photos by Don Idio
Sullivan King formed his name to pay homage to the late drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan of Avenged Sevenfold. The one of a kind DJ Rockstar has made a name for himself in the EDM game DJing, shredding guitar, and doing vocals at the same damn time. He recently dropped his debut EP House of Wolves. I’m a fan of the track “W.O.B.S.” feat Crichy Crich from the EP.
His unique sound brings more than enough bass to be placed in the same vibrations as dirty bassers like Zeds Dead, Excision, Black Tiger Sex Machine (who he is currently touring with), Ghastly, and Space Jesus amongst others. Festival Squad sat down in this prehistoric time warp with Sullivan King and one of his crew members, Steven, to find out more his life and his music. Without further ado, Sullivan King!
Festival Squad: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me. I know you have a hectic schedule, especially during festival season. Lost Lands is said to be the first festival of its kind providing 750k watts of bass! How does it feel to be a part of this festival?
Sullivan King: Honestly, it’s really surreal. Especially with it being my first festival with a proper line up that I’m playing.
Festival Squad: Oh wow, really?
Sullivan King: It is really. Definitely an honor to be picked for it. To be booked for this kind of a festival of this magnitude. Like right off the bat, so yeah just stoked and humble.
Festival Squad: I know Van Halen is one of many influences for your guitar playing. What about Van Halen’s work speaks to you and your desired sound?
Sullivan King: Simply the innovation and the sort of, I wouldn’t say avant-garde, but just kind of the different approach that was taken to. Not just like the song writing, but tonality of it. Of the early work and the early albums and just like the constant push sonically for Eddie (Van Halen) to always kind of get the best tone and to get the best sort of sounds. But there was no limitation to what could be done with the guitar. I think that that’s really kind of just what I gravitated towards because I feel like that’s actually very common with electronic music of just how can we continue to push the envelope.
It’s a lot of players, especially in the late 60s after Hendrix and so on I would say until the 80s, there were a lot of people that got comfortable and satisfied with certain styles and scales and things like that. Not that all great guitarists though. Joe Perry, Eric Clapton you know people like that really set the bar and Eddie just kind of took that and threw it on the ground and put another one about you know (motioning his arm way above his head) 10 stories higher and was just like, NOPE! This is where we’re at now.
Steven (Sullivan King’s crew member): (Jokingly agreeing) Hold my beer!
Sullivan King: Yeah! Yeah, AC DC was like “Highway to Hell”, Eddie’s hold my beer. But that’s really kind of what happened and then you had, you know this influx of insane shredders of the 80s like that. You had Randy Rhoads because of Eddie, then you had Joe Satriani because of Eddie. You had Steve Vai, you had so many players that were able to build off of that. Zakk Wylde because of what he did. And that’s really what I think made it so special for me as well.
Festival Squad: Your music is known for merging hard rock/metal with electronic dance music. How did this collaboration of sound come about? What inspired you to take on this new genre?
Sullivan King: Honestly, it’s just simply that at the time when I was still kind of learning how to produce and I was obviously a guitar player. I just wanted to make music that I wish I heard kind of thing. Like where I knew that at that time, metal being put into a dubstep song was going to be like the cheesiest thing on the planet. Like it just sounded so corny and cliché. I knew it could be done better and I knew people wanted it, so I wanted to do something that I knew was going to set up the first chapter for the story of what would come with dance music and metal. It was this opportunity and time where we’re at to do something more than what was being done. Which I felt like could not have been a safe thing, with how electronic music was going…is that there could be more. That’s kind of why I did what I did. If I could create something that you wouldn’t be able to find through some tutorial, or by searching ‘metal dubstep’ on Soundcloud or whatever it was, then I was onto something.
Festival Squad: Yeah, I get what you’re saying.
Sullivan King: It was empty, uncharted territory, and that’s where I needed to go into. It might suck, and it did suck for a long time. My early stuff in my opinion was terrible, like not terrible writing but just sound-wise it just wasn’t there and it took those years of development. I felt like if I could come out as Sullivan King with something that instantly sounded good then I was doing it wrong. That someone had already done it before me. And that’s not how I wanted to build this style.
