One of the most enigmatic groups in contemporary music, I was lucky enough to sit down with Dustin O'Halloran and Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie of A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
Collaboration is the thing at the heart of some of musical history's greatest moments. Would David Bowie's Berlin trilogy been as good if Brian Eno wasn't on hand? Would Trent Reznor be winning Oscars without Atticus Finch? And of course you only have to look at Run The Jewels to appreciate how special it can be when two artists come together.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen is a project that came about through the chance meeting of pianist/composer Dustin O'Halloran and guitarist/composer Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie of Stars Of The Lid, two artists at the absolute top of their game. Both have extensive backgrounds in the worlds of experimental music, film work and alternative rock, and A Winged Victory For The Sullen is a project with which both of them want to embrace unrestrained creativity.
Their music defies categorisation. It mixes ambient drones, electronics and hints of emotive piano music to create a distinct and haunting sound.
In 2014 they released their second full length 'Atomos' and they are now touring it around the world. I caught up with them before their second bout of London shows to discuss the album and their inspirations.
"Welcome back to the UK guys, you've just started a European tour, what is touring like for you guys?"
Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie: It's fun.
Dustin O'Halloran: We're good friends, the people that play with us are good friends. It's like a little family.
"I saw you guys several years ago playing material from your self-titled debut. Does the live setup differ for the material from your latest effort?"
Adam: We've got a smaller group with us this time as we couldn't afford to bring a larger orchestra.
Dustin: We wrote this piece for two cellos, that's partially a change. We've got two cellos, a viola and violin.
Adam: But we'll still sometimes play with three people, sometimes four.
"Do you have a preference for the kind of venues you play with this material?"
Adam: Churches and theatres work best, we've found with 'Atomos'.
Dustin: Sometimes it's nice to do a strange location like a rock club. We need a lot of bass, and sometimes a rock club is great for that. We do a lot of work on our low end, the drone side of things. But churches have a good sound system and a lot of natural acoustics, which is nice to be able to use.
"Tell me a little bit about the concept behind the new 'Atomos' record. My understanding is it was created for a dance performance?"
Dustin: Well, Wayne (McGregor) was a big fan of our first record, and it was as simple as him reaching. We realised we'd never worked in a dance environment before and we had some time, so it was just like a perfect storm of timing and curiosity.
"How did you go about writing the piece?"
Adam: Initially we started. He gave us a chunk of time and then he started choreographing to the music. There was a little bit more back and forth, push and pull. We got to go and see the dancers a little and observe them.
Dustin: It was never that we were in a room and had to try and create something for the dancers. He would give us ideas or would say things to give us inspiration. He would give us photos, videos and things that were part of his concept.
"He was steering you a little bit?"
Dustin: Not musically, but conceptually. I think that was why he was such a great collaborator, because he never once told us how we should arrange the music. It was more about how he was trying to inspire us. He would say things like 'What would it be like if you went into a black hole and came out the other side, what would that sound like?'.
"So he was really just providing the themes to the work?"
Dustin: Yeah, so his concepts of atoms, his concepts of outer space and all of these elements. He did a lot of science research for his dance piece and developed a lot of programs. It's just the heady mix of a lot of stuff and that was our starting point.
"I haven't seen the piece myself; did you guys attend the premiere?"
Adam: Oh, we've played it live, yeah. It was strange; we were in an orchestra pit. It was fine. I'd never done it before.
Dustin: The strange thing is we've still not actually seen the dance piece live (laughs) because we're in the orchestra pit. We've seen a video, and we had some small monitors in the orchestra pit for cues, but not properly. I'd like to actually see it, sit in the audience. It's going to tour with a recorded version of the music.
"Do you guys see yourself doing more multi-media style projects in the future?"
Adam: I don't really look at it like that. Every project has a voice and you either do it or you don't. I don't think it's a particular thing that you're looking to do. Sometimes you get lucky to get involved in an interesting project and you decide to do it or not. I don't see anything in particular that we're aiming for.
Dustin: Yeah, we weren't particularly looking to do something in dance. It's just how it was. Before it'd honestly never come to mind.
"Have you found that anything about the performances have changed since it's been taken out of the dance context?"
Adam: We've been talking about this a lot recently. The premiere was actually just over a year ago and we've given this recording something of a second life as we're taking it out and playing it in different contexts for our audience who probably haven't seen the dance and probably never will see the dance.
