Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Daniel O'Sullivan Interview

Here is an interview that I did with, for my money, the greatest creator of high quality, high quantity musical output in the UK right now. It ended up going out on the blog on

The Hardest Working Man In Music

More than just about anything I hate feeling inadequate. It's the worst. You can be tootling along with your day, right as rain and then you happen upon someone you haven't seen in a few years and they are married to a 9 who's a pediatric nurse and they have four beautiful kids, a mortgage, and his hedge fund rode the credit crunch because they created it. And it bums you all out for the count. Actually, meeting that guy would just make me thank Moses, Allah, and Buddah that I wasn't him. The other day though I sat down to talk with Daniel O'Sullivan. Turns out that Daniel and I grew up in the same part of London, are near enough the same age and actually went to school opposite each other. In case you don't know Daniel he does lots and lots of stuff. If you like Guapo, Miasma & The Carousel of Headless Horses, Aethenor, Mothlite, Ulver or Sunn O))) then guess what? You like Daniel. Yep, he plays in all of those things and a whole load more. How the fuck does he manage it? Maybe I should have gone to schools across the road.

Vice: How the fuck do you manage to do 67 different music things in at once and make them all amazing?

Daniel O'Sullivan:
Um, I’m not sure. It’s my job also they all complement each other. Sometimes you come up with something and it's quite clear what channel it could come out of and at other times it’s just there and you carry out around with you waiting to use it. More and more though I am losing the need to do anything even vaguely thespian. Anything superfluous is kind of being cut out. I just feel that there is no room for anything contrived and that I'm not in that headspace anymore. I just associate anything over the top with hiding away. I’d rather than be totally open than purposefully obscure.

You spend so much time playing that the bands have sort have become like these ongoing diaries.

Yeah, absolutely. You can sort of see how it's unraveled. With the early Guapo stuff, I was sort of feeding someone else's vision in a way and then as the guy who was initially writing a lot of the stuff in that band fell off the wagon I started to writing my own tunes and began creating this labyrinth which just kept growing.

Do you feel like you're more exposed in Mothlite?

Yes, kind of like I've left the labyrinth behind and I don't feel scared of being open anymore. I mean there is all the weird sonics and fucked-up bits still going on so it’s not like I am totally naked. I'm not about to write "It's My Life" or anything but you get some musicians who are totally amazing, but never put anything out because they're so frightened of what the reception would be. They've got like 50 albums stored away on their hard drives and none of them come out. I'm kind of the opposite. Everything I do comes out.

Mothlite seems to be your main focus at the moment, what is it about the Mothlite setup that you enjoy so much?

It definitely feels different from all the other stuff I am involved with. I see it as this big opportunity and it's the first thing I've ever done that's vocal. You can actually project thoughts as opposed to just moods and colours with vocals, which is pretty novel. I’ve been making sounds for so long that the whole concept of lyrics is like this big book I can jump into.

What made you decide to finally sing out?

I started doing a bit of vocal stuff in a more improvised sense with David (J. Smith) in Guapo and Miasma and I was doing stuff with Alex (Tucker) where we were just sort of harmonizing and looping stuff to sound like it was this big male choir or whatever. At some point during all that I thought maybe the vocals could just become another instrument.

What made you jump from just using your voice as an instrument to actually writing lyrics about things?

It was transitional. When I first started doing Mothlite I really hadn't escaped that voice-as-instrument thing and I was always just sort of trying to hit the right notes. The words were secondary. The more we were working on it though I realised that this was an opportunity. I had a really weird year last year, just a really strange time and I thought I could talk about it all quite literally in the song. Which seemed nice. Usually the music comes first then I write the words, but the new stuff has fallen out of a feeling so it all comes together. It’s really changed my whole view and the way I feel.

I wish writing words made me feel happy. I write literally thousands of words a day and maybe only three of them ever make me happy.
I guess there's all these words around the band, all the press releases and all that bullshit but the song is the only time where you can use words to find an association with the sound. Mothlite's not selling anything. Well maybe emotions, but I am not sure you can sell an emotion.

It’s funny you mentioned tone earlier as the Mothlite record makes me think of autumn. Even if it is totally sunny outside. Were you working towards a tone?

Not really, that was kind of absent, which is funny because I'm a big fan of sort of writing towards a concept. You can always do the opposite and tack the concept on afterwards but in this case there isn't really an overarching theme. It's a document of how I was feeling on the day that I went to the studio. Just things that felt correct at the time as opposed to working towards any kind of goal. Mothlite and Aethenor are definitely the focus now. I’ve been working on some stuff with Kristoffer Rygg too.
How did that come about?
We sort of put the wheels in motion for a couple other things and he invited us to play with him at this festival in Norway. He hadn't played live in like 12 years so in sound check you could see this guy suffering from torturous anxiety. I hope I never have to go through that.

How about the other projects?

Guapo is ongoing both live and in studio and we have done some stuff with Jarboe, Miasma happens live and I am still a live member of Sunn in a touring capacity plus a new thing that Stephen (O’Malley), Alex (Tucker) and myself are working on.

Just a few coals in the fire. What things that aren’t music get Daniel O’Sullivan going?
James Joyce. And Charles Laughton. I was consumed by Night Of The Hunter when I was making the Mothlite record. Laughton totally captures the absolute terror that can consume you as a child.

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