Or at least see that there are others like them out there that live a bit outside of the conventional society. And that’s okay and totally doable.”

Beacheads’ new album Beacheads II is out now via Fysisk Format.

Marvin works with ADHD Norway – see more on that here.

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