Dustin: A little shortening here and there, but the pieces are essentially the same.
"And during the writing process, did you find yourselves working in a different way to your previous album?"
Adam: We still worked in the same way, it was just with the timing and the deadline there was more urgency.
Dustin: We'd only done one record so we hadn't had the chance to get into any habitual way of writing. Yes, there was a third element in there (Wayne) who kind of stirred the pot up again. We have a chemistry, which is why it works. But the way that we work is still mysterious. Every time we do it we're trying to discover something.
"Just to take things back a bit. I understand the pair of you met in Italy at a show Adam was playing a?t"
Adam: Yeah, I was on tour with Sparklehorse and Dustin came to the show. We met backstage afterwards and over the course of probably about a year we became friends. Dustin was working on his solo record (Lumiere) and he had a track that he was interested to see if I could do something on it. It actually turned out really beautiful, but it was really difficult for me to fit everything in. It was a solo piano piece. It was a real challenge to fit my sound in there. I said after "hey, if we do this again do you think you could play slower?" (laughs) and so A Winged Victory For The Sullen was born.
"And when the band came together and you started working together on the album, did you have like a concept in mind for the project or was it simply that you enjoyed working together and wanted to see what would happen?"
Adam: I think that was it exactly. There was no goal. We just wanted to have fun.
Dustin: When we decided to make the first record there were three things that were really important. We had to enjoy the whole process. We'd both made records that were painful in our lives and this time we just wanted to enjoy it. We also wanted to just record in a way that made us feel good, things like using analogue, different, just stuff that was really inspiring to us.
"How did your relationship with Erased Tapes first come about, as there seems to be a boon in music that, if not similar in style, is similar in feel?"
Adam: Well, we just sent him (Robert) the record and he loved it.
Dustin: I actually met Robert first at a concert that Jóhann Jóhannsson did, and he was backstage hanging out, and I remember he just seemed like a go-getter guy who gave me his card and I checked out some of the music.
Adam: Also, Dustin lives in Berlin and he's friends with (Nils) Frahm. We sent the album to a few labels and Erased Tapes was just one of them, but Robert was the guy who came back and said "guys, I just really love this record". His passion just led us to sign up.
"Do you feel there's something of a scene forming around the label?"
Adam: I hope not, scenes come and go. If we were having this interview 15 years ago we'd be talking about post-rock. This is the exactly the same interview I would have at that exact time, people thought me and Tortoise all lived in a big house and made post-rock together. Now we're talking about neo-classical and in five years we'll be talking about something else.
Dustin: I think everyone on the label is doing really different things. Classical is just a slice of what we do. There's elements of drone, there are elements of minimalism, there's experimental. All of that is in there. It's all part of both of our histories that have led to this moment. I would hope that we can create a space that's just our journey through music and not getting lumped into a scene that will eventually fade out of favour.
"What's next for you guys after this run of shows?"
Dustin: We've got a lot of touring; we're hitting here, Australia, Europe, and the States. I've got some solo material I'm working on as well.
Adam: I've got a solo record on Temporary Residence coming out. Dustin just worked on a TV show (Amazon's Transparent).
You can find out more information on A Winged Victory For The Sullen and their up-coming live shows at www.awvfts.com and
I have a chat with, new UK upstarts, Boston Manor ahead of their nationwide tour with Moose Blood
I'm not patriotic in the slightest. Honestly, I don't like real ale, I'm not massively fussed about pies and roast dinners, and I don't like cricket (don't say it). What does bring a tear to my eye and give me an urge to fly the Union Jack is when a British bands comes good on all that back room promise and break through. The early 21st century appears to be a good time for UK rock music and the young Boston Manor look set to join the ranks of Moose Blood, Gnarwolves and Basement.
Coming out of the none-more-British seaside resort of Blackpool the young band have been spending the last few years perfecting their own blend of scrappy, emo influenced punk rock, while at the same time finishing their degrees.
They recently released their second EP, 'Driftwood', and the collection of 6 tracks marks a next step in their development as songwriters, dealing with the trials and tribulations of post-adolescence in the early part of the new century.
Before they step out on tour with Moose Blood around the UK I caught up with Henry Cox to talk influences, plans and the future
Hi there Henry, How are things with you? How was your 2014?
Hey, very well thank you, Our 2014 was brilliant. A lot of awesome stuff happened that we never anticipated.
I know in October you released a brand new EP/mini-Album called Driftwood, tell me a little about that?
