"A big part of what I’m trying to do is get rock people excited about dance music and people in dance music excited about rock."
World, meet Sullivan King.
After cutting his teeth behind the decks at huge electronic music festivals around the world, Sullivan has just signed to Hopeless Records and released a brand new single in the form of 'Dark Love', featuring Underøath's Aaron Gillespie. It's a corrosive and wonderfully catchy slice of hard rock mashed together with a gut-busting bass drop that is sure to rip the skin clean from your bones.
Here it is:
After being raised on a diet of as much post-hardcore as dubstep, he's setting out to bring the rock and EDM communities together in a way that no-one has done before with this new chapter in his career.
So we jumped on the phone to find out all about 'Dark Love', how his passion for both worlds came to be and what his hopes for the future are...
So tell us a bit about how you have reached this point musically...
"I came from the background of a lot of heavy music and then electronic music got its big boom. A lot of the artists I was looking up to came from the UK and these underground labels like Never Say Die and Disciple which were full of dubstep artists really paved the way for people like me to want to do something a little bit different from a rock band but also keep it heavy and energetic. It’s something that has been literally 15/20 years in the making for me.
"['Dark Love'], in particular, feels like such a full circle moment for me. Working with someone like Aaron, who has always been such a legend within the hardcore/metalcore/Warped Tour era and with Underøath being one of my favourite bands growing up, as well as getting to put together a song that has more of that rock influence than electronic shows how much that we as artists can continue to bridge things together and not worry about standard structures. We’re just having fun writing cool music in a way that feels new."
Who was the first artist on the rock side of things that opened up a whole new world for you?
"It would be Eddie Van Halen. He was the first person that I heard when I knew that this is what I needed to do. I had started playing guitar but as soon as I heard Van Halen when I was 11, that was when I said to myself, ‘I don’t care what I do in music, but this is what it has to be’."
And how about electronic music?
"That would probably be Knife Party. I think when I first heard them when they started in 2011, when they had just done a remix with Porter Robinson and this bunch of other stuff, I was just listening and trying to comprehend what was going on. It was such a completely new direction for me that was just as exciting as wanting to be a lead guitar player. You could really show your style and show your sound and develop something that was totally your own without having to rely on a bunch of other people to do that. That’s what makes electronic music so cool to me. Even with someone like Pendulum on ‘Hold Your Colour’, which felt so ahead of its time and still feel new and unique, it’s a sound that was coming from just a couple of people making music. There’s something so amazing about that."
What was it like when you realised that there was a distinct crossover to be had between heavy electronic music and heavy metal?
"When I started making the music that I wanted to make, I very much came from those two worlds in my teenage years. I had always been looking for that sound that wasn’t really there, but it was always more about pleasing myself. Like what would happen if Bullet For My Valentine was dubstep? What would happen if there were guitar solos in this? These things maybe had been done a bit before, but not in a way where one minute you’re screaming along to A Day To Remember and the next you’re headbanging to dubstep. The first time I got a couple of SoundCloud comments of people saying, ‘Oh my God, it feels like I’m 16 at Warped Tour’ or , ‘This is like being at a metal show and seeing Avenged Sevenfold again’ was the first time I thought, ‘Ok cool, I’m not alone in feeling like this and I’m not insane because people are into it’. It was so validating finding those people that felt the same and I wasn’t just a weirdo trying to do something that couldn’t be done. There’s a community in there."
And when we find those people that make us feel like we're not alone, we're going to cling on to them as much as we can...
"I was walking through an airport a few weeks ago and I stopped to get some food whilst waiting for my flight. I see a guy walking by who was wearing a Periphery shirt and I was like, ‘Oh shit, that guy likes Periphery’ and his girlfriend went, ‘Holy shit, that’s Sullivan King’ and pointed at me. It was an exact moment showing how with EDM and metal, we are all so close but so many people don’t recognise that yet. That’s the whole purpose of it though. It’s about breaking through that little barrier. It’s humbling to know that with music like this we’re creating a whole other world for people to escape into and feel safe and accepted."
So let’s talk about ‘Dark Love’. How did you set about creating this particular song and how exactly did Aaron get involved?
"So it started because the A&R on my management team was actually good friends with Aaron and she asked if I wanted to do a song with him. Fuck yeah I did. He had a vocal idea that he sent over, so it all started with those vocals. I’m a big fan of songs that aren’t predictable either and making sure that if it was a song you were hearing in a live setting for the first time it would keep you constantly surprised whilst still giving you something you could sing along to. I feel like that’s what this song does but instead of having a breakdown we have a dubstep drop and instead of just repeating again we have the moment where it cuts out and there’s an almost trap beat. It keeps you really excited throughout and provides a really lucid dream-like feel whilst also being an incredibly loud song.
"So I sent Aaron a demo and he was like, ‘Dude, I need to drum on this’. So he then tracked live drums, which is something we rarely do in electronic music. Then from there it came down to adding a few cool guitar parts and the result is a very live-based song."
Did it feel like a completely new avenue in terms of making music that you felt that you could then build on moving forwards?
"1000%. So many things happened with this song. It really pushed me out of the EDM space of what people expect. Aaron was so supportive and he was so excited about it so that made me even more excited. So from there it made me think that there is so much more we can do with guitars in EDM and more dubstep and bass heavy stuff in rock. It’s put such a huge new perspective on the way that I write."
That’s how you always want making music to feel, isn’t it?
"Absolutely. Another thing is because I’m also the mixer, the producer, the writer and the guy who masters these tracks. That’s something that isn’t always done in the rock world as a lot of people send their songs off to someone else. So for me to going to a rock label and them asking it to be mixed in a certain way for radio, that adds an extra challenge for me on the technical side. It’s really eye opening and has really changed a lot of things for me."
So as we look forward to 2021 and how much opportunity lies there, what are you hopes and ambitions for this new chapter in your career?
"For me, I just wanted to be back on the road playing music to new fans and for people who have not been to a dance show or in an EDM setting and get to hear this music. I want them to feel like they are getting a new taste of rock and metal and something they are so familiar with but in a completely different way that reenergises their love for it.
"That would be my favourite thing, but even if they here a song like this and then go into that rabbit hole like, ‘Holy shit, I need to go and find more people like this’. A big part of what I’m trying to do is get rock people excited about dance music and people in dance music excited about rock. There’s so much more to have than just this song. There is a whole world that people can dive into."