Festival Squad: I listened to some of your music and I can see how the mesh works and it works pretty well. You’re rocking out with it and that is pretty awesome.
Sullivan King: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Festival Squad: I saw Sleigh Bells at The Meadows Music & Arts Festival a few weeks ago and their front woman, Alexis Krauss, does an excellent job getting the crowd amped up. In fact, the music turned into a full head banger and the crowd erupted in passion for the music. Would you be interested in collaborating with artists that are similar in energy level/music genre as you or would you do something completely out of left field and collaborate with a totally different genre artist?
Sullivan King: I think I would always be doing something with different artists. I think that’s really for me the beauty of being a guitar player and being a listed songwriter as well as a producer that makes just like riddim or something. I’ve worked with pop music, I’ve done movie trailers, I’ve done all kinds of different things just because it’s like I think that is what makes a musician producer different than just like an EDM DJ or something. I think it’s really cool when people can go make trap bangers and do really cool stuff and play it on the main stage and it’s awesome, but what you can do outside of that is what really sets you up to be a true talented artist. So I would always push to do more and to push more toward other artists of different styles and energy. Honestly there was a country artist that came to me and was like “Yo let’s get down!” I’d be for it dude, like 100 percent.
Festival Squad: You should check out Ruston Kelly man, he’s a country artist.
Steven (Sullivan King’s crew member): (Jokingly agreeing) Smash that harmonica dude.
Sullivan King: Get on that banjo! (Laughing)
Steven (Sullivan King’s crew member): It’s actually not a bad idea.
Festival Squad: Since you play guitar, sing, and DJ, could you see yourself forming a “super band” that crosses most genres in the future?
Sullivan King: Definitely 100 percent could. I would definitely like to do a more cross genre live acts eventually. I feel like that’s the funny thing. People consider when I play guitar and do vocals live, that is “Sullivan King live,” but this honestly for me is just a DJ set. That’s just what you get out of me. It’s like my DJ set just has that little extra (meh sprinkle) on top because that’s what I do, I play guitar and I sing. I’d be cheating you out of what I’m capable of live. (FS: Touche) Like if I went out and DJ’ed, didn’t bring a guitar, and didn’t bring vocals, I feel like you would be getting cheated out of your money. For me to then go do a live show would be with a full band; a drummer and a bassist doing everything live.
That’s where I could really bring out so much more, but I think that’s going to come time with more songs and more music that’s like House Of Wolves. A little bit more oriented towards like a live set.
Festival Squad: You’re a California guy. Half of our team is located in the Bay Area and it’s a running joke that they fit the Cali Stereotypes (laid back, yoga, outdoors).
Sullivan King & Steven (Sullivan King’s crew member): Hella! Hella! Hella Yoga! Hella Hiking!
Festival Squad: (Laughing) Hella! How would you describe yourself as a Californian?
Sullivan King: It’s really funny and I hate to say this, but I wouldn’t really even say that I’m like a Californian. When I travel, I get so many people that are like, “Where you from?” I’m like “L.A.” “Oh you’re born and raised there?” “Yeah.” “That’s weird you don’t seem like it.” “Why?” “Because you’re not an asshole!” I get that so much, and it’s so bad. (Steven: It’s actually super common.) It’s so common, I get it all the time. But honestly I think that it definitely just gave me a mindset and sort a view of the world that was different from what you would get in any other part of the US. I feel like there’s a lot of different issues and sort of social ideas and constructs that don’t exist in L.A. because it’s so diverse and it really is this big old melting pot. I feel like coming from California was a bit more like do what you want, you’ll probably get eaten alive in the business because everybody’s on top of each other while you’re doing it, but you’ll also have the opportunity to expand.
Festival Squad: What can we expect from Sullivan King in the rest of 2017?
Sullivan King: The rest of 2017 we got the tour. We’ve got a lot of other shows and things that have yet to be announced that are going to be cool, and so much more music. There’s still a ton of music coming in the next month a lot of people don’t expect. A lot of people won’t expect, so it’s going to be pretty dope. Then 2018 is going to be this, on steroids.