We recorded it with Grant Berry back in June and it was released a few months ago on Failure By Design records.
How would you say it's different from your previous material, such as the Here/Now EP?
With Here/Now we were really just finding our feet. Jordan and Ash (drummer and guitarist) weren't even in the band when it was written. To be honest, I still think of it more as a demo. Never the less, I'm still very proud of those songs. With Driftwood, it was really the first time we all sat down together and worked on a proper release, which was great. I think it definitely feels more like a release rather than a collection of songs.
For those who don't know tell me a little it about how you guys got together, who were your mutual influences?
We all sort of knew one another from playing shows in local bands. A friend introduced me to Dan and Mike, who I'd been told wanted to start a band, so we just sat down and started writing. There was no direct influence from any bands in particular. We all grew up listening to bands like Brand New, Blink 182 and NOFX so we knew we wanted to do something in the Pop Punk spectrum but there was no band or sound specifically that we were aiming for.
What's the scene in Blackpool like?
Unfortunately at the minute it's fairly non existent. At one time there were a lot of local shows happening, but almost all the venues have shut down now or won't allow all ages shows. I think in due course it will start up again though. A few of us have been speaking to a decent venue that's just started so we might try and get some shows sorted in the near future.
I know you guys are going out on tour with Moose Blood in January, are you guys excited?
Really excited. We've all been fans of that band for a long time, so we were really flattered when we were approached to do the tour. That album is so sick.
Do you think those guys being signed to No Sleep has been good for UK bands?
I hope so. More and more UK bands are getting picked up now by US labels. Just in the last few months ROAM and As It Is have signed to Hopeless and Fearless (respectively), Gnarwolves have been doing their thing on Pure Noise for a while, as have Landscapes. What this will hopefully mean, at the very least, is that more US fans start paying attention to the array of underrated UK bands that are doing the rounds at the moment, which will hopefully give them more of an international platform.
I know you guys have all recently just graduated from Uni, what are you plans for taking the band forward in 2015? when can we expect to hear a full length from you?
Well we do this more or less full time now, (apart from the odd shift here and there at Shoemarket and Subway) so we're really looking to tour as much as possible. We've got some cool stuff in the works that we can't really talk about now (although we really want to). I wouldn't want to say when a full length will be out. I want to say some time in 2015 but don't hold me to that!
For more info go to
Spearheading a new wave of post-hardcore from Scandinavia, Disembarked have just dropped their debut full length, and I caught up with vocalist Pontus C. before they head off on the road in Europe.
When your average Brit thinks of Sweden they probably think of Ikea, ABBA and the chef from the Muppets. Ask your average rock fan what they think about Sweden and you'll get a list of bands (from Refused to At The Gates) that have had massive influence on modern rock over the last 20 years.
Disembarked are the latest in a long line of bands that are keen to express themselves in heavy music, without resorting to genre clichés like bullet belts or straight edge tattoos and shaved heads. The young Stockholm band produce an exciting mixture of hardcore, post rock and emo, revitalising each genre in turn.
Their debut album, 'Nothing Wrong Here', has just been released through Dog Night productions, and the dynamic young band is embarking on a mini European tour.
I caught up with Pontus C. before they set off to chat about the album and the band's creative vision.
"Hey guys, congratulations on the release of your album 'Nothing's Wrong here'. How does it feel to get your debut full length out there?"
Thanks it feels awesome, it's our first full length, so it's a huge milestone for us. And to have a gatefold right away is kinda cool too. It's an album that has taken some time to complete due to different reasons. So it's a very big thing for us to be able to complete this instead of just doing another EP. We're really happy with how the album turned out and very thankful to Dog Knights Productions who wanted to release it.
"You're a fairly new band, how did you come together? Do you all have similar influences, or were you just a collective of friends?"
Wow, that is a long complicated story. Like really complicated, let's just say we met at the mall and just said "hey lets start a band". The forming of Disembarked is a long term thing, to skip a few years, Disembarked is a continuation of an old band Gustav, Olle and I had, that disbanded.
We had another Pontus (Pontus G.) join the band on bass guitar and after the first EP was written we also had Johan join the band.
"Would you say the band has a specific mission or ethos?"
We don't have any ideals, missions, agenda, propaganda or anything we're trying to get across. It's more like self-therapy and wanting to create something we like.
"Stockholm was known back in the day as having a very active hardcore and death metal scene, giving rise to the likes of Entombed and Dismember, what are things like on the contemporary scene?"
Things are pretty fine, thanks to Stockholm Straight Edge, they put up a lot of great shows. There are a few bands as well, I'd say it's pretty good overall. Of course, it could be a lot more active, right now it's a pretty small but active scene.
"Any other young Stockholm bands you see following in your footsteps?"
In our footsteps probably no, but there are a couple of Stockholm bands out there already. Bands such as Grieved, No Omega, Sore Eyelids. It's hard to just point out Stockholm bands, as the scene is kind of all around in Sweden. It's not a big country haha.
"Tell me a little about the process of writing 'Nothing's wrong here', did you have a concept in mind?"
We wanted to keep what we've been doing before, but also, as every other band, wanted to evolve and create something new.
We tried a bunch of stuff, lots of different instruments while writing the songs. Not that it ended up so spaced out anyway, but yeah. We don't really have a concept other that the lyrics are based on personal experiences which mostly are about the same thing. The title "Nothing's Wrong Here" is about facade family. Being forced to uphold the image of a happy family but being the opposite behind closed doors. Enacting those lies that 'no, there's nothing wrong here'.
The artwork goes along with that, having the front picture a nice house with a nice garden. But the backside being a bad side of it with the broken swings and dead trees etc.
"How has your song writing changed from your earliest material to now?"
I guess we're more focused on trying to get a red line through the track, the self-titled EP is kind of just stacking parts. Listening to it now is a big turn off for us. We're trying to get a good mix of emotions of the music and the lyrics now, fitting stuff for the lyrics. And sometimes the other way around. The actual writing process haven't changed besides that we have two guitarists instead of one now. We write 95% of our stuff while in the rehearsal space together.
"What's playing live been like for you? Any career highlights so far?"
It's been the best thing in the world, obviously!! We have had a lot of great shows, really. The one that comes to mind is Fluff Fest 2013. The show we played in Stockholm this year was so much fun as well, our first show for like a year, and the line-up was awesome, lots of friends and label mates.
But thinking about shows are more like thinking of the date, like being on tour. You remember the experience from the day, there is so much more than the actual show. Meeting new people, seeing places etc.
"Now you've released your début album, what's your next big ambition?"
We just want to tour now, that's the only thing in our mind. We haven't toured that much before, so now that's the only thing we're focused on. We would love to get over to another continent, play with amazing bands.
We'll see what the future bring us, we'll continue writing songs and see what happens!
"Any plans for visiting the UK?"
Yeah, absolutely! We've been looking into a UK tour, but might postpone it a bit to get it during a bigger Europe trip. For now we only have a little quickie tour through Europe in Jan/Feb 2015, but there's no UK shows on that. But probably on the next one!
'Nothing Wrong Here' is out now and the band will be on tour in Europe in...
Fresh from the release of their new album(s) I had a chat with, drummer, Santos Montano of Old Man Gloom about music and messing with the press.
The crossover between punk and metal music has been widely documented in the past (think Black Flag and Napalm Death). What is less talked about, and I think far more interesting, is the mix of post-punk/alternative rock and Metal which began to ferment in the mid 90's and led to formation of iconic bands like Converge, Cave In, Botch and, of course Old Man Gloom.
(Debatably) born out of the Massachusetts punk scene, bands began bringing together elements of Emo, Punk, Doom metal, Death metal, Post- rock and Prog to create a cerebral form of heavy music that borrowed as much from the bands on (legendary Mancunian Indie label) Factory as it did bands on Roadrunner.
Old Man Gloom formed as a sort of super group (a term I'm sure the band hate) in order to explore undiluted expression in heaviness away from the various members day jobs. The band features ISIS' Aaron Turner, his long-time friend Santo Montano, Cave In's Caleb Scofield and Converge's Nate Newton. Since their inception the band has cut a single minded path creating some of the heaviest (and smartest) music of the last ten years.
Ahead of the release of their latest effort Ape of God the band released a fake version of the album (actually a double album split across two volumes) to the press to make a point about the leaking of bands material by "jerk" writers. With this in mind it was with a little apprehension that I caught up with Santos.
"Welcome back Santos, can I ask what you guys have been up to since No in 2012?"
It's been a turbulent time in the band since 2012. We haven't ever been a real band, but after NO, we attempted to act more like a real band. Doing things like "touring" and playing "live" weren't things we had to work at, because we just didn't do it. We were like the Harry Nilsson of weird metal. We enjoyed making NO so much though, that we had to give it a go.
"You guys seem to like messing with expectations, I for example am not entirely sure what of the two Ape of God records I've heard , what was the inspiration for this bait and switch technique? (I'd like to state for the record I wasn't one of "those jerks" who leaked the record."
You don't seem like a jerk. But some dickweed did leak it, and it kinda justified the whole prank. The inspiration is a three headed monster. First, there is no reason to do things in any conventional way for us. There are literally no consequences. Even if worst case scenario, every journalist on earth flipped us off and vowed to never write another word about us ever again, leading to not one human knowing about our next record, leading us to never be able to play a show again, that would affect our lives very little. Not saying we don't love the shit out of Old Man Gloom, we do, but we've essentially hit the ceiling. The whole thing, more than anything, was meant to make people who are familiar with our antics laugh. Not a deep belly laugh, but a slight "those silly dicks" kinda laugh. Mission accomplished.
"Was there a lot of new influences brought to the writing, or do you stay very much true to the original ethos (correct me if I'm wrong) or making doomy, experimental hardcore?"
Hmmmmmm..... It's tough to say. The ridiculous reality of Old Man Gloom is there isn't a lot of talk. Everything happens extremely quickly, so what you hear on our records is almost entirely spontaneous. Even if a song writer spends a lot of time conceptualizing a song, the rest of us have almost no time with it before we get to the part where it's on a record.
"How much is Kurt Ballou (Converge guitarist and OMG producer) involved with the writing process?"
None. He has never attended a writing session. He does have carte blanche to say "that fill is stupid" or "that was terrible", or "can we lose the high school double bass?", which are all things said to me during the Ape sessions.
"For those who don't know can you tell us a little about how the band initially came together?"
Aaron and I are childhood friends from Santa Fe. We met in High School. We remained friends, and after Aaron went to art school in Boston, he would come home for summers, so we would do little projects together. The first one was a concept band. The idea was that we'd play one house party, and Aaron would play an acoustic, and it would be all covers that had a theme.
Anyway, the next summer, he had an idea for another concept band, and that was OMG. We wrote the whole thing in one day, and recorded and mixed the entire thing in 12 hours. That was meditations in B. I had no idea that you weren't expected to record and mix in one day until we did the next record. I think I like it better when you have to just get it done in one day...
"I know journalists love to come up with 'scenes' or 'movements', but do you think there is/was something unique about the Massachusetts sound that the band came out of?"
Well, short answer is no. The sound is very much Santa Fe, in my mind. We use a lot of that thematically, as well, the desert, the southwest, etc. Beyond the first record, it gets even murkier, as Caleb is from New Hampshire, and Nate is from Virginia. All of us getting together in Mass, and all the contributing bands obviously play a huge part in why we all know each other, and why we chose who we chose, but honestly, I don't think there's much Converge, Cave In, or Isis in Old Man Gloom. That being said, for me, and all of us I'm sure, that time, and the people who made up that scene were very special. It's definitely the most musically formative time in my life.
"And finally, I know the band don't often play live, are their plans for a tour this album?"
We have some things cooking. We'd love to find a venue in Brussels that only fits one person in it, so we can play just for that one guy. We'd also like to tour Central and South America. Someone make that happen.
Both volumes of Ape of God are out now.
You can find more information at
I chat to one half of the Scandinavian electronic duo
Classical music and electronic music have had a close relationship since the early days of synthesisers. German experimentalists such as Kraftwerk and Neu all took inspiration from contemporary composers such as Stockhausen and...
Jon Bon Jovi has an irritating habit of describing his multi-million selling, stadium filling comrades as a 'bar band', a nod perhaps to the bands blue collar heritage, or porbably just a shameless attempt to try and paint themselves with a coat of Springsteen-esque credibility.
When, Pensylvania punk quartet, The...
Olugbenga Adelekan has had the kind of nomadic lifestyle that creates a properly international ambition in a musician. Born in Lagos Nigeria, then moving to Holland as a youngster before attending university at Cambridge and then finally settling in the not-so-sleepy seaside town...
For my generation Emo is a thing. To hear the word makes you think of floppy fringes, the odd splash of eye-liner, pensive, self-hating lyrics and borderline gothy behaviour. But before it became the 00's defacto form of alt-rock, it existed in the post-punk underground in America in